Yesterday, I went to the Atlanta History Center to see the new “Atlanta in 50 Objects” exhibit. Most of the choices were predictable, but still interesting: a copy of “Gone With the Wind,” White and Colored signs from the Jim Crow era, the old school Pink Pig that used to be at the downtown Macy’s, MLK’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, funerary from Oakland Cemetery, etc. However, there was one entry that really surprised and interested me: the “pickrick” (i.e., axe handle turned club) that Lester Maddox used to chase black civil rights protesters away from his restaurant, the Pickrick Cafeteria:
Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum and Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo anno are considered the foundational documents of modern Catholic Social Teachings (CST). Catholic progressives and traditionalists both look to Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno as blueprints for a fairer, more human, and more Catholic social order (conservotrads tend to ignore CST to worship at the altar of the invisible hand).
One of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s schticks is his insistence that if nominated and elected, he would be America’s first “real black president.” As opposed to the “fake black” president we have now. This assertion isn’t new, since Herman Cain was saying the same thing during his own failed presidential run, and this meme is being reiterated by white Republicans who are desperate to run a black candidate to make them seem less white and less racist. Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policies, the notion that he is somehow “less black” than Carson or Cain ignores the way in which blackness was and is constructed in the United States.
I recently got back from a trip to Paris, and was going to write about something related to that, but then I saw this report about the Kenyan bishops opposing a polio vaccination campaign and had to comment:
I’m going to take a short break from my series on the uses and misuses of the Middle Ages in modern discourse to comment on the situation at the University of Oklahoma. Like many black people, I wasn’t shocked that a group of white college students would use racial epithets and sing about lynching black people behind closed doors. That this episode was “caught on tape,” so to speak, simply illustrates what many civil rights activists have been saying for a long time, namely that the United States is far from being post-racial (whatever that means) and that the kind of old school “naked aggression against the Other” style of racism that we usually associate with the elderly is alive and well among millenials. As is usual in these sorts of situations, I feel like the media isn’t asking the right questions.
One of the major themes in the pontificate of Benedict XVI was the notion of “the dictatorship of relativism” in which society recognizes no objective moral truths and each person is free to define his or her own truth. The dictatorship of relativism is supposedly the result of the secularization of formerly Christian societies that exalt human reason and passing intellectual fads over timeless religious truths. Supposedly the only thing that is taboo in the dictatorship of relativism is proclaiming that objective morality exists. This line of thinking was once quite attractive to me, but I became disillusioned with it once I realized that for conservotrad Catholics, the only things that are always wrong in all times and all places are abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and pre-marital sex (slavery, racism, and the odd genocide are okay, as long as your group isn’t affected). However, after the Hobby Lobby decision, I now realize that the real dictatorship of relativity is found in the demand for so-called “religious liberty.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said (or is supposed to have said) that, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” Regardless of who actually made this statement, it’s a good rule of thumb to live by. Unfortunately, it seems that Americans are increasingly demanding the right to have their own facts, even if they fly in the face of reality.