No, Coal Miners and Mary Poppins are Not Racists

The latest installment in “Reality is Getting Crazier Than the Onion” involves coal miners and Mary Poppins. Word is, they are both racists.

A man named Rashaad Thomas has an editorial over at azcentral.com about being traumatically triggered while out for an evening at a Phoenix restaurant.  The problem? This picture which hung on the wall at this establishment.

azminers

The problem? Well let me have Mr.Thomas tell you himself.

For me, the coal miners disappeared and a film honored for its artistic merit, despite being the most racist propaganda films ever, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) surfaces, in which white actors appeared in blackface. The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive.

Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.

Note this line: The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive. Is blackface offensive? Of course, it is worse than offensive. Are miners offensive? They were victims too, let us not forget. They worked long hours for pennies in the unsafest of conditions. That soot on their faces also lined their in their lungs, killing many at far too young an age, leaving their family destitute. But never mind all that. Thomas wants us to know that context is not at issue. How dismissive. Thomas continues.

At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored.

A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, “Whites Only.” It says people like me are not welcome.

The operators of that downtown restaurant can choose to take the photograph down, leave it up or create a title card with an intention statement. No matter their decision, I think the photograph should be taken down — sacrificing one image for the greater good.

Get that. The photo of the miners said to him that this restaurant was the equivalent of “Whites Only” establishments from the genuinely evil days of segregation. That picture said he was not welcome there.

Think about that a moment. How did he see the picture? He was there. In the restaurant. The (White!) manager even spoke to him. Mr. Thomas was not tossed out, asked never to return. Apparently he was welcome there. His recommendation as a compromise is to have the owner of the restaurant put a notation on the picture explaining that these are not a group of White men antagonizing and shaming Black people, but coal miners whose faces got dirty because … well, they’re coal miners. That will let everyone know to rest easy, the picture is not a nasty group of Al Jolsons.

But only if this was just a ridiculous one-off. The New York Times noted this week that Mary Poppins might well be a racist as well. Trigger warning: Here is the picture they used as evidence.

marypoppinsblackface

No, those smudges of soot on her face are not just innocent residue from her dancing with the chimney sweeps. Poppins is a racist staring back at a racist.

Now, two main points here. One minor, the other massive. First, these are seemingly serious writers making these accusations. Serious journalists and their editors thought these were serious stories, worthy of their valuable print real-estate. Which leads us to the massive issue at play here. If such things can be called racist, worthy of moral outrage, then the nastiness of actual racism loses its very important meaning and moral offense. That is the real crime here.

Mr. Thomas and the New York Times might do well to remember the moral of a story about a young boy and a wolf.

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The Toxic Manhood Gillette Commercial: Helpful, Horrid or Hokey?

gillette-we-believe-commercial-controversial-masculinity-5c3da4b79d03d__700It’s been getting a great deal of buzz with a host of varying opinions. It’s a new Gillette commercial showing a shotgun spatter of males acting in all sorts of bad ways, as thuggish bullies, cat-callers and body-grabbers. It’s the latest installation in the well over-stuffed “Men are a Problem to Be Solved” files. Over the montage of all this bad-boyness, Gillette asks us to consider whether this is the best men can be, a utilization of their corporate tag-line. Against the visuals of their ad, it’s a dumb question. Only a thorough-going sexist would say yes, this behavior is the best we can expect from men. That would be to conclude that men are less than animals. But Gillette, who wants men who shave to be their friends, thinks it’s a question worth asking.

Of course, there is no problem with the overall effort of the piece: Men, don’t be bullies or sexist pigs. Any man who can’t get onboard with that is not a man. But let’s be blunt. The ad itself is an inexcusable train wreck. Four reasons why.

First, it trades in dramatic stereotypes. Great vengeance and furious anger would rain down upon Gillette if they had portrayed any other group of people solely by their worst behaviors and told them to improve themselves. Now, real men don’t whine about being victimized, but this demands being called out. Replace Gillette’s presentation of men with the worst stereotypes about Muslims, Jews, African-American youth, or Hispanics. It’s unthinkable and for every good reason. For some reason though, it’s gloves off on men and being ok with this simply makes us selective sexists. To employ Gillette’s own question, is this the best we can be?

Second, it man-shames, ignoring what masculinity actually is. The totality of Gillette’s message is most men do bad things and good men stop them. Men can and do act like horrible cads sometimes. No one should tolerate it, especially other men. But to define the virtue of manhood as merely the correction of ubiquitous male toxicity is to reduce manhood to its own homeroom teacher. Minimalist masculinity. This is precisely what Gillette is selling here.

We must understand, however, with great clarity and conviction, that there is no such thing as toxic masculinity. It doesn’t exist and we should correct those who use the two words together. Toxic maleness? Indeed. But masculinity is a virtue. Ladies themselves know this better than anyone. Imagine a woman set up on a blind date by her girlfriends. Excited, she asks the obvious question: What is he like? They describe him as quite masculine. Would any normal woman take this as a warning? Would she ask if he’s in therapy for it? She doesn’t even ask if it’s the good or bad kind of masculinity. She takes it as a wholesale plus.

As far as Gillette has it, a man merely behaves himself. Manhood is so much more, and women want their men to have it in full measure. It’s not a mental illness.

Third, it’s preachy, authoritarian and guilt-signaling. Americans are increasingly sick and tired of having the people on their televisions tell them how stupid – bigoted – regressive – unenlightened – uncaring – homophobic – etc. they are. Gillette hasn’t gotten that memo. This commercial is very finger-pointy, and the first rule of advertising, I would imagine, is don’t tell your customer they’re the worst examples of humanity.

Fourth, the commercial is creatively embarrassing. There’s a lot happening in this ad, and it’s difficult to keep track of it all. It begins with a “Lord of the Flies” horde of boys chasing another one, calling him a “freak.” They oddly run through a terrified woman’s living room where she is holding a young boy who’s crying for no apparent reason. We are presented with the cheesiest of staged audiences laughing uproariously with all the artificiality of a bad toupee at a fictitious 1970s sitcom scene of a man pretending to grab a maid’s bottom. It’s so bad it keeps you from taking it seriously.

gillette-we-believe-commercial-controversial-masculinity-wrestlingThis indefensible behavior is capped off by a scene of two young Opie Taylor-like boys wrestling in the grass at a backyard picnic. Land sakes! Seriously, all of this put in one steaming pot of male toxicity. It’s all backed by an endless row of men robotically standing behind an endless row of barbeque grills. Each are watching the “violence” of the two boys mixing it up on the lawn, uttering a dismissive, “Boys will be boys” mantra like dystopian Stepford Husbands. Yes, it’s that dumb.

Apparently the great majority of viewers agree. On the official Gillette YouTube page, the thumbs-down votes are more than two-to-one over the thumbs-up votes. I doubt these thumbs-downers are men who don’t appreciate being told not to abuse women. More likely they are both men and women who don’t much care for being talked down to and have a much higher estimation of what real masculinity can and should be.

If you want to see a manly commercial that does masculine aspiration ingeniously, it’s here. If Gillette had called us to real manhood the way Chrysler called us back to American pride, I’d be their biggest fan.

Instead, I just feel sorry for them for being so clueless.

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The Trick to Understanding the Totally Contrary Truths of Trump

bad good trump

Ever since a particular evening in early November 2016, nearly eveyone on the Left and many on the Right have been atomically gobstopped at how America could elect the man it did for President. How could so many Americans be so stupid? Didn’t they know how bad this man was?

How could 52% of women have voted for him? Were they stupid, blind, uninformed? Hadn’t they seen that video? How could religious conservatives have voted for him and his casual relationship with the truth and his marriage vows? Even as The New Yorker, NYTs, WaPo, HuffPo, Time and CNN stay steadily on their 24/7 civic duty of reminding us all of how bad this man is, people keep supporting and defending him. Nothing seems to make sense anymore.

Well, here’s what makes sense. These middle-American, Walmart-frequenting mouthbreathers are more politically complicated and dare we say, sophisticated, than nearly all the elites appreciate. A very small few on the Left, such as Arlie Hochschild in her extremely important Strangers in Their Own Land, and Anthony Bourdain have slowed down long-enough to actually spend long periods of time listening to these folks, (Hoschild in SoLa and Bourdain in the mining towns of WVa). They discovered and explain with sharp insight how these folks are nearly nothing like the stereotypes their own peers trade in. They are actually very smart, kind and nuanced people. (Bourdain’s comments at the link above are well worth reading.)

Understanding this tricky nuance is the trick to understanding the seeming Grand-Canyon disparity between these folks personal ethics and those of the President they enthusiastically and proudly elected.

Yesterday, I read two articles from two of the smartest and most articulate conservatives in our nation, two men who I would assume have great respect for one another: Hugh Hewitt and Jonah Goldberg. They both have two diametrically different takes on Trump’s track record so far.

Hewitt, here in the WaPo, thinks Trump has done remarkably important and good things for our nation and oversees an extremely effective adminstration if you rise above the daily circus show and look at the actual record. What makes this article important is that Hewitt is no sycophant.

Goldberg, here at National Review,  holds that Trump’s character, or total lack of it, will be his downfall, explaining,

What his defenders overlook is that his insults are not simply an act; they are the product of astonishing levels of narcissism, insecurity, and intellectual incuriosity. Trump’s Twitter account is simply a window into his id.

Here is what flummoxes the Left. Many on the Right understand that both Hewitt and Goldberg are precisely right and that politics is the art of deft compromise. You have to take some good with the bad and a great deal of bad with the good. To put it another way, MAGAers and 52% of women can walk and chew gum politically. They can grasp the critical nuances and live happily in the midst of them.

If you wanna understand the conundrum of Trump and his supporters, understand that both Hewitt and Goldberg are both precisely right and no small number of Trump supporters have long understood this. And they’ve greatly enjoyed watching the coastal elites pull their hair out because of their own zero-sum simplicity and shameless prejudice.

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A Most Wonderful Christmas Meeting

Our reading at Mass yesterday was from Luke 1:39-45. It’s a wonderful and too little appreciated part of the Christmas story. If you were asked “Who was the first person, besides Mary herself, to welcome Jesus and announce His coming?” how would you answer? This reading tells us the suprising answer and its richness is more than mere trivia.

This part of Jesus’ story is where Mary, just after hearing that she, a humble young virgin from no where, would give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to go see her cherished relative Elizabeth, some 90 miles away. Elizabeth was in the 6th month of her own miraculous pregnancy, her womb having closed for business long ago. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens at the very moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. But Mary and Elizabeth are not the only ones involved in the divine drama here.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 

For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a MAJOR event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian Church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time the Son of God is worshiped! And He is worshiped by two people. One very old, one super young.

First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. Elizabeth is the first one to recognize and proclaim Jesus as her Lord. This confesssion, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way that Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another. It was the first Christian creed and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, even before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to a very intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has extremely strong words for the humanity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the Gospel.) John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about His coming in the desert. It was here. It was two mothers, Elizabeth and Mary who were the only ones able to experience this remarkable event. It happened in distincly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home.

It is this glorious scene that serves as the first time Christ is received and welcomed, apart from Mary’s own welcoming reception when the angel Gabriel tells her what the rest of her life will be about. It is the first time the baby Jesus’ divinity and Lordship is proclaimed.

Pensacola-Philadelphia-March-2013-108To be sure, the Christian Church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of it’s actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at His resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a signficant role in it’s founding? I cannot think of one.

I’d like now to move to looking at two pieces of art that illustrate as well as any both of these wonderous events, the Annunciation and the Visitation. They are both painted by the first African-American painter to achieve signficant critical acclaim: Henry Ossawa Tanner. He is a remarkable man and one of my fav painters.

The Annunciation

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not super-natural, other-worldly saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular everyday women they were.

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence and commoness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression that communicates anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is certainly more true to that actual event. Tanner has her communicating all of these at once. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a young teenage girl living a typical young teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcment in all of  the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner is giving us and it’s just stunning.

The Visitation

As wonderful as Tanner’s Annuciation is, his Visitation is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happending here.

“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Tanner allows us to personally witness this very event. Elizabeth certainly did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She is sitting at table having her breakfast just like any other morning when she hears Mary utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine suprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a powerful devise Tanner employs here. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both. This simple scene of a surprise family vistaiton and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and etermity will be about, the worship of the second person of the Divine Trinity, Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son. It is commenced here in this moment.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. And we typically move over it too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger. This one is just as important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s own heart and womb.

Sidenote: I knew that Mr. Tanner lived in Philadephia for some time, so on a biz trip there many years ago I looked to see if his house was noted. It was and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

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The Most Telling Outcome from the 2018 Mid-Terms

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS-TRUMPThere is was no blue wave last night. There was no red wave. As most midterm elections are, last night was largely a national thumbs up or down on President Trump.

Was he a winner or a loser?  Of course he was both, picking up a handful of seats in the Senate, but losing the House and a number of Governor’s Mansions.

But here is the big picture that tells the larger story.

Presidents Clinton and Obama were brilliant politicians and generally popular. They were certainly dear darlings of the MSM and earned their effusive praise. But let’s remember what happened in their first mid-terms in 1994 and 2010 respectively.

They both got creamed. CREAMED.

President Bill Clinton – 1994

-54 / Number of House Seats Lost

 -9 / Number of Senate Seats Lost

-11 / Number of Governorships Lost

President Barack Obama – 2010

 -63 / Number of House Seats Lost

 -6 / Number of Senate Seats Lost

 -6 / Number of Governorships Lost

Obama referred to his first mid-term outcome as a “shellacking.”

So how did President Trump’s mid-term stack up to these two?

President Donald Trump – 2018

-27 / Number of House Seats Lost

+4 / Number of Senate Seats Won   (this reflects Arizona landing Trump’s way.)

-7 / Number of Governorships Lost

Had he done as well as either Clinton or Obama, that would have been a remarkable evening for Trump, having kept up with these two. Like staying even in a pick-up game against Larry Bird or Lebron James.

But that was not Trump’s fate. He finished dramatically better than both. That is no small thing to be sure and perhaps the biggest angle coming out of last night.

Last week, Time’s cover story explained how the Anti-Trump Resistance was using it’s time cover 2018 Midtermanger to organize itself and would thus force Trump right off the page, literally.  Time and so many others were so sure of themselves. Our President’s arrogance and self-importance is in actuality no match for a great many of our nation’s journalists and their editors. A scrum between the two on that score would go well into overtime.

So this is what we learned from last night: The #Resistance is extremely angry and might have done something yesterday, but it didn’t appear to be going to vote and lynching Trump. Instead, they set their Devil up for a much stronger likelihood in 2020 and a nearly guaranteed appointment of another Kavanaugh by the name of Amy Coney Barrett.

 

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Daily Beast Highlights the Terrible Injustice Against Stiletto-Wearing Men

A buddy sent me a meme yesterday from the Onion saying they were on the verge of collapse because it was becoming impossible to make up stuff that was more idiotic than current reality. It’s funny because we all know it’s true.

Much of the gold-medal wackiness is proudly generated by the create-your-own-gender folks under the guise of total normality. Last week I wrote about a journalist at the Washington Post who shared with us her sincere praise for two men who let their 2-year-old decide for the world what gender he/her/they would be. Goofy parents doing so is one thing. A major newspaper that pretends to take itself seriously reporting on it approvingly is something else altogether.

This week, our friends at the Daily Beast took it to another level, if that’s possible. Some would think their chosen topic is a “first-world problem” as the youngsters say today, but it’s not. It sits right at the intersection of high-fashion and basic human rights. What’s more serious than this?

Well, it’s this. They tell us more men are wearing, not just high-heels which is so yesterday, but stilettos. I’m clearly not paying adequate attention to the trends, or perhaps it’s just the conservative Christian bubble I live in. I should get out more.

The title and sub-title of the piece are worth showing you.

Daily Beast Stilletos

You see, the problem is summed up in this quote.

“The only way you could get proper stilettos as a man was if you got them custom-made.”

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This unfortunate fact is expressed by Shaobo Han who realized he looked great in heels at the tender age of 11. That’s when he took his momma’s high heels and started, as he explains, “prancing around the house when no one was around.” If a boy is going to prance, I say he should do so in heels. You see Shaobo thought, incorrectly the story explains, “that boys weren’t supposed to wear heels.” Thus, the shame of his home-alone risky-business. Shaobo explains his “male-presenting friends” all have the same collective memory that “even though nobody taught us how to wear heels, we all tried them.” The implication we’re supposed to pick up here is it’s all ok because its natural. No one taught them to do it.

Shaobo got his first pair of very own heels at Forever 21. He said he was lucky because his size is a men’s 8, which is a woman’s 10. That is lucky! Look at him.

Daily Beast Stilletos2

Who could deny that Shaobo was made for heels and heels were made for Shaobo? He’s absolutely faaaabulous in these sling-backs. If wearing heels is wrong, Shaobo doesn’t want to be right. And seriously, who would really want him to? He’d look simply ridiculous in anything else.

However, there are some serious problems with this growing men’s market. They’re not what you think.

As cutting-edge and progressive as the high-fashion world of women’s shoes is, they harbor a terrible prejudice against, not only white men, but all men. It’s just wrong, as if they would just rather ignore that fact that a man can love how great a pair of indigo peek-a-boo Christian Louboutins make his legs look as much as any woman. But who wants to live in a world where a 6 foot, 210 pound man can’t find a decent pair of pumps that don’t pinch and still do right by his calves? The male customer has unique needs because, as we are told, “Males who experiment with heels generally do it much later in life than most women do.”

Thus, the well-stilettoed man needs more retailers to meet his unique needs. But there might be nefarious intentions lurking behind some of those looking to fill this empty space and this creates a confounding Catch-22. One of these men frets that while we certainly need more places that cater to the male-presenting woman’s shoe demographic, “we’re afraid that the mainstream industry sees us as a money opportunity.” The horror! Has he checked the price of women’s shoes? He’s not alone though in his fear. William Graper (as seen below) is terrified that he “can’t tell if major brands are authentically embracing queerness, or simply exploiting it in their branding to make a profit.”

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The potential tragedy is that “such commercialization [could] corrupt what small, queer-owned brands have done in promoting inclusivity for inclusivity’s sake?” Apparently, one of the most important things about promoting inclusiveness is keeping it exclusive.

Fortunately, “Such appropriation hasn’t come for the stiletto world yet, but it could be just a matter of time before Big Fashion comes for men’s heels with dollar signs in its eyes” the article predicts. The answer to this dilemma seems simple. Have the national big-box retailers give today’s stiletto-wearing man greater and easier access to satisfy his fashion needs, but just don’t charge him. Doing so, while of course continuing to charge women crazy prices, would communicate that their motivation is clearly gender equality and not economics.

The article worries that this dream might not ever be truly realized as long as the following is true,

“Even in New York, a city where you can openly sob on the subway and be left alone, people will openly gawk over a man in heels.”

Even in New York City!

 

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The Wild and Wacky Inconsistencies of Gender Theory

Is There a "LGBT" Community?

First trans solidarity rally and march, Washington, DC USA

A few years ago I was invited to participate at a gender studies conference at a university in Denver. In the sponsoring professor’s introductory remarks, he explained that no one could determine his gender just by looking at him. To arrive at the correct conclusion, he insisted, they would have to get to know him, hear his story, and come to learn what he was about. This is gender theory 101, and all the students nodded in agreement. I considered raising my hand to ask if I could chance a wild guess at the answer, but I refrained.

After this introduction, the professor began the first talk of the day. It was truly a very good lecture on sexism in advertising, one that was, in essence, so conservative that it could have been given where I work, at Focus on the Family. His—I’m being presumptuous here—talk showed example after example of how women were portrayed in advertisements as sex objects while men were portrayed as the consumers.

As he worked his way through the print advertisements he used to demonstrate his point, he would make remarks like, “Notice this woman in this skimpy bathing suit, down on all fours, and these two men standing over her in a position of dominance and control.” He went through perhaps a dozen such examples showing how women were depicted as being degraded by men, all in the pursuit of commerce. He was right to call out these ads for being unhealthy.
No one seemed to appreciate the Costco-size contradiction in his presentation. He knew who all the women and men were in the ads. Had he met and heard every one of those models’ stories? The professor’s entire talk was predicated on a whooping violation of his own introductory caution…

Continue reading at the Weekly Standard here

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