Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Detroit: Last One Leaving, Turn Off the Spite

The needless waste resulting from the Detroit City Council dithering away the state’s offer to lease Belle Isle last week is all the more pathetic for having been completely predictable. Detroiters rarely pass up a chance to make things worse.

John Fund, writing at NRO, cites Detroit as an example of several American cities that are dying, “and the worst part is that these grievously ill patients often are refusing to take even the mildest medicine that would make things better.” (“America’s Suicidal Cities”).

To Fund, the Belle Isle plan sounded like:

a win-win idea, but Detroit’s city council nixed it at a tumultuous meeting on Tuesday night. The council voted 6 to 3 to not even put the proposal on its agenda. Governor Rick Snyder’s office then promptly withdrew the offer because a key deadline for the state’s budget wouldn’t be met.

Opponents who showed up at the meeting angrily denounced the proposal as akin to selling the island to outsiders. “The governor has his hands on our jewels,” one skeptic told the council.

Fund quotes Detroit News cartoonist and writer Henry Payne telling him “the tenor of the council meeting depressed him. ‘It was a throwback to old conspiracy theories that have long prevented progress in Detroit,’ he told me. ‘Several speakers raved on about the Belle Isle deal being a suburban plot to take over Detroit.’”

That’s because the conspiracy theories Payne has in mind aren’t old at all – they’re quite current, alive and well. (If you doubt it, listen to Mildred Gaddis’s show for a week or two). John Carlisle at the Detroit Free Press gave an account of one “regular” at council meetings denouncing the Belle Isle rescue plan last Tuesday:

“It’s a plan to have us out of Detroit and that island out there,” he said. “They don’t want that island out there for black people to enjoy. They want to turn that island into something other than a black island. Detroit is under attack. It’s under assault, and nobody wants to admit it, but it is.” (“John Carlisle: City Council's regular speakers put on a good show”).

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor at the Free Press, thinks things could have been much worse. “Truth be told, this council is eons better than what we were faced with four years ago, when members were literally singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in defiance of the plan to regionalize Cobo Hall’s management.’”

Many of us regularly ask ourselves why Detroit’s leaders consistently make such self-defeating choices? Fund says “[t]here are many explanations, but a common one is that Detroit has a reactionary political class that views almost any proposed change as smacking of ‘union busting’ or ‘selling off the city’ to white interests.”

Fund is writing on his tiptoes when he says there are many explanations, because there’s really only one that makes sense:


And I don’t mean white racism against blacks, but the other way around. Only a simmering hatred for white people explains why so many Detroiters, year in and year out, choose such awful leaders and strangle progress rather than be found making common cause with “people who don’t look like us.”

All racism is bad, including the kind eating away at millions of America’s blacks. That should be obvious, but the fact is pointedly absent from any of the warmed-over homilies from the sixties and seventies slopped up regularly to explain things to the rest of us.

There’s obviously no equivalence between the social and political harm done to blacks by slavery and Jim Crow, and whatever social harm whites endure as a result of black racism: yet that’s not the important thing anymore. The harm that matters most is the harm to the souls of the haters themselves. The savagery of the hatred of whites for blacks in the segregated South was surely all the worse for the absence of the kinds of checks Southern society’s mediating institutions – its families, its churches, its law courts – provided in other areas but refused to provide in matters of racial prejudice. Passions like those are hard enough to keep down when strict sanctions are in place to tame them; remove those sanctions and a lot of ugliness is sure to follow.

In spite of that, in response to the civil-rights movement and the racial strife of the 50s and 60s something very remarkable happened: a genuine moral awakening. White society accepted – if not completely and all in a single moment, at least eventually and within an astoundingly short period of a few years, and from the heart -- all the lessons of the civil-rights leaders: that blacks and whites are equal, that prejudice is irrational, and that denying people their rights because of the color of their skin is immoral.  Critically, it wasn’t only laws that changed, but private behaviors as well. The same religious, social, cultural, and familial inhibitors that before had failed to punish racist tendencies now were punishing them to the nth degree; outbursts against blacks became a rare occurrence even among whites in unmixed company. It’s nothing these days to observe in places where America’s working-class whites congregate a pair of redneck grandparents doting on a black grandchild, perhaps born to one of their children, perhaps adopted, without a care in the world for its race.

This gigantic historical fact of the majority culture’s transformation  is one of the best-kept open secrets of our time, partly because the phenomenon of white guilt keeps us from seeing it, and partly because race hustlers work overtime to deny it. But their work’s getting harder. To keep the cauldrons of racial hate at a steady boil they’ve had to keep turning up the rhetorical dial, which now is past saying that things are just as bad for America’s blacks now as they were during Jim Crow, to saying that blacks are hardly better off now than during the days of slavery. Only a community wallowing in racial resentment would react to such demagogues with anything but tar and feathers.

Still, it was the social and cultural inhibitors that played a critical role in this transformation of the majority culture in response to the civil-rights movement, and still play that role. And those same inhibitors are barely at work in the black community, if they exist at all. In a community that embraces the pretense that black racism is either a contradiction in terms, or else a justifiable reaction to “injustice,” anti-white hostility (i.e., racism), will be regarded as, at worst, tolerable, and at best, virtuous. A young black child might hear from every model provided for him to emulate -- from the elders in his family, from the clergy in his church, and from his teachers at school -- the same poisonous message that white folks care for nothing more than hurting him. Forget the hopeless wrangle over whether that’s really true or not. Focus on what must become the content of that child’s character if this is what’s been used to fill it up? Will he, like those outraged citizens at last week’s council meeting, join in with the old hymn that everything is all “about race and disrespect”?

In this sense, Detroit’s problems aren’t complex at all. They’ll continue to be intractable as long as Detroit wages a futile war of getting even with against “outsiders” who aren’t trying to get even with them. Regardless, those outsiders aren’t going to keep watching resources poured down the drains of an unreformable kleptocracy.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Egyptians Condemn Americans To Die

From NRO:

Will the U.S. Defend Constitutional Freedoms from Egyptian Threats?

By Paul Marshall

Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, now condemned to eight years imprisonment by the Iranian government for raising funds for an orphanage, is not the only American under threat from a foreign government.

On Tuesday, the Cairo Criminal Court reaffirmed a death sentence for “insulting Islam” and “undermining national unity” on seven Copts, Egyptian Christians, accused of being involved in creating the now infamous video “The Innocence of Muslims.” This short, obscure video was initially falsely implicated by the American government in the killing of American diplomats in Benghazi.

Those condemned to death include Morris Sadek, a lawyer and founder of the National American Coptic Assembly, Coptic priest Father Aziz Khalil, Fikri Abdel Masih Zaklma (known as Esmat Zaklma), Nabil Adib Besada, media coordinator of the National American Coptic Assembly, Eliyah Basile (known as Nicholas Basile Nicholas), Nahed Mahmoud Metwally (known as Fibie Abdel Masih), and Nader Farid Fawzi Nicholas. One is a resident of Australia, another of Canada, and five of them are residents of the United States. In addition, American micro-pastor Terry Jones, famous for his threats to burn a koran, and his subsequent burning of one, was sentenced to five years in prison, despite his having no connection to Egypt whatsoever.

There were many irregularities in the case. The death sentences were handed down despite the fact that, according to Egyptian law, the death penalty may be imposed only in three instances — espionage, premeditated murder, and rape. But, in the current Egypt, the constitution passed in December by a majority of a minority gives primacy to an undefined “sharia,” which has the practical effect that the courts can run wild. Plus the trials were conducted in absentia.

However, the irregularities are a side issue. Even if the proceedings had been rigidly regular under Egyptian law, the bottom line is that Egyptian courts have condemned to death people in America for exercising rights protected under the American constitution.

So far, despite the fact that even Al Jazeera has accurately publicized the case, the administration has not publicly responded to this Egyptian sentence of death on those under the U.S. government’s constitutional protection. Is the American government willing to vigorously defend freedom of speech, religion, and the press of those it is sworn to protect, regardless of how unpopular their views might be?


He’s Got Legos, and He Knows How to Use ‘Em

A Cape Cod five-year-old has gotten himself skoolin trouble for, as one Hyannis news report puts it, pretending to “fire on” classmates with a gun he made out of two Lego pieces. In this case what’s connoted by the menacing phrase “fire on” is that the kid took his plastic gun and “made shooting sounds”with it.

HYANNIS – Barnstable school officials are facing criticism from as far away as Arizona and Colorado over the decision to reprimand a Hyannis West Elementary School student who pretended to fire on fellow students last week with a toy gun he made out of Legos.

In a statement released Thursday, Barnstable Public Schools Superintendent Mary Czajkowski reiterated her position on the incident, which school officials said made other students uncomfortable.

“Parents and other members of the community have a right to expect educators in our schools to address any potentially harmful or threatening situation swiftly and appropriately,” she wrote in the statement. “The teacher and school principal acted in accordance with school and district policy.” (Hyannis West officials criticized for Lego gun incident”).

School administrators believe they’re being unfairly criticized because the shooter, Joseph, had been repeatedly warned before this that his behavior in the day care was “unacceptable.” “Some children are coming in with no structure, no guidelines for expectations, for how to behave and how to act,” the superintendent said, strongly implying that Joseph was that kind of kid. Consequently, a letter of reprimand went home with him, warning that Joseph faced suspension if he got written up again.

Maybe the kid really is a behavior problem, in which case school officials are well within bounds to clamp down.  I’m sure that thousands of times a day school officials and angry mothers clash over whether or not the little angels deserve punishment.

But that’s not exactly what this is. The school superintendent justified the school’s response not based on disciplinary policy, but on safety: “Parents and other members of the community have a right to expect educators in our schools to address any potentially harmful or threatening situation swiftly and appropriately.” Joseph’s misbehavior was a “threatening situation.” When he kept on with his shooting-sound spree in spite of orders to stop, it became clear he didn’t just have a time-out coming: he needed to be disarmed.

Something similar happened in Maryland last month when  a 6-year-old was suspended from his public school “for pointing his finger like a gun and saying ‘pow,’ an incident school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat ‘to shoot a student.’”     That poor kid’s parents were able to get his record expunged, but it took getting an attorney to do it; the attorney also felt it necessary to state for the record that “the boy had no intention to shoot anyone.”  It took an attorney to figure that out?

In either case school officials really seemed not to know there was a difference between small boys going “bang! bang! bang!” and what law-enforcement types call an “active shooting situation.” 

I’ve noticed this inability to make distinctions is widespread in the outspoken gun-control community. It correlates with the premise that all firearms are evil in themselves, even to the extent of the abstract idea of a firearm. When all you know is that a gun is a gun is a gun, (even when it’s not a gun at all, but only a finger or a drawing of a gun), then you’ll see a pointed finger combined with the word “pow” as a threat.