The Outstater: Pledge this, Indy Star . . .

August 23, 2017

(For the use of the membership only; not for publication, distribution or reproduction.)

“I pledge to no longer tolerate hate and racism in my city, in Indiana or in the United States and take the following steps (fill in the blank) to make a better world for those living here and for future generations.” — the “Take a Stand” pledge of the Indianapolis Star, Aug. 20, 2017

THERE IS REASON to be suspicious of pledges. The 125-year-old Pledge of Allegiance, for example, containing the watchwords of patriotism, is a document that would strike the Founding Fathers as odd. They would wonder why the words “under God” were only added in 1954 (as a political prop when members of Congress wanted to differentiate true Americans from Godless Communists).

And the author of the pledge, Francis Bellamy, encouraged something known as the “Bellamy Salute” that you will recognize if you have ever been to a Nazi meeting. Indeed, Hitler and Mussolini demanded pledges of allegiance. Here is Hitler’s:

“I swear to God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”

So don’t trust pledges, and especially not ones written by wannabe philosophers working as journalists and pretending to be your moral superiors asking you to fill in the blank. Call it a cynical streak. I’ve had one for some time. I have saved a lovely card postmarked San Francisco that I got from a fellow cynic while I was In Vietnam during the “summer of love.” It reads, “Love makes the world go around . . . that and hate.”

Today, almost 50 years later, I’m not fully sure what it means. The editors of the Indianapolis Star, though, are here to help. Love is politically correct, hate is not. They want me to pledge to that effect.

First, it is uncertain that I have been tolerating hate and racism, the definitions of which have been expanded to the point of confusion if not meaninglessness.

Second, I am doing everything constructive I can think of to make the world better for my children and yours, whoever you may be — or doing everything I have time to do after working extra hours to pay nearly half my income in taxes so government can make the world even more perfect.

Third, my church teaches me that hate is a sin and cannot be erased by good works or promises — or, in this case, by editorial fiat. Rather, I should pray daily that I become more tolerant and welcoming of all others.

Fourth, science tells us that the instinct to differentiate between peoples is wired into our little brains from prehistory. If so, we must learn individually by personal experience and not group moral pronouncement not to denigrate others reflexively and without cause. Dr. Timothy Shutt, for instance, suggests that the viewpoints the Star editors have discovered as “outrageous” and “racist” are as old as time and certainly didn’t explode unexpected earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia:

“I have read that, according to comparative linguists, the most common word for ‘others,’ the most common word for those who are not ‘Hellenes’ or ‘human beings’ or whatever, when one considers the whole array of known languages, reduces not, as we might expect, to ’barbarians’ or ‘enemies,’ but rather — viscerally and dismissively enough — to ‘the stinkers.’ A revealing construction, if not, on reflection, entirely surprising. All cultures think they’re the best. Or all cultures I’ve ever heard of. Including our own — even in its most recent, most progressive incarnations.”

What if being viscerally uncomfortable with identity politics is not something that requires a pledge to wipe clean? What if it is something different than treating other persons as subhuman solely because of the shading of their skin? That would mean Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell and dozens of other eminent thinkers are right that we have become a society dangerously myopic on the issue of race.

It is a position addressed four years ago in The Indiana Policy Review by Tom Huston, an Indianapolis attorney:

“For progressives of every hue, the distance that blacks have come does not appear as impressive as the distance they have yet to go, and, as the historian Alexis de Tocqueville would have predicted, resentment of the vestiges of racial discrimination has increased exponentially in proportion to the decrease in the equality gap. Thus, there is no armistice, no peace, only escalating conflict on an expanded front. In this new struggle, which is about equalitarianism, not equality, long-time alliances have been severed, old positions have been abandoned, the appeal to conscience has yielded to the claim of victimhood, and intimidation has been substituted for persuasion. Positions have hardened, rhetoric has become shrill and argument has given way to assertion. It has gotten ugly, and anyone who says so is dismissed as a bigot.”

In that spirit, the Star now has a list of subscribers who signed its high-minded pledge — that and a list of supposedly hateful ones who did not.

— Craig Ladwig



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