Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Physician, Heal Thyself, Stat

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
"Happy slaves are the bitterest enemies of freedom." - Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
"Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.” - Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
There's a question that is being seriously asked on Facebook and elsewhere: Have any of Ben Carson's patients actually survived?
     It needs to be asked because Carson's obvious stupidity and intractable ignorance would seem to be inconsistent with the intelligence and erudition that's necessary for the job of brain surgeon. Over the decades, we've come to regard neurologists and rocket scientists as the most intelligent and learned among us. Yet everything that comes out of the new HUD Secretary's mouth would indicate that he seriously needs to be examined by one of his colleagues.
     In his introductory comments to his Housing and Urban Development staff yesterday, Ben Carson actually said, 
There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
     He delivered this incredible reimagining of the horrors of slavery while sounding as if he'd smoked a pound of hash before his address. USA Today was the first to break the story and it immediately went viral on social media. Yes, incredibly, this is exactly the man the Republican party wanted to lead HUD: A former brain surgeon whose only qualification for the job was having lived in subsidized housing as a boy and now wants to do away with it.
     It would be easy to ridicule and dismiss Carson's insanely clueless remarks about slavery if he was a white man waxing nostalgically about it. We laughed off Cliven Bundy when during his standoff against federal officers called for the return of slavery and cotton picking. But Dr. Carson is an educated African American and a member of Donald Trump's cabinet.
     There are no words. There are no excuses.
     But there is recent precedent for this line of thought.

Shuckin' and Jivin'
While weighing in on gay marriage in the Supreme Court's historic ruling (pdf file), Justice Clarence Thomas, another learned black man, detoured from the subject in his minority dissent by saying,
Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.
     It's a sad time in our nation when enlightened whites, a century and a half removed from the time of slavery, have superior empathy and a better grasp of its evils and the human toll it exacted of its victims than the descendants of those victims. And what does it say about conservatism that it arrogantly seeks to replace history with a palimpsest that portrays one of the most evil facets of our history as a voluntary economic opportunity?
     We also laughed off Donald Trump the day he threw his hat down the escalator and into the three ring circus that is the Republican Party when he told Bill O'Reilly, "If you are an African-American youth right now, you’re in worse shape than you practically ever were in the history of this country." That is until the very next day when Dylann Storm Roof walked into an AME church in Charleston with a loaded hand gun.
     Four and a half years ago, an Arkansas state legislator, Jon Hubbard, wrote and published a book in which he actually said, "[T]he institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise." Just for the record, he flipped his concerns for the people who need it most, white Christians, when he bloviated about immigration, "{T}he immigration issue, both legal and illegal ... will lead to planned wars or extermination. Although now this seems to be barbaric and uncivilized, it will at some point become as necessary as eating and breathing."
     Art Robinson, a GOP Congressional wannabe, published a book of his own in which he cheerfully wrote, "The negroes on a well-ordered estate, under kind masters, were probably a happier class of people than the laborers upon any estate in Europe." (Let's forget for a minute that slavery was abolished across Europe by much of the early 19th century, especially in Great Britain and that not all slave owners were "kind".)
     Bob Vander Plaats, head of an ultra right wing organization called Family Leader, talked presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum into signing his pledge that stated, "A child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President."
     Then there was this from David Horowitz: "If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves." Which is like saying today's Jews, including Horowitz, are benefiting to this day from the slave labor of their forbears in the Nazi death camps.

A Mind Enslaved by Conservatism is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Only a conservative mind, insulated by wealth and privilege, could look at this infamous picture taken in Louisiana in 1863 and pronounce this slave's whip scars as a road map to success.
     But insularity alone doesn't account for this stubborn ignorance in the conservative brain. Neither can we blame the fading, tenuous reach of distant history. After all, anyone who's read Alex Haley's Roots or of the exploits of the brave men and women who operated the Underground Railroad immediately (one would think) have more insight into slavery. Insularity can be penetrated. History may yet reach us through its chroniclers. There is a deeper issue that explains this intractable, willful ignorance and it's a lack of empathy, a hallmark of the conservative mind.
     This explains how even prominent African American men, including two of the most powerful members of our government, can remain so clueless about the actual effects of slavery on their ancestors. Carson and Thomas had both benefited hugely from Affirmative Action and subsidized housing and health care, educational grants, etc. Note that all the advantages and programs listed above are also perennial targets of their party of choice. In other words, the tried-and-true conservative tactic of pulling up the ladder after themselves.
     It's this sociopathic lack of empathy that makes possible complete ignorance of the existence and purpose of the Underground Railroad, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (part of a quintet of bills ratified by Congress to mollify the Slave States to forestall a civil war) and Carson's incredible statement that immigrants came here on slave ships rather than ordinary passenger steam ships or that immigrants captured in Africa arrived in the belly of slave ships yet were doing so of their own volition.
     There is something very deeply, dreadfully wrong with the conservative mind that would ignore the fact that Great Britain had inserted a network of spies in the slave states during the mid 19th century (including the incredible story of Robert Bunch in Charleston) with the intent of undermining the slave trade that Great Britain had found so abhorrent. In fact, the mental dysfunction of the conservative mind is so pronounced, several respected psychologists and psychiatrists have weighed in on the matter.
     And this serious dysfunction in the Republican-conservative mind allows for incredible statements and beliefs among African Americans that the confederate flag is about "heritage" and that slavery was a "choice" (thereby completely ignoring the efforts of abolitionists such as John Brown and Frederick Douglass). This stubborn ignorance and lack of empathy or even a baseline of sympathy for the victims of slavery cannot be remedied by education. And, in the case of Secretary Carson and Justice Thomas, they especially have no excuses for their warped view of their own peoples' history.


At March 7, 2017 at 4:38 PM, Blogger D. said...

"...what does it say about conservatism that it arrogantly seeks to replace history with a palimpsest that portrays one of the most evil facets of our history as a voluntary economic opportunity?"

That conservatism is populated by scummy hypocrites who should be shunned by everyone with an ounce of fellow-feeling?

(Distruster of black conservatives since the '80s. They go back a ways.)

At March 9, 2017 at 2:38 AM, Anonymous CC said...

"[T]he institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise."

I've seen this line or something similar uttered by conservatives in recent years.

Their argument is that African Americans should be grateful that their ancestors were brought over as slaves because of the mess Africa seems to be in today.

What they ignore is that the slave trade and the mess Africa is in today are two episodes in the saga known as the systematic exploitation of Africa by outsiders (mostly those of European descent) over hundreds of years.

To further assuage their guilt, conservatives employ a second line of argument: Africans enslaved their fellow Africans first before selling them to slave traders. Hence, blacks should blame their own kind.

True, some Africans did practice slavery on their brethren, but what made it really lucrative was demand by outsiders. Trade needs a buyer and a seller. No buyer, no seller.

Guess who constituted most of the buyers?

At March 9, 2017 at 10:54 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

As V said, "You have only but to look into a mirror."

At March 10, 2017 at 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anton said...

Someone on Twitter opined that carson was the first neurosurgeon to perform the first successful bilateral hemispherectomy...on himself.


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