RSSCategory: American Culture

America Retreats to Tribalism

October 30, 2017 | By | Reply More

At New York Times, Timothy Egan notes that Americans are retreating to tribalism, and this is not a good thing. Here is an excerpt from Egan’s article, “The National Crackup.”

The American experiment [is the] the audacious idea that people from all races, ideologies and religious sects would check their hatreds at the door after becoming citizens is our sustaining narrative.

Within our borders, Protestants don’t fight Catholics, Sunnis don’t go after Shiites, Armenians share neighborhoods with Turks, and a family that can trace much of its ancestry to slavery occupied a White House built in part by slaves.

But that tenuous construct is breaking apart. We are retreating to our tribal, ethnic and primitively prejudicial quarters. Everything is about race and identity. We come from privilege, or oppression. We choose politicians based on whether they help our tribe or hurt People Like Us.

Stupidly, the left is playing its part in this crackup, perhaps ensuring that Trump will stay in office. When people shout, “Check your privilege” at a speaker at a public event, what they’re saying is, “Shut up, your opinion doesn’t matter because of the color of your skin.”

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What Happened at Yale regarding the Halloween Costume Email?

October 28, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

An explosion of victimhood/censorship at Yale regarding a Halloween Costume email is often referenced. This article in Atlantic spells out many of the details.

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On Raising Fragile Children

October 27, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

Lenore Skenazy (an early critic of helicopter parenting) and Jonathan Haidt have written a detailed article describing the problem that modern paranoid parenting is producing fragile children. “The Fragile Generation” published by Reason.com, is an excellent read. Because I grew up in the 60’s where free play was ubiquitous, this passage on free play especially resonated with me . . .

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The Effect of Concepts Creeping to the Left

October 24, 2017 | By | 3 Replies More

In this paper titled, “Why Concepts Creep to the Left,” Jonathan Haidt supplements Nick Haslam’s paper titled “Concept Creep,” in which concepts such as bullying, trauma and addiction morph over time. And there are newish terms that have become prominent and expansive in recent years, “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” But these concepts don’t merely change. They change to the whims of the political left. And they especially change for current students and young adults rather than those over 40. In his article, Haidt asks why there is a direction to that change. Haidt writes:

These terms are part of a new conceptual package that includes all of the older concepts long referred to as “political correctness” but with greatly expanded notions of harm, trauma, mental illness, vulnerability, and harassment. These concepts seem to have expanded in just the way that Haslam (2016) describes — horizontally, to take in new kinds of cases (such as adding the reading of novels to the list of traumatizing activities) and vertically, to take in ever less extreme versions of older cases (as is made explicit by the prefix “micro” in the word “microaggression”). In this conceptually augmented political correctness, the central idea seems to be that many college students are so fragile that institutions and right-thinking people must all work together to protect vulnerable individuals from exposure to words and ideas that could damage them in a lasting way. If this protection requires banning certain speakers from campus, or punishing student newspapers that publish opinions that upset the dominant campus sensibility, then so be it.

What are the reasons for this expansion of these concepts to the left. Haidt explores several possibilities . ..

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Mob behavior and threats to free speech described and discussed by Nicholas Christakis

October 11, 2017 | By | Reply More

I recommend this excellent discussion by Nicholas Christakis on the topics of mob behavior, moral panics, and current threats to free speech. Illiberal behavior is destroying our ability to talk with each other, notably on the places where we would most expect vigorous exchanges of ideas: college campuses. Christakis is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the area of biosocial science, investigating the biological predicates and consequences of social phenomena. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University. Sam Harris presents this discussion on his Waking Up podcast.

At the tail end of the podcast, Christakis and Harris mention the work of Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

FIRE has achieved long successful string of legal victories through its Speech Litigation Project. 

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Time to take down the Confederate Statues.

August 19, 2017 | By | Reply More
Time to take down the Confederate Statues.

At National Review, Arthur Herman gives his best reasons why the public Confederate statues should remain in publicly owned spaces.   I do believe that Herman put the best foot forward of the “Keep the Statues” crowd.

I disagree with him. These statues belong, if anywhere, in the Jim Crow wing of a history museum.  Herman received strong pushback in the comments to his article, many of these comments echoing my beliefs. Here are some samples of the comments critical of Herman’s defense of the statues:

“The timeless virtues of slavery. Symbols of Southern history of slavery.”
“Most of those statues were NOT erected in the days after the Civil War. Nor were they erected in the days since the 1970s, when Jim Crow was over.”

“They were put up as part of the wave of “Lost Cause” historical revisionism that swept the South in the first half of the 20th century. The purpose was to try to redeem *the cause for which the South had fought*.”

File-Lee_Park,_Charlottesville,_VA.jpg

“I don’t have a problem honoring the ordinary enlisted men–the privates and sergeants–who fought bravely on both sides of the Civil War. But the Confederate leadership–and this includes Lee–should not be honored because the cause they fought for was *to break up the United States*.” Most of those statues were NOT erected in the days after the Civil War. Nor were they erected in the days since the 1970s, when Jim Crow was over. They were put up as part of the wave of “Lost Cause” historical revisionism that swept the South in the first half of the 20th century. The purpose was to try to redeem *the cause for which the South had fought*.”

“Thomas Jefferson is NOT honored because he had slaves. He is honored because he wrote the Declaration of Independence, which asserted the equality of all humanity before God. Tear down his memorial and you would be tearing down the Declaration of Independence too.”

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Lee Camp: Take Down the Statues

August 19, 2017 | By | Reply More

Lee Camp is a comedian who, growing up on the south, had a front row seat to many things relevant to this week’s tragic events at the University of Virginia.

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Walking while texting bloopers video has a serious ending

July 17, 2017 | By | 2 Replies More

Blooper video turned PSA:

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On Reverse-Engineering a Soldier’s Death to Justify More of the Same

March 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

From Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept:

While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.

. . .

By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them.

Greenwald points out that our natural sympathy for family members of brave dead soldiers is consciously reverse engineered at events such as President Trump’s recent speech, such that the heroism of the soldier appears to make the war a worthy war and the President a worthy President.

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