Presbyterian Sex ’91 = Woke Porn ’21
Standing before her were eight white men, largely unmemorable except for what they all had in common: Confederate flag T-shirts and penises jutting stiffly out of their pants. She was here to have sex with all of them—she knew that; she’d signed the contract. But Ana Foxxx, then 23, was still trying to process the message, what was really being asked of her, when the director, another white man, pulled her into a side room. He showed her images on his computer of other Black women in videos just like this one. He told her that the experience would be fun and easy and quick. Everything would be over in 10 minutes. Was she cool with that?
Ana had shown up to the downtown L.A. warehouse alone. It was 2012, and this was only the third adult-film set she’d ever been on. None of the dozen or so crew members were Black, and aside from one makeup artist, Ana was the only woman present. She felt intimidated, like making a big deal about the scene would be awkward. “In my mind, I knew what was happening was wrong,” she remembers. “But people painted this picture to me that this is the kind of job you had to do to make it. I’m thinking to myself that this must be what you’re supposed to do, it’s normal.” She was also thinking about paying next month’s rent.
The scene began with Ana sitting at an outdoor table with a white man. He wants to show her how much she means to him, he says, take her ring shopping. In another version of this story, one where Ana was white, the camera might cut to the couple in fleshy missionary sex, maybe something just a little rougher. In this version, a stranger interrupts to serve the couple government papers telling them their relationship is in “violation of an interracial dating statute.” To prove Ana is worthy of marrying a white man, she must participate in … a series of blow jobs she’d have to give those eight men wearing the Confederate flag, followed by penetrative sex.
Then her knees were on the concrete. The air smelled like weed, and when Ana finished, a few of the men high-fived her. Everyone was nice, she says. So nice, in fact, that it felt like maybe what had happened to her wasn’t that bad.
The 19-minute video—which still streams on multiple porn sites, described on one as “black booty points toward the Union”—has now been viewed more than 1 million times. And Ana still can’t put it behind her. Recently, when she tweeted her support of the Black Lives Matter movement, she was overwhelmed with hateful comments: “Aren’t you that girl who slept with those guys in racist shirts?”
The article is about “racial inequity” for black women in the porn business. More:
This came up multiple times over the course of interviews with nearly two dozen Black women working in the porn industry, many of them speaking out for the first time: the lack of power, control, and respect, even as their bodies are used to make money for the very people taking advantage of them.
“We have predominantly white men directing and producing the majority of porn content, so everything is filtered through their gaze,” says Sinnamon Love, a Black-feminist pornographer and founder of BIPOC-AIC, a support group for people of color working in the industry. And whatever the director’s comfortable with goes: When one Black woman was in the middle of a threesome scene with two white men, they began calling her the N-word. “It felt almost rape-ish,” she says. But when she looked toward the white director, he did nothing.
Where do you even start with this? These women are degrading themselves by allowing these scummy men to have sex with them on camera for the viewing delight of perverts, but what really grieves them is the scummy men calling them the N-word?!
“Since the Black Lives Matter movement started, people have been taking their anger out on me,” says Hurricane Fury, who has been doing cam work for years. She usually starts her shows perched on her white couch in a skintight tube dress, legs lathered in glittery lotion, nails sparkling. On average, 40 people tune in to talk to and text her as she undulates onscreen, with her horniest fans splurging on private sessions for nearly $4 a minute. That’s in part how she makes real money, six figures a year, she says—but at what sometimes feels like a steep cost.
She’s been called the N-word and a “dirty coon,” told that she’s pretty “for a Black woman,” and asked if she picked cotton. It’s not unusual, she says, for “grown-ass white men” to start video-chatting her and, with their genitals in their hands, call her a Black bitch if she pushes back against their racist comments. “Those people can be a lot and there are times I just don’t feel like dealing with it,” she says. But this is her job. It’s what she wants to do. She’s proud of how successful she’s become. It’s just that she wishes she could work without being harassed.
This is disgusting all around. This is cruel, dehumanizing, and yes, evil. But what do these women expect? You are dealing with horrible people in this sicko industry. The idea that you want to make movies depicting people have sex in all manner of perverse permutations, but you want it to play by some kind of moral rules, is just bizarre.
It reminds me of a great old Camille Paglia essay titled “The Joy of Presbyterian Sex,” which came out in 1991, and which I couldn’t find in a linkable form (I screenshot passages from the essay collection, “Sex, Art, And American Culture,” in which it appeared in book form). She was making fun of a solemn report by the liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) laying down a new prim progressive vision of sexuality. Paglia thought it was ridiculous. Excerpts:
The conservative Calvinist theologian Carl Trueman wrote an essay about Paglia’s piece. He makes an important interpretive point here:
Yet there is another aspect to the essay, and that is Paglia’s barely concealed contempt for the attempts of liberal Christianity and of the gay lobby itself to make homosexuality respectable. For Paglia, sex is powerful and deviant sex reflects that power precisely because it is transgressive, because it breaks the rules. For her, sex is an erotic, Dionysian force that threatens to shatter civilization as we know it. Drawing on the later Freud, with distinct tones of Nietzsche, she understands the destructive power of sex and rejoices in it. To tame it, to domesticate it, to make it respectable, to turn it into merely one more form of pleasurable recreation is to destroy both its substance and significance.
Her basic thesis is that liberal Christianity cannot cope with sex as it really is. Instead it has to make into something anodyne and inoffensive as defined by the aesthetics of the wider world. Cultural tastes trump biblical teaching and historic Christian ethics. This is the problem of liberal Christianity in microcosm. Make Christian doctrine merely an expression of religious psychology and, as sophisticated as that might seem, it leads in only one direction: the assimilation of Christianity to the world.
Here’s the point: these black female porn stars have chosen an industry in which they routinely participate in the most degrading human behavior possible, for the sake of entertaining people who find sexual transgression to be deeply pleasurable, because it appears to the reptile part of our brains. The entire purpose of their performance is to satisfy the most animalistic desires in viewers. It is beastly, in the literal sense. And yet, like woke Presbyterians, they want these trash-dick Dionysuses to repress expressing certain politically unpleasant forms of the contempt these have for all these women, simply by the fact of the kind of work they all do.
Women, you are not wrong to be disgusted by the racial contempt showered on you in this business. But you are fools if you think that the racial contempt can be separated from the anti-human hatred that is at the core of the porn business. You can’t have porn in which human beings behave animalistically in every way, except for restraining themselves to behave like liberal Presbyterians when it comes to the dark and demonic spite they have for their partners, when it manifests as racial hatred. What do these female performers think sadism is?
More to the point: what do they think the human heart is?
The problem is not racial inequity in porn. The problem is porn — and foolish porn stars who seem to think they can make an inherently inhuman, and anti-human, activity woke. Woke sex is the secular version of Presbyterian sex. Eros, as Paglia said, is a great and dangerous God. He’s not this guy:
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The Blake Bailey Injustice
Earlier this month, the biographer Blake Bailey was approaching what seemed like the apex of his literary career. Reviews of his highly anticipated Philip Roth biography appeared before the book came out, with major stories in magazines and literary publications. It landed on the New York Times best-seller list this week.
Now, allegations against Mr. Bailey, 57, have emerged, including claims that he sexually assaulted two women, one as recently as 2015, and that he behaved inappropriately toward middle school students when he was a teacher in the 1990s.
His publisher, W.W. Norton, took swift and unusual action: It said on Wednesday that it had stopped shipments and promotion of his book. “These allegations are serious,” it said in a statement. “In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ pending any further information that may emerge.”
Norton, which initially printed 50,000 copies of the title, has stopped a 10,000-copy second printing that was scheduled to arrive in early May. It has also halted advertising and media outreach, and events that Norton arranged to promote the book are being canceled. The pullback from the publisher came just days after Mr. Bailey’s literary agency, The Story Factory, said it had dropped him as a client.
In an email Wednesday night, Mr. Bailey denied the allegations, calling them “categorically false and libelous.” A lawyer for Mr. Bailey, Billy Gibbens, said in an email that his client “disagrees with Norton’s decision to stop promoting his book.” Some of the allegations were reported earlier by The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and The Los Angeles Times.
An acclaimed literary biographer of masters like Richard Yates, John Cheever and Charles Jackson and the author of a memoir of his own, Mr. Bailey has received the Guggenheim Fellowship and was a Pulitzer finalist for his Cheever biography. Mr. Roth handpicked him to write the biography after meeting with him in 2012; he terminated an earlier agreement with another biographer in 2009.
Read it all. It seems like there may be something to these allegations, but at this point, that’s all they are: allegations. On the basis of misconduct allegations from years ago, a publisher has withdrawn a major literary biography. The journalist David Rieff, in his new Substack newsletter, comments:
I have absolutely no idea if the accusations made against Bailey are true or false. What interests me is that despite nothing having yet been proven against him, Bailey has in the course of a couple of days been fired by his literary agency, the Story Factory, which announced that it had terminated its association with him “immediately after we learned of the disturbing allegations.” Bailey’s publisher, W. W. Norton was equally quick to distance themselves from him, announcing that not only would it stop promoting the Roth biography, but that it was also halting further shipments of copies of it to booksellers and wholesalers, this even though the biography is already on the best-seller lists. This would continue, Norton said in a statement, “pending any further information that may emerge.” [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/apr/21/publisher-halts-philip-roth-book-amid-sexual-abuse-claims-against-biographer]
Again, Bailey may be guilty of everything the women who have come forward accuse him of having done to them. But neither his literary agency nor his publisher are making any such claim. Quite the contrary: both the Story Factory’s and Norton’s public announcements about the matter are entirely straightforward in saying that they just don’t know. The Story Factory speaks of having terminated Bailey because of “disturbing allegations” [italics mine] while the Norton statement speaks of halting promotion and distribution pending any information that may emerge.” [again, italics mine] In other words, far from being a presumption of innocence, as obviously there would have to be in a court of law, but also not so long ago would have governed a literary agency’s or a publisher’s relationship with an author accused of wrongdoing, there is a de facto presumption of the author’s guilt.
There is another word for this: censorship. For writers are not sports figure and publishers and literary agencies are not – or at least were not – commercial sponsors. That this distinction appears not to have any importance either for the Story Factory or for Norton is an emblem of the moralistic mindlessness of the times. And in my view, anyone who believes that this cultural moment in which censorship has regained its centrality and self-righteousness again become the default position of the American cultural establishment will end any time soon is deluding themselves. Instead, we are entering a Woke version of the Victorian Age, or post-Hays Code Hollywood, in which censorship will be the norm, not the exception.
In historical perspective, there is nothing particularly surprising about this. After all, those who had been adults in the late-18th century never really adapted to the moralism of the 19th century. That’s what Talleyrand meant when he said that those who had not lived before the French Revolution had not known the sweetness of life. It took the First World War to break the Victorian moral consensus. My hunch is that the increasing consensus that a writer or an artist’s moral character, and political and increasingly racial and gender bona fides, should determine whether they are published or exhibited, celebrated or ignored, will grow stronger not weaker in the decades to come. Obviously, the Internet makes it possible to publish or exhibit one’s work, so technically one is not being censored. But the traditional venues still hold sway in the cultural-academic-philanthropic complex, and will, I think, for the foreseeable future. And in those contexts, morals clauses, whether de facto or de jure, will become commonplace. It will, after all, all be done in the name of elementary decency and compassion for and solidarity with victims. Nothing surprising there either: censorship has always claimed the moral warrant of being undertaken for the greater good.
Read the whole thing — and subscribe to Desire and Fate, the Rieff Substack, which is going to be quite good.
He’s right about the Bailey affair. Even if these allegations against Bailey turn out to be true, why on earth should that cause Norton to withdraw the book about Philip Roth? Are we really prepared to welcome a culture that judges art based on the personal moral qualities of the artist? How many books, movies, paintings, and other works of art, or even of journalism, would be left?
This is a very dangerous moment, culturally. We saw this with how Simon & Schuster collapsed in the face of protest, and withdrew Woody Allen’s memoir, based on allegations that Allen vigorously denied. All it takes now is for the right people to make the right kind of accusations, and potentially important books disappear. I have never read Philip Roth, and am unlikely ever to read Philip Roth. But Roth was a major novelist, and he absolutely deserves to have his biography, written by his handpicked biographer, available to those who care about his life and literary legacy.
If Blake Bailey has committed crimes against these women, then he should be held accountable in court. But these disturbing accusations have nothing at all to do with his Roth biography, and it is gutless of Norton to withdraw this book on the basis of what are, as of now, mere allegations. And even if they are proven true, vis-à-vis the book, so what? You don’t have to admire Blake Bailey to appreciate his Roth biography, or anything else he has written. Ernest Hemingway was terrible to women, but his novels were immense accomplishments. Joan Crawford was a horrible bitch of a mother, but we don’t admire her acting because she was a good mommy. If you knew about the private lives of journalists whose work you watch or read every day or week, you might admire them less, but would that have anything to do with how well they report and write?
What the hell is wrong with people, these moral McCarthyites of the Left? Does anyone in institutional authority have the backbone to stand up to them? How many people’s careers will end up being destroyed, and what kind of terrible cost will be inflicted on the world of art and letters, before this hysteria burns itself out? If you’re a writer or artist and think they won’t come for you, you’re dreaming.
UPDATE: Just a note to you all from your extremely frustrated blog host. I have been struggling mightily with the Disqus comments for these past two days. It keeps spitting back up comments that I’ve approved multiple times, and removing others that I’ve also approved. I’m completely fed up with it. We are doing a redesign of the website, and I’ve already put in a forceful plug for getting rid of this horrible commenting system.
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The Forever Race-Narrative War
An Ohio police officer shot and killed a teenage girl Tuesday as she attacked two other people with what appeared to be a knife in east Columbus, body camera footage released just hours after the fatal shooting shows.
Police were called to the scene around 4:30 p.m. on a report of someone attempting to stab others at a home.
As soon as police pulled up, a young female can be seen tackling another female to the ground with what appeared to be a knife in her hand. The girl can then be seen charging at another nearby female while raising the apparent knife in the air, at which point the officer fired multiple shots, fatally wounding the attacker.
From a report about Ma’Khia Bryant’s death:
‘She was a good kid. She was loving,’ Hazel Bryant, the girl’s aunt, told reporters on the street. ‘She was 15 years old. She didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street.’
This good, loving kid had a knife in her hand, raised to stab a girl!
From the scene yesterday:
WARNING: Video contains strong language. People now upset after a deadly officer involved shooting, right as the George Floyd verdict was announced. pic.twitter.com/FJZ98Uk2ki
— Alexis Moberger (@alexiswsyx6) April 20, 2021
Rayshawn Whiting said in an interview on Tuesday night that he was at his brother’s house just a few blocks away from where the shooting took place to watch the Chauvin verdict when he heard gunshots. When he saw on social media what was going on, he walked down the street to join the throng of protesters who reached between 150 and 200 people at their peak.
“I’ve got daughters,” he said. “And I’m tired of it. I feel like a polar bear with the ice caps melting. We have nowhere to run. If we protect ourselves, we go to jail. If we don’t, we die.”
Chris Roberts said in an interview that he was in his backyard with his twin daughters when he heard the gunshots from just a few yards away. He said they ran in the house and called 911. Since the shooting, he said, his daughters did not want to be alone.
“How do I teach my daughters when you call for help, and you expect help to come, you could be on the other side of the gun?” he said.
Somebody else’s daughter was at the point of Ma’Khia Bryant’s knife — and that white cop saved her life! But let’s not let facts get in the way of the Narrative.
Today the White House press secretary strongly implied that the shooting — which likely saved the life of the woman the dead teenager was trying to stab — was evidence of systemic racism. Listen for yourself:
Psaki was asked about the Columbus police shooting of Ma’kiyah Bryant, a teen killed while trying to stab another girl with a knife.
Psaki said Biden has been briefed on it, adding, “She was a child… Our focus is on working to address systemic racism & implicit bias head on.” pic.twitter.com/E0xdeZUvJv
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) April 21, 2021
This Obama big has weighed in to blame police racism:
A Black teenage girl named Ma’Khia Bryant was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight. Demand accountability. Fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter.
— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) April 21, 2021
What in the hell would Valerie Jarrett have had the officer do? Watch the video: the Bryant girl is on the verge of stabbing the other girl. I guess knife-wielding attackers, if they’re black, have the right to choose how the police intervene to stop their stabbing.
Ma’Khia’s mother says the dead girl was motherly, and “promoted peace.” Yeah, at the point of a knife:
“Ma’Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace,” said the 16 year-old girl’s mother, Paula. pic.twitter.com/vhBauZn3Kc
— Lacey Crisp (@LaceyCrisp) April 21, 2021
A reader sent the photo in at the very top of this post, from the police body cam, and said it tells you everything you need to know about this situation. He wrote:
The headlines are so messed up. “Cop shoots 15 year old girl”. Bullsh*t. “Cop saves life of teen from attacker with knife”.
Also if you happen to watch the body cam video you’ll see that the same man who yells “She’s just a kid, why’d you have to shoot her?” is the same man who seconds earlier kicked the first stab victim in the head as they tried to get up. You can see him winding up for the kick in that image.
I don’t know why anyone would want to be a cop these days.
Another reader e-mails:
Rod, this is getting ridiculous. An out of control black teenager, a girl, viciously attacks a woman in pink and tries to stab her with a knife. It happens right in front of the cop and is captured on the bodycam.
Everyone in the world can watch the video. Look at the second video at about the 51 second mark. There is no question but that Bryant is holding a knife. There is no question that she is attacking the woman in pink (a black woman fwiw) and there is no question but that she is trying to stab her.
Bryant was shot in the middle of attempted murder. So what? That is a righteous kill. An evildoer was killed, another’s life was saved. I’m so sick of all this crime-loving nonsense. Violent people who behave like barbarians have no place in our society–and yet look what our elites are doing, they are making excuses for barbarity and savagery. It is sad she died in the sense that a human life was lost, but her blood is on her own hands–it is not regrettable from the perspective of justice, justice was served in as much as it can be in our human realm. Open and shut. Anyone who denies this is lost. But maybe that’s where we are at, we might just be a generation so warped and mutilated that we aren’t fit to survive as a society. We hate order, we hate authority, we hate justice, we hate punishment, we celebrate wickedness, valorize evil, we revel in lawlessness.
Now look at the way the black bystanders react. I mean, these people are so warped that they are not capable of perceiving reality. I realize that sounds racist, but man, what are we supposed to say? These people are irrational and incapable of interpreting events in front of their eyes. They cannot see that a lawless murder was stopped, they call it racist! Would they have rather the cop just watched as Bryant cut a woman to pieces? Would a savage thug like that respond to cops asking please?
What a country we have become. Truth doesn’t matter. You can even have it on camera, and the Left is so committed to its malevolent narrative that it denies what is obvious.
UPDATE.2: Oh my God. A reader writes:
I’ve attached a screenshot of a tweet by the now-utterly-deplorable Lebron James. He’s since deleted, which is surprising, given that he’s not likely to suffer any consequences for it, either way. Perhaps the man has a conscience… or is he a coward?
[I blanked out the Columbus police officer’s face — RD]
The Left and the revolutionaries have become totally unhinged in the wake of yesterday’s verdict, proving that they view it not as evidence that the system is just, but that it’s actually unjust and they have to go on the offensive now. They’re going on the offensive by justifying an attempted stabbing as just teenagers roughhousing. We’re not too far off from them justifying gun violence (unthinkable, I know) as just part and parcel of life in the Black community.
I don’t know if a race war is what lies up ahead. I can’t imagine it, since so many Whites are on the side of Blacks and are, in fact, leading the revolution. But I do know that we’re seeing the accelerating breakdown of law and order in this society and it will get worse quickly and for a long time. My hope is that the police, in fact, go on strike, because there’s no point in helping those who don’t want to be helped.
An extremely wealthy professional athlete, a man who lives in a gated community, called for retribution against a white police officer who likely saved the life of a black female who was about to be stabbed by another black female. He will suffer nothing for what he has done to this cop. Because we are a sick and degraded society.
They have criminal experts review the bodycam footage, and say:
Two experts who reviewed the body camera footage said that in this case, the officer’s use of force appeared at first glance to be justified.
Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said investigators would look at whether the officer believed that there was an imminent threat to the life of the other woman.
If there was an immediate threat, investigators will look at whether the officer could have resorted to other methods of control, he said. Dr. Alpert said that based on his own review, Ms. Bryant did appear to pose a threat to the life of the other woman.
“Were there other options? Not if she was about to stab that woman,” Dr. Alpert said, adding that a Taser could take too long to deploy, and that the less-than-lethal weapons are not 100 percent reliable. “He’s protecting her life, not his own,” he said. “What if it didn’t work and she ended up killing this woman?”
But that’s not how the neighborhood sees it:
Still, Ms. Bryant’s family and activists across Columbus questioned why the officer shot Ms. Bryant.
“I don’t know why he shot her,” Ms. Moore, Ms. Bryant’s foster parent, said. “I don’t know why he didn’t Tase her, why they didn’t try to break it up.”
Tase? Break it up? Come on! It is perfectly clear on the bodycam footage — which the Times has embedded and annotated in the story — that Bryant, knife in hand, was lunging at the woman in pink when the officer shot her:
As John Podhoretz points out, everything played out in front of the officer in nine seconds. The time from Bryant drawing her arm back with knife in hand as she lunged at the woman in pink to the moment when the cop fired his weapon? One second.
But it’s the fault of the police, according to the Bryant family:
Ms. Bryant’s family expressed dismay and outrage at her death, and described Ms. Bryant as sweet and caring. They said she should still be alive.
“This could have been de-escalated by the Columbus Police Department,” Don Bryant, a cousin of Ms. Bryant’s mother, said. “There are things you can do to avoid pulling out your gun and shooting someone. I question the use of force.”
It’s the fault of the police, according to a local BLM leader:
Activists who spent Tuesday demonstrating at the scene of the shooting marched on late Wednesday afternoon toward Police Headquarters, and said they planned to demand answers and accountability.
“They didn’t de-escalate the situation,” said DeJuan Sharp, an organizer with a local Black Lives Matter group called the Downtownerz. “I don’t know why the gun was the first thing for him to use.”
Do you know why sweet, caring Ma’Khia Bryant was attacking people with a knife? The Times:
Ms. Moore said that she was at work during the shooting, but that she believed the fight began over an argument about housekeeping. She said one of her former foster children had visited the home on Tuesday and criticized Ms. Bryant and her sister for having messy bedrooms.
“That’s where the problem came,” Ms. Moore said. “I didn’t know they had called the police.”
This kid tried to stab people because someone insulted her for not making her bed. And now she’s dead. But it’s the cop’s fault, see. I don’t know how whiteness made Ma’Khia Bryant set out to stab those girls, but I’m sure the media and activists will tell us. Black Lives Matter is already blaming systemic racism (like White House spokesman Jen Psaki):
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Chauvin Verdict Settles Little
I just watched the Chauvin verdict. I have no opinion about it, other than that I hope justice was done, and that if this is justice, that the Floyd family and everybody else in Minneapolis can find a measure of healing.
I followed Andrew McCarthy’s trial analysis in National Review Online. He watched the whole thing, and he’s a former prosecutor, so I trust him to understand the legal issues. In my case, I’m too caught up in Chauvin as a condensed symbol, so I really have no way of understanding the intricacies of the law and how it applies to his case. Earlier this morning, McCarthy explained his belief that Chauvin should be acquitted on two counts, and convicted on a third. His reasoning seemed plausible to me. That Chauvin was convicted on all three counts suggests to me that he might see some of that overturned on appeal, especially given that Rep. Maxine Waters shot her mouth off before the jury was sequestered. But we will see. At least we don’t have to worry about national riots for now.
When the verdict came, I was reading this New York Times story about how black religious leaders in Georgia are leading a boycott of Home Depot for the company’s decision to stay out of Georgia political controversies. More:
A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, called on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company had abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law.
The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting.
“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Jackson said in an interview. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”
Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”
Ah. You will be made to care. The reader who sent me this story said this represents a major shift. A company is not being punished by activists for what it has done, but rather for what it chose not to do. These woke activists will not permit anybody to remain silent or uninvolved.
In other racial conflict news, Peter Rossi, the teacher canned by ultrawoke Grace Church school in Manhattan for criticizing its abusive Critical Race Theory pedagogy, secretly taped George Davison, the head of school, admitting that the school is demonizing white children. Both men are white. A new multiracial, politically diverse advocacy organization, FAIR, has taken up Rossi’s case, and has more information on its website. These were released after Davison publicly accused Rossi of misquoting him. He did not. Listen for yourself to the voice of institutional cowardice:
— Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) (@fairforall_org) April 20, 2021
— Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) (@fairforall_org) April 20, 2021
— Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) (@fairforall_org) April 20, 2021
All of this CRT stuff went nuclear after the Floyd killing. Unless all of his convictions are overturned, Chauvin is going to jail for what he did that day. But the left-wing race hatred and the racialized destruction of institutions is going to be with us for a long time — especially because power-holders like George Davison refuse to defend what’s right. So, while I am grateful for what looks like closure in the Chauvin case, the leftists in this country who have taken over the institutions, and who have the media’s hot air in their sails, are going to continue pushing a narrative that is going to make people of all races fearful of and loathsome to each other. Guaranteed.
UPDATE:Matthew Walther is very pleased with the verdict. Excerpts:
Like millions of observers, I was not surprised by the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the now-former police officer who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday by a jury in Minneapolis.
I say “not surprised” for two reasons. The first is simply that there was no other reasonable interpretation of the plain evidence that was presented to the jurors, especially the infamous video showing an all-but-gleeful Chauvin putting his knee on the neck of a man who had been suspected of trying to pass off a phony $20 bill at a nearby store. In an unambiguous sense, he was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused according to their straightforward statutory definition.
Well, that’s not exactly right. The eleven or so minutes of police body cam footage leading up to the knee-on-the-neck gave meaningful context. The police had struggled with this large, uncooperative, drugged suspect to get him into the police car, but Floyd would not cooperate. Hear me: this does not justify what Chauvin did with the knee, but it does make it a different story than simply throwing him onto the ground and grinding the knee in his neck for passing a counterfeit bill. Until I saw that footage, I had been under the impression that the first thing the police did was treat Floyd like that.
Still, Walther has a point:
This is what made the arguments of those who have gone out of their way to defend Chauvin so ghoulish. If you seriously believe that a police officer attempting to apprehend a man accused of using counterfeit money is justified in putting his knee upon the latter’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, there is no limit to what powers you think law enforcement has. And if monetary fraud is such a serious crime, where, I wonder, was the knee on Bernie Madoff’s neck?
Again, it’s misleading to state that Chauvin treated Floyd that was because of “monetary crime”. Had Floyd consented to arrest and obeyed the police, he would be alive today. Again, I can accept that Chauvin behaved wrongly here, and as I indicated above, I think Andy McCarthy made a good case for conviction on at least one of the charges. I think it really was important to know if Floyd might have died from drugs in his system, or from Chauvin’s actions. McCarthy’s reporting on the trial convinced me that a conviction was merited, though not on all counts. If this verdict keeps future suspects from being subdued so cruelly, then good.
UPDATE: A reader e-mails:
Left-wing reaction to the Chauvin trial has been bizarre, to say the least. Best I can surmise is that they’re so surprised by the verdict, they’re not sure how to react to it. “Should we still riot?” seems to be the question of the moment.
Take a look at what BLM has to say:
What took so long, they ask?
Hmm… I wonder how they feel about the fact it also took over a year for O.J. Simpson to be acquitted of murdering Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman? Is BLM aware that all court cases, especially high-profile ones that become highly-charged, thanks to folks like BLM and Maxine Waters, take forever to adjudicate?
Here’s what the utterly predictable AOC had to say:
Finally, there’s widespread consensus that, in fact, the rioting did have an effect on the outcome of this trial:
Making things stranger still is that there’s a slight consensus on both the Left and the Right that justice was delivered. Judge Jeanine, for one, thinks that, even on appeal, all three convictions will stand. I think most people think what Derek Chauvin did was wrong and he deserved some sort of redress for it (myself included), though folks on the Right think murder might still be too harsh of a charge.
So history is rhyming – last year, there was broad consensus then that Chauvin’s actions were improper, but people still found a way to come apart. This year, there’s broad consensus Chauvin was guilty of something, but now we’re coming apart on what it all means – was he found guilty because the system is just? Or was he found guilty because the mob is finally in control of this country and they’ve figured out how to influence an unjust system?
Personally, I think it’s both. I think the system is less flawed than people think, but I also think it’s indisputable that the environment created by the Left made it virtually impossible for anything other than a guilty verdict on all three charges to stand. I hate to think the jurors rendered their judgments based on fear, but it’s happened before – the outcome of the federal trial of the four officers involved in the beating of Rodney King was attributed to the chilling effect created by the 1992 Los Angeles riots. For now, I give them the benefit of the doubt, because I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
With justice, is there peace? Absolutely not. Again, the outcome of the case manages to divide us even when we agree on the verdict. Since the Left still believes the system to be unjust and that violence is the way to get what you want, what incentive is there for them not to cause carnage and achieve revolution? With the gleeful aid of the media and politicians, I think a new norm has been firmly established – mob rule. It was de facto, but it’s now the law of the land. If I were a cop, I’d be seeking employment elsewhere.
So, in that sense, I totally agree with the Left – this is just the beginning of an accelerating breakdown of law and order. Justice may’ve been delivered today, but it’s going to come at a hell of a cost.
By the way, we already have a new flashpoint – cops in Columbus, OH shot and killed a 15-year-old Black girl.
JUST IN – Fatal officer-involved shooting in Columbus, Ohio. One person dead. Crowd is starting to show up.pic.twitter.com/qbKY06TRCa
— Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) April 20, 2021
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Uncle Jay Should Move To Budapest
In my initial exploring of my new city, Budapest, yesterday, I met a man from western Europe. We started talking, and when I told him who I was and what I was doing here, he said he once read an interview with me in one of the French papers. That was a pleasant surprise. He went on to say that he moved to Budapest because his wife is Hungarian, and given his profession, he could work from here too. He said he finds life here to be more agreeable than in the western European city from which they came.
“One great thing about living here,” he said, “is that you don’t have put up with these damn people teaching gender ideology to your kids.”
I hope he’s reading this blog this morning, because this Twitter thread, sent to me by a reader, is going to vindicate my Budapest interlocutor:
It goes on like this. Then:
This is evil. This is simply flat-out evil, what they’re doing to these children in Ontario. And you know, of course, that it’s not just in Ontario.
Parents in liberal cities don’t have much of a chance. Back in the year 2000 — that’s right, twenty-one years ago — I wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard about something horrible going on in Massachusetts, and what happened to the parents — Brian Camenker and Scott Whiteman — who stood up to it. Excerpts:
Furthermore, Whiteman was called a “slanderer” by a member of the Board of Education, he says. “I knew I wasn’t lying. I knew I wasn’t making it up. I knew I wasn’t an alarmist.”
Frustrated by official indifference, Whiteman secretly took his tape recorder along to the 10th annual conference of the Boston chapter of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, at Tufts University on March 25. GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) is a national organization whose purpose is to train teachers and students and develop programs to, in the words of its Boston chapter leader, “challenge the anti-gay, hetero-centric culture that still prevails in our schools.”
The state-sanctioned conference, which was open to the public but attended chiefly by students, administrators, and teachers, undercut the official GLSEN line–that their work is aimed only at making schools safer by teaching tolerance and respect.
The event, backed by the state’s largest teachers’ union, included such workshops as “Ask the Transsexuals,” “Early Childhood Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not,” “The Struggles and Triumphs of Including Homosexuality in a Middle School Curriculum” (with suggestions for including gay issues when teaching the Holocaust), “From Lesbos to Stonewall: Incorporating Sexuality into a World History Curriculum,” and “Creating a Safe and Inclusive Community in Elementary Schools,” in which the “Rationale for integrating glbt [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] issues in the early elementary years will be presented.”
Whiteman sat in on a “youth only, ages 14-21” workshop called “What They Didn’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class.” If “they” didn’t tell you about this stuff, it’s probably because “they” worried they’d be sent to jail.
The raucous session was led by Massachusetts Department of Education employees Margot Abels and Julie Netherland, and Michael Gaucher,an AIDS educator from the Massachusetts public health agency. Gaucher opened the session by asking the teens how they know whether or not they’ve had sex. Someone asked whether oral sex was really sex.
“If that’s not sex, then the number of times I’ve had sex has dramatically decreased, from a mountain to a valley, baby!” squealed Gaucher. He then coaxed a reluctant young participant to talk about which orifices need to be filled for sex to have occurred: “Don’t be shy, honey, you can do it.”
Later, the three adults took written questions from the kids. One inquired about “fisting,” a sex practice in which one inserts his hand and forearm into the rectum of his partner. The helpful and enthusiastic Gaucher demonstrated the proper hand position for this act. Abels described fisting as “an experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with,” and praised it for putting one “into an exploratory mode.”
Gaucher urged the teens to consult their “really hip” Gay/Straight Alliance adviser for hints on how to come on to a potential sex partner. The trio went on to explain that lesbians could indeed experience sexual bliss through rubbing their clitorises together, and Gaucher told the kids that male ejaculate is rumored to taste “sweeter if people eat celery.” On and on like this the session went.
Camenker and Whiteman transcribed the tape and wrote a lengthy report for Massachusetts News, a conservative monthly. Then they announced that copies of the recorded sessions would be made available to state legislators and the local media. GLSEN threatened to sue them for violating Massachusetts’ wiretap laws and invading the privacy of the minors present at one workshop.
The tapes went out anyway and became a talk radio sensation. On May 19, state education chief David Driscoll canned Abels and Netherland and terminated Gaucher’s contract. But Driscoll also insisted that the controversial workshop was an aberration that shouldn’t be allowed to derail the entire program. Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn’t cared until the tapes had surfaced. Camenker, ironically, agreed.
Then the Massachusetts legal system got involved, with the judge issuing an order forbidding the media from talking about it. Almost none of the media protested. Both Alan Dershowitz and Harvey Silverglate — two liberal, high-profile lawyers — told me on the record (their quotes are in the piece) that the law and the media in Boston have very different standards when it’s a liberal ox being gored.
Here’s more from the piece which, remember, was published over two decades ago. It was prescient:
GLSEN/Boston boasts the most advanced programs of its kind in the nation. As goes Massachusetts, in time, so may go the rest of America. Camenker and Whiteman are on the front lines of a battle likely to spread to school districts from coast to coast, as the powerful GLSEN organization, with sponsorship money from American Airlines, Dockers Khakis, and Kodak, presses its radical agenda under the innocent-sounding guise of “safety,” “human rights,” and “suicide prevention.”
“That money goes down a rathole to fund gay clubs in schools, and gay rallies and conferences,” fumes Camenker. “None of the people who get the money are legitimate suicide prevention groups. They’re all these gay groups.”
GLSEN will be holding its annual leadership training conference next month in San Francisco, to be preceded by a two-day workshop teaching students and educators how to push the gay agenda in local schools–even at the kindergarten level–as a human rights issue. Books available from the GLSEN website include Queering Elementary Education and Preventing Prejudice, a collection of elementary-school lesson plans built around themes such as “What Is a Boy/Girl!” and “Freedom to Marry.”
Schools’ surreptitiously introducing this material to students, says Whiteman, “puts kids at risk and puts parents completely out of the loop with the sexual identities of their children. The schools take this elitist attitude that they know best.”
The point of this activist drive, warns Camenker, is to desensitize children to gay sex at a very young age and counteract moral instruction to the contrary given by their parents and religious leaders. If you protest, he warns, be prepared to be stone-walled and sneered at by school officials, smeared in the press, and denounced as a hatemonger and a bigot by gay activists.
Yet what choice is left to parents but to fight? “We’re facing an incredible evil here. It chills you to the bone,” says Camenker, an Orthodox Jew brought closer to his faith by this struggle. “The only way we’re not going to get run over is if people wake up to what’s happening to our children.”
There is a straight — ahem — line from the lies that GLSEN and the State of Massachusetts told back then, and that the Boston legal and media culture abetted, and what is happening in Toronto today. My belief then, and my belief today, is that bullying should NEVER be tolerated in schools. That gay kids, and all kids, must be protected from bullies, with no exceptions. That everyone has the right to be treated with respect. But what GLSEN was doing, and continues to do, is to use the just and necessary cause of anti-bullying to smuggle in radical ideology to lessons for children.
By way of contrast, here’s news from Hungary from 2018:
“The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” Orban’s chief of staff said in August. “They lead their lives the way they think best, but beyond this, the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area.”
Naturally, the media and Western observers had a gran mal seizure.
The Hungarian parliament passed a measure this week amending the national constitution to more clearly enshrine the meaning of family and gender as traditionally understood.
In direct opposition to gender theory, the amended text states that “Hungary protects children’s right to an identity conforming to their birth gender and ensures education in accordance with the values based on Hungary’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
The constitutional amendment — Hungary’s ninth — spells out the definition of family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation. The mother is a woman, the father a man,” in what pro-family organizations are hailing as a victory for marriage in the midst of an increasingly hostile and ideologically charged environment.
It’s almost like Hungary is defending … reality. Meanwhile, in the United States, even conservative states have difficulty passing far more modest reality-defending legislation, because Woke Capitalism threatens them economically.
No wonder that western European expat likes raising his kids here in Budapest. Maybe Uncle Jay should move here. Viktor Orban is not perfect, but tell me, where are the American conservative politicians who do things like this to protect their society from a poisonous, cruel ideology? If Donald Trump had had the intelligence and political skill of Orban, he might have been able to pull it off. But he didn’t, and so now we have to depend on the Senate filibuster to save America from the Equality Act.
By the way, here’s the Uncle Jay propaganda video:
UPDATE: Let me advise you Hungarian anti-Orban commentators who are coming here to give their opinions. You are welcome to do this, and to disagree with me, but if you are going to insult me personally, you will not be published. And, for the record, I am neither an Evangelical nor a Boomer. If you’re going to attempt to insult me, at least have the good sense to understand who I actually am.
UPDATE.2: It is telling that because I support the Fidesz’s government’s moves on gender ideology, a number of Hungarian commenters are assuming that I approve of everything the government does. I praised Joe Biden in this space the other day for his Afghanistan withdrawal. So far, I have yet to see conservatives condemn me as a Biden flunky. I criticized Trump a lot, but praised him when I thought he got something right. When I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper praising one of my US senators for voting to impeach Trump, I said that Trump did some things right, but overall he deserved impeachment the second time for the way he behaved post-election. A left-wing friend of forty years ended our friendship because, as she explained it to me, even though I did not vote for him, and I supported his second impeachment, my great crime was that I said that Trump did some things right. For her, that was enough to end our friendship. I feel confident that these Hungarian gripers are like her.
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Brearley’s Antiracist Loyalty Test
Here’s a foll0w-up to the letter from the angry father who is pulling his daughter out of the ultra-woke elite Brearley School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A reader whose daughter goes to Brearley passes along this letter now circulating among the parents of students there:
April 18, 2021
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees of The Brearley School,
For more than a year, we have keenly heard and watched the pain and trauma rocking our nation as heightened attention has been paid to multiple acts of racialized violence. Thousands of Americans of all races and backgrounds have protested, and continue to protest these injustices, demanding systemic change. We have also heard stories from fellow members of the Brearley community (students, faculty, staff, trustees, parents and alumnae) that have described in detail acts of discrimination suffered and witnessed while inside the Brearley community itself. These stories have been shared and recorded in various discussions, correspondence and social media platforms.
Last week, following a surge in anti-Asian violence, while our hearts were on edge waiting for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, we watched the video of a Chicago police officer shooting dead an unarmed, 13-year-old Mexican-American boy, Adam Toledo. We read of a Minnesota police officer shooting dead a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop. And then the week ended with the arrival of a letter sent by the father of one of our daughters’ schoolmates that announces, quite angrily, that systemic racism is nothing more than a myth– as if such a thing were a boogeyman invented by some insidious, united leftist front intent on corrupting us all.
We, who are current Brearley parents in receipt of Andrew Gutmann’s letter, other current and past Brearley parents, and alumnae, will not allow ourselves to be tainted by Andrew Gutmann’s vile and racist rant. We denounce his absurd version of the history of racism in this country and of Brearley’s attempts to address diversity, equity and inclusion in our school community. We are disgusted that, rather than conversing with his fellow parents (and there have been ample opportunities in which parents have been invited do so), he instead chose to abuse the school directory in order to send to our homes a manifesto filled with lies, mischaracterizations and an astonishing lack of empathy and civility. Moreover, he sought out fifteen minutes of fame by sharing the letter with media outlets.
Let us state this clearly: Andrew Gutmann does not represent us.
We believe it is crucial for Brearley to continue the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. This multifaceted work includes, but is not limited to:
describing and combating systemic racism
ensuring people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations feel welcomed and celebrated at the School
educating the students in cross-cultural excellence and instilling in them the knowledge, empathy, and versatility required to excel as leaders in this multicultural world
We acknowledge that Brearley has made great strides to begin this work over the course of the past year. The work is messy by design, and takes great effort on everyone’s part to proceed. Nonetheless, we are fiercely proud of our girls and their school, as we know the work that the community is engaging in will equip all Brearley girls with the tools and knowledge to fight against racism and to be leaders in their future chosen professions.
In light of Andrew’s letter, it is clear that this message is not getting through to all Brearley families. Greater analysis of how we can reach every family at Brearley must be done and then action must be taken to implement the necessary steps. It saddens us greatly that any family would feel alienated by the work on diversity, equity and inclusion that we are trying to do. The work comes from a place of love, not division. We must not give up. Only with the re-affirmation and continuing commitment of the leadership of The Brearley School can this important work be implemented for long-term and sustained success.
We thank you for engaging in this hard work and we join you on the road ahead of learning, listening and taking decisive and timely action together. Done right, Brearley’s work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion can be a shining example of the school’s noble motto, “By Truth and Toil.”
Parents of Class VI and all other Classes at Brearley, past parents and alumnae
The reader characterizes this as a “loyalty oath to the antiracist regime.” The reader is right. This battle among the elites is an important fight. As usual, what happens among the elites eventually happens to the rest of us. Pay attention. Notice how therapeutic this battle is. It’s one in which the combatants on the progressive side invoke “pain” and “trauma” as a weapon against their enemies.
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What’s The Source Of The Church’s Problems?
On Sunday, David French published on his Substack a thoughtful essay on the threats to the church. I found that it articulated well some of my own conflicted thoughts about the issue, which is, as you know, always top to mind with me. Excerpts:
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that one explanation for profoundly different Christian approaches to politics and culture rests with different answers to the following question: Does the primary threat to the church come from within the church or without? Put differently, does the church stumble and fall primarily because of the sins of the church or because of the cultural and political headwinds directed against the church?
It’s a question closely related to questions about our own humanity. Are we fundamentally fallen individuals who sin primarily because of our own sin nature? Or are we good people, facing challenges primarily because we’re negatively influenced by our environment?
Before you give the “right” answer based on a textbook knowledge of Christian theology, think of your actual answer based on how you direct your emotions and energies.
I stopped right there to consider my own thoughts. I realized that for me, it’s not an either-or, but a both-and — and that this is why so many people on both sides of the question find me frustrating.
I believe that we live in a post-Christian and increasingly anti-Christian society and culture, one that is rapidly making it harder for faithful small-o orthodox Christians (that is to say, Christians who do not agree with the party line on sexual issues) to exist meaningfully in the public square. Nobody is going to cancel a Christian for his or her traditional beliefs and practices regarding luxury, avarice, gluttony, or any of the other so-called “deadly sins”. But resist the world’s view on lust, and you find yourself in a world of trouble.
Besides which, the fundamental materialism of our consumerist, hedonistic society is profoundly anti-Christian. This challenge to fidelity would exist even if the Sexual Revolution had never happened.
So, yes, the environment in which Christians exist, never perfect, is much more hostile now than it was.
But it’s also the case that Christians are an equally dangerous adversary to ourselves. Far too many of us have little to no sense of our own sins and failings, and our own collaboration with the world. For me, a telling example of this was a big story one of my Dallas Morning News colleagues wrote nearly twenty years ago, about the brokenness that pastors, priests, and rabbis were seeing in their relatively well-off congregations in north Dallas and its suburbs. Dallas is quite religiously engaged, with full churches as the norm (at least back then it was; I haven’t lived there in over a decade). Religious leaders told the News, though, that they were seeing a rash of divorces and broken families from people trying desperately to keep up with each other in spending. That is, families were going deeply into debt to make sure they had houses as big as their friends from church, and cars as nice as theirs, etc. This is not the mark of a Christian people.
Most of the negative reaction to The Benedict Option from Christians had to do with what they perceived as its “head for the hills” strategy. The book doesn’t actually say to head for the hills, so I struggled to understand what their real concern was. I finally guessed that the books real message — that we Christians can’t keep living as we do, fully assimilated into bourgeois American life, and expect to keep our faith — was what truly upset them. It’s a version of the Rich Young Ruler problem. The unhappy truth of American Christian life is that if believers have to choose between middle-class success and the Christian faith, most of us will choose middle-class success, and lie to ourselves about what we’re doing.
The Benedict Option was a successful book, but Live Not By Lieshas been much more successful. They both have similar messages, but LNBL is even more pessimistic, so you would think its sales would be worse. What accounts for the difference? The fact that the four years separating the books have made the message of The Benedict Option much harder to dismiss. It is far more difficult to maintain one’s illusion that things are basically fine in our world, and that all we Christians need to do is to sit back and wait for the danger to pass.
Still, it frustrates me that a fair number of my tribe — Christians who are theologically, morally, and politically conservative — are betting all their chips on the hope that the main fight is political, and can be won through politics. It’s just not true, and to say that does not mean that political engagement is useless. We have to stay engaged as long as we can. But it’s to say that the core problem is a loss of spiritual meaning — and that’s something that each of us has the ability, and indeed the duty, to address in our own lives.
So, back to French, who quotes this blog:
I’ll give you an example, from Rod Dreher’s always-interesting and thought-provoking American Conservative blog. His pages are often a clearinghouse for Christians who express dark fears about the future of the church and the republic. They write anonymously to describe woke excesses in American corporations and the American academy. They describe the ways in which the culture is leading their children astray. One note, from an anonymous homeschool father, struck me as particularly poignant.
In spite of growing up with deep religious instruction, extreme restrictions on technology, and isolated from public-school kids, his daughter had turned suicidal, began cutting herself, rejected her faith, and adopted an LGBT identity. The father was stunned. “WE THOUGHT WE WERE SAFE,” he typed in all caps. How did his daughter go astray? The father thought he determined the culprit:
After the initial shock, when we were in “how did this happen??!?” mode, we discovered that it all had come in through the influence of one person, her best friend (who was from one of those “safe” Catholic homeschooling families I mentioned). As it turns out, the family was living a double life, with the public image of being devout but with severe dysfunction at the heart of the home. In the dysfunction, the “best friend” had no supervision and unlimited internet. So, with all the sleepovers the girls had in that house over the years, Lord knows what they were doing.
Well, well, well. Lesson learned (and word of warning to your readers): If you aren’t seeing what your kid is doing yourself, you don’t know what they are doing, period. NOBODY IS SAFE. Trust perhaps, but always verify.
First, God bless that family. I hope they heal, I hope the dangerous depression subsides, and I hope the daughter recovers her faith. But when I read the father’s heartbreaking letter, I wanted to type back in all caps, YOU COULD NEVER MAKE YOUR DAUGHTER SAFE.
The reason is simple. Parents cannot save children from their own fallen nature. Sin comes from within, not from without. You can purge their world of every negative image, remove every godless friend, and surround them with the best Christian culture, and these words from Jesus will remain completely true:
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him”…For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
I agree with that about 75 percent. Where I push back is on having more sympathy with the father than David seems to (though I don’t think he is unsympathetic to the man). The man’s daughter, like all of us, is sinful, but I think it’s inaccurate to say that the struggles with sin that people, especially young people, face today are no different than when us older people were kids.
When I was a kid, the worst trouble regarding porn that any of us boys could have gotten into was finding somebody’s dad’s Playboy or Penthouse. Even then, that required having the good luck (or so it seemed to us) of one of us having a father that read dirty magazines. It was very easy to keep porn out of the hands of kids. I can well remember what it was like to be 13 years old, with testosterone surging through one’s veins, and thinking about sex constantly. If porn had been easily accessible, I think it’s fair to say that most of us boys back then would have been reading it constantly. The idea of getting our hands on a pornographic movie was beyond consideration. Nobody had them.
I am fairly certain that 13 year old boys have the same amount of testosterone coursing through their bodies as their fathers’ generation did. But now they have the Internet there to make extreme hardcore porn available to them with no effort at all. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t know how I or any of my middle school friends (much less high school) would have been able to resist it.
And now, this:
We all know about the insane number of young teenage and adolescent girls who consider themselves to be trans. If you read any of the literature on this, you know that most of these girls got the idea from the Internet, and via social contagion. And they are experiencing this stuff within a culture that is designed to affirm anything they choose to think about their alleged trans identity. The anonymous man from the anecdote on my blog expected to be able to trust a fellow homeschooling Christian family to hold the line on this stuff. They did not, and now the mind virus has infected their own daughter.
I think it is really unfair to expect individuals to be able to resist this stuff on their own. When I was a kid, the stakes were much less dire. It is a qualitatively different experience to encounter Playboy at 13, and to encounter endless videos of violent sex. It is a qualitatively different experience to feel ill at ease with your body at 13, and the advent of sexuality, and to do so in a world that has become wholly pornified (therefore making you feel that as a woman, you will be seen as a target for violent male sexual aggression), and with the presence of the Internet to offer escapist ways of thinking about your sexual identity and biology that have never been anything but far-fringe in human history.
And if you’re raising kids, it’s a qualitatively different thing to be able to let your son go sleep over at his 8th grade buddy’s house, with the worst thing you have to worry about is that they will get their hands on a Penthouse, and quite another to have to worry that they’ll gain access to hardcore fetish porn because some kid’s parents let him have a smartphone with no filter. It’s a qualitatively different thing to have to worry that your daughter sleeping over at her 8th grade friend’s house will end up going down the insane rabbit hole of trans-positive websites, and will come to see in them a kind of solution to her anxieties about her body and her sexual desires. The inability of parents, even conservative Christian parents, to trust each other to hold the line on technology is a debilitating reality.
Both/and. The corrupt world and the weak-fleshed individual. I think it’s fair to say — and accurate, because he says it himself — that David’s emphasis on the individual nature of sinful corruption explains why he still believes in the basic liberal (as in classical liberal) way of framing the world. I don’t, and I can’t, because the structures and forces lined up against individual virtue are too overwhelming for most people to overcome. My problem — not a problem that David has, nor his Ahmarist opponents — is that I don’t really believe in liberalism, but I can’t have confidence that any postliberalism on offer in the US will work. Postliberalism in America is likely to be left-wing postliberalism. I mean, look, even the US military is going woke.
In my writing on this blog, I focus more on the threats coming at the church from the world, because I see a big problem in so many conservatives, and conservative Christians, believing that it’s really not so bad, or that it can’t happen to them. But garbage like this event from over the weekend at a Bible college in Oklahoma is terrible news for the church. These people are living in a dream.
How is it possible that crowds of people are still coming out to see this maniac? Conservatism is done for if the tent is “big enough” for this. https://t.co/dhEc9A3xxH
— Steve Skojec (@SteveSkojec) April 19, 2021
This is why, unlike so many of my conservative friends, I can’t so easily dismiss David French’s critique. I was talking recently with an old friend, a Catholic conservative who said that his children are trending left because for them, Donald Trump and things like QAnon are what conservatism means. They have never seen anything other than that. They may not be woke, but they don’t see anything in conservatism worth believing in. The ugly truth is that far too many of us conservatives — Christian and otherwise — are not really conservatives, but anti-liberals. This crossed my mind last night while reading this 2005 Jeet Heer interview with the great Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs, who identified not as a conservative, but as a “reactionary”. Excerpts:
”Already [in the ’50s] the trouble with most conservatives was that it was a negative conservatism,” says Lukacs, who penned several anti-McCarthy articles for Commonweal magazine when the Senator was riding high. ”They were anti-liberal. And that’s not enough.”
But even when pressed, Lukacs has difficulty finding any good words for populism, American-style. To him, the rise of right-wing populism here is troubling because it means that the conservatives no longer serve as a shield against the dangers of mass politics. Instead, ”conservative” has come to mean simply ”antiliberal.”
”Nationalism is a very low and cheap common denominator that unites people,” he says. ”It is hatred that unites people. People take satisfaction from the idea that we are good because our enemies are evil. This is a very American syndrome but it is also universally true of mankind.”
Without question hatred of the Other is uniting factions on both Left and Right in the US now. Still, I think Lukacs’s point (again, made in 2005) about conservatism having become merely “antiliberal” applies to conservative Christianity as well. The headmaster of a classical Christian school told me once that most of the people who send their kids to his school think of themselves as conservatives, but really all they want to do is get their kids away from liberalism. And that is not enough.
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Budapest In The Rain
Well, I made it. I’m writing to you after midnight, having crashed hard a couple of hours after I got settled in my flat in central Budapest. When I woke up, I had slept so hard — there was no indication that I had moved even a millimeter in that bed — that I was sure it must be just before daylight. Checked my watch: one minute to midnight. Oh, great. I’m really glad that my bosses at the Danube Institute advised that I take today to get my feet planted on the ground and my internal clock calibrated.
It was not an easy journey, thanks to Covid. As you may know, you have to have had a Covid test no sooner than a day or two before your flight for overseas journeys (at least to Europe). I showed up on Friday morning to get mine at a walk-in clinic in Baton Rouge (this, for a flight leaving at noon on Saturday), and was told by the nurse that the standard test wouldn’t work. I needed to get a PCR test, and they only do those at one facility in town. Oh gosh. I called their facility in town, and was told that it would take up to 24 hours to get my results back.
“My flight leaves in 23 hours,” I said.
“Sorry, sir. They might come sooner, but we can’t guarantee it.”
I found another place in the city giving those tests. They made the same guarantee. I took a chance, which proved wise. As I was driving away from that place, the first lab called me and said sorry, because we were at the weekend, they couldn’t guarantee my results till Monday. As it happened. Lab Two sent me the results six hours later, and all was well. But still, dang.
At the airport in Baton Rouge, I was given incorrect information about Covid restrictions for my flight, and registered at the airline desk clerk’s direction for the German government’s Covid tracking system. I found out at the Lufthansa desk in Houston that I didn’t have to do that, as I was just connecting through Frankfurt to Budapest. I didn’t feel too bad about that; everybody is struggling with these difficulties, and it’s hard to know what the rules are for every country. The man in line in front of me at the Lufthansa boarding gate desk was denied a boarding pass because his test was one of the quickie ones. He was really mad, and I can’t blame him, but this wasn’t the fault of the Lufthansa staffer. He had no bags with him, so I assume he checked them at the ticket counter when he arrived at the airport. Why had no one told him then?
My advice to you, if you’re traveling abroad, is to go get the PCR test with plenty of time to spare. No test other than that one is valid for international travel. Do this even if you have a card verifying that you’ve been vaccinated, as I have. Nobody ever asked to see my vaccination card, but they checked my Covid vaccination report at every stage of the journey, sometimes twice.
The Lufthansa flight to Houston was not very crowded, I’m happy to say. I don’t find it easy to sleep on planes, and would have paid the extra $600 for an upgrade to business class had one been available. But I made out in Premium Economy okay, and would have felt like an idiot had I spent that money. On Lufthansa, at least, the only acceptable mask is an N95. I had never worn one of those. It’s pretty terrible, in fact. It’s hot under there, and until you get used to it (if you ever do), it can make you a bit panicked about not being able to breathe. I found it impossible to try to sleep with one of them on, so devised a hack: put the blanket the airline gives you for sleeping over your head, then pull the mask down under cover of blanket.
The Frankfurt airport was eerie. I’ve been through that airport before, and it’s always been super-busy. Not this time. Most of the stores are closed, as are most of the cafes. I’m really glad I had a three-hour layover, because it took a while to get through German border control, even though I was just transiting through. The police officer at the border gave me the third degree. You can’t get into Hungary now if you are a non-citizen, unless you have an official letter of employment, certified by the Hungarian government. I do have one, but it’s mostly written in Hungarian (because it’s meant for Hungarian passport control). The German couldn’t read the Hungarian, and was skeptical of my story.
“What do you do for a living?” he asked.
“I’m a writer.”
“And what will you be doing in Budapest?”
“I have a fellowship at the Danube Institute, a think tank there.”
“How do I know this is true?”
“That I’m a writer, or that I will be working at the Institute?”
I had the idea to pull out of my carry-on bag a hardback copy of Live Not By Lies that I had brought over as a gift. I showed him my photo on the jacket copy, and explained that my legal name is Ray, but my nom de plume is Rod. I was mortified, but in retrospect, that was a cool moment. Then I pulled up on my phone some correspondence between the Institute’s office manager and me about my gig there, and showed him. I still don’t think he wanted to let me in, but he finally did, then apologized, saying that Covid makes everything very difficult.
The Frankfurt-Budapest flight was completely full, and suddenly, even though I’m vaccinated, I was grateful for the N95 mask. At the Budapest airport, there were three levels of security: they did a temperature check as soon as we deplaned, then we had to go through a long line checking our Covid test status, and then we had passport control, which occasioned even more inspection of our documents. I felt like Victor Laszlo, trying to get out of Casablanca. Waiting in the second line, an old Hungarian man barked at me in English to STAND BACK, because I was too close to him. I wasn’t too close, in fact, but he was so clearly anxious that I didn’t take offense. The look on peoples’ faces here is tense and weary.
My friend Anna was waiting for me when I made it through, and boy oh boy, was I ever glad to see her. She was my interpreter and organizer of interviews in Hungary for the Live Not By Lies research. And she is a great and sensitive intellectual talker, exactly the person you want to meet when you come to Central Europe. Confirming what I had picked up at the airport, Anna told me that people here have been living under tight restrictions for so long that it has worn them all down. Until very recently, there was a 7 pm to 7 am curfew; that has now been lifted to 10 to 7. Restaurants are only open for take-out, but there’s hope that when the weather gets warm (it’s still rainy and a bit cold), that people will be able to eat on terraces.
We found my apartment, which is inside an older building in the center of the city, one built around a central courtyard, where people park their cars. My landlady K. is also one of those people you have to come to Mitteleuropa to meet: the descendant of dispossessed Slovak nobility who had family lands confiscated by the Communists, and who fled after the 1968 Soviet invasion. She is grand and full of life; I loved her instantly. She showed us the flat, which she has just renovated. It’s awesome. Inside it, I feel like a minor Habsburg. The kitchen is terrific.
“Oh, this is really wonderful,” I said. “I love to cook.”
“I love that you love to cook!” she replied, then told me that the Great Market Hall is about a ten minute walk from my place.
Guess where I’ll be shopping on Monday.
There are two Orthodox churches within easy walking distance of my flat. One of them has a website. It appears that they have been meeting in a limited way for services. I’m going to check that out today, because Holy Week is coming up, and I don’t want to miss anything if I can help it.
After I said goodbye to K., I fiddled around on Twitter a bit before falling asleep. I said something about Hungary having suffered greatly in Covid, the lockdown, etc. Damon Linker pointed out that per capita, the Covid death rate in Hungary is about what it has been in my home state of Louisiana.
That astounded me. At our most restrictive in Louisiana, we were not nearly as locked down as Hungary has been. So I guess I mean the number of restrictions. I had been reading all along that Hungary has struggled mightily with this disease, but I had no idea that they were about as bad off as we have been in Louisiana — this, because the lockdown measures have been much looser back home.
I found out today that The Benedict Option has just been published in Hungary.
I thought I had an offer to publish Live Not By Lies here, but I checked my correspondence from my agent, and I think that is wrong. A pity — there are several Hungarian voices in the book. Maybe I will meet a publisher while I am in the city, and can convince them that the book is worth translating.
OK, now I’m going to try to get some more sleep. It might have been best to arrive in Budapest in the chilly rain. I started reading the great historian John Lukacs‘s Budapest 1900 on the way over. Here, Lukacs is quoting from the works of Gyula Krudy (1878-1933), a novelist and journalist:
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View From Your Table
I drove up to Starhill yesterday to tell my mom goodbye. I leave in a few hours for Budapest, where I will be until the end of July, working on a fellowship. I brought Mama a coconut cream pie. We each had a piece, sitting on her front porch.
Here’s a selfie I took of us yesterday. As I age, I get fatter and uglier, but Mama, she just grows more beautiful.
Oh, in other good West Feliciana Parish news, the Walker Percy Weekend gang had a cocktail party this week to remind ourselves of what we all look like, and to get our festival planning back on track. We have had to miss two WPWs in a row because of Covid. We ain’t missing next year. Mark your calendars, people.
Say, there’s a new Live Not By Lies promotional video out — take a look, and pass it on if you like it.
Also, if you haven’t checked out my buddy Kale Zelden and me kibitzing on our General Eclectic podcast, what are you waiting for? Here’s the latest:
We’re going to keep doing the podcast with me in Budapest, but I am also going to try to add some European content — interviews and stuff. I bought a fancy camera, just like Kale has, and am taking my Blue Yeti microphone along with me. For example, when I go to the Bratislava Hanus Days ideas festival later this spring, I’m hoping to be able to do some interviews there for the podcast. Please follow us! You can get the podcast in all the usual places.
I’ll see y’all on the other side. If you see me in Frankfurt airport tomorrow morning, come say hi and I’ll buy you a breakfast beer.