Category Archives: History

Confronting racism, then and now: a confession and an apology

I’m about to share with you the most humiliating moment of my life.

This morning something deeply disturbing happened to my 13 year-old nephew, Christopher. He got a text message, which had been forwarded around from person to person, from one of his best friends, a girl we’ll call Ashley. It went something like this:

America has elected a nigger. Today in school show your support for the KKK by refusinshookg to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Christopher lives in Alabama, where this kind of ignorance isn’t terribly hard to find, and he’s a bit more advanced than some of his classmates where racial issues are concerned. He grew up in Charlotte (and NC urban areas are a lot more progressive than the outback), has always had black and biracial friends, and like so many kids of his generation he simply doesn’t see race as a big deal. Continue reading Confronting racism, then and now: a confession and an apology

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Reader Roundtable: what’s the greatest technology of all time?

Scholars & Rogues wants to know: what do you think is the greatest technology in human history?

Before you answer, what do we mean by “technology”? I think we all have sort of an operational idea in our heads of what we mean by the term, but if you’re like most people, odds are pretty good that you’ve never sat down and tried to articulate a real definition. A couple pretty smart thinkers had some thoughts on the subject that you might find helpful. Or challenging. Let’s see.

First, Arnold Pacey, a British scholar whose Culture of Technology helps us understand that technology is a lot more than just the machine itself, which Pacey calls the “restricted” sense of the term. Continue reading Reader Roundtable: what’s the greatest technology of all time?

ArtSunday: the Blade Runner Effect

Last night we watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner again, and if you don’t have this package I can’t recommend it highly enough. 25 years on, Ridley Scott was able to finally re-craft the film as he wanted it originally, and the result is a stunning achievement. Scott has been one of our greatest directors for a very long time, but this may be his finest moment to date.

This viewing (probably my 35th or 40th – I lost count a long time ago) got me to thinking, all over again, about how little the film was acknowledged at the time of its release. Continue reading ArtSunday: the Blade Runner Effect

Obama: hope, change and reality

I believe I recall Barack Obama quoting Otto Von Bismarck’s edict that “politics is the art of the possible,” and evidence of that optimism abounds everywhere I look in Denver today. The two words we seem to be hearing more than any others are “hope” and “change,” and we saw a wonderfully eloquent articulation of this enthusiasm last night in Wendy Redal’s post on starstruck idealism.

There’s no question (among rational people, anyway) that change is sorely needed, and after the last eight years hope is a precious and endangered commodity. Hope is the fuel of change, and sadly a lot of our traditional reserves are running dry.

I want to hope, and I’m being implored to hope, but really, should I? Continue reading Obama: hope, change and reality

WordsDay: the art of the possible

In case you’ve been off-planet, the dumpster fire that is Election Season 2008 is in full swing. While this can be entertaining if you’re cynical enough, it’s a process that can exert a warping effect on the perspectives of even the best among us.

In times like these, it’s often helpful to turn to the wisdom of the ages. Today, then, we offer a collection of insights on politics from some of history’s more astute observers of public life.

Enjoy. Continue reading WordsDay: the art of the possible

2007 in Review, pt. 5: Politicians, whores and the media who love them…

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the Scholars & Rogues year-end wrap-up. Today we tackle the dirty, but oddly riveting world of politics. We’ll take a couple shots at the even dirtier world of media that makes it all possible. Let’s start at the top, shall we?

George Walker Bush: I’ve been telling my Republican friends for five years now that Dubya was going to do more damage to their party than an army of Hillarys could dream of doing. And 2007 was the year where I think the truth of this proposition finally started becoming evident. Scandals at the Justice Department and World Bank did him no favors, nor did the conviction of Scooter Libby (which necessitated the most politically debilitating pardon/commutation sequence since Ford saved Nixon). Iraq got worse by the day and we’re not seeing a lot of GOP presidential hopefuls looking to surf that Bush legacy. Continue reading 2007 in Review, pt. 5: Politicians, whores and the media who love them…

The selfish time traveler

Let’s play a little game, just for fun. You have a time machine, a magic wand, a genie or a fairy godmother. And you can go back to any one moment in history to experience an event or perhaps meet a famous (or not so famous) person. Whatever. It has to be selfish – it can’t be about changing history or saving the world or killing Hitler when he was a baby. It has to be something you’d simply have loved to have been around for.

What would you do?

I’ll go first.

Your turn.

The problem with democracy in America…

In my most recent post, one commenter repeatedly insisted that I offer a solution or an alternative for the problems I was pointing to. As I noted there, I never suggested that there was a problem, and even if there were, it’s hardly my job to be proposing a lot of solutions that aren’t going to be acted on. If you believe there’s the slightest plausibility of change wafting in the wind, you haven’t taken a good look at the likely presidential contenders in your two major parties.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I think America’s current condition constitutes a “problem” and that I’m tasked with offering a solution. I would begin with one critical observation about your system of governance: The problem with democracy in America is that too many people are allowed to participate. Continue reading The problem with democracy in America…

Democracy: the cleverest tool for oppression in the history of the world

Thomas Jefferson’s legacy is much admired in the US and beyond, and for good reason. Without his contributions it’s hard to imagine how the American system of “democracy” would have evolved.

I’ve always admired him a great deal, too, although for somewhat different reasons than most. Yes, he was critical to the development of democracy, but what was so brilliant about this is that democracy is arguably the cleverest tool for the oppression of the masses ever devised.

This assertion no doubt comes as something of a shock to The Average American, who tends to get all sniffly about the majesty of his “freedoms” every 4th of July as he sits in his local park watching pretty explosions in the sky and listening to the facile, self-deluded patriotism of Lee Greenwood yowling from the PA. Continue reading Democracy: the cleverest tool for oppression in the history of the world