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Trivial Pursuits

I love trivia. I live for trivia. In fact, in my mind there's an inverse relationship between the importance of a fact and likelihood I will remember it. I revel in useless, pointless, utterly worthless factoids.

But sometimes trivia isn't trivial. It can be a distraction. It can take your focus off what matters.

And it can even be used as a weapon.

In the upcoming presidential election, there are a lot of important issues to discuss. The economy. Foreign policy. ObamaCare. The debt.

And there are a lot of so-called "issues" that are, for lack of a better term, "bullshit." Trivial, irrelevant matters whose sole purpose is to trip up candidates -- almost exclusively Republican ones.

For example, evolution vs. creationism. It's an utterly abstract argument; it has no application to daily matters. Further, it's almost never a federal matter; it's almost exclusively argued at the state and local levels. But it's used as a weapon against conservatives; to answer it, one either comes across as a religious nut and anti-science bigot, or willing to go to war with the deeply devout. So that's why I was glad to see Chris Christie, when confronted with this idiocy run amok, simply say in essence "MYOB."

For another, the Confederacy. This year marks 150 years since that war started, and it's been over for 146. The Confederacy was bad, and it lost. End of story.

But it wasn't pure evil. Johnny Reb wasn't Adolf Hitler. And it's human nature to romanticize the past, especially the parts we're tied to. Not everyone who says the Confederacy was not the moral equivalent of the Nazis is a raging Ku Klux Klansman just itching to break out the whip and go lord over some cotton fields. And to try to hang that on someone who says something less than horrid about the South's past is nothing short of cheap partisanship.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Act has been used to go after the Pauls, father and son. They made the "mistake" of saying they thought that parts of the Act violated the Constitution, and should have been defeated. Which, of course, makes them psycho white supremacists and in league with the Devil.

You know what? They have a point. They might not be right, but they have an arguable position. The Commerce Clause has been stretched well past the breaking point to justify federal interference in a lot of cases, and the parts of the Civil Rights Act that the Pauls were discussing were based on it. It could be a worthy discussion for intellectual debate, but not now -- it's been demagogued so badly that anyone who doesn't subscribe to the One True Doctrine that the Civil Rights Act was divinely inspired and perfect, as only a creation of God can be most likely has a set of shackles in their closet and just can't wait to start running slaves from Africa back to the US. (Fortunately, there are plenty of Muslims in Africa who are already running slaves, and would welcome new customers.)

Finally, race. My colleague Mr. Graves has said a bit about this of late, but I'm going to expand on it. The racism of the past -- as recently as the 60's -- is much like drunk driving, to me. In both cases, acts of discrimination were pretty much always illegal. But it took a social revolution to make it unacceptable. The casual racism that was still prevalent even through the 1970's is now grounds for ostracism. In brief, the left won.

And good for them. It was one of the few times they were on the right side. We're a far better nation for it.

But they just can't seem to take "yes" for an answer. They've committed the mortal sin of salesmanship -- they're selling past the close. They can't accept that the battle's over -- they need to re-fight it over and over and over again, find new boogeymen, new racists, new white supremacists to play the villain so they can pretend they're still the hero.

How ridiculous does it get? To what ludicrous extremes will they go? Oddly enough, just this morning John Hawkins assembled a little list, and it's hard to resist laughing -- or crying.

I dunno the best way to fight back against this. My own inclination would be, when confronted with these hanging points, would be to simply stare at the questioner for a long moment, then ask "that's a stupid question. You got anything relevant to ask, or are you just here to show how stupid you are?"

That seems to be Chris Christie's attitude, and more power to him.

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Comments (38)

Great post.They... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Great post.

They can't accept that the battle's over -- they need to re-fight it over and over and over again, find new boogeymen, new racists, new white supremacists to play the villain so they can pretend they're still the hero.

This is a sanguine take that applies only to the useful idiots on the left. The hard left use racial politics simply as a pretext for agitation, a way to "mobilize the masses." It's a totally cynical strategy.

I dunno the best way to fight back against this.

Perhaps the best way is to help the left wear it out by adopting their tactics. Bring it up constantly, turn it back on them, scour their every comment and action for any scintilla of anything that can be portrayed as racism by any argument, the more tortured the better. Make the whole topic so shopworn that people groan when it's brought up again. In short, "Godwinize" it. Rodney Graves's initiative in this direction was sound.

Upcoming discussion on immi... (Below threshold)
Canuck Chuck:

Upcoming discussion on immigration reform will push racism and racism-related remarks from the left out into the open more. I agree that we just need to attack anyone who dares use the "R" word against us. We have to take back our country, and we shouldn't let libbies stand in our way.

Watch the race pimps like J... (Below threshold)
Stan:

Watch the race pimps like Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan go full throttle on the RAAAAAAcist bandwagon. These three have throughly discredited themselves and have shown themselves to be the hypocrites they really are, but yet, they still insist that the race card is a viable option.

JT,You seem to hav... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

JT,

You seem to have skipped over a major subsection of the "racism" complex of issues.

The Politics of Identity / Identity Politics, which are on their face and to their core, racist.

YMMV

Unfortunately, the creation... (Below threshold)
James H:

Unfortunately, the creationism issue is a rather vital one. If a particular individual believes in young-earth creation, old-earth creation, or that the universe was sneezed into existence by the Great Arkleseizure, who cares?

But the problem is that creationism advocates continually insist that a patently unscientific religious doctrine be taught in public-school science classrooms, in flagrant violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

That kind of thing cannot stand. It's not merely an albatross that Democrats try to tie around Republicans' necks, but rather an issue that takes on a great deal of import in local school-board elections as well as contests for state boards of education, which set statewide curriculum standards.

Regarding the Confederacy, ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Regarding the Confederacy, I have one final nit, Jay Tea. A person living in the Northeast, especially a Caucasian, does not have the same perspective on the Confederacy, slavery, and Jim Crow than does, say, and African-American living in the South in present day.

A Caucasian in the Northeast has perhaps a few ancestors who fought on the Union side. An African-American in South Carolina has great or great-great-grandparents who were likely slaves, grandparents who can relay to them the experience of living under Jim Crow laws, and an environment where the people around them romanticize a nation-state that explicitly existed to preserve slavery ... and then attempt to minimize that regime's evil intent.

So, yeah, these issues matter, even if they don't necessarily resonate with a conservative Northeastern Caucasian.

James H, If it is true how ... (Below threshold)
Rodney:

James H, If it is true how can it be unscientific?But I think this still falls into the trivia that gets in the way, and you are showing exactly what was being talked about.

Ref racism.There a... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Ref racism.

There are 2 major components to the false accusations.

The main naysayers on this subject are people whose ideas arent accepted and they use this as the scapegoat why. They cant or wont accept the fact that their ideas are rejected so they look for another reason and this is the most obvious (at least to them). Obama and his disciplicles make up a large part of this group.

The 2nd group are the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons which would not have a job (or means of support) if all the racism in the world disappeared tomorrow. In short, they are the race profiteers.

I am not saying racism is dead. Nor are the race profiteers wrong 100% of the time. I do contend that both groups serve to make the racism problem worse and not better.

James H @ 5,Abolis... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

James H @ 5,

Abolish the Department of Education and your quibble goes away.

Rod:Wrong. The pr... (Below threshold)
James H:

Rod:

Wrong. The problem lies not with the federal education department, but rather with state- and local-level boards of education.

But I think this s... (Below threshold)
James H:
But I think this still falls into the trivia that gets in the way, and you are showing exactly what was being talked about.

Not quite. Different people care about different issues. Some care about taxes. Some about gay rights. Some mostly care about sewer easements.

In other words, one person's distraction is another's very important issue.

I agree with you on the Pau... (Below threshold)
warchild:

I agree with you on the Pauls. I don't believe there was anything in their viewpoint on the civil rights act that equates to racism. However I think it is certainly possible racists will seize upon their argument as a justification of racism. Regardless, that's the risk you take sometimes.

As for the whole evolution/creation thing, have to say say as an atheist, it's pretty important to me. I want someone who believes in science not someone who ignores the evidence life presents because something in sunday school touched them inside. No thank you.

It cuts both ways though, many Christians won't vote for someone that does not worship as they do.

We have a political party i... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

We have a political party in this country that does not believe people of color can make it on their own. They don't have the same drive and abilities white (and asians) have. This is what the democratic party believes. And why people of color embrace that is beyond me. Maybe true self loathing.

Conservatives believe in the individual who attains education and experience, takes risks and becomes successful. \

As far as recongnizing the confederacy and the whole question of the war is proper. The underlying issue, as is today with a lot of issues, is states rights. When the constitution actually reduces the humanity of blacks, the South had something to hang it's hat on. I do believe that slavery was slowly dying out on its own. People for the most part in the South were tired of the issue and did not like slavery.

The good news: The left has called "racism" so much, the word lost it's impact on society. It is like, "yawn, who cares". ww

WW:It's really, re... (Below threshold)
James H:

WW:

It's really, really tempting to argue with you about the Civil War, but I won't. I mean, if we're going to relitigate past conflicts, let's relitigate the Second Pelopponesian War. At least that would be mildly entertaining.

But issues like the Civil War, creationism, and so forth, are not inherently unimportant. They're merely unimportant to the people who happen to read and comment on this blog.

James H. I think it is very... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

James H. I think it is very much worth the discussion since most of the racist charges grew out of that conflict.

I grew up in the North East. Philly. Went to school with people of color but I did not know that really. I just went to school. When I moved to Texas in 1975, the culture shock astounded me. People assumed that since I was white, I wanted to hear their slurs, etc. Fast forward to today, the culture is much more open. But both blacks and whites celebrate their heritage. Blacks celebrate Juneteenth. Old Southern white families talk about their decendents and how they contributed to the confederacy. I know some states in the South lived exclusively off slave labor for their wealth. Most states did not. Texas being one of them. They were more concerned about the states rights issue. ww

James H:There were... (Below threshold)
Stan:

James H:

There were Southern sympathizers (Copperheads) in the Northeastern states too. Also not everyone in the sames fought for the union. Some went south. Yes most of these men were called traitors. Then too, a quite a few Southerns fought for the Union cause.

WW, I agree mostly with JH ... (Below threshold)
epador:

WW, I agree mostly with JH on the Northern Aggression (its tempting to argue but I won't) but not the other points. However I believe it is important to note that the States' Rights that were being assaulted were those regarding commerce in chattel from slave ships. Having relatives who fought on either AND both sides in the Appalachians (depending upon who was paying better for stolen horses that month) my perspective is not of a Yankee carpetbagger. And I don't give a hoot about Greek wars, but

I DO care about the American Civil War.

I don't want creationism taught in public schools.

I don't believe for a minute that a majority of white people South of the Mason-Dixon line in 1859 were "tired of slavery" but I do agree most of the black ones were.

Unfortunately there is a significant population currently in the US who prefer to sell their lives to the government and wear the shackles of entitlement, black and white. The battle to free these people (many against their will) from our tax dollars has polarized our country much as the abolitionists vs the slaveholders battles 150 years ago raged across the country. The sad devastation of people, property and society that followed could be echoed in the coming years with more likely economic and political violence than physical, at least I hope so. It behooves us all to study the history 1840-1865, the political debates, scandals, newspaper and torchlight campaigns, and letters from both sides before dismissing them as unimportant.

James:Whi... (Below threshold)

James:

Which is PRECISELY why I think it's idiotic to bring up in the context of national politics. And as Rodney says, get rid of the Dept. Of Education and it goes away completely.

J.

WW-Sorry, but the Te... (Below threshold)
epador:

WW-
Sorry, but the Texas folks splattered support of slavery all over their secession document, and Sam Houston was forced out because he refused to pledge allegiance to the Confederacy. So much for "States' Rights." In fact I suspect greed was their main motivator, as many wealthy and powerful Texans got a lot more wealthy supplying the Confederacy until the Union took the Mississippi.

JT:If it were poss... (Below threshold)
epador:

JT:

If it were possible to have a reasoned and objective discussion of the US Civil War and the fight against slavery that led up to it, as well as the multiple revisions to history that followed this historic time almost every decade since, I think both left and right in America today might have a better climate to civilly and effectively address current hot topics. However we appear to be destined to repeat history, as it were.

That kind of thing canno... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

That kind of thing cannot stand. It's not merely an albatross that Democrats try to tie around Republicans' necks, but rather an issue that takes on a great deal of import in local school-board elections as well as contests for state boards of education, which set statewide curriculum standards.

Kind of like leftist contamination of, say, school textbooks? The use in many school districts of "People's History of the United States" - written by Howard Zinn, a one-time card-carrying member of the Communist Party of the United States is a much more serious problem.

As a scientist, I don't want creationism taught as science, but then again, I don't want any religion taught as science, including global warming - which is nonsense.

It's not just racism on whi... (Below threshold)
Joe Miller:

It's not just racism on which the left can't take Yes for an answer. Has any one of their priorities shown improvement (according to them) in the past 50 years? The air is cleaner. Does the left acknowledge that? No. The water is cleaner. Does the left acknowledge that? No. The world of the left never improves and that's why they have to become shriller and shriller.

A Caucasian in the North... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

A Caucasian in the Northeast has perhaps a few ancestors who fought on the Union side. An African-American in South Carolina has great or great-great-grandparents who were likely slaves

You mean a "Negro" in South Carolina. If you're going to make reference to the race "Caucasian," then to maintain logical consistency you should also make your other reference to a race, "Negro."

We won't denounce you. There's nothing wrong with the term "Negro," except being currently unfashionable among the hip, and it's more accurate in any case. Theresa Heinz-Kerry (born in Mozambique) is, literally, an African-American, but she's not one of those you're referring to, is she? For one thing, she doesn't live in South Carolina ...

There were Southern symp... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

There were Southern sympathizers (Copperheads) in the Northeastern states too.

Northern Democrats were (IIRC) heavily Copperhead, with New York particularly chock-a-block with them. During the Draft Riots of 1863, New Yorkers lynched (again, IIRC) about a dozen blacks over several days. Lincoln had to call in Federal troops to quell the riots.

The funny part is that Northeastern liberals getting sanctimonious about lynching always start their accounting after the Draft Riots, and conveniently ignore lynchings that took place in, e.g., Indiana.

One further point re slavery. We could make great strides in racial healing if the actual history of slavery were taught, namely, that it was not a crime of white vs. black, but rather white and black vs. black. Whites did not enslave blacks; they bought them as slaves - from other blacks.

More widespread knowledge of this fact would go far to dispel a lot of racial enmity, methinks. American blacks look wistfully to Africa, but don't apparently realize Africans' guilt in the slave trade.

"Let's relitigate the Se... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

"Let's relitigate the Second Pelopponesian War"

The Corinthians was robbed - ROBBED, I tells ya!

Made good leather, though... ;)

#12What does your ... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

#12

What does your science say about fixing stupid? Obviously nothing that helps in your case.

You seriously need to read ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

You seriously need to read two or three history books by Thomas Dilorezo and/or Woods. You will see that the South were the good guys. It is the North that should be likened to Nazis. It is the North that betrayed the American revolution and gave us an all-powerful state with guns trained on its citizens. This one is an excellent start:

Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution--and What It Means for Americans Today

People think that "Lincoln ended slavery." Not true. He simply expanded it to include us all. That reality is becoming more clear every day. We no longer have any power to object over anything that the federal government does. It's like the corrupt politician declared a few months ago. "The constitution means whatever we say it does" or something to that effect.

It was the Civil War that began the unbridled leviathan state in America.

Jeff,The road to a... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Jeff,

The road to a more powerful Federal Government no doubt began with Lincoln, but it ran through Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, the other Roosevelt, and LBJ to become the behemoth that it is today.

Rodney:? No argume... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Rodney:

? No argument here. Hamilton was the ideological father of them all.

Another point on slavery th... (Below threshold)
Stan:

Another point on slavery that most American History books don't tell, is that there also blacks in the South that owned black slaves. So did the Cherokees, before they were forcibly removed by Andrew Jackson. Some of the Cherokees took their slaves with them when they were moved to the Indian Territories.

The liberals that write these history texts kind of want to forget or willfully ignore that part of history and just focus on the whites and what they did. More or less a major whitewash job that has been going on for the last 50 or so years.

You seriously need to re... (Below threshold)
Clay:

You seriously need to read two or three history books by Thomas Dilorezo and/or Woods

Amen. Very good authors. If you want to read something to really rock your world, you want to read 'Republic of Republics'. Most people assume that Jefferson Davis and all the chiefs of the Confederate States were tried for treason. They weren't and this book, or the facts contained therein, is the reason. In December 1868 the court rejected a motion to nullify Davis' charge of treason, but the prosecution dropped the case in February 1869. Davis went on to become president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company in Memphis, Tennessee. And I'll bet you thought he was hanged. It was Winston Churchill who said that history is written by the victors, and that is why Henry Ford said that history is bunk.

It's not over until the rig... (Below threshold)
Berto:

It's not over until the right renounces the Southern Strategy.
Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Commerce, money and greed p... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Commerce, money and greed persuade people immensely. Epador. To "join" the confederacy, is economical. I am talking about core beliefs. Read some of the newsmakers of the time. Their thoughts in their journals were contradictory to their actions. Money, power and position makes for compromised people. ww

Bento @ 32 offers:<bl... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Bento @ 32 offers:

It's not over until the right renounces the Southern Strategy. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

It's not over until the left bannish the Progressives and their bastard offspring the Socialists (to include Marxists and Fascists). Don't hold your breath waiting for the left to cease their cry of "That didn't work, let's do it some more."

The original post is about ... (Below threshold)
Berto:

The original post is about how race doesn't matter anymore.
Guess my reply showed the premise of the post to be 100% bullshit.
Still trying to figure out what Rodney's red herring reply has to do with that (other than changing the subject because the truth obviously makes him uncomfortable.)

I haven't been here in a wh... (Below threshold)
Berto:

I haven't been here in a while, but if I remember correctly, this is the part where I'm called names for noticing Jay Tea is full of shit.

Don't hold your breath w... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Don't hold your breath waiting for the left to cease their cry of "That didn't work, let's do it some more."

Actually, Rodney, I think they say first "True Communism has never been tried," and when the laughter dies down they say, "That didn't work because we didn't go far enough left," and/or,
"That may not have worked, but this time we've got the right people in charge."

Of course, this last is moronic, because any system works if you've got the right people in charge. Dictatorship would be ideal - quick, efficient - if you could guarantee you'd always have enlightened statesmen as dictators.

The trick is to design a system that works even when, inevitably, you don't have the right people in charge. Like, now, for instance.

Jay,You are right.... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Jay,

You are right. Then again it really does boil down to "That didn't work, let's do it some more." in the end, does it not?

You are also right that enlightened despotism is the most efficient form of governance. The problem being that it is difficult to find enlightened despots who retain their enlightenment when tempted by unfettered power.

Any system which requires man to be more than old Adam to succeed is doomed to failure.




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