The quote itself is by Ron Chernow, the historian who authored the recent well-reviewed biography of out 18th President, “Grant,” “Hamilton,” the biography that inspired, we are told, the mega-hit musical. and “Washington” (won’t somebody send a copy to the fools at Christ Church?) was given to an interviewer as his description of another book, the Philip Roth’s historical novel “The Plot Against America”:
[A] democracy can be corrupted, not by big, blaring events, but by a slow, insidious, almost imperceptible process, like carbon monoxide seeping in under the door.
Some random thoughts on this statement, which I believe is exactly right, and a lot more interesting than the more frequently used analogy about boiling a frog slowly:
- Grant, as Chernow’s book (among others of recent vintage) documents, was present at one of those points when democracy seemed to be in the process of being poisoned, and acted forcefully.
By 1868, when Grant was elected to succeed Andrew Johnson, who had done everything he could to allow the South to resist extending civil rights to the newly freed slaves, the KKK had evolved into a powerful terrorist organization that referred to itself as “The Invisible Empire of the South.” Under the Klan’s first “Grand Wizard,” the brilliant former Confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest, whites from all classes of Southern society joined the Klan’s ranks. They attacked and punished newly freed blacks for crimes like behaving in an “impudent manner” toward whites, brutalized the teachers of schools for black children, and burned schoolhouses. It also terrorized and often murdered Republican party leaders those who voted for Reconstruction policies. In Kansas over 2,000 murders were committed as the 1868 election approached; in Louisiana, a thousand blacks were killed in the same period.
Grant entered office knowing that the Civil War victory could come apart. He made some bad appointments–Grant was naive about politics and trusted too easily—but his choice as Attorney General, Amos T. Akerman, was masterful. With Grant’s support, and the with the help of the newly created Justice Department under Grant, he vigorously worked to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed tough restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new state governments. Between 1870 and 1871, the Republican Congress passed and Grant signed into law the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service by blacks. Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations.
- When I was growing up and becoming interested in the Presidents, a life-long passion that led me to both law and ethics, Grant was routinely listed as one of the worst in the line. All one heard from historians was about the financial scandals that rocked his administration. Grant’s great success in subduing the Klan was literally never mentioned. The main Presidential historian then was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a member of Jack Kennedy’s inner circle. His job as he saw it was to minimize the contributions of any Republican President, like Teddy Roosevelt (“near great” in his rankings), Eisenhower (“below average”) and Grant (“failure’). Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, who dragged the U.S, into the first World War, botched the Versailles Treaty and who actively revived the Klan, being a stone-cold racist, was “great.” Naturally, I believed all of his distortions, which were largely those of the historians at the time, then, as now, often partisans and propagandists. It took me a while to realize that this had been my first encounter with the Left attempting to alter present perception by controlling the past.
That is one of the major sources of Chernow’s carbon monoxide today, except that the disinformation now emanates from the schools, colleges, and the news media.
- Halloween is another tiny example of how liberty is being leached out of American society. Coismoploitan scolded parents that they shouldn’t let their daughters dress as Moana from the Disney movie because it was “cultural appropriation”:
“You can (and should) strive to be better than you were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. If you missed the mark when you were younger, maybe think about using this Halloween as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of cultural sensitivity. If your child’s dream costume feels questionable, don’t just throw up your hands and hand over your credit card. You’re the parent here, and the onus of what your child wears falls on you. If your kid wears a racist costume … you’re kind of wearing it too.”
In Walpole, Mass., an elementary school canceled its annual Halloween parade this year out of concern that it was not “inclusive” enough, and replaced it with a “spirit day” during which the children will be allowed to wear orange and black, and you know how much fun THAT can be. Ohio State University students were given a flow-chart designed to help students determine whether their Halloween costume is racist.”
Here it is, and it is not a joke:
Note that any political costume is considered inappropriate unless it ridicules Donald Trump.
Iconoclastic feminist blogger Amy Alkon announced that her costume will consist of her wearing this name tag:
Too bad nobody remembers who Cleaver was.
- Earlier I wrote about the ‘scandal” involving Yuli Gurriel, a Cuban baseball player with the Houston Astros, making a slant-eyed gesture to a team mate after he hit a home run off of the Dodgers half-Japanese starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, owner of one of my favorite baseball names ever. Gurriel wasn’t aware that he was on camera and immediately apologized, but he was punished by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred with a five game suspension beginning next season that will cost him six figures in income. So cowed are commentators and the sports media by the political correctness mania on social media and beyond that not one pundit has dared to suggest that this punishment is outrageously excessive.
Well, I’ll bite. First of all, it is unethical to treat what was intended as a private communication as if it was intended to be broadcast to the world, Yes, I know a court would find that there is no “expectation of privacy” when one is in a dugout of a nationally televised World Series game, but that’s the law, not reality. Since the camera is on these players all the time, they forget that they are on camera. We are hurtling toward a society where people’s reputation are going to be destroyed forever when Alexa picks them up telling a sexist joke.
Second, the gesture isn’t racist. It makes fun of how someone looks, which is uncivil and rude. It is no different ethically from mocking Rush Limbaugh’s weight, Hillary’s piano legs, or Donald Trump’s hair and tan. The gesture doesn’t state that Gurriel thinks Japanese pitchers are inferior; in fact, he played in Japan, and has been open about the fact that he had trouble hitting them. The freak-out over any mention of racial features is part of the culture’s elevating racial offense above all else, and it allows bullying, intimidation, and the chilling of free expression.
- Here’s a thought experiment: this is Don Mossi, a great relief pitcher who was renowned for being one of the strangest/scariest looking players of all time:
If Gurriel had hit his home run off of Mossi and after celebrating in the dugout, had pulled his ears forward while he could be seen by lip-readers mouthing the Spanish word for “elephant ears,” should he have been suspended and forced to lose all that money? No? Why not? The gesture would be no less cruel and insulting than the eye gesture. Mossi couldn’t help how he looked. It’s more cruel, in my estimation. Darvish is a good looking guy; all the gesture Yuli made meant was “he looks Asian.”
Explain to me in substantive and ethical terms why one mockery of physical features is worse than the other, and why either would justify such extreme punishment.