Supplemental: Clinton “not quite as bad” as Bush!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

So says northern journalist:
Why are we inclined to support those Charleston families over our northern journalists and professors? Especially when the brilliant moral and intellectual tradition in question formed the backbone of the civil rights movement?

Consider the relentless bad judgment of our current northern intellectual guilds. Let’s start with the front-page report about Candidate Bush in today’s Washington Post.

The report concerns Candidate Bush’s allegedly shaky business history. Written by O’Harrow and Hamburger, the piece appears beneath these hard-copy headlines:
As Bush built wealth, questions arose
Legal cases involving some of GOP hopeful’s associates put his reputation at risk
The piece runs 3832 words.

Personally, we find reports of this type a bit dull. We’d rather see insightful reports about policy matters, including issues of racial justice.

That said, this is the basic nugget concerning the way the GOP hopeful has put his reputation at risk:
O’HARROW AND HAMBURGER (6/29/15): Today, as he works toward his run at the White House, Bush touts his business experience as a strength that gives him the skills and savvy to serve as the nation's chief executive. He has said he “worked my tail off” to succeed. As an announced candidate, Bush soon will be making financial disclosures that will reveal recent business successes and show a substantial increase in his wealth since he left office as Florida governor in 2007, individuals close to the candidate told The Post.

But records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.

[...]

Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté.

Bush, now 62, has said that he has learned to be more careful about vetting his associates, telling the Miami Herald during his first, failed run for Florida governor in 1994 that getting “burned a couple of times” made him “better at deciphering people's motives.”
Let’s be fair! Nothing in that passage says that Bush himself ever did anything wrong. The passage also seems to say that the business troubles it describes all occurred before 1998, when Bush was elected governor of Florida.

The passage gives that plain impression, but that impression is wrong. Several thousand words into the piece, O’Harrow and Hamburger report that Bush fell in with one of his crooks in 2008, after leaving the State House, when he joined the board of a start-up firm called InnoVida.

The head of the firm “eventually was charged with taking $40 million from investors and $10 million from a federal loan program intended to finance construction of homes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake,” the Post reports. “He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $24 million in restitution.”

The firm’s chief financial officer got a four-year sentence, according to the Post.

We’ll admit it! As we fought our way through these matters, we wondered how the corps would handle such facts if Candidate Clinton had been involved with this array of crooks.

We can’t necessarily answer that question, but it came to mind. Then, we read Jaime Fuller’s synopsis of the Post’s report at the up-country New York magazine, a pillar of the northern journalistic establishment.

As she starts, Fuller runs through the basics of the Post report. She then cites an earlier report by Jennifer Senior, a New York magazine piece which covered similar ground and produced little discussion.

According to Fuller, Senior described the InnoVida matter as Bush’s “most eyebrow-raising venture.” That’s the venture which started in 2008.

We were puzzling over the way the New York Times has broken its back inventing scandalous conduct by Candidate Clinton while saying next to nothing about matters like this. At that point, Fuller broke our hearts, fecklessly typing this:
FULLER (6/29/15): However, as Senior points out, at least one other 2016 presidential candidate has failed to win the Florida political missteps version of “Where's Waldo”—although not quite as badly as Bush.
Fuller then posts a long excerpt from Senior’s piece in which Candidate Clinton once had her picture taken with an unsavory person at a public reception.

In Fuller’s account, this means that Clinton has screwed up too, “although not quite as badly as Bush.”

Fuller’s end her piece with that utterly silly excerpt. Our question: Where in the world—where on earth—do they find these people?

In Fuller’s case, they found her post-Middlebury. She graduated four years ago, in 2011.

Today, Fuller displays the strange lack of judgment which has characterized our political reporting for lo, these disastrous years. Our advice?

Remember who you’re running with when you let these puzzling people stage their latest jihad—in this case, their jihad against the brilliant moral and intellectual values which drove the principal strand of the civil rights movement.

We’ll be discussing that jihad all week. Meanwhile:

Candidate Bush was in business with a succession of crooks. Candidate Clinton once had her photo taken.

Her conduct “wasn’t quite as bad!” Where in the world do they find these people? What makes us listen to them?


LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Widely rejected!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Part 1—Big northern brains push back:
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more remarkable welter of pushbacks than we’ve seen in the past week.

The pushback came from Professor West, simultaneously speaking all sides of the topic on yesterday’s Reliable Sources.

(West on our cable news channels: “You’ve got MSNBC, you know, is basically Obama propaganda. You’ve got Fox News, right-wing propaganda. CNN, much more ambiguous, able to generate some insights, wrestle with some issues, like your show. But still, CNN fearful because you’ve got to deal with the profit margin. You’ve got to deal with making money.”

(Two months back, we captured Professor West kissing the ascot of his “brother” Sean Hannity as he attempted to sell his new book. Whatever! We’re just saying!)

Back to the recent pushback:

The pushback came from Professor Butler (of Georgetown), first in an angry hour with Diane Rehm, then in a somewhat puzzling segment with Chris Hayes, who praised him twice for being “frankly honest.”

Inevitably, the most pitiful form of the pushback came at the new Salon, in this jumbled essay. The pushback also came from Karen Attiah, on-line at the Washington Post.

In some ways, it seems to us that Attiah expressed the pushback most directly. It also seems to us that some of what follows doesn’t exactly make sense.

We tend to be like that up north:
ATTIAH (6/28/15): In society’s rush to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile with those who seek to dehumanize black people, to harm black people, to destroy our sense of security at our places of worship, there is the tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people by striking fear into our hearts.

For black people in America, there has been a lot to feel afraid of lately. Are my family and friends at black churches safe? Can a black girl who looks like me go to a swimming party in a McKinney, Tex.? Will my brother and black male friends be safe at a “routine” traffic stop? Will my college-age friends be safe from chants of segregation and lynching from fraternity boys?

The media was filled with headlines riffing on the themes of “Grace in Charleston,” “Forgiveness in Charleston,” aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence. We were enthralled by President Obama, the first black U.S. president, singing “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for S.C. State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, allegedly gunned down by white supremacist Dylann Roof this month at the Mother Emanuel AME church.

I admit Obama’s eulogy in South Carolina was a welcome tonic, easing, if only a little bit, the pain and weight of what happened in Charleston. But, as barely two weeks have gone by since the massacre in that church, many black folk are still hurt, angry and afraid.
Without any question, many black people are feeling hurt, angry, afraid. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be feeling those ways.

Has there been a “tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people?” That could be true as well.

Beyond that, though, Attiah said that “society” “rushed to fawn” in the aftermath of the recent murders in Charleston. More specifically, she said society “rushed to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile.”

Attiah also criticized “the media,” saying it was “filled with headlines...aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence.” She linked to one alleged example, this analysis piece in the Atlantic. She didn’t cite the media entity for which she herself works.

(For the record, the piece to which Attiah links also cites the way Amish families forgave the killer in a 2006 mass schoolhouse shooting. The piece specifically states this point: “An individual or community’s gift of forgiveness, however, does not obviate a society’s demand for justice.”)

Attiah seemed to praise President Obama’s eulogy, failing to note that he too hailed the way those “black folks” in Charleston did what they did with respect to love and forgiveness and the affirmative refusal to hate. But so it has tended to go as this pushback has unfolded.

In our view, this pushback against the Charleston families has often been unattractive and condescending and not hugely helpful or wise. It has also been quite widespread in the past week.

We thought of this pushback when we read Andrew Sullivan’s post about Friday’s same-sex marriage decision. Sullivan has been advocating for this issue since 1989. He described the early pushback, including that which came from “much of the gay left:”
SULLIVAN (6/26/15): Those were isolating days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform;
two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage—and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us...Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines...
Just to be clear, there is no reason why “the gay left” or any of the “the major gay rights groups” were required to support this movement, whether then or now. Marriage equality has come to be seen as a basic right by most on the left. There’s no reason why everyone had to see things that way in 1989.

Still, we thought of the pushback against the Charleston families when we read that passage. That pushback is being disguised in various ways, as is our wont up north in our journalistic and academic circles.

For the most part, we’re framing our pushback as a pushback against “society,” or more often as a pushback against “the media.” We’re hiding behind these safe targets as we secretly ridicule southern blacks for their quick, easy turn to the Bible.

In some of her phrasing, we thought Attiah made this, our actual target, more clear than others have done. Again, we’ll suggest what we suggested last week:

In the past week, Northern liberal alleged intellectuals have been pushing back against southern blacks for all their stupid Bible crap and all their love and forgiveness. It seems to us that this isn’t the greatest idea.

Full disclosure—we aren’t religious ourselves. We hold no religious or cosmological views, aside from the cosmological view that we humans have no idea who, what or where we are or what we’re doing there.

South Carolina’s church traditions don’t belong to us—but they do constitute an important part of American and world history. On balance, we think they’re being denigrated in ways which aren’t especially helpful or smart, as is our wont up here.

We northern alleged intellectuals! Last Friday, Lizette Alvarez profiled two of Charleston’s murder victims. Early on, she let a bit of the glory out.

Good for her, we said:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): Yet in the face of profound loss, the funerals Thursday were jubilant, the overflow crowds swaying, singing and cheering, doing the syncopated “Lowcountry clap.” Speakers recalled both women as pillars of their families and their church.

The victims’ family members have drawn national attention for the grace they have shown, offering blessings, love, and even forgiveness to the man accused in the killings—an example they say was set by the people who were suddenly ripped from their lives.

One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.
Alvarez cited the families’ “grace” even before Obama did! She also referred to “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’ ” which animated those funerals.

South Carolina is culturally unique in various ways; this is especially true of coastal South Carolina. In principle, large continental nations can gain from the cultures which may emerge in their various corners and crannies.

As far as we know, southern black church traditions didn’t come, in the main, from coastal Carolina. That said, we were happy to see Alvarez make that lovely reference to that “Lowcountry clap.”

Our question:

Is it possible that we all-knowing northerners have more to gain from southern black culture than this one rhythmic infusion? Is it possible that our professors and journalists might gain from an examination of their own basic instincts this time?

Tomorrow: The aggressive refusal to hate

Supplemental: Otherization, Alito and us!

SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 2015

Keeping the glory locked in:
Otherization seems to be a basic human instinct.

It certainly runs all through American politics! Consider what Candidate Clinton said about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, Jeremy Peters reporting:
PETERS (6/27/15): Absent a surprise change of heart by one of the Republicans, the Democrats will look to use same-sex marriage to their advantage. Democrats see the issue as one that allows them to hold up their nominee as empathetic and compassionate, while portraying the Republican as retrogressive and out of touch. Hillary Rodham Clinton hinted at the party’s line of attack on Friday when she said, “As love and joy flood our streets today, it is hard to imagine how anyone could deny the full protection of our laws to any of our fellow Americans—but there are those who would.”
We thought the highlighted statement was odd. For Clinton’s full statement, click here.

It isn’t exactly clear what Clinton meant by that highlighted statement. But is it really “hard to imagine” how anyone could oppose the Court’s decision? Is it “hard to imagine” how someone could oppose the right to same-sex marriage?

We don’t know why those things would be hard for Clinton to imagine! She opposed same-sex marriage herself until two years ago!

Now, she seems to find it “hard to imagine” how anyone else could hold the view she apparently held for the first 65 years of her life! After a vote of the analysts, we’ve decided to call that an act of “otherization.”

We wouldn’t criticize Candidate Clinton for her past views or positions. Same-sex marriage has been a major wedge issue in the past several decades, and Clinton was a major figure in national electoral politics. We refer you back to what James Clyburn said to Chris Hayes about this week’s political change, by Nikki Haley and others, concerning the Confederate flag:
HAYES (6/22/15): You know, there are obviously folks who are celebrating this [change of stance] and welcome it. There are others who are sort of saying, “Well, this was done in the face of a kind of crescendo of public outrage and the initial instinct to both Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham were, if not to outright defend the flag, kind of hem and haw on it.”

How do you understand this decision? As one of conviction, or kind of following the momentum of where things were headed anyway?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, I understand politics, and I know the difference in the Republican voters’ psyche about the flag and Democratic voters’ psyche. I would say generally two-thirds Democratic voters have got problems with the flag flying on the State House grounds, about two-thirds of Republican voters want it to fly on the State House grounds.
From there, Clyburn went off in a different direction. For the most part, he declined to criticize Haley’s motives. Earlier in the interview, he had seemed to praise her for her new stance.

Why did Clyburn react as he did? When he said, “Well, I understand politics,” we took him to be saying that the flag had been a major wedge for Republican pols in South Carolina, and that, as a politician, he understands the way such matters inevitably work.

In our view, the same considerations apply to Candidate Clinton and same-sex marriage. But good grief! Just two years after she came out in support of marriage equality, she seems to say that she “can’t imagine” how anyone else could possibly hold that view!

We’d have to call that “otherization” on a major scale. In Clinton’s statement, we’re being encouraged to think the worst of those in the other tribe.

We liberals often decry such conduct by those on the right, but we’re sometimes happy to engage in such conduct ourselves. Regarding yesterday’s decision, consider this rather strange excerpt from Justice Alito’s dissent, as presented in the hard-copy Washington Post:

“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain the Court’s abuse of its authority have failed...I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

As part of a constitutional ruling, that strikes us as a strange set of considerations. But will dissenters be labeled as bigots? Of course they will! People will be otherized for holding the same positions Candidate Clinton (and President Obama) recently held.

In our view, otherization tends to lock the glory in. Human nature being what it is, we liberals often criticize otherization when it’s being performed by The Others. But we sometimes seem to enjoy the ancient practice when we do it ourselves.

Supplemental: People admire people like this!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

Who was Ethel Lance:
In this morning’s New York Times, Lizette Alvarez offers a profile of Ethel Lance, who died in Charleston last week.

People admire people like this. We wish the professors would stop telling these love-and-forgiveness people to stop discussing their values:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be a catalyst for this country to change,” she said.


Another granddaughter recalled the grits, bacon and sausage Ms. Lance cooked for her, and the love and care her grandmother showered on her after her own mother died. “My granny was the other side of my heart,” she said.

Ms. Lance worked for decades as a custodian at Gaillard Auditorium before retiring, and spent 30 years working at Emanuel.
She did not finish high school, but she made sure her children and grandchildren went to college.
Ethel Lance “worked for decades as a custodian.” She didn’t finish high school. We thought of Dr. King’s famous statement about what it takes to serve.

What does it take to serve? This is part of the way Lance made sure her children and grandchildren got to college:

“At Emanuel, Ms. Lance was the sexton, in charge of keeping her church clean seven days a week, ‘and if God had given her eight, she would have been there eight days,’ Rev. Goff said.”

People admire people like this.

For centuries, our benighted ancestors told us there were two different kinds of people in this country.

There aren’t two different kinds of people! That said, many people have received a learning experience in the past week from the “love and forgiveness” brigade. They’re being exposed to one of this country’s greatest moral and intellectual traditions, with a slightly crabby group up north begging the families to stifle themselves.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be a catalyst for this country to change,” one of the grandchildren said.

Recalling what Dr. King said: Delivered from within that tradition:
KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

RED AND BLUE TOGETHER: Rep. Clyburn speaks!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

Part 4—And says a magic word:
Who was Clementa Pinckney?

According to this New York Times profile, his mother named him for Roberto Clemente, who had just died bringing supplies to survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua.

It seems the concept of service stuck. Later in the profile, Kevin Sack describes the essence of Rev. Pinckney, as seen by his “relatives, colleagues and parishioners:”
SACK (6/26/15): Many cite his disarming humility. Despite his rapid rise, searing intellect and oratorical gifts, he never conveyed superiority or belittled opponents, they said. He managed to empathize with those who disagreed with him, while also firmly presenting his own views.

A towering presence at over six feet tall, he spoke extemporaneously in a resonant baritone, but rarely raised the volume. If he had a failing, several colleagues said, it was that he could be too gentle with adversaries who deserved harsher treatment.

“The most irritating thing about Senator Pinckney,” said State Representative William K. Bowers, a Democrat from his district, “is that when you had a debate he would just come over and pat you on the back and say, ‘Maybe tomorrow you’ll be thinking right.’ He was full of love and full of respect.”
“Mr. Pinckney seemed unconcerned with self-promotion,” Sack writes. “[A]lthough firmly grounded in the A.M.E. church’s activist tradition he chose to work within the system, seeing himself more as a persuader than a firebrand.”

Who produces greater societal change—the persuaders or the firebrands?

There’s no reason why we can’t have both, of course. Last night, Professor Butler presented himself as one of the latter in an interview with Chris Hayes.

We speak this time of Professor Paul Butler, who made a fiery comment this week to a caller on NPR. We were especially struck last night when he made this slightly odd statement:
BUTLER (6/25/15): And it goes to a larger issue that—when black people talk to white people about white supremacy, we’re supposed to be loving and forgiving. The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That’s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets. But being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.
Professor Butler continued the pushback we have described in the past two days. In this rolling movement, northern “intellectual leaders” have been rebuking those silly low-country blacks for their silly, unproductive “love and forgiveness” approach.

Professor Butler’s interview with Hayes was fascinating. We expect to review it in some detail next week. That said, following the century of Gandhi, Dr. King and Mandela, we were struck by his assessment of what works in pursuit of societal change.

Can we talk, perhaps unkindly? Northern and Yankee “intellectuals” have been schooling the love-and-forgiveness southern contingent all week. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Rachel Maddow struck us as especially condescending toward Reverend Pinckney’s family. But then, what is else is new?

We expect to discuss these topics next week. For today, let’s continue discussing the Reverend Pinckney, who was murdered last week.

First, an obvious statement:

It goes without saying that Reverend Pinckney wasn’t as great, as brilliant or as insightful as we progressives Up Here. Despite that fact, we’ve been struck, in profiles and interviews, by the way he seems to have affected his colleagues down South.

This Monday, in the wake of his death, the nation saw a rare display of red and blue together. Governor Haley stood on a stage and said the Confederate flag must come down. Red and blue were standing there with her—as were black, white and brown.

In our world, this rarely occurs. There’s a positive back-story here.

As we’ve noted in the past, South Carolina Republicans deserve a lot of credit for certain parts of their recent behavior. At present, for example, they’re sending as many blacks to the United States Senate as all our blue states combined!

We wouldn’t vote for Tim Scott ourselves; we don’t share his politics. But we think it’s a very good thing that so many white Republicans in South Carolina were willing and able to vote for Scott along the way, given their wide range of choices.

We think it’s a sign of moral progress; we think liberals should be glad to see this improvement occur. Indeed, the progress reaches the level of comedy when we consider the circumstance under which Scott was first elected to the House of Representatives back in 2010.

White voters had an almost comical range of choices. Despite that fact, they decided to vote for Scott:
WIKIPEDIA: Scott ranked first in the nine-candidate Republican primary of June 8, 2010, receiving a plurality of 32% of the vote. Fellow Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond, son of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, ranked second with 16% of the vote. Carroll A. Campbell III, the son of former Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr., ranked third with 14% of the vote...

Because no candidate had received 50 percent or more of the vote, a runoff was held on June 22, 2010. Scott faced off against Paul Thurmond. Scott was endorsed by fiscally conservative Club for Growth, various Tea Party movement groups, former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and the founder of the Minuteman Project. Scott defeated Thurmond 68%-32% and won every county in the congressional district.
White Republicans voted for Scott over the son of Strom Thurmond! Also, over Carroll Campbell III, another giant name in South Carolina politics.

Surely, the gods on Olympus created these events to help us Yankees notice the fcat that something was happening Down There. Congenitally, we can’t seem to make ourselves do it.

Just for the record, that same Paul Thurmond made one of the most insightful statements regarding the flag this week. We think liberals should be pleased by, and respectful of, these and other events.

Unfortunately, we liberals don’t tend to function that way. Instinctively, we tend to function like small-minded tribal players. That keeps us from seeing the way people in South Carolina have perhaps been conspiring of late to let the glory out.

When Governor Haley spoke from that stage, we had an instant reaction. We wished she was playing on our team, we incomparably said.

Good God! Haley is a first generation American—and not only that, she’s a woman! In 1972, she was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of an Indian Sikh family which had immigrated to South Carolina.

At the age of 38, she was elected governor of the state! By white Republican voters!

We wouldn’t vote for Haley ourselves; we don’t share her overall politics. But when white Republican voters did, we’re going to say they were letting a bit of the glory out!

What is permitting this state’s Republican voters to move beyond “whites only” traditions? On Monday night, we were struck by something a Republican state senator said about reverence Pinckney.

Chris Hayes spoke with Tom Davis, a Republican member of the South Carolina state senate. Davis had called for the flag to come down before Haley spoke that day.

What was the basis for his decision? We were struck by something Davis said:
DAVIS (6/22/15): The fact is, [the Confederate flag] is perceived by many to be a symbol of hate. And trying to do what Senator Pinckney always admonished me to do was to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to see things through their eyes. And after he was murdered on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and then this weekend talking with my wife, I tried to imagine what it must be like to be a black South Carolinian that comes to the State House, their State House as much as it is mine, and as much as it is anybody else’s in South Carolina, and to see that symbol that causes so much pain.
Every good liberal knows how to tear such statements to shreds. We’re well-schooled in our tribal loathing. We all know how to recite.

That said, we were struck by the mixed metaphor in which, Davis said, Reverend Pinckney had always urged him “to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to see things through their eyes.”

The first part of that metaphor comes straight from To Kill a Mockingbird. In the famous novel, two children come to understand that their neighbor, Boo Radley, is an actual person.

But alas! In the novel’s second strand, their community’s white adults can’t achieve that same understanding concerning Tom Robinson, a falsely accused black person.

Davis described himself moving past that traditional failure. In our view, he was describing a very good turn in the weather. Right there on a TV show, he said he was able to make the turn because of the instruction he took from Pinckney, a colleague and friend he admired.

Every good liberal knows how to denigrate Davis for not achieving this moral turn sooner—for not being as morally brilliant as we all are Up Here. This strikes us as a limiting move, if it’s more progress you’re after.

Within the history of the human race, Senator Davis was describing a radical act—the act of learning to see the world through the eyes of people defined as The Other. Earlier that night, on that same show, James Clyburn absent-mindedly seemed to do the same thing!

Rep. Clyburn is an honored veteran of the civil rights movement. When South Carolina operated under a strict, unyielding racial regime, he was placed on the “black” side of this unyielding division.

On Monday, Clyburn stood on the stage as Governor Haley said the flag should come down. He was part of the red and blue mix that, to us, looked like a very good thing.

We were struck by something he said to Hayes this night. First, he described his interactions with Governor Haley:
CLYBURN (6/22/15): Last Thursday at Morris Brown AME Church, at the service, the governor and I spoke. And during our embrace, she said to me, “We just got to do something. We got to have a proper response to this.”

So I had no idea she was talking about the flag at the time. I saw her later that afternoon, and it just seemed to me that she was getting to a good place on something. But I didn’t know until yesterday that—that the flag was something that was eating away at her.

And so when I talked to her earlier today, she told me what she was going to do and asked would I stand with her when she did. And so I did.
To watch the whole segment, click here.

Clyburn casually described an “embrace” which at one time couldn’t have happened. He seemed to accept the idea that Governor Haley, a person he knows, was sincere in her stance on the flag.

For ourselves, we have no way of knowing who’s sincere about what. But in the next Q-and-A, we were struck by a word Clyburn said.

To us, his overall point seems a tiny bit daft. But in the passage we’ve highlighted, he used a magic word:
HAYES (continuing directly): You know, there are obviously there are folks who are celebrating this and welcome it. There are others who are sort of saying, “Well, this was done in the face of a kind of crescendo of public outrage and the initial instinct of both Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham were, if not to outright defend the flag, kind of hem and haw on it.”

How do you understand this decision? As one of conviction, or kind of following the momentum of where things were headed anyway?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, I understand politics. And I know the difference in the Republican voters’ psyche about the flag and Democratic voters’ psyche. I would say generally two-thirds of Democratic voters have got problems with the flag flying on the State House grounds. About two-thirds of Republican voters want it to fly on the State House grounds.

But you know, when I talk to even Republican voters, and I point out to them that they have been misled for years about this flag, a lot of them say to me, “I never heard that before.”

Most people don’t know that that flag that’s sitting in front of the State House right now, that is a northern—that is the battle flag of northern Virginia. That was a flag that Robert E. Lee fought under. But when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he asked all of his followers to furl the flag. And as you know, six months after the war, he applied for citizenship to come back into the United States of America.

And so people who celebrate that flag, South Carolinians, they just don’t know.

South Carolinians didn’t fight under that flag. For the most part, we fought under the flag of the Citadel and other regimental flags. So South Carolinians have been celebrating a myth. And so when I point this out to people—there was one lady who called me and said, “I checked on it and you were right.”
Clyburn’s overall point strikes us as rather tortured. But we couldn’t help noting his use of the magic word—“we.”

“We” fought under the flag of the Citadel, Rep. Clyburn said. He didn’t seem to give his construction a thought.

Every good northern liberal will know how to scold him for this. For ourselves, we were glad to see him say what he did.

By all accounts, Clementa Pinckney’s colleagues greatly admired him, on both sides of the aisle. By many accounts, people all over the country have greatly admired the Charleston families’ “love and forgiveness” in reaction to last week’s murders.

Forgive us for suggesting this, but those families seem perhaps to be walking the walk Dr. King once walked. Next week, we’ll examine the ways we in the north always seem to know so much more than these southern rubes.

For ourselves, we think we’ve seen moral improvement occurring in South Carolina. We’ve seen it on the TV machine. We’ve sometimes possibly even seen it in person.

Who’s more productive—the lovers and forgivers or the firebrands? In principle, we could have both, of course.

We’ll puzzle this out next week. We thought Professor Butler’s statement last night was familiar but somewhat odd.

Next post: Who was Ethel Lance?