Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“The Hypocrisy of the Enlightened Class”
February 5, 2019
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Book of John 8:7
In the rubric above, Jesus is not denying the value of criticism; he is noting that mob-like attacks on an accused should be tempered by the realization we all have faults. He was not condoning the woman but urging the scribes and the Pharisees to maintain perspective. It was a subject covered by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter. What we are witnessing today in Virginia is similar to the attack on Judge Kavanaugh. Each accuser became more vitriolic, while claiming the high moral ground. If youth were more exposed to the Bible and classical literature, understanding and forgiveness would be more forthcoming.
This is written not to excuse or take lightly the mocking of others, based on race, religion, gender or for any reason, but to place the Governor’s silly behavior of thirty-five years ago within context of its time and to highlight the hypocrisy of those who follow one another, in lemming-like fashion, down the path of self-righteous indignation. This is not written with the understanding we have achieved color-blind goals, though we have made strides. It is written in the belief that people change, and that we should not be judged solely on our behavior when young, especially when that past is more than a generation ago.
Governor Northram is accused of having posed for a photograph in 1984, which he admitted doing, dressed either as a black-face or as a member of the KKK. He didn’t recall which. The next day he denied being in the photograph, though he did admit to having dressed once as Michael Jackson. While his denial was disturbing – I have a problem with those who deliberately lie – the fact that he performed college-boy antics when he was a student was neither unusual nor – necessarily – racist. (There is, however, irony in the fact that the weapon of racism he used to defeat Ed Gillespie in 2017 is the one being used against him today.)
We all did things for which we carry shame. For most, such activities took place in our experimental youth and generally, for those my age, under the influence of spirits. I can think of a dozen incidents, which, if brought to light, would prevent me from having public office. But they neither molded my character nor determined the person I became. The same is likely true for Ralph Northram. If all politicians were to be judged by how they behaved as college or graduate students, options for voters would be slim.
But the reaction to the episode says much about us generally and about Democrats specifically. The pretentious posturing of those calling for Dr. Northram’s head is the natural outgrowth from the lure of victimization. How much easier it is to explain a lack of success to having been a victim, rather than accepting responsibility for one’s lack of achievement. Victimization is based on the false promise of equality. Comparative success, definitionally, is reserved for the few, for everyone cannot be the boss. Success comes to those who through aspiration, ability, energy or grit continue to strive when others fall aside. As well, victimization implies that some are privileged. And certainly a few are, either through wealth or connections. But, is the woman or man who gets into Yale necessarily privileged? Or was his or her success a product of individual abilities? The same is true in business. If we look back at our presidents over the past sixty years, a few were privileged, in the sense they were born wealthy and well-connected: Kennedy, both Bushes and Trump. But Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Obama came from humble backgrounds. They were competitive, ambitious, smart and hardworking.
As well, identity politics and political correctness play supporting roles. Politicians love to separate the electorate into myriad forms of identity, as political issues can be tailored more easily. In fact, that is how segregation is practiced today, under the guise of “social Justice.” “Victims” are urged to lay blame for their failures on society’s “privileged.” An unintended consequence is that issues of individual liberty and economic freedom are neglected. Political correctness assumes a moral superiority, that history is irrelevant, except in a bad way, that morality as expressed today by progressive elites has achieved its zenith. Political correctness means we no longer consider the past within the context of its time.
Certainly, Ralph Northram did not exercise judicious restraint when he dressed as he did. But, how many of us can say we never misbehaved when in college or graduate school? Was what Dr. Northram allegedly did when he was 25 worse than what then Senator Joe Biden did at age 46, when he plagiarized a speech given by British Labor leader Neil Kinnock’s in 1988? Was it worse than President Barack Obama at 52, when he deliberately lied to the American people about being able to keep your healthcare plan in 2013? As Jesus said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Why do the same people who give Dr. Northram a pass when it comes to his support of third trimester abortions – infanticide – want him to resign over some stupid spoof he pulled thirty-five years ago? The answer: third trimester abortions are politically correct.
Over my lifetime, our country has made progress on a number of fronts. Poverty is no longer as prevalent as it was. We live longer and food and clothing have become more affordable. Healthcare has improved and is more available to more people than fifty years ago. Race relations today are not perfect, but they are far better than when I was a youth, as anyone who has seen the movie “The Green Book” knows. More women than men are enrolling and graduating from four-year colleges, the reverse of what it was a few years ago. We must continue to improve, and we will. But, while we are more tolerant of gender, religious and racial differences, we have become less tolerant of those whose political ideas differ from ours. Students graduate from high schools without basic skills. A 2017 survey from the American Institute for Research found that 50% of students at four-year colleges lack literacy proficiency. We no longer teach basic aphorisms like the Golden Rule, or the moral lessons embedded in the Ten Commandments. Our colleges and universities have become socialist incubators for students who graduate unaware that it was capitalism that provided the wealth that endowed their alma mater, and which exposed them to the anti-capitalist views they now profess. Abroad, a desire to be found personally appealing has usurped the need to defend America’s self-interests. In focusing on our past sins, we have lost confidence in the inherent – though imperfect – goodness of our Judeo-Christian heritage. We have lost our moral compass.
Governor Northram’s views on abortions are abhorrent to anyone who values the sanctity of life. His equivocating responses to the charges of racism are disturbing. But, unlike Father John Jenkins of Notre Dame, I hope he does not cave to the politically correct winds currently blowing across the country. Will he have the courage to point out the hypocrisy of Democrats who supported him and demonized Mr. Gillespie two years ago? Or will he stand up and defend the right of individuals to change? Where and when will sanctimonious leftist critics stop? It is mob dictatorship, fueled by those who see expressions of moral superiority – only when they are politically expedient – as a path to power.
It is not my point to minimize racism that still exists or condone what Dr. Northram did. It is my wish to acknowledge that we change as we grow and mature, that our past does not tell our full story. And it is my desire that we not descend into mob rule, driven by sanctimony. Chickens are known to attack their brethren when bloodied. Man, we are told, ranks higher on the evolutionary scale. At times, I wonder.