The Age of Totalitolerance

Much evil may be committed in the name of “justice” or “equality” or, ironically, “freedom.”

ThomasJeffersonStatueMissouriAll of us believe in some version of those precepts.  Thus, to oppose a strain of totalitarianism that gallops into town under a banner bearing the name of so noble an ideal would make one a monstrous bigot.

And, as we all know, being branded a bigot (or, worse, finding oneself on the dreaded “wrong side of history”) is a fate worse than death for any self-respecting progressive, much less for those weak-kneed souls who fear the wrath of social-media slacktivists.

Since “totalitarianism” is far too nonspecific to describe this precise phenomenon, let’s call it “totalitolerance.”

The news Monday that Missouri President Tim Wolfe had resigned, followed shortly by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s own resignation, marked another curious case of campus “justice.”

Wolfe’s hand was forced by a growing backlash over several reported racial incidents, the most striking and recent of which was the smearing of human feces in the shape of a swastika in a bathroom at a residence hall, an event I’m grateful took place long after I had settled on a fantasy football team name for 2015.

To be clear, Wolfe’s “fireable offense” was the unforgivable infraction of insufficient sensitivity.  A large number of students and many in the faculty felt that Wolfe had not been strong enough in his response to the racially-charged events of recent months, particularly in the context of the university’s history.

After all, as the Washington Post article on the racial tension at the school helpfully notes, Missouri “was a slave state.”

Although, to be fair, that probably wasn’t entirely Wolfe’s fault.

For his part, Loftin had condemned the racist acts.  That didn’t spare him the same fate that befell Wolfe.  He, too, was faced with the prospect of enormous pressure to leave his position.  Like Wolfe, he capitulated.

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Taylor Swift-Boating John Kasich

At a town-hall-style event at the University of Richmond last week, Ohio governor John Kasich noticed a female student who was enthusiastically trying to get his attention, reacting by saying, “I don’t have any tickets, for, you know, Taylor Swift,” adding a self-depricating “I know, you’re so excited.”  She then asked her question, which was about immigration, and Kasich provided his answer:

Whether you like his reply or not depends on your politics, but there’s no question that it was an answer intended to be serious.

For her part, the student felt compelled to author this well-written op/ed in the school newspaper.  In it, she sharply criticizes Kasich for his mild, if slightly awkward attempt at humor.

She refers to Kasich’s earlier remarks on spirituality and drugs as “condescending,” but says that the real concern was what his pre-question comment revealed: Continue reading

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Trump’s Popularity: Real, or Wake-Up Call?

With another GOP debate imminent, poll leader Donald Trump will have several more opportunities to antagonize opponents, media members, and various segments of the public, as he has done repeatedly in recent months.

Thus far, it hasn’t hurt him.  At all.

The flurry of activity around the blessed return of football this past weekend knocked loose a few rocks in my head that led me to contemplate Donald Trump’s consistently strong polling numbers from a gridiron-centric perspective.

TrumpUSFLI’ll explain in a minute, but Trump’s popularity is a fascinating phenomenon that begs analysis in search of explanation.  To be sure, there are some who genuinely like Trump.  And I absolutely understand his visceral appeal and charisma.  Every other candidate, to some degree, projects a personality that ranges from “reserved” to “programmed-by-a-focus-group.”

Trump is many things, but he is neither shy nor bland.  He understands popular culture better than the other potential nominees because he has been an integral part of popular culture for the better part of three decades.  That appeals to a lot of people.  On top of that, his support is also fueled a layer of Tea-Party-esque frustration with the GOP’s inability to deliver the White House in two attempts against Barack Obama.  Trump, partially through his birtherism history, taps into and harnesses that frustration.

Yet, most Republicans—including many of Trump’s supporters—seem to hold views that clash with Trump’s, immigration excepted.  While his more skeptical conservative critics rightly question whether he even qualifies as a conservative at all, there is no doubt that he remains relatively popular with Republicans.

Granted, the inherently fractured nature of support for over a dozen GOP candidates makes Trump’s percentages seem more commanding than they are, but the fact remains that he’s been the front-runner for a while now.  And we’ve sailed past the point where his success can be explained entirely by name recognition.

With all of the obvious issues, like the lack of depth of foreign policy knowledge and the questionable conservative bona fides, why is he doing so well?

This is where football comes in.

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The Urge to Purge

HoopSkirtAs I’ve said before, the primitive desire to purge our society of anything that makes us feel bad—particularly things that relate to history—will continue, unabated, until people stand up and say “enough.”

Consider this opinion piece in the Washington Post, headlined “Remove the Southern belle from her inglorious perch.”  The author, Elizabeth Boyd, makes the case for banning the hoop skirt.  Yes, you read that correctly: The hoop skirt must be banned.  But that’s not all.

Boyd, a “research associate in American Studies at the University of Maryland,” predictably trots out Dylan Roof’s evil, murderous rampage as the rhetorical foot-in-the-door to advocate for the elimination of not only the Confederate flag, but a laundry list of cultural artifacts she connects to that evil—including vestiges of the “Southern belle.”

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The Mob Goes Trophy Hunting

CecilTheLion2I don’t hunt and — at the risk of losing my “Real American” bona fides — I also don’t own a firearm.  In fact, I have never pulled the trigger on anything more powerful than a pellet gun.  I can’t drive a stick, either, but that’s a different article.

I love animals and have no interest in killing them, but I am definitely not opposed to hunting, per se.  I agree that a distinction can be drawn between hunting animal populations that pose a threat when their numbers get too great, on the one hand, and hunting rare or exotic animals purely for sport on the other.

Even with no sympathies at all for trophy hunting, though, I found myself rushing to the defense of Cecil the Lion’s “murderer,” Dr. Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. Not because I agree with what he did.  Quite the opposite.  But because I disagree with what has happened to him as a result of the story going viral.

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30 Facts for Live Aid’s 30th Anniversary

Even though I was only seven years old, I could sense that Live Aid was important.

LiveAidCrowdWembleyThirty years ago today, the biggest musical acts in the world performed as part of a single, massive event, unprecedented in scope.  Everyone from Madonna to the Beach Boys to the Pretenders to Paul McCartney helped put on the biggest concert in the history of the planet, before or since.

The strange thing is that I realized just a few days ago that the 30th anniversary was coming up.  The relative lack of fanfare struck me as odd.  Rather than trying to write a comprehensive history about the event, or even an analysis of the concert itself, I thought I would string together 30 facts about Live Aid to commemorate the occasion.

1. Live Aid began as an offshoot of Band Aid, a group of mostly-UK artists who recorded a one-off charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  The song was so popular in late 1984 that organizer Bob Geldof decided to see if he could parlay that momentum into a mega-concert that would likewise raise funds to assist in combating African starvation, particularly in Ethiopia.  Several of the participants in Band-Aid (such as the members of U2) were suspicious about Geldof’s motives.

2. Band Aid also inspired USA for Africa, a similar effort in the United States that produced “We Are the World,” written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson.

3. Geldof was invited to the recording of “We Are the World” in Hollywood, but became enraged when he saw the $50,000, caviar-rich spread that had been donated by local, high-end restaurants.  He lectured the Americans present on the hypocrisy of enjoying the finest food while recording a record devoted to fighting famine.  Geldof stormed out, but producer Ken Kragen chased Geldof down and talked him into returning.  “We Are the World” went on to earn $45 million, or about four times as much as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

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Memory Hole or Bottomless Pit?

Down, down the memory hole we go.  Where we stop, nobody knows.

I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.  Despite growing up in the capital of the Confederacy, and later attending Washington & Lee (as in “Robert E.”) University, I have never owned, flown, or worn a Confederate flag, nor have I ever desired to do so.  Not once.  I think the decision to remove the flag from capitol grounds in South Carolina is the correct one, over and above being politically expedient.

That said, I knew that the announcement by Governor Haley would open the proverbial floodgates, as in-sync Democrats and Republicans grappled over which of them were on the “right-er” side of history.

Those of you with sharper long-term memories may recall that, not very long ago, this saga began as a horrifying story about a racially-motivated killing spree.  The media transformed the discussion into an attempt to renew interest in two old favorites: Gun control (which, despite their best efforts, never gets traction) and the flag.  Pressing every GOP candidate on the topic, and spotlighting any less-than-satisfactory answer, media attention was able to drive this issue to the forefront of American discourse within a matter of 48 hours after the capture of Dylann Roof.

ClintonGore96As I said, I support the flag being removed.  But I would have couched it in terms of “Whatever one thinks about the meaning of the flag, it is indisputably a flag of rebellion and a flag that should not be considered sanctioned by this government via official display on state grounds.”  Simple, clean, and it acknowledges a reevaluation of the flag’s place in contemporary culture.

But that’s not exactly what happened.  The removal of the flag was framed, as Senator Tim Scott put it, in these terms:

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Untimely Police Procedure Review: Running Scared

One of the more powerful and sadly ubiquitous stories of the past year has been the strained relationship between local law enforcement and the public, particularly in certain poor, heavily minority communities.

Whether due to misguided militarization of police forces, general suspicion of police held by constituents, or specific incidents of brutality, officer conduct (or, more properly, misconduct) has been at the forefront of public discourse for much of the past ten months.

RiotGearCopsAs someone who tries his best to make sense of American culture, politics, and society, I thought now might be as good a time as ever to delve into the touchy subject of how police officers interact with citizens as they stop civilized society from becoming a lawless hellscape.

More often than we’d like to admit, of course, law enforcement itself becomes lawless.  Just a few weeks ago, the Chicago City Council voted to award $5.5 million to victims of ongoing police torture that stretches back decades.  That award was over and above the more than $100 million that the city has paid out in various other lawsuits against the police over the years.

With a backdrop of burning buildings, empty stadiums, and occasionally violent protests in mind, I thought it worthwhile to devote a post to the issue of police misconduct and community relations.

Therefore, here’s an in-depth recap of the police procedure in the 1986 Billy Crystal / Gregory Hines buddy-cop comedy Running Scared!

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What Was Lost

ConstitutionToday’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges represents the culmination of a perfectly executed public-relations campaign.

It is impossible not to be impressed by what this activist-driven effort accomplished—I mean in real terms, not the unserious victory slogans of the campaign itself.

In no particular order, it:

1. Successfully and fundamentally transformed the definition of “marriage,” and did so in a way that portrayed efforts to preserve traditional marriage as the novelty, rather than as the millennia-old status quo.

2. Successfully convinced a critical mass of the public that there is only one side in this debate, despite the fact that the side claiming the monopoly had only existed in any meaningful form for perhaps 20 years.

3. Successfully convinced a critical mass of the public that race and sexual orientation are directly analogous.

4. Successfully convinced a critical mass of the public (and jurists) that there is no possible argument against gay marriage—to the point where federal judges found that not permitting same-sex marriage is definitionally irrational, and had prominent left-leaning outlets calling the dissents simply “crazy.”

5. Successfully branded opponents as simple “bigots” for daring to hold a different view on a live political issue, going so far as to take punitive action against those who did not adopt the “correct” viewpoint.

6. Successfully portrayed the battle as, literally, love versus hate.

7. Successfully accomplished all of the above in about a decade.

My God, the magnitude of it is staggering.

Agree or disagree with the result, the sheer, total dominance with which their opposition was dealt defeat after defeat, constantly being depicted as evil and intellectually bankrupt—even when most of the public was still in favor of traditional marriage—is incredible.

How did this happen?

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Is Dylann Roof America Personified?

SCShootingChurchMemorialThe horrific, racially motivated murder spree by Dylann Roof also served as a call to action for those who see the awful events of Wednesday night as corroboration of their core beliefs about the poisonous nature of American culture.

Briefly, two key tenets of modern progressivism are that, one, racism is virtually ubiquitous.  Even when it isn’t apparent, it is so ingrained by the evils of our past as to be systemic.  Although blatant racists only occasionally lash out openly, there are quiet racists everywhere.

Two, the United States is a wildly violent, gun-crazy culture that must be reigned in with tougher firearms laws.  These laws will—naturally—be entirely effective.

Dozens of commentaries began to pop up within 24 hours of the shootings underscoring both points, as well as being solemnly fawned over by many of my left-leaning Facebook friends.  The overall tenor of most of the articles was “of course this happened, because our society is racist and gun-crazy.”
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