Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Good Master

So, Cliven Bundy put his entire leg into his mouth by implying that "the Negro" might be better off if they (perhaps I should say "we") were still slaves.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side
High-visibility Republican lawmakers who hoped to burnish their TEA Party credentials by publicly siding with him are now backing away from him, ostensibly, because of his odious views on race. Now, I'm going to go out on a limb, here and say that, more than likely, Senators Rand Paul and Dean Heller are being sincere in their condemnation of Bundy's remarks. After all, while there are White Supremacists out there, and it's likely that at least a few of them would openly favor a return to chattel slavery, that position is so far out of the mainstream that it's unlikely that any of them have made it into the current United States Senate.

But the thing about it that's being missed in the rush to throw stones at an old man too foolish to choose his words carefully when he's on camera is that Bundy wasn't being just a racist. He was also being tribalist, and that's likely what spurred him to speak up in the first place. As I understand him, yep, African Americans are the same, barely-civilized people that most of the antebellum South perceived them as being. And therefore, it is The White Man's Burden to uplift and care for them. The point that Bundy is making here is that people can either accept that burden or shirk it, and that keeping African-Americans as property, yet inculcating them in the correct "conservative" values is to accept that burden, while allowing them to live their lives as they see fit, but with public assistance is to allow them to backslide into savagery, and thus shirk one's duty.

And because the Conservative slaveowner is such a dutiful person, then the horrors of slavery, as it was formerly practiced in the United States, would never come to pass. Picking cotton would cease to become backbreaking labor. Slaves could have a family life without their partners or children being sold off at a whim for the slaveowner's profit - or as punishment. When the cotton picking was done, the benighted African-Americans would be able to do as they pleased without their owners seeking to saddle them with even more duties. All because Conservatives are the right kind of people. Therefore, even if you literally gave them other people as their property, to do with whatever they pleased, and with literal power of life and death over them, they would avoid becoming the sorts of despots and abusers that Liberals are.

It is, I think, this sort of tribalism, moreso than racism or White Supremacy, that threatens the United States. If a house divided against itself cannot stand, a house were people feel that they are above even the most obvious sorts of abuses while those they disagree with are black-hearted villains must be divided against itself. Slavery in the United States didn't descend into a horror of tyranny, maltreatment and misery because too many slaveholders shirked their White Man's Burden out of leftest ideas of human rights, the equality of all people and cultural relativism. And we should never let people pretend that it did. Even if we first castigate them for things we feel are worse.

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