Tag Archives: slavery

John Kelly’s Statement About General Lee And The Civil War Was Fair, Benign And Accurate, And The Historians And Journalists Claiming Otherwise Have Exposed Themselves And Their Professions, Not Kelly, And Not The President

[I’m sorry: this post is long. The provocation for it is serious, however, and I couldn’t thoroughly shred this despicable media effort to make what John Kelly said yesterday something it was not and not even close to being without going over my word limit. I hope you read it. It’s hard to try to counter a concerted effort to mislead and lie to the public from this tiny outpost.]

This development yesterday really depressed me. Either the leftward professions are losing their collective minds, or they are so dedicated to turning the public against the president that they will engage in complete fabrication. Both conclusions are frightening.

Yesterday, CNN reporter April Ryan thought it was appropriate to end a White House press briefing by shouting, “Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?” What, other than a complete absence of fairness and professionalism, provoked this unethical outburst? It was this statement by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly, as he was interviewed by Fox News’ latest star, Laura Ingraham, regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, specifically the Charlottesville controversy over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Here is Kelly’s entire statement:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Based on that statement, April Ryan, and other hair-trigger “resistance” zealots, concluded that there was now a question whether the Trump administration “thinks slavery is wrong.”

Astounding.

But such is the dishonest and biased state of the news media today.

Let’s begin by examining the components of Kelly’s statement.

A. “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.”

There are no contemporary  accounts from anyone who knew Lee that he was not honorable, meaning honest, moral, ethical, and principled, the usual synonyms for honorable. I doubt Kelly was using the word in its most literal sense, “worthy of honor,” but he might have been, The argument is, and I would make it, that such traits a honesty, integrity, courage and other ethical values make any individual, famous or not, worthy of honor.

Lee was terribly, tragically wrong in his choice regarding which side to fight for during the Civil War. I am not an admirer of Lee for this reason. However, during his life there were many episodes where he exhibited exemplary character.  His immediate acceptance of responsibility for the failure of Pickett’s Charge was one, meeting his returning soldiers personally and exclaiming, “It was all my fault.” Another was his insistence that the Confederate army surrender rather than take to the hills in guerrilla resistance that might have extended the Civil War indefinitely.  Lee was flawed, and few men in history who were so admired by their contemporaries have made such a tragic mistake. That does not alter the fact that he was an honorable man.

The problem is that the modern Left does not believe that it is possible to be honorable and to not embrace the Left’s most fervently held principles, even if you lived centuries ago. This is, in part, why  our politics are so uncivil, and why partisans today show less respect to those with differing opinions on public policy than Lee and many of his generation showed to members of the enemy army who were trying to kill them.

B. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.”

This is a statement of fact. Lee’s position was certainly consistent with Kelly’s statement. In some kind of magic, un-negotiated  conspiracy to take what Kelly said to mean something he emphatically did not say, one writer after another has claimed that Kelly was arguing that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Here, for example, is Vox:

“Though this view has long been promoted and even taught in schools around the country, there has been a new push to recognize the cause of the Civil War as rooted in a disagreement about slavery and the refusal of Southern states to give it up…”

Though what view?  Kelly wasn’t opining on the reason for the Civil War, or what was the root cause. He was talking about Robert E. Lee. Is there any question that if Virginia had decided not to secede—as of course it seceded over slavery—Lee would have fought with the Union? I have never read any historian or biographer who said otherwise. Here’s Biography.com, usually an uncontroversial distiller of historical consensus in its Lee biography:

“But Lee’s commitment to the Army was superseded by his commitment to Virginia. After turning down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to command the Union forces, Lee resigned from the military and returned home. While Lee had misgivings about centering a war on the slavery issue, after Virginia voted to secede from the nation on April 17, 1861, Lee agreed to help lead the Confederate forces.”

That’s what Kelly said. Not every soldier thought that loyalty to state over country was the correct priority, and Kelly wasn’t saying that Lee’s position was the dominant one. It was a common one, however. 1861 was less than a hundred years after the culturally diverse Colonies came together to fight the American Revolution, and the states had been fighting over the balance of power between the federal and state governments almost non-stop ever since. Kelly was acknowledging the fact that Lee’s extreme state loyalty seems odd today, when so many citizens live in several states during their lives, and move from one to another without giving it a second thought. 150 years ago, citizen bonds to the state of their birth was a far, far greater issue, and being asked to take up arms to fight against that state would have posed a wrenching dilemma for most Americans.

That is all Kelly said. If one doesn’t understand the context of Lee’s decision to fight on the same side as the defenders of slavery, then one cannot begin to assess Lee’s status as an American figure. Anyone leaping from that statement to “the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery” is engaging in a clinical level of confirmation bias, and that’s exactly where the attacks on Kelly are coming from. This statement, that doesn’t mention slavery, isn’t about the root cases of the Civil War, and that only explicates Robert E. Lee’s  overwhelming reason for fighting for the Confederacy, is being deliberately distorted to show that President Trump and others in his administration are apologists for racism. The fact that nothing in Kelly’s words even hint at that didn’t stop this example of mass race-baiting, based on air. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN Reporter April Ryan

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

CNN’s April Ryan, yelling to White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders as today’s press briefing ended. She really did.

President Andrew Jack…no, that’s wrong. It’s President …Johnson, right? Lyndon Johnson? No, no..Barry Lyndon? No…Barry Goldwater? Barry Bonds? U.S. Bonds? U.S. Grant? Boy, history is hard

I assume that this was intended as a rhetorical rebuttal to the position of President Trump and those non-totalitarian-minded citizens—I hope not just conservatives and Republicans— who regard toppling statues and memorials of important figures in America’s past as a form of Orwellian thought control and manipulation of the historical record. Maybe she attends Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t journalism, fair, or professional. Since Ryan knew the only answer that could or would be given, if Sander had been foolish enough to dignify the insult with a reply, it was really just partisan harassment and race-baiting, the equivalent of  a reporter shouting out at a Johnson era press conference, “How many did LBJ kill today?,” calling out after a Bush briefing, “Hey, any signs of those weapons of mass destruction?,” or calling out after an Obama White House briefing, “Does the President still promise that if we like our health plan, we can keep it?”

A news organization that doesn’t immediately discipline a reporter behaves like this at a White House press briefing—and Ryan should have been suspended, removed from the White House beat, or exiled to cute kitten stories on Headline News—it is announcing one of the following:

a) This new organization will  no longer apply minimal standards of respect, fairness and professionalism to coverage of this President.

b) This network no longer has any standards.

c) This network will allow gross demonstrations of bias and partisan animus by its reporters.

Under these conditions, the White House has no obligation to permit such an organization to attend press briefings, any more than it has an obligation to permit anti-Trump demonstrators to attend, or to tolerate reporters chanting slogans and carrying placards. And it should not. If CNN won’t uphold minimal standards of professional journalism, then the White House must. CNN should be told that until it receives a public apology for Ryan’s outburst, she is replaced by a trustworthy reporter, and the network pledges that it will not permit such conduct by its employees to occur again, CNN will no longer be invited to briefings. Its place will then be taken by Ethics Alarms, or Weekly Reader, or any entity with a concept of journalism ethics superior to CNN’s.

Meanwhile, while we are on the topic of professionalism, I have this to report: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Christ Church In Alexandria, Virginia

I’m sorry, George. You know. Morons.

Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia—the city where I and my family live— announced that it will take take down a memorial plaque  marking the pew where Washington sat with his family.

“The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome,” church leaders said. “Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques. Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of ‘all are welcome- no exceptions.”

The unspoken but implied rationale is that George Washington was a slave-holder, and that this outweighs everything else. Never mind that the entire white population when he was alive believed that blacks were a lower breed of human. Never mind that it would have been literally impossible to grow up in agrarian, slavery dominated Virginia as a member of the plantation class without embracing slavery. Never mind that Washington continued to ponder the injustice of the practice, and eventually decided never again to buy or sell another slave while advocating slavery’s eventual abolition.  In his will, Washington left directions for the emancipation after Martha Washington’s death, of all the slaves who belonged to him.  Never mind that.

Never mind that without George Washington’s courage, leadership, aversion to excessive power and astonishing charisma and trustworthiness, there would be no United States of America. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/17: Lafayette, Harvard, Manning, And “Shut Up And Give Us The Score!” [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Commenter Other Bill had to ruin my evening by posting this defense of Jamele Hill from a Sports Illustrated writer, which would be enough for me to cancel my subscription if I had one.

“I was going to give this a pass. Truly, I was. Jamele Hill, the gifted young woman who co-hosts ESPN’s The Six every night with my old Morrissey Boulevard running buddy Michael Smith, got on her electric Twitter machine and tweeted out her unremarkable—and damned near irrefutable—opinion that the current president of the United States is a racist and a white supremacist. This drew the usual screams from the political flying monkeys of the American Right. ESPN responded with a craven corporate response that I’ll get to in a minute, but let me just say right now that you will not believe that the response was written by anyone who ever came within a light-year of any newsgathering operation. OK, so I thought that was pretty much it. I agreed with everything Hill tweeted. I thought what she said should be obvious to everyone in America at this point. She delivered her opinion. There was the customary cyber-bullying pushback, and we all move on.”

This is a perfect example of why sports writers should be seen and not read or listened to on non-sports topics. Let’s see:

a) The fact that she is “gifted”—a matter of opinion: a smart ESPN broadcaster wouldn’t do something this stupid—is irrelevant to the controversy. So a bad sports journalist  would be less justified in attacking the President like this?

b) A journalist calling the President of the United States a racist is in fact quite remarkable, and if an ESPN employee had called Barack Obama equivalent things, he or she would have been fired so fast her hair would have combusted.

c) OK, asshole, give me your closing argument about how President Trump is irrefutably a white supremacist. You can’t use the fact that he believes in enforcing immigration laws, or the fact that white supremacists tend to support him, when his political opponents are addicted to saying and writing things like “the whole white race is a virus.” You can’t use the fact that he doesn’t believe that tearing down statues of Civil War heroes is smart or valid, because I agree with him, and I am not a white supremacist. The fact that he implicitly defended the right of white nationalists to exercise their First Amendment rights makes him a supporter of the Constitution, as his oath of office requires, and not a nascent totalitarian like the hate-speech banning politicians you probably support.

So what have you got? I’d say nothing. It’s “irrefutable” to you because your left-wing friends say it is….

d) …not that whether Hill was right or not is the least bit relevant to whether ESPN is sending the message that gratuitous public anti-Trump, race-baiting grandstanding from employees is acceptable, but anti-Democrat/Muslim/Trans statements are not. It is sending that message, and that’s a double standard and obvious bias.

e) ESPN’s response was craven all right, but for the opposite reason that this guy says.

f) The fact that mostly conservatives correctly condemn Hill and ESPN only proves that the Left has lost its ethics alarms and professional compass, or broken them while stomping and screaming during their post 2016 election tantrum. It’s not a partisan or political verdict, except that “the resistance” would defend the Zodiac killer if he attacked the President. That’s their flaw, not ours.

2. Today’s “I was going to post on it but the story is so stupid that I don’t want to give it the prominence” note is this one.  Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17”

The debate over what kind of tolerance is required and justified in a democracy inspired reader Chris Marschner to submit a thoughful and thought-provoking comment, as he has before, that takes the discussion in a diferent direction.  I’ll let you read it and have your own reactions; Chris needs no further preface.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17:

Let me begin with the question, what lies as the foundation of tolerance? Is it understanding, empathy, or a just a willingness to comprehend an alternative perspective? Perhaps it is all three. By definition, tolerance is a willingness to live and let live, so to speak. But, the notion of willingness to live and let live does not preclude the actions of those who seek to change minds through cogent rational argument.

I have listened at great length to those who oppose and support the destruction or removal of Confederate iconography in today’s world. If we start with the assumption that what is right and good will triumph over that which is bad and evil in time without the need to resolve the dispute violently we might move toward a more tolerant and enlightened social structure.

My thesis is neither a defense of nor a condemnation of societal issues that continue to pit one against another. I will merely juxtapose the historical issue which divided the nation into camps that found the practice repugnant and those that found no problem with it an a modern day issue that one group find morally repugnant while others do not and attempt to draw parallels to historical events that sanctified, or at least legitimized social behavior.

Again, I am trying not to cast any judgement on any behavior but to develop my thoughts I needed to find a modern day issue that a majority segment of our population finds morally repugnant and another minority segment sees as perfectly acceptable. I then asked myself the question to what lengths might the minority segment go should the majority segment impose its will by executive or judicial fiat? How much will the minority tolerate before it finds the political majorities imposed will too much to tolerate. What issue might create substantial animus toward the ruling segment that it too may seek to enjoin itself from laws of the land. What parallels in history do we see that might engender such animus and how might future generations view the loser if the debate escalated into a full on confrontation? Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremacist Teacher Principle”

It is seductively easy to be certain about one’s analysis of controversial issues if you simplify them to the point of distortion. This is what politicians do, and it is often impossible to tell whether they are trying to deceive,  just don’t understand the issue at hand, or are deliberately ignoring inconvenient facts to advance an agenda. Sometimes it is all three. The Civil War, as the recent debate over Confederate statues again illustrates, is a classic example of this phenomenon, and has been since the war itself began. Southerners saw their cause as just, because they were fighting for the right to determine the shape of their own culture, a right they felt was embodied in the Constitution itself. Since that culture included slavery, to assert that the South had a measure of law and ethics on its side has routinely dismissed as, and simplifies as, sympathizing with slaveholders. (As an aside, I wonder if the censorious Left will redouble its efforts to get “Gone With The Wind” exiled from television permanently. I’m betting yes.)

Arguments about what the Civil War was fought over have been taking on the tenor of the old Miller Beer commercials: “Less filling!” “More taste,” or perhaps the Certs ads: “Certs is a breath mint!” “Certs is a candy mint!” “STOP you’re both right!” To his great credit, texagg04 accepted the challenge of trying to clarify the complexities of the “root causes of the Civil War” confusion in a concise comment (the topic has filled long scholarly books). He did an excellent job, and as he wrote as he began his explanation, the complexities matter. They usually do.

Here is texaggo4’s Comment of the Day on the post,Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle:

…The South seceded to defend against what it believed would be the Republican plan to eradicate slavery via the National level of government.

Slavery is why the South seceded – Slavery could be said to be a type of Final Cause of secession.

But that said, slavery was merely the topic of the question, “Who has final authority to make significant economic decisions within the individual states: The States or the National level of government?” State powers — those not delegated to the Union — was the issue to be answered as it pertained to slavery. So “States Rights” could be said to be a type of Formal Cause of secession.

There was NO war at that point, because secession, prior to the Civil War, was widely regarded as a perfectly legal course for States *voluntarily* part of a Union to do.

Stopping secession, that is preserving the Union status quo, is *why* hostilities began. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/12/17

Good morning, all!

1. I can’t keep writing the same post repeatedly as the politically correct, the historical censors, the Soviet-style Left and the gallactically stupid continue to tear down statues and eliminate honors to significant Americans who are predecessors deemed worthy.  Just hunt for the “airbrushing history” tag here and you’ll find too many already. We should note, however, how the cognitive dissonance scale is coming into play to the benefit of the unethical airbrushers.

In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, this weekend will witness thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating to protest a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee  from a city park, because, Lee’s sub-21, infinitely wise undergrads insist, erasing Lee from history will undo the legacy of racism, or something. Of course, for the Racist Right to be the ones protesting makes this position look reasonable. White supremacists organizing the protests unjustly associates Lee with their cause, making his statue mean something it never did, and attaching him to  cause that was not his. The protests against tearing down Lee’s statue–UVA’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, will be next on the non-person list, or close to it—should be coming from historians, scholars, liberals, believers in fairness, nuance, and integrity, and those who are literate enough to understand that the life of Robert E. Lee has much to teach every child and American about loyalty, hubris, hard choices, tragic choices, hypocrisy, courage and more. Why aren’t they protesting? Two reasons, now: they don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder with the scum of the earth, and they are too timid to stand up for crucial ethical principles, unlike the censors of Charlottesville, who don’t understand them, and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who don’t have them.

2. And speaking of historical airbrushing and censorship: Last year, I designated the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as an Ethics Dunce for omitting the second African American SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas from mention while devoting an exhibit to his unsubstantiated accuser, Anita Hill.  Now the museum has announced plans to honor Jim Vance.

Come on, you all know who Jim Vance is, don’t you? (D.C. area residents: shut up!) Jim Vance, who transformed America for blacks? Give up? Vance was a long-time popular local D.C. television news broadcaster, with a nice screen presence and a casual delivery.  He just died, and he was black. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said the broadcaster “symbolized that it was really important that America was changing and his presence was a symbol of that change.” Right, sort of….although Vance was hardly the first or the most prominent black newscaster in D.C. Clarence Thomas, however, was the first conservative black justice…which is, of course, why is being shown such disrespect by the “Nation’s Attic.”

I haven’t visited the huge, striking new museum on the mall yet, and I won’t until its shows signs of being am objective chronicler of history rather than a tool of interest group propaganda. Continue reading

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