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Works and Days

Multicultural Suicide

January 11th, 2015 - 6:17 pm

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Fueling the Western paralysis in dealing with radical Islam is the late 20th century doctrine of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is one of those buzzwords that does not mean what it should. The ancient and generic Western study of many cultures is not multiculturalism. Rather, the trendy term promotes non-Western cultures to a status equal with or superior to Western culture largely to fulfill contemporary political agendas.

On college campuses, multiculturalism not so much manifests itself in the worthy interest in Chinese literature, Persian history, or hieroglyphics, but rather has become more a therapeutic exercise of exaggerating Western sins while ignoring non-Western pathologies to attract those who see themselves in some way as not part of the dominant culture.

It is a deductive ideology that starts with a premise of Western fault and then makes evidence fit the paradigm. It is ironic that only Western culture is self-critical and since antiquity far more interested than other civilizations in empirically investigating the culture of the other.  It is no accident that Europeans and Americans take on their own racism, sexism, and tribalism in a way that is not true of China, Nigeria or Mexico. Parody, satire, and caricature are not Chinese, African, or Arab words.

A multicultural approach to the conquest of Mexico usually does not investigate the tragedy of the collision between 16th-century imperial Spain and the Aztec Empire. More often it renders the conquest as melodrama between a mostly noble indigenous people slaughtered by a mostly toxic European Christian culture, acting true to its imperialistic and colonialist traditions and values.

In other words, there is little attention given to Aztec imperialism, colonialism, slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism, but rather a great deal of emphasis on Aztec sophisticated time-reckoning, monumental building skills, and social stratification. To explain the miraculous defeat of the huge Mexican empire by a few rag-tag, greedy conquistadors, discussion would not entail the innate savagery of the Aztecs that drove neighboring indigenous tribes to ally themselves with Cortés. Much less would multiculturalism dare ask why the Aztecs did not deploy an expeditionary force to Barcelona, or outfit their soldiers with metal breastplates, harquebuses, and steel swords, or at least equip their defenders with artillery, crossbows, and mines.

For the multiculturalist, the sins of the non-West are mostly ignored or attributed to Western influence, while those of the West are peculiar to Western civilization. In terms of the challenge of radical Islam, multiculturalism manifests itself in the abstract with the notion that Islamists are simply the fundamentalist counterparts to any other religion. Islamic extremists are no different from Christian extremists, as the isolated examples of David Koresh or the Rev. Jim Jones are cited ad nauseam as the morally and numerically equivalent bookends to thousands of radical Islamic terrorist acts that plague the world each month. We are not to assess other religions by any absolute standard, given that such judgmentalism would inevitably be prejudiced by endemic Western privilege. There is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount that differs much from what is found in the Koran. And on and on and on.

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The Seductions of Appeasement

January 4th, 2015 - 6:52 pm

Before World War II appeasement was a good word, reflecting a supposedly wise policy of understanding an enemy’s predicaments. Sober Western democracies would grant tolerable concessions to aggressive dictators in Germany, Italy, and Japan to satiate their appetites for more. With such magnanimity everyone would avoid a nightmare like another Somme or Verdun.

Appeasement is always a seductive diplomacy because in the short term a bloody crisis is at least avoided. Hopes then rise that either tensions will cool as aggressors are pacified — or at least the latter won’t start trouble until the appeasers are long out of office. Appeasement is based on the theory that if you give one or two scraps of leftovers under the table to the dog at your feet, he will wag his tail and leave, grateful for such generosity, rather than to prove be even peskier for more.

Everyone associates appeasement with the Western democracies’ concessions to Adolf Hitler over the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Such appeasement — widely praised at the time — was supposed to pacify Nazi Germany to end its chronic bullying, as even Hitler would concede it was foolish repeating the mess of 1918 for possession of slices from a far-away country. It worked for a year, until in late 1939 Hitler invaded Poland to begin World War II.

There are lots more recent examples of alluring appeasement. Secretary of State Dean Acheson once assured a tired postwar America that the Truman administration’s defense obligations did not extend to the Cold War powder keg on the Korean Peninsula. Relieved pundits praised such a realistic concession. Only a nut would want to bring back the B-29s and their former pilots or rev up obsolete Sherman tanks. Then a few months later North Korea invaded the South.

For years Britain felt that it had defused tensions over the Falkland Islands by appeasing various Argentine dictatorships and convinced them of the senselessness of fighting a stupid war over windswept rocks that a few thousands British subjects stubbornly clung to as English home soil. But by 1981 the British had even proposed withdrawing its only small warship from the islands as a gesture of reconciliation or of avoidance of unnecessary expense. The Argentines took note of the planned concession and the next year invaded.

In summer 1990 the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, tried politely to talk sense to Saddam Hussein about rising tensions with Kuwait. At one point she reportedly explained that “the United States did not take a stand on Arab-Arab conflicts, such as Iraq’s border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam shortly invaded Kuwait and two Gulf wars followed in the next two decades. Apparently he counted on U.S. indifference or a weak response to a far-away in-house Arab vendetta.

The problem with appeasement is threefold.

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Crime as Politics

December 28th, 2014 - 9:25 pm

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In the last few days, the local Fresno community was outraged — or at least was reportedly to be so — at the vandalism of a local Islamic cultural center.

The police authorities almost immediately, and without waiting for the full evidence to be collected, declared the minor burglary and damage the apparent dividend of illiberal dark forces. The chief of police, without compelling evidence, and without explaining why a secular medical building was also trashed in the spree, rushed to hold a press conference. He declared the broken window and moderate trashing of the center’s interior, not just a “hate crime,” but in fact a “brazen hate crime.”

What next followed was Fresno’s comic version of what now is normal race and gender news. Almost immediately it was learned that there was a video of the suspected perpetrator in mediis rebus. Mr. Asif Mohammad Khan was a Muslim, with a record of mental disturbances, and had attended the center. He claimed that he had vandalized the buildings as part of payback to other center attendees who, he claimed, had bullied him — and reportedly was known to be an admirer of Osama bin Laden. The “brazen” hate crime and the atmosphere of intolerance vanished with the local morning fog. The FBI, of course, is still “investigating” a possible “hate crime.” But they too will quietly go away in short order.

But just a few days earlier, there was another Fresno crime captured on video, both violent and in theory fueled by racial animus, or at least more deserving of a FBI second look at such a possible catalyst. At a local municipal bus stop an elderly man with a walker bravely protested that a large youth was bullying a smaller teen. The video captures the thug in response yelling at the defender, then striking the man to the pavement. The latter hit his head on his walker and momentarily lost consciousness.

The attacker was a large, rather young African-American; the victim a 62-year-old white man. What followed was no police hectoring. No lectures about the safety of the city’s bus stops. No police chief warnings about interracial tensions. No brazen hate crime sermons about the hale and young attacking the elderly or disabled. Indeed the police initially did not even consider the attack a crime, but rather a “fall.” Only a chance bystander’s video of the incident led to a reinvestigation and the suspected perpetrator’s arrest.

Unlike the city’s failed effort to turn the Islamic center vandalism into a teachable moment, this really was a teachable moment, perhaps in two unfortunate regards. One, heroism is rendered foolish. So far no one in the city has stepped forward to congratulate a disabled senior’s heroic (and apparently successful) efforts to divert the bullying of teenager onto his own person. His only reward was to have been knocked out by the attacker, and the crime initially not considered a crime, but his injuries due supposedly to his own clumsiness.  Second, the disabled victim is lucky he was not armed. Had he pulled out a legal, concealed weapon when the bully approached him to attack, and fired in self-defense, we would have another Trayvon Martin hate crime, and charges that a climate of racial intolerance had led to the death of another unarmed African-American. In comparison to all that, a head injury is apparently preferable.

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Fantasyland, U.S.A.

December 22nd, 2014 - 4:53 pm
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Mr. President, honest, I did not write 1984 as a how-to guide.

One way of reinventing reality is to warp the meaning of words. No president in memory has waged such a war on the English language as has Barack Obama — changing the meaning of vocabulary to hide what he fears might otherwise be unpopular.

Take executive orders. He brags that he does not issue them as commonly as his predecessors, but that is only true because Obama has now renamed some of his executive orders presidential “memoranda.” Add up both categories, and no president in the last half-century has so frequently bypassed Congress to unilaterally make new or ignore existing laws.

If Obama suddenly does not get his legislative way after losing the Congress, and boasts in defiance about his plans to act unilaterally (“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone”), then why the need to hide that brag with linguistic gymnastics?

When Obama faced reelections, he pointed to increased deportations. But that claim hinged on changing the meaning of deportee. All of a sudden, illegal aliens who were stopped and turned away right at the border count as deportees. By changing the meaning of words, Obama believed that he could reinvent the reality of open borders into tough border enforcement.

But then again, when he found it useful to brag of open borders, suddenly he pointed to lower deportations, as the vocabulary once again readjusted its meaning.

On another front, Obama simply makes up names that imply the opposite of reality. The Affordable Care Act was hardly affordable. Obama knew that he could not save the American family the promised $2,500 in premiums, or reduce deductibles, or lower the deficit through health care reform. Instead, insurance policy premiums have gone up, plans and doctors have been dropped, and deductibles have soared. According to Jonathan Gruber, these known downsides of Obamacare had to be disguised from the supposedly “stupid” American people.

In the world of the Obama administration, Bowe Bergdahl, the deserter who was exchanged for four terrorists held at Guantanamo, did not, as National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisted, serve “with honor and distinction.” Instead, he abandoned his fellow soldiers at the front, and walked over to find the enemy Taliban. Traitor, like the word jihadist, has been excised from the Obama vocabulary.

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The Campus as California

December 14th, 2014 - 7:50 pm

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Campuses are becoming the haunts of the very wealthy and the poor, with little regard for any in-between — sort of like California.

Let me explain. Lately lots of strange things have been in the news about college campuses — from the Rolling Stone’s mythography of the University of Virginia fraternities to Lena Dunham’s invented charges of rape against a supposed Oberlin College Republican to courses on “white privilege” to “hands up; don’t shoot” demonstrations protesting the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Tuition and Debt

But there are lots of campus topics that garner little publicity. Take tuition costs. Aggregate student debt is reaching $1 trillion — a result of an insidious relationship between federally guaranteed loans (many of which cost over 5% annually to service) and tuition spikes that habitually exceed the rate of inflation.

As a result, in a logical universe, there would be widespread student protests against the lack of transparency in university budgeting. There would anger at paying Hillary Clinton nearly a third of a million dollars for a boilerplate 30-minute chat. There would be grassroots complaints about the costly epidemic of new administrative positions and federal mandates that have nothing to do with in-class instruction. There would be inquiries about why teaching loads have declined as tuition skyrocketed.

Instead, there is mostly silence on campus. Why? Perhaps the answer reflects the fact that the campus bookends the trajectory of California — in that elite and wealthy students do not really care that much whether their combined tuition, room, and board tab goes from $55,000 a year to $60,000, given their parents’ ample resources. At the other end, poorer and often minority students are more likely to have access to college grants and scholarships. The working classes in between, who often lack familial capital and are not designated as disadvantaged in ethnic or class terms, more often pay the full bill. Do universities count on such dichotomies — that the most influential in terms of race, class, and gender issues are the most likely not to have to pay themselves the spiraling tab?

Faculty as Wal-Mart Greeters

Another dead issue is the presence of winners and losers on campus. The universities are divided into two classes: tenured and tenure-track professors versus part-time lecturers. At some public universities, the number of units taught by the part-time pool is exceeding 40% of all classes offered. The former grandees make three to five times more per class than the latter losers, and receive better benefits, life-time security, and far better working conditions (class selection and times, offices, release time, sabbaticals, etc.).

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Ripples of Ferguson

December 7th, 2014 - 8:25 pm
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Police tape in front of smoldering remains of Prime Beauty Supply in Ferguson in the aftermath of riots. Photo taken on 11/25/14 by R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com.

There is some blame to go around in nearly all racial confrontations. Why the body of Michael Brown was left in the street for hours seems inexplicable. The apparent chokehold that contributed to the death of Eric Garner, with the benefit of video hindsight, does not seem to square with the de facto exoneration of the officer involved. In contrast, there has been absolutely no credible evidence that the unfortunate shooting of Michael Brown was not in self-defense.

Instead, most of the protests about Ferguson are based on untruth and the lessons are therefore surrealistic. Indeed, the reductionist messages of Ferguson from the street, the media, and the Justice Department seem to appear twofold. In hindsight, Officer Darren Wilson apparently made two postmodern mistakes. One, when he saw Michael Brown strangely walking down the middle of the street — and collated that behavior and his appearance with breaking information of a suspect on the loose who had just strong-armed a clerk and robbed the store — he stopped to investigate. Had Wilson simply waved and passed Brown by — and ignored the prior possible felony act and the misdemeanor that he was watching in progress — then Brown would never have had an opportunity to assault him. Brown would not have been shot. And the Ferguson chain of events would never have been jump-started on that particular day.

Some of the public may think that the lessons of Michael Brown — and Trayvon Martin — are that it is unwise to commit a crime and then assault an officer, or confront a stranger in the rain and slug him in the head and get into a tussle, given that such targets may be armed and may respond with deadly force. But I think critics would privately respond that in Al Sharpton’s America both cases instead advise to take the beating and do not dare use a firearm for self-protection from assault on the chance the attacker is unarmed. In retrospect, Zimmerman might have preferred to have been “whoop-assed,” or Wilson preferred being slugged than to become lifelong targeted pariahs.

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When the Law Is a Drag

November 30th, 2014 - 10:17 pm

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In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.

In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.

Nor can a government maintain legitimacy when it presides over lawlessness. The president of the United States on over 20 occasions insisted that it would be illegal, dictatorial, and unconstitutional to contravene federal immigration law — at least when to do so was politically inexpedient. When it was not, he did just that. Now we enter the Orwellian world of a videotaped president repeatedly warning that what he would soon do would be in fact illegal. Has a U.S. president ever so frequently and fervently warned the country about the likes of himself?

What is forgotten about amnesty is that entering the U.S. illegally is not the end, but often the beginning of lawlessness. Out here in rural central California we accept a world where thousands drive without insurance, licenses, and registration. Fleeing the scenes of traffic accidents earns snoozes. There is no such thing as the felony of providing false information on government affidavits or creating made-up Social Security numbers. Selling things without paying taxes and working off the books while on assistance are no longer illegal. The normative culture is lawlessness.

Amnesty, granted through a lawless presidential act, will not stop but only encourage further lawlessness. If someone has become used to ignoring a multitude of laws without consequences, there is no reason why he should suddenly cease, given that punishment for breaking the law is still considered a politically-incorrect rather than a legal act — and that even with amnesties it will still be far easier and cheaper to break than obey the law. Who will deport an illegal alien beneficiary of amnesty when he again breaks the law? Amnesty will be seen as both reactive and prophylactic, a waiver for both past and future behavior.

More disturbingly, we have engendered a strange culture of justifiable lawlessness: those who are deemed exploited in some ways are exempt from following the law; those without such victim status are subject even more to it. Executive authorities compensate for their impotence in not enforcing statutes for some by excessively enforcing them on others.

I accept that if I burn a single old grape stake that has been treated with a copper-based preservative, I will be facing huge fines by environmental protection agencies, whose zeal will not extend to nearby residents who have created illegal compounds of rental Winnebagos with jerry-rigged wiring and stop-gap sewage or who dump wet garbage along the side of the road. In the old days the dumpers at least used to sift out incriminating documents with names on them; now they leave them in, without worry over the consequences.

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Explaining Away Obama

November 23rd, 2014 - 5:00 pm

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The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption. How does the IRS ever quite recover? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?

Will anyone again ever believe a U.S. red line, step-over line, or deadline? Will Iran ever accept that it should not have a bomb or fear the consequences of trying to get one? Is Iraq (omnis effusus labor) a sort of rescued Eurydice that was abruptly lost on the trek up from the Underworld? Will Afghanistan become Saigon, 1975? How could Putin ever again be worried about offending a U.S. president, or could China or North Korea? Are we now always to be allies of Islamist Turkey and indifferent to its enemies like our once-allied Kurds, Cypriots, Greeks, and Israelis?

Will the economy ever again grow as it should? Will disability, food stamp, and welfare recipients jump back into the workforce should we frack on federal lands, build the Keystone pipeline or quit berating private enterprise?

Every statistic that Obama has produced on Obamacare enrollment, deportation, unemployment and GDP growth is in some ways a lie. Almost everything he has said about granting amnesty was untrue, from his own contradictions to the congressionally sanctioned small amnesties of prior presidents. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.

I hope we can all recover, but it would require an honest autopsy of a failed presidency. So far, progressives assume that the media and Obama’s whining, blame-gaming and finger pointing can somehow return him back to a 50% approval rate and perhaps even a face-saving legacy. The result is that progressives, the media, and the Obama cohort have promulgated an entire series of excuses for what is a failed tenure like few any in the last century.

Bush Everywhere

George W. Bush is blamed by the administration for all its woes and not mentioned for any of its inheritances that proved salutary. The economy is said to be Bush’s fault, without recognition that Bush assumed the presidency during the Clinton recession. Also, Obama did not enter office during the meltdown of September 2008 but over four months later, when the economy was stabilizing; the recession was officially declared over before Obama’s first six months in office.

Nor do we remember that what caused the Wall Street/Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac implosion was not Bush’s policies per se, but rather all sorts of larger forces. Clintontites (was there a Clintonite who did not cash in with a rich brief tenure at federal mortgage agencies?) milked the system under the guise of liberal caring to expand housing; the Congressional Black Caucus damned the auditors of Franklin Raines and equated worries over unqualified subprime mortgages with racism. The deregulation of the mortgage industry was brought on by both parties in the 1990s.

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Democrat Dilemmas

November 2nd, 2014 - 10:32 pm

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Here is the problem with the old-style Obama strategy of slicing and dicing the electorate into aggrieved minorities and then gluing them back together to achieve a 51% majority. On almost every issue in this election that they should be running on, they simply cannot. And on those that they are running on, they probably should not be.

Let me explain.

We Didn’t Do What We Did

Foreign policy?

Consider the failed Russia “reset,” the bugout from Iraq, the “leading from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi scandal, the Iranian soon-to-be bomb, the smearing of Israel, the special relationship with a thuggish Erdogan, the dissolving Middle East, the eroding NATO, and an ever more bullying China. No Democrat will run on something like, “I fully support the Obama foreign policy initiatives and the brilliant work of Secretaries Clinton and Kerry.” Foreign policy, then, cannot be a campaign issue, in the positive sense of defending the status quo. No Democrat even made the attempt.

How about bigger and competent government?

No Democratic congressman would wish to campaign on, “Obama made government work for you — just look at the new and dynamic IRS, VA, ICE, GSA, NSA, and Secret Service.” “Not a smidgen of corruption” is not a viable campaign theme. No candidate even tried that.

Why don’t Sens. Landrieu, Pryor, and Udall play up their support for the Obama economy?

We did not see a candidate commercial like the following: “I was instrumental in keeping interest rates at zero percent for six years. I made sure that we borrowed another $7 trillion and oversaw the $1 trillion stimulus. We kept GDP above 1% and unemployment below 7%.” Apparently avoiding a depression is not felt to be an economic renaissance, and thus not a winning message.

How about Democratic ads trumpeting new big-ticket government initiatives?

Do any local, state, or national Democrats barnstorm on, “Soon Obamacare really will lower costs, expand coverage, and reduce our deficits in 2015 — just wait and see”? Or  how about, “We almost had cap and trade in 2009; I’ll make sure Obama finishes the job and gets it passed in 2015”? Or perhaps,  “Thanks to my efforts, we stopped all new fracking leases on federal lands”? Bragging on record oil and gas production despite, not because of, Obama is not a rallying cry either.

Maybe immigration could have been a Democratic winning issue?

No Democrat aired a radio spot like, “Those Central American children are just the beginning of what we can accomplish on the border. Let’s keep our borders open and welcome in more of our neighbors.” Democrats privately concluded that subverting immigration law to gain constituents was something to keep quiet on rather than boast about.

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Crimes of Exactly What?

October 26th, 2014 - 6:41 pm

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The recent unfortunate shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and its violent aftermath seem to have had everything and nothing to do with race.  Brown was black and unarmed and the officer white; but it is equally true that the 292-pound Brown likely committed a number of crimes in the minutes before his death. He was high on drugs; he robbed a store and strong-armed the clerk; he was walking down the middle of a road; and he started a physical altercation with policeman Darren Wilson (who tried to question him), inflicting injuries on the officer before being fatally shot. If that were a typical day in the life of an American citizen, then civilization, as we now know it, could no longer exist.

So far, evidence both released and leaked suggests that Brown most likely tried to grab the officer through the police car window, prompting a struggle over his gun — which was fired into the patrol car twice — began to run away, and then was shot as he turned and charged.

There is no evidence so far that Brown was either shot in the back or shot while his hands were up, surrendering to the officer. Legitimate questions, of course, remain about many of these details of the shooting of an unarmed suspect, and eyewitness accounts are conflicted; but so far no forensic evidence suggests an execution-type police shooting.

No matter. Ferguson is supposedly now iconic of white institutionalized racism and police brutality, a teachable civil rights moment, as it were, that is currently being used by Democratic candidates to galvanize the African-American vote against Republican candidates. So much so that everyone from Eric Holder and Barack Obama to Elizabeth Warren and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has described the shooting or its violent aftermath as iconic of some sort of American pathology. It may be a half-century since the civil rights movement in an America that is no longer white/black but a racial melting pot, yet we seem ossified in 1965 amber.

Several days of rioting followed the shooting. Black activists such as Al Sharpton, the New Black Panther Party and Jesse Jackson, as is their wont, have leveraged the Brown shooting to indict America for endemic brutality against people of color, and by extension enhance their own deplorable careers of inciting racial tensions. More post-Ferguson demonstrations followed a subsequent fatal shooting in St. Louis of 18-year old African-American Vonderrit Myers, by a white off-duty policeman employed as a security guard. Yet so far no one has disputed that Myers first fired three rounds at the off-duty policemen and was killed by returning fire. If firing three rounds at an off-duty police officer cannot be considered to warrant a legitimate violent response, but rather must be illustrative of racism, then we are going to have some tough days again. I say that mindful as well that African-Americans statistically commit a vastly greater percentage of relatively rare interracial crimes than do whites against blacks.

The resulting logic is that the rare white-on-black crime must be transcendent and iconic of something, while the far more common black-against-white violence is either irrelevant or in some way the understandable baggage of our racial past. That, too, is not a sustainable 21st century proposition.

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