American Dilemmas

   A friend writes to remind me that today is the day
   for the U.S. release of Michael Moore’s film, SiCKO.
   He quoted Moore’s news release, about what a
   "weirdly funny week" it’s been, even though it’s not
   quite over yet; and how Moore’s sure he can live
   without one of Apple Inc.’s new iPhones.  (As for
   me, I don’t even own a cell phone.)  Then my friend wondered: "Is it me, or is the hype and the public reaction (idiots lining up for days to buy the stupid iPhone thing) a pathetic commentary on American life?"

Yes.  Absolutely.  But there are (nearly) infinitely many pathetic commentaries on American life.  So many, in fact, and such hardcore cases, one is left quite unsure where to begin with the unravelling of them.

A personal favorite happens to be the belief that the American Civil Wars (and always use the plural when referring to civil wars) were fought for reasons as redeeming as the eradication of slavery and the emancipation of the slaves.

Here, of course, we need to distinguish between (a) the ideas that fill the minds of, and that animate, historical actors (whose "consciousness of their own significance," let us never forget, "hardly differs from that which the soldiers painted on canvas have of the battle represented on it"), and in particular, the ideas that victors concoct on the road to conquest in justification of the superiority they enjoy on the killing fields; and (b) the less expunged, less scrubbed and sanitized version that takes place in the real world.

Thus, twelve years ago, in a study of the "failure to follow through on the momentous changes wrung out of white society by the civil rights movement," Stephen Steinberg noted the "code words" and "cryptic vernacular" that have been devised for the pacification of domestic racial issues, a "new and insidious form of race-baiting" that is "so well camouflaged" that for an earnest soul to work on behalf of race issues makes this soul a "racist," while for some corrupt white-collar American jerkoff to work against them makes him "race-neutral."

Or eleven years ago, Gary Orfield of the Project on School Desegregation warned that the "trend toward resegregation is manifest across the country.  The Supreme Court approved the first big city desegregation order outside the South in Denver in 1973.  The Denver federal district court approved resegregation in September 1995….In the course of a few years, the awareness that the Supreme Court has approved resegregation has spread across the country and has carried with it the impression that the era begun by [Brown v. Board of Education] is rapidly coming to an end."

And so on.  And so on.  American dilemmas abound.  With a history and a pedigree that reach back to Jamestown.

In all of the comments about Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 et al– the U.S. Supreme Court’s shocking yet inevitable 5-to-4 judgment yesterday that American "public school systems cannot seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures that take explicit account of a student’s race" – to have come out these past 24 hours, by far the single most important is the one drawn from the closing lines of Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissenting opinion:

The Court has changed significantly since it decided [School Committee of Boston v. Board of Education] in 1968.  It was then more faithful to [1954's Brown v. Board of Education] and more respectful of our precendent than it is today. It is my firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.

My goodness.  Re-segregation now.  Re-segregation tomorrow.  And re-segregation forever.

How much do you want to bet that, with national racial policies such as these, this country couldn’t even gain entry to the European Union? 

The United States of America is a failed-state supreme.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 et al. (No. 05-908), Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court, June 28, 2007

"Justices Limit the Use of Race in School Plans for Integration," Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, June 29, 2007

"American Dilemmas," ZNet, June 29, 2007

David Peterson
Chicago, USA   


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