Elois & Morlocks

I’ve heard through the grapevine, from a little bird, from my secret sources, that Ronald Reagan died last week.  Did anybody else hear about that?  You know how the liberal media is, keeping it all under wraps.  Yeh, that’s sarcasm – industrial strength sarcasm.

That was a long week of coverage, wasn’t it?  Good guh-rief!  My condolences to his family and loved ones, but man.  I heard a lot of very disrespectful commentary and interviews about Reagan that I thought were tasteless and wanton.  But it’s truth that there’s some historical revisionism happening.

But it just goes to demonstrate that America is culturally divided to extremes.  It’s nuts.  Apparently, Reagan was a hero and was just what the country needed in the 80’s – for people with money.  And for whites.  I don’t want to oversimplify but he was definitely not a friend to minorities and it garned him a lot of support.

Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  The only claim to fame that Philadelphia, MS has is that three civil rights workers were murdered there.  (I think it’s the case that “Mississippi Burning” was based on.)  People came out, literally, in Ku Klux Klan paraphernelia.  Former Pres. Reagan rallied the crowds with talk of welfare queens and big (black) bucks.

I think they call that the “Southern Strategy”, which amounts to appealing to the racist fears and ignorance that is especially ingrained in the South.  His policy of “constructive engagement” of the South African Apartheid government strikes me as analagous to ending legal school segregation with “all deliberate speed”.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted.  My point is that he is a hero, nearly to the point of worship or idolization, to a certain culture in this country.  It’s largely divided along color lines along with political alignment.

I don’t quite understand to tell you the truth.  But you know how it goes when people deify someone.  They can’t see anything other than what they want.  Pres. Reagan and his administration literally sold weapons to Iran in exchange for freeing hostages and then used the money to support the Contras in Nicaragua. When the scandal became public the President flatly denied it outright (a foreshadowing of Clinton’s denial of sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky).

Four monthslater he admitted the truth.  Oliver North, a major player in the illegal activities, was convicted of whatever and then later had his conviction overturned on appeal.  Now he’s a celebrated military hero and Fox News celebrity.

But it doesn’t matter.  The country still named an airport after Ronald Reagan and now want to put his face on the ten dollar bill.  And people love him and remember him as if he were John Wayne in a war movie.

So fine, remember the man and give credit for his contributions, but the facts shouldn’t just fall between the cracks. 

I mean, how can he be a hero to so many and a scourge to so many others?  But when I think about it, the same goes for the founding of this country.  Whose manifest destiny is it?  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are great ideals but they were written only with white, male land owners in mind.

It amazes me that one of the most revered founding fathers was thoroughly racist.  I’m going to be honest with you here.  It hurt my feelings to find that out (which was on Monday or Tuesday of this week).  It takes a great leap of faith for me, as an African American, to not be debilitated with cynicism.  Anyway, I’ll just wrap this up for now.  I include an excerpt of Jefferson’s writing below because it’s fascinating.  It’s a snapshot of the times and of the man himself.  It doesn’t detract from the ideals but it says a lot about the kind of pernicious, institutionalized classism and racism that coexists alongside the ideals of equality and opportunity.

An Excerpt of Query XIV
from the Notes on the State of Virginia (1781)
by Thomas Jefferson

Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species.

The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites. Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus, which a late ingenious experimentalist has discovered to be the principal regulator of animal heat, may have disabled them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid from the outer air, or obliged them in expiration, to part with more of it.

They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them.

In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed inlabour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.


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  1. robmcc111

    “I mean, how can he be a hero to so many and a scourge to so many others?”

    How can he not, at least in his own times?  Pick your hero.

    George Washington?
    Abe Lincoln?
    Martin Luther King?

    All heroes to many, and in their own times, enemies of many.  3 of the 4 were enemy enough to be murdered by their adversaries.

    I think it goes with the territory.  To be someone's hero, you have to make a effective stand on an issue.  If there's an issue, there's an opposition.  Those people aren't gonna like you much at all.

    And no, I’m not comparing Reagan to any of the above.

  2. mcstrings

    That's true, of course.  You're not supposed to really answer my semi-rhetorical questions, Rob.  🙂

    Of course, if I take a step back and view society from a broader, historical gestalt it makes sense.  That's just the way it goes.

    But it disappoints me that we're so polarized.  Like, some people can't accept that, say, a lot of people get pissed off about Thanksgiving and Columbus Day.  Columbus was brutal.  Viscious.  He was one of the harbingers of doom and genocide to the native people.  So from the view of the latter's descendants he is in no way a hero and should be condemned as opposed to revered.

    To many European Americans he’s a clever, determined, globe trotting, bold adventure seeker who discoverd this great country and paved the way for our glorious, God-blessed democracy.

    But should a mass murderer (give or take a degree or two of separation) ever be celebrated?  Should slavers be celebrated?  Should Cortez, for instance, have a national holiday in his honor?

    Our sense of history is Disney-ized.  Do we just accept that some of these more controversial figures are a formidable part of American history makers and are heroes for their overall place in history?

    Y’know, what concessions should be made?

    Well, all that postulating is well and good but what it tends to boil down to is this:  history is written by the winners.  But the information age is changing the way history is written.

    Anyway, I'm sure I'm way off topic but my blood sugar is slow.  That's my excuse.  Me … eat … food.

  3. linkfelix2

    the only GOOD thing… (well it’s not even that good) that I know of Reagon is that he is somewhat responsible for being president during a time when we could have been nuked by Russia. I guess the good thing is that we didn’t nuke anyone and we didn’t get nuked. Other than that, I think he was pretty lousy. Although I already knew that Jefferson was a racist (though quite ironic that he had like 30 kids via his black slave women), it still perturbs me to read something like that. You know there are still people in the South who think like that too even if they don’t express it overtly in public. Seems like the majority of people these days are one of three things. Ignorant, crazy (one way or another), prejudice, or a combination of the three.


  4. mcstrings

    There are people who think like that all over the country.  The South doesn't have a monopoly on ante bellum racism.  Okay, maybe they own major shares, but ….

  5. robmcc111

    Ya know what’s funny?

    I really find Baltimore to be a significantly more racist than North Carolina.  It might just be the people I'm around.  They are literally from all over the globe.  I remember living in Baltimore race was an "issue" in the sense that it was something that came up relatively often in one way or another.  Down here it's just not a part of my regular life at all.


  6. mcstrings

    Yeh, I have to agree with you, Rob.

    Well, I've never been to the Carolinas.  But Baltimore does seem more polarized than most places I've been (not that I've been to a lot of places).  I've dealt, first-hand, with a good deal of racism, although not recently.  Thank goodness.

    And come to think of it, when I listen to Morgan State’s radio station, WEAA 88.9FM, every talk show boils down to race and someone or some group being labeled as racist.

    It seems like there's still a lot of tension.  Baltimore City is 70% black, but the mayor, fire chief, board of education CEO, former police commisioner and so on are caucasian.  That's probably not helping the situation.

    Things seem out of kilter in Charm City.  And even though it has strong universities, it's not a collegiate city/environment.  

    I’m sure there are a lot of Charm Cities out there, but if I ever have to settle in the south, maybe I’ll emigrate Duke-wards.

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