Further Reflections On “Juneteenth”

Guest Post by Michael West

My summary observations of something that is more complex than most people make it out to be:

The Fourth of July must always be the preeminent holiday in the American “liturgy”. Even for the slaves whose lives were spent in a state of legalized kidnapping, it was their Independence Day also even while they didn’t enjoy the reality of it. Yet I understand some arguments, such as those who perpetuate Frederick Douglass’s observations on Independence Day. But frankly, anyone espousing that attitude *still* are anti-American.

BUT, it should surely be acknowledged that even while Independence Day was for ALL Americans (even those who in reality didn’t enjoy its blessings), there were those who in reality didn’t enjoy its blessings. And an end to their legalized kidnapping, finally realizing the values of the Declaration, SHOULD be celebrated.

Now, whether that celebration ought to be “Juneteenth”, or the ratification of the 13th Amendment (January 31, 1865), or the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863), or the defeat of the Confederacy, I don’t know. Still, it is appropriate for the U.S. to honor such a momentous event that all Americans should be grateful for.

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Reflections On “Juneteenth”

Juneteenth

Guest Post by A.M. Golden

[Well THAT was fast! This morning’s Open Forum generated not one but two guest post-worthy comments regarding the newly created “Juneteenth” national holiday. I had intended to post on it yesterday; for once I’m pleased that life got in the way. This is the first; the second will appear shortly, and who knows? There may be more!–JM]

So let’s talk about Juneteenth, shall we?

A blatant attempt to pander to the African-American community. A federal holiday that only a small group of people actually celebrate. I’m still trying to figure out if I can go to the post office tomorrow.

I’ve also read one article already by a person of color who admits to feeling uncomfortable with the thought of white people celebrating this holiday.

So, no, this won’t be divisive, will it?

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No, Pete Davidson Is NOT Starring As George Bailey In A Remake Of “It’s A Wonderful Life”

toy train derailment

Here we have a fine example of that annoying American pop culture phenomenon, the teensie-weensie ethics train wreck. From beginning to end, everything about this episode evinces some lack of ethical values, but in the final analysis, the consequences are negligible.

Let’s examine the trivial Pete Davidson Casting Ethics Train Wreck:

1. Clickbait. Numerous friends and Ethics Alarms readers emailed me with the horrifying news that Pete Davidson, the slimy, possibly mentally-ill Saturday Night Live  cast member and stand-up comic, would be playing George Bailey in a “remake” of the beloved Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The reason for their alarm were headlines like this one, from Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller: “Pete Davidson To Take On Role Of George Bailey In ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’” The conclusion reached by those who contacted me was completely reasonable, but the headline was deliberately misleading.

2. Casting a creep like Davidson as George Bailey in any version of that movie including a Cub Scouts skit  is a slur on the film, the beloved character, James Stewart, the holidays, Capra, what the film stands for to many Americans, oh, pretty much everything. Davidson infamously mocked Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s eye-patch when he was running for Congress in 2018, and has generally proven himself to be a smug, shallow jerk of the sort that has flourished during the Trump years. Crenshaw lost his eye in combat, and Davidson has made it clear, despite various insincere mea culpas, that this warrants no respect in his world view.  For Davidson to stand in the shoes of James Stewart, a World War II veteran and hero, is nauseating, and an insult to all veterans. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Respite Before Holiday Madness, 11/21/2020: The Justice, The Pope, The Scouts, And The Chickens

This is annually the last day before everything goes bananas in Marshall World. From now until New Years, its like the Nantucket Sleigh ride, not quite as dangerous, but not as much fun either. November 22 is the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, my generation’s 9-11. It changed everything. The 23rd is my anniversary, #40, which my son is sure to forget and my wife, for various reasons, doesn’t like to celebrate. Next is Thanksgiving, always depressing now because what was once a vibrant table of 7-15 relatives and friends is now at most four and a lot of wistfulness. My birthday comes on December 1, forever tainted because my perverse father chose the date to die on, and fate chose me to find his body. Then it’s the anxious run-up to the Christmas holidays, which always follows in the deadest period for ProEthics, meaning that we are counting pennies at the one time of the year we don’t want to be. (There is also the annual tree drama, since both my family and Grace’s were addicted to real, meticulously decorated trees, and we have a 20 foot ceiling which makes any tree less than 8 feet look silly. The thing takes about 2500 lights, which I have the responsibility of hanging, and then over a hundred mostly unique ornaments, beginning with the yarn Santa my mother made for Jack Sr. and Eleanor’s first scraggly tree in their new Cape Cod-style home in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was 1948. Getting our tree up and decorated to family standards takes about twelve hours and multiple First Degree prickle wounds. I can’t wait.

On the plus side, I’ll finally finish the Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 42nd Street”…

1. No, I’m not surprised that the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up went straight to the top. Are you? I’m not even disappointed. This is what organizations and institutions do: they protect themselves, and sacrifice the victims of their misconduct.

The Vatican this month released a report that showed Pope John Paul’s role blame in allowing the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick to continue in the Church’s hierarchy.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, reveals how the Pope ignored a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against McCarrick. Three popes participated in the cover-up, but one of them, John Paul, has been canonized. So Catholic saints are now accessories to rape.

A reversal of the canonization, which may never have happened, is unlikely, but it may slow the rush to canonize future popes.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2020: “Juneteenth” Edition

Good morning!

1. About “Juneteenth”: I confess: I had never heard of Juneteenth before this year, or at least never took note of it or what the day signifies. I am certain that I never heard the term while I was living in Massachusetts. It would have helped, in my case, if the unofficial holiday (except in Texas, where the event commemorated actually occurred, the freeing of the last slaves in America, and it is a state holiday) had a label that didn’t remind me of so many Madison Avenue gimmick labels and fad word mash-ups like “frenemy” or “momtrepreneur.” “Juneteenth” sounds to me like a summer music festival.

The end of slavery is certainly a legitimate subject for a new paid Federal holiday (as well as many others). Getting the holiday established as part of the George Floyd Freakout white guilting strategy cheapens it, I think, placing the holiday in the same pandering package with HBO Max pulling “Gone  With The Wind” or the University of Florida  banning the “Gator Bait” cheer. As with so much else going on, I am concerned that this will exacerbate rather than ameliorate racial tensions, with an official nation-wide “Juneteeth” having the effect of making July 4th a “white” holiday.

2. Deceitful withdrawal of the decade? Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose prospects for being named Joe Biden’s running mate vanished as soon as it was publicized that she was responsible for Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin not being prosecuted for earlier claims of police misconduct, grandly announced that she had called Biden and withdrawn her name from consideration, an amusing variation on “You can’t fire me, I quit!  “America must seize on the moment and I truly believe — as I actually told the VP last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last night. “And there are so many incredible, qualified women. But if you wanna heal this nation right now, my party yes, but our nation, this is a helluva way to do it.”

No, choosing a Vice-President purely on the basis of gender and color is not a “helluva way” to run a country, but that’s progressivism and the Democratic Party in 2020: group identity matters, actual skill and qualifications don’t. (And if there are so many “incredible, qualified women, why isn’t Biden considering any of them?) Ann Althouse writes, amusingly,

So what I hear in her effort at a high-minded statement is an undercutting of the other women who are in the running. First, Elizabeth Warren — who is not a woman of color except in her memory of younger days when family lore and a desire to identify were enough. Why step on her chances, Amy? Second, all the various black women who are in the running. Amy is ensuring that when one of them is picked, everyone will believe they were picked because of their race.

Because whoever it is will have been picked because of her race and gender! Klobuchar isn’t signaling anything that everyone paying attention hadn’t figured out months ago. As for Warren, I have never believed that the Democrats would be so foolish as to have two over-70 politicians on the ticket. Continue reading

Late Sunday Ethics Dump, 2/9/2020: Firings, Voting, A Holiday Swap, And Chris Matthews Breaks Ranks

I can’t believe I’m writing this at 8:30 pm.

(Who knows when I will finish it..)

No, I’m not watching the Oscars, because one political remark—we have been warned that Obama and Clinton speechwriter are ghostwriting winners’ acceptance speeches—might send me into the streets with a machete. Grace is still in a lot of pain and depressed in the aftermath of her fall  17 days, two hours and six minutes ago (the bouquet from the Ethics Alarms Commentariat is still beautiful); believe it or not, the Christmas tree is still not completely undecorated because I’ve been doing it, alone, in five minute increments, and really am in mortal fear that a drooling hoard of the Walking Trump Deranged will burst through the windows any minute now based on the crazy things I’m reading on social media. I believe that I have never lived through a period when so many smart people were expressing such astoundingly stupid assertions.

But the delayed Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers finally got straightened out, so there’s that…

1.  On the topic of stupid positions adopted by smart people. Naturally, Trump Derangement is the culprit. All these people caterwauling about the President firing Lt. Col. Vinderman, his twin brother, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in the aftermath of the impeachment trial have forgotten whatever they once knew about management, common sense, and accountability.

“This shows this President’s respect for TRUTH!” wrote one temporarily–I hope–lobotomized friend. Wow. This isn’t especially complicated. Once a President no longer trusts a subordinate, he not only is justified in firing him or her, he has to, or he is incompetent and naive. It doesn’t matter if the distrust is justified, either. If the subordinate or appointee has shifty eyes, or seems evasive in his answers, that’s enough. No President in our history has been so routinely betrayed and undermined by leakers, partisan moles and Deep State vigilantes. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

The end of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Happy weird mid-week day before a holiday when almost nobody seems to be working…and remember Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

But ethics never takes a break…

1. Oops! Did we miss the real holiday? On this date in 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail that the day before, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted to declare American independence from the British Empire. Adams predicted that July 2 would eventually be celebrated by every generation of Americans with parades, speeches, songs and fireworks, which Adams called  “illuminations.” Why did he turn out to be wrong? Oh, because history is messy, mistakes don’t get corrected, and tradition becomes more important than facts. (Once again, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” rule applies: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend!” )

What happened on July 4th? The unsigned but ratified Declaration was sent to the printer on that date, and the printer dutifully marked his prints with “July 4, 1776”. The delegates didn’t start signing the document until August 2, and all the signatures weren’t down on parchment until November. The dramatic depiction of the signing taking place on July 4 in the musical and movie  “1776” is fake history.  It’s not all Broadway’s and Hollywood’s fault: the iconic painting “Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull, a version of which hangs in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington and which the actors are staged to re-enact in “1776” is often captioned “July 4, 1776.”

Trumbull’s artwork actually shows the moment on June 28 when the Declaration drafting committee officially presented its work to  the chairman of Continental Congress. John Hancock, There never was a signing ceremony.

Nonetheless, July 4 has, for some reason, been an unusually felicitous and significant day in U.S. history. It would be difficult to pick another that carried so much history, even without being the chosen date to honor the nation’s founding. Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously dying on that date within hours of each other in 1826, fifty years after….the Declaration was sent to the printer.

But July 4, 1803, was the day word arrived from Paris that the Louisiana Purchase was complete, having been signed by Napoleon.  Without it, the United States would have been a very different country, and a much weaker and poorer one.

July 4, 1863 also was the date Robert E. Lee acknowledged his defeat at Gettysburg after his desperate, risky, massed attack on the Union line across a fence-strewn field and up a grade into artillery fire failed. That defeat probably sealed the fate of the Confederacy, and meant that this unique nation would, despite a bloody close call,  have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Thanksgiving Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/2018: Turkeys And Vampire-Slayers

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now don’t let any “turkeys,” related or not, spoil it for you. This is a uniquely American holiday, celebrating our history, journey, values and culture, remembering the value of family, and extolling  qualities that Americans should all try to embrace in their daily lives: generosity, empathy, charity, loyalty, perspective, respect and gratitude. Once it was regarded as a religious holiday, but as the culture has gradually rejected religion, for better or worse, and not without the full complicity of organized religions whose conduct would repel anyone, the holiday has struggled to find new moorings. Its value as a yearly ethical touchpoint makes that struggle worth continuing.

1. Speaking of Thanksgiving “turkeys”...A helpful Twitter-user compiled these shots from various progressive websites and blogs:

Nice.

One of the things I have long been thankful for was the excellent training I received at our family dinner table from my proudly iconoclastic father, who could argue any side of any issues, and did, just to teach his kids that they better have a firm grasp of facts, logic, language, and critical thinking before making any assertion, lest they be made to look like fools. He also taught the value of an open mind, and resisting lazy conventional wisdom without foundation, like, say “Trump is a racist.”

2. This one is Obama’s fault. Though heated political arguments were always a potential part of family gatherings, it was Obama’s administration and his allies that made the disgusting decision to weaponize the holidays, commanding their human drones to arrive at gatherings ready to argue the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and providing brochures and videos to help them accomplish the mission. (Bulletin from Justice Roberts: “There are no Obama Thanksgivings or Trump Thanksgivings!”) Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz: The Girl Scouts Anti-Hug Campaign”

Now and then I see an issue and immediately think, “Now THIS should get the comments flowing.” So it was when I caught a mention of the Girl Scouts’ anti-hugging screed on CNN’s Headline News. Sure enough, the resulting ethics quiz not only sparked a lot of comments, but a lot of excellent ones. This, by Emily, was a standout.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz: The Girl Scouts Anti-Hug Campaign.

Oh goodness, do I have thoughts on this. It isn’t new to me at all; my Facebook page is full of young moms who share this stuff (it’s been going around for years) and it drives me nuts.

First of all, we all show affection at different times when maybe we don’t totally want to. You give a friend or spouse or family member a hug because they’re feeling down, or they’re leaving for a six month trip to Japan, or you want to show you’re glad to see them, even if they need a shower or a breath mint or you don’t feel like getting out if your comfy chair. This is part of the give and take of personal relationships; you’d feel insulted if they didn’t offer your preferred form of affection or support when you need it.

Children need to be taught this, or we’re going to raise a generation who think their comfort is the only thing that matters, even in personal relationships and within their family. Continue reading