Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Answer to an angry John Pavlovich

Calling someone "dear" is a letter-writing convention in English.  It does not imply that the recipient of your letter IS dear to you.  Such is certainly not the case with John Pavlovich's "dear White Evangelicals" letter, below.  It was written two  years ago: I hope John has calmed down.  

Let us, at least, respond dispassionately.   


"Dear White Evangelicals,"

"I need to tell you something: People have had it with you."

What, all people everywhere?  With all of "us?"  Aren't we people, too?  What did we do, forget to feed the cat?  

"They’re done.

"They want nothing to do with you any longer:"

Nothing?  Not even writing letters?  

"And here's why.  They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy."

Wow!  All of us?  Maybe we stepped on the cat's tail!  

"For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity."

I never demonized Barack Obama.  Does that mean I'm not really saved?  Or not really white?  

I see Barack Obama as a human being, not a devil.  Yes, he seems to be a good family man.  I have never questioned that, nor his intelligence or political talent.  

Most of his policies, I soundly reject, like those of all liberals.  I think they are dead wrong, on most issues.  I also didn't care for the way Obama politicized the FBI, which was one of many forms of political corruption he is charged with.  And whenever he spoke about conservative ideas, he unleashed an army of straw men on us.  He is a talented politician, but not that rare thing, an honest one.  


Which is the greater bigot: a person who criticizes a black politician (born to both black and white parents, actually) for policy reasons he can articulate, or a person who accuses "white evangelicals" of all manner of evils, without specifying which ones, when they offended, what precisely they did wrong, and where?  

Bigotry does not depend on race.  

You accuse us of quoting Bible verses. One does, indeed, come to mind, about a man with a log in his eye, offering to do surgery on a man with a speck in his.    

    you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family, you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities, you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance, you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure."

Pavlovich is dishonest and not very smart, obviously.  Otherwise one might try to explain to him the unique burdens of proof placed upon those who make universal negative claims.  

If I owned a Christian college, I certainly would not welcome a politician who adhered to the policies of Barack Obama to speak to the student body as if I thought they should hear those policies affirmed.  And it is true, I was not very grateful for his leadership, nor for that of Bill Clinton or Joe Biden.  And I doubt Pavlovich is grateful for that of the Bushes or Donald Trump.  (He'll prove that shortly.)    

The president needs mercy?  In the American system, citizens have a right to criticize political leaders.  Barack Obama had the power to grant mercy to whomever he wished.  I have no such power.  Did St. Paul offer "mercy" to Nero?  Not that I'd put Obama in the same category, but this is a strange demand.  The love of Jesus does not require us to affirm immoral policies or people who use power to oppress the weak.  Neither does American democracy demand that we "offer solidarity" with people with whom we wholeheartedly disagree.   


"And yet you give carte blanche to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles."

Here comes the love Pavlovich was talking about. 

As a matter of fact, I wrote an ebook recommending against Trump, in the 2016 primaries.  And my article saying the same went viral on a Christian web site.  So much for "carte blanche."  But clearly this man is far beyond caring whether what he says is TRUE or not.  


"With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.

"And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly.

"They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

"They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities."

Odd, then, that you and your allies are always the ones who bring up race.  Your allies are the ones who make fake racial incidents go viral, again and again, as I show in Letter to a 'Racist' Nation.  This is your obsession, not ours. 

The sheer stupidity of this claim, its desperation, is astounding.  We are not only racists, we WORSHIP skin color.  Furthermore, aside from the Republican Party, it is our ONLY god. 

This is a man who cares nothing about truth.  He only wants his rant to sound deep to himself and whoever gets off on listening to such tedious, fact-free, hateful rants.    

"They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.  They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.  

"And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition."


Three seats on the Supreme Court now, actually, thank you.  And maybe fewer less dead infants, and more fidelity to the US Constitution. 

In that first ebook of mine, like some other evangelicals, I did in fact express concern about what a Trump presidency would do to Christianity in America.  So you're wrong about that, as about everything else -- and I wasn't alone. 

But as citizens, we have a civic obligation to vote for the person who is most likely to do our country good.  I doubt it would have been Hilary Clinton, and I doubt it will be Joe Biden.  

If some people leave the faith because of that judgement, so be it.  That is their decision.  Perhaps fueled by the sort of over-the-top anger you are displaying.    

Anyway, God hasn't died.  Who knows what His plan is?  I know some people have walked away from Him.  No doubt politics had something to do with that.  But it would be immoral to allow oneself to be manipulated by threats into voting for a political party that justifies partial birth abortion.    

"You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness."

What, wise, decent, good-hearted and faithful like you? 




And you, John, need to grow up and think like an adult.  You should be ashamed of such childish rants.  

Find out what people really think, and why they think it.  

Or maybe you're afraid to.  Maybe your sweeping denunciations, without bothering to ask questions, without bothering to read, without bothering to offer evidence, reflect a deep-seated fear in your own soul.

A fear of what?  At some level of your being, perhaps you know.  See if you are willing to ever knock on that door.    

Friday, October 30, 2020

Racism or the Tao?

The following is a chapter-long excerpt from my new ebook, Letter to a "Racist" Nation: 


Chapter Four: The Tao of Right Living

"Black Lives Matter!"  Reads a sign in front of the pretty Methodist church a few blocks from my house, its white spire backdropped by a granite mountain made famous in the TV show Twin Peaks.    

I helped take the census in this town ten years ago, so have some idea of its demographics.  Occasionally I hear Chinese spoken at the main store in town, and I know there are a few other Asians here besides those in my family.  One of four restaurants in town is Mexican, and I interviewed other Hispanics scattered around.  There may be a few African-Americans in our community, but I have yet to enjoy the privilege of meeting them, except when I subbed in local schools.    

The value of black contributions to American society is heavily emphasized in those schools, and I have helped teach in every public school in this and a neighboring district.  I have never heard anyone in my town deny that in fact the lives of black citizens hold value.  

So what it the point of the sign?  

Does the pastor of that church think some black community member is being persecuted by the rest of us?  If such a thing were to happen, I would hope she would go to those responsible, and rebuke them as they deserve.  I would be willing to join her.  Anyway, the young people in our district hear this message constantly in local schools.  So why dominate your front yard with a sign preaching a message that we have all heard thousands of times before, with which we whole-heartedly agree, and that we can seldom apply to those we meet on a daily basis?   

Wouldn't "Thou shalt not commit adultery?" be more practical?   

A less-prominent banner hangs across the second floor of the church, offering a version of the Ten Commandments that seem to come half from the Bible, half from the Democratic Party platform: 

"Be the Church!"  

"Protect the Environment!" 

"Care for the poor!"  

"Forgive often!"  

"Reject racism!"  

"Fight for the powerless!"  

"Share earthly and spiritual resources!"  

"Embrace diversity!"  

"Love God!"  

"Enjoy this life!"  

This seems to reflect a richer set of values than posters at the average BLM demonstration, odd as it may be to see "Love God" ninth on a church's list of fundamental values.  But even thus fortified, the toolbelt of our soul seems poorly-equipped to construct a village. 

The Tao 

In Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis described what he called the "Tao," a transcendent set of moral truths of which he believed all humanity was aware. 

The term Tao or Da( has been used for thousands of years in China, Japan and Korea to mean "road" "path" or "way."  Long before the founding of Taoism by Lao Zi, it had evolved from its primary meaning of "route," then "to speak," to emerge as "the principal of reason," "all truth," or the "Way of Heaven," terms the great 19th Century translator James Legge used to translate passages in the pre-Confucian classics.  Confucius himself used the word to mean "the Way," "right principles," or "the proper course:" a model of life exemplified by divinely-appointed sages. 

Lewis described the Tao as a universally-recognized set of moral principles and truths flowing from some principle of ultimate meaning:

"It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself.  It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road.  It is the Way in which the universe goes on . . . It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and super-cosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar" (28).

In an appendix, Lewis gathered quotations from around the world to illustrate the Tao as recognized in many cultures.  He classified fundamental moral duties as general and specific beneficence ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), duties to parents, elders, ancestors, and children, the "Law of Justice," including honesty and sexual justice, good faith and veracity, mercy, and the "Law of Magnanimity" which for Lewis seemed to include courage ("Death is to be chosen before slavery and base deeds.")  His point was that like mathematics or logic, basic moral intuitions are truths outside our minds, not ideas cultures invent, but facts about right and wrong which we discover.  (Though different cultures may stress varying duties and form clearer or less clear ideas of these truths, just as some people work out mathematical laws in more detail.)  

"Do not be a racist" might be classified as one precept within the "Law of General Beneficence."  Lewis argued (quoting Confucius!) that a single law cannot stand alone, but derives validity from the whole.  

The fact that you obsess on one narrow statute, and forget the Tao from which it gains validity, reflects both moral progress and regress.  

Your concern about racism reflects progress, because the ancient Romans seldom recognized a duty to the poor and marginalized.  In his magisterial work Dominion, historian Tom Holland argues that our care for those on the margins of society comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition, in particular the teachings and life of Jesus.  I think one can find buds promising a similar blossoming on the stems of early Buddhism (the Dhammapada), the writings of Mozi, and to lesser degrees Confucius and Lao Zi, along with Greek and Roman Stoics.  (And the ethical nursery where Jesus no doubt picked up his own shoots before nurturing them to verdant blooms, the Hebrew prophets.)

But what all these pre-scientific thinkers held in common were well-stocked tool belts, not one sad hammer with which to pound like Bam Bam Rubble.      

The Tao encourages no narrow obsession.  Whether in Stoic, Buddhist, Confucian, or Christian forms, it provides a vastly richer and more positive worldview than either "Black Lives Matter" or even the New Ten Commandments hanging from my neighborhood church.   

Take Confucius for example.  A standard Chinese high school textbook accurately describes his philosophy as the "mainstream" of Chinese thought.  In True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture, I argue that the staying power of Confucius, and his influence on East Asian culture, depended on virtue deriving from humility pointing in four directions: above (loyalty to parents, magistrates, and God), beneath (kindness to children, disciples, and other subordinates), within (humility), and outward (curiosity and the thirst for education that Confucius taught a quarter of the world, and allows East Asian cram centers to print money like the Mint to this day.) 

The Tao allowed for progress, Lewis insisted.  Where feet were bound or widows burnt, followers of Jesus brought it.  The Tao may be as universal as the sky, but like the universe itself, it creates space for seekers of truth to expand into.  

Even St. Paul's most pared-down tool belt of virtues is both oddly formidable, and remarkably useful:  

"Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  

Social scientists have come to recognize the civilization-building power of the final item on this list.  Max Weber's classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism linked such religious virtues to secular success.  The fruits of the spirit may include patience and self-control, but to apply those virtues in the workplace, will bring money in the bank.  Likewise, Mona Charen's Sex Matters, and Heather MacDonald's War on Cops, demonstrate that a lack of self-control and sexual faithfulness undermines one's power to express love, destroys peace and joy, and creates a ruthless subculture of predators and prey. 

It is for want of "fruit of the Spirit" that murder rates soar on the South Side of Chicago.  

Virtue is power.  It is the reliable child who is given the flag to direct traffic.  Sexual self-control creates families and gives them strength.  Scrooge's hard work and careful saving allows him to buy a Christmas turkey for the Cratchits.  (Dickens' own father lost his son’s esteem by wasting his earnings.)  

Am I boring you?   Would you rather drive a "Black Lives Matter" sign into the front lawn of your church, and gain cheap grace?   Do you fear that telling men and women to get married before sleeping together will sound "patronizing," "bigoted," or "racist," because those are the only tools left in your belt?  Or are you afraid you might have to follow Paul’s code yourself?  Restrained sexuality may build civilizations, but it frightens a Roe Vs. Wade generation.  

The concept of "racism" is a valuable tool.  Without it, some sudden gust of prejudice might blow the shingles off our roof and drench us all.  We must keep this hammer within easy reach, and be prepared to use it.  We do not want to return to the worst crimes of our past, which betrayed every "fruit of the spirit" on the deepest level.  

"That's just your pampered white reality!”  I hear a voice saying.  “Stop hiding your head in the sand!  Even if you don’t experience it in your suburban cocoon, listen to the news, and you'll know that acts of gross white-on-black racism occur in America every day!"  

I bet Pentheus wished he had hidden his head in the sand, before his mother tore it off his neck.

If America is really still a racist society (in the only sensible sense, a country that commonly and systematically mistreats people for their color), why have you fallen for every race-bating scam that has come down the pike in recent years?  

The word “racism” has become a powerful weapon to control Americans of all races, and keep them at one another’s throats.  This is why when you hear the word, you jump, like one of Pavlov's poor, reactionary hounds.   


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Prehistory of Sex: An Inventory

I doubt you could make a book called The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture boring, and Timothy Taylor does not.  Nor does he pretend to be entirely clinical when he describes (or reproduces photos of) the things dirty really old men painted on rocks and other surfaces.  His occasional voyeurism is narrated in a "pop science" tone: it's not pornographic or titillating in the slightest, but at times it's not always exactly not a pre-history of pornography, either.

Why is a Christian scholar like myself reading such a book?  Well, because I'm writing a book on "How Jesus Liberates Women."  And if you want to know what liberation is, you have to look at how things were before we (men, too) were liberated.

The story is interesting, too, though Taylor's worldview seems to be such that he gets some of the background facts wrong, and doesn't always highlight what he gets right purposefully.  But it is, as I said, a good read nonetheless, not merely for subject matter.

My purpose here is not to do a classical book review, but to take stock of some of the more interesting passages, and comment on a few, as part of my on-going research project.  I think visitors to my blog will find much of this interesting as well.

"Women lost their hair, (Darwin) believed, because men found hairlessness attractive, not because it was burdensome . . . "  (35)

This reminds me of a passage from a Hindu book which recommends that men seek mates who have neither too much nor too little body hair.

"Among the many curiosities about the monogamy theory, not least is the fact that the current level of monogamy globally is largely the result of the influence of Judeo-Christian values during the past five hundred years.  Although some of the largest population blocs have adopted monogamy, a majority of individual societies worldwide still practice some form of polygamy.  There is thus no evidence for monogamy ever having 'evolved' in any species-wide sense among humans." (40)

One of the most important, and solid, quotes in the book, in my opinion.

Monogamy was not preached in the Old Testament, but was encouraged in a number of ways, as I showed in earlier posts.  The New Testament became stricter, and changed the world much for the better, as I intend to show in detail.

"The first systematic sexual division of labor, with males hunting and females gathering, might also date to this time (1.8 million years ago)."  (43) 

"I believe that the invention of the baby-sling was the single most crucial step in the evolutionary development toward larger brains." (46)

The words "I believe" here capture the probative value of Spencer's speculations about how babies developed bigger brains pretty well. He tells a "just so" story which probably has little to do with what really happened, but is interesting nonetheless.

"Marx and Engels considered that 'the first division of labor is that between man and woman for child breeding,' and Engels went on to state that 'the first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male." (77)

This is the kind of crackpot theorizing that swept the world of "thought" in the 19th Century, and of which we have yet to be rid.  How did Engels know where "the first antagonism" appeared?   How could he not know that his circle of radicals had already proven that "free love" can be a lot more antagonistic, or predatory?  After all, he raised a young man as his "son" but reportedly later admitted the "son" had been sired by his friend Karl Marx on the housekeeper.

Of course, Marx and Engels were nothing if not geniuses at increasing the net pool of antagonism in the world.

"At Middle Stone Age sites in southern Africa dating from sometime after 300,000 B.P.  red ocher begins to be found. "  Some 200,000 years later, its use "becomes very widespread."  (99)

"The earliest firm evidence for formal burial of the dead comes from Skhul Cave in Israel, where nearly 100,000 years ago an archaic homo sapiens was laid out next to a boar's jaw." (109)

Taylor attempts to explain the "around 200 Ice Age statuettes of women" so far discovered in Europe. (116)  As he points out, even accounting for cultural differences, the women are seldom comely.  He denies that these depict a powerful matriarchy that existed at the time.  "Among archeologists this theory has very little support." (117)  The statuettes show women with no faces, and doing nothing, unlike "the vigorous goddesses of India." (119)  Nor are they pornographic: "Others feel that the Venus figurines are neither attractive nor erotic." (121) 23% are 15 years old or less (so one scholar analyzes them), mature pregnant women (17%), mature non-pregnant (38%), and women over 35 (22%).  Taylor suggests that they may have been marriage tokens, given with a woman in marriage.

"Marriage -- an institution that, however imprecisely defined, is present in all known communities." (125)

Here's a generalization that makes sense to me, and should be carefully considered for its implications for early Christian history:

"Contrary to popular belief, nonliterate societies are much more likely to do things in the same way, generation after generation, than literate societies.  The reason is that the nonliterate must commit detailed cultural knowledge to memory rather than relying on a written record.  It is entirely possible that some basic elements of meaning stayed fairly constant for over 15,000 years -- because there was no reason to change them." (135)

This might also explain awareness of God in numerous very primitive societies around the world, as described by Lang, Schmidt, Corduan, and others.

However, Columbia linguist John McWhorter argues persuasively that language is always changing, including grammar, but that writing can anchor those changes to some degree.  (As occurred with Chinese.)  

Yamana Yaghan men in Amazonia had a hut from which women were excluded, recalling a legend of a time when women "had sole power; they gave orders to the men who were obedient, just as today the women obey the men . . . " (137)

These sorts of huts and legends are apparently common in primitive societies.

"To forestall this, the men inaugurated a secret society of their own and banished forever the women's Lodge in which so many wicked plots had been hatched against them.  No woman was allowed to come near the Hain on penalty of death." (138)

Don Richardson describes such huts among the Yali in the mountains of New Guinea.

Taylor also mentions the Kayapo of central Brazil, "where the men's house is the scene of the ritualized gang rape of young girls."

He does not explain the context for this or its alleged extent.

Joan Bamberger argues:

"The myth of matriarchy is but a tool used to keep women bound to her place.  To free her, we need to destroy the myth." (139)

Taylor may be right that Ice Age figurines reflect a society in which women were faceless and powerless, though I find the evidence he offers, again, only partially compelling.  Women relied on men for their meat. He argues that Mesolithic communities are a bit more egalitarian: "obvious signs of gender inequality are fewer . . . " (146).

Civilization brought about a turn for the worse for women, he argues:

"The growing population of the Near East introduced yet another economic factor into the equation that was eventually to reforge women's economic inequality in bonds so durable that they persist into the present day: farming, and its concomitant rules of production and property." (146)

"Human beings, far from being cast out of the garden, turned themselves out of Eden."

"I believe that the first farmers in Europe had a fundamentally exploitative attitude towards everything including sex -- being violent, unbalanced people, whose idea of a good time was felling trees, erecting great stone phalluses, and sanctifying them with sacrificial victims, often women and children."

This news will disappoint those who conceive of "primitive man" in egalitarian terms.  

Mediterranean tribes knew 250 useful species of wild plants. (149)

Jericho was an early farming town, from 8500 BC, relying on a few crops, and quickly losing that wealth of botanical knowledge.

In Texas, farming increased the size of women.  In the Mississippi Valley, the opposite: "everyone got smaller, but women much more so." (152)

"Modern hunter-gatherers, even those who have been pushed into marginal environments (as most of them have been) appear to work much less in order to stay alive and well than do farmers." (164)

"The Mesolithic economy of postglacial Europe was a thriving one, yet it gave way, mile by mile, ineluctably, to a farming economy." (164)

This also sheds light on the various "falls" which the early books of the Bible describe, including the Israeli desire for a king, and the oppression which the prophet warns will follow.

"I do not believe that women built Stonehedge.  Perhaps they had a hand in it, and a woman was certainly sacrificed in one of its foundation ditches, but like guns and rockets, it is essentially a male monument." (167)

Well, come to that, most inventions are "male."  Let's not be snooty about it.

"In the long barrows, bones are placed like seeds in a womb of earth, as if waiting for the moment of rebirth.  Often, the ground beneath the barrows has been plowed." (184)

One suggestion is that the ground has been prepared for the planting of the dead.

At the winter Solstice, December 21, light "can enter the narrow opening and strike the back wall of the burial chamber." (187)

"The resurrection of the bodies of the dead is symbolically connected to the resurrection of the year itself - the point of exact midwinter, after which the sun must begin to come back or there will be no spring." (187)

Barrows were used until about 2500 BC.  (The scene in Fellowship of the Ring where the hobbits are stuck in a barrow, also evokes such antiquity, though not perhaps quite as great.  And also resurrection.  Tolkien is also right to associate the barrows with evil, apparently.)

Woodhedge, a three year old girl's body was found, her head split with an axe. (189)

"John Barber, who has excavated many sites in Scotland, suggests that several infant burials around passage graves - ten at Quarterness, twenty-four at Isbister -- represent systematic infanticide of neonates.  At Stonehedge a woman and child were buried in the great ditch close to the entrance to the monument.  Attitudes towards (at least some) women seem to have been no better than toward some unfortunate children." (189)

And people wonder why God repented of creating this race.

Ian Kinnes, British Museum, "while there are not many bodies (at Neolithic sites), where there are they tend to be women . . . " (189)

Taylor thinks these monuments exemplify a "bigger is better" attitude of farmers, who make use of just a few resources.  This may be argued, but then he lets himself go into:

"Most profoundly, the idea of a basic dichotomy in the world, of a struggle between man (in the deliberately sex-specific sense) and nature, is what lies behind our continuing lunatic progress towards ever deeper ecological disaster." (192)

Here a bit of religious clap-trap evolves into political clap-trap.  In fact, the air and water has grown far cleaner in recent decades in advanced countries, and forests have been planted or allowed to reseed themselves in vast swatches of the planet.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Letter to a "Racist" Nation

My new ebook, "Letter to a 'Racist' Nation" is now available on Kindle! It is priced to sell. The style is not measured or gentle, because I am not in a gentle mood, and I don't think America needs soft or appeasing words right now. The book can be compared to a loving slap in the face administererd to someone who is suffering dangerous delusions.

That, I argue, is the condition the US is in right now. No, the police are not racist thugs, by and large. They are being scapegoated under circumstances that Rene Girard, the brilliant student of the human condition, long ago prophesied. The accusation of "racism" is inevitable in our culture, for the same reason ealier generations of scapegoats were accused of "incest," "poisoning the wells," "counter-revolution," and other crimes considered especially vile in their cultures. The mentality that lodges such accusations indiscriminately, which one might call "Woke Fragility" (with no apologies to Robin DiAngelo, she owes them to us) has also consumed the Academy and Woke Big Business.
I argue that the Gospel helps us understand this moment, and lends us the chief hope we have for escaping from the ditch we have so foolishly dug for ourselves.
I have not studied this form of neo-Marxism so long as at least two of my Facebook friends. But I bring a few unique understandings or perspectives to the subject: (a) Cultures, which I believe matter more than Race today; (b) History of Religions; (c) a brother who served as a cop in Greater Chaz for three or four decades, and told me his stories; (d) living in Greater Chaz; (e) sharing a university with DiAngelo, which "awoke" me to the phenomenon of Woke Fragility: (f) experience as an educator, since it is from the public schools that much of the contagion has spread; (g) I have also done a bit of research, especially on police shootings.
Do enjoy the book. I'm letting Facebook and blog friends know first, hoping you'll post interesting reviews, and if you like it, pass the word along.
This is not an academic work: it is a cry from the heart. I have, however, done my best to get my facts straight, which I can't say about all those I criticize.
PS: Thanks to Michael Hunt for creating the cover image, and to The Stream for publishing early versions of Chapter 8 and Chapter 11. I neglected to include that note of gratitude in the book yet; I'll have to go back and add it later.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Do Blue Lives Murder? Report from Chaz

The great literary anthropologist, Rene Girard, wrote, "Human culture is predisposed to the permanent concealment of its origins in collective violence."  I just paid a visit to the Western Hemisphere's newest nation, the Peoples' Republic of Chaz (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), and found that, indeed, this new state is hiding the guilt of its bloody foundation.

The Martyrs of Chaz

Changsha, Hunan Province, holds four outdoor entertainments: the pedestrian mall, the Xiang River, a three mile long sand spit in the middle of the river called Tangerine Island, where a young Mao Zedong used to swim, and Yue Lu Hill, a peak about 700 feet high behind Hunan University and a huge statue of Mao.  I often met friends by that statue to climb the hill.  Some people would abase themselves before the figure of Mao.  As a young man, Mao studied at Hunan Teacher's College, and hung out at the Autumn Admiring Pavillion, just up the slope from his rocky image and the famous Confucian Yue Lu Academy, a precursor to the later schools.  It was at this academy that the Song Dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi, co-founder of neo-Confucianism, once debated a rival.   Zeng Guofan, the famous Hunan general who defeated the Tai Pings, also studied here.  

Hiking that little mountain on an almost weekly basis, I always wondered at the many graves on its slopes.  Why, in a place of great significance for more than a thousand years, all the memorials were to people who died after the communist revolution in 1949?  

After the revolution, China seemed determined to forget its national past, and set up idols commemorating the most recent tyrant instead.   Every city in China has a memorial to its revolutionary martyrs.  The most famous no doubt lies in Tiananmen Square across from the gate where Mao's portrait hangs.  Here, on Tiananmen Square, students have often died for the future of China, as I described in my first book.  (A Kindle version is now available!)  

America's Cultural Revolution of 2020, the so-called "Great Awokening," requires its martyrs, too.  Once you erase the past, tearing down statues of Columbus, Washington, Jefferson, Robert E Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant, you need some worthy image to take their place.   

The Martyrs of Chaz

"Human culture is predisposed to its permanent concealment in collective violence."  -- Rene Girard

On the fence in front of the East Seattle precinct front door hangs a poster entitled, "25 + Black Lives Killed by Police in Washington State."  

That poster actually names twenty-seven men and two women. 

Most of those killed by police in Washington State (even more than in America as a whole) are white.  According to The Guardian's interactive website, in 2016, sixteen whites were killed by police in the state, and three blacks.   Yet no White, Hispanic, Asian or Native American is included in this list of alleged martyrs.  (Though some are so light in skin, that one wonders how a racist officer would identify them as black.)  

Here are their stories, as told in local newspapers.  Most of these killings took place in the Greater Seattle area.  There is, if anything, an anti-police bias in these sources.  Not only al-Left papers like The Stranger and The Weekly, but "mainstream" papers like the Seattle Times, and probably most suburban papers, too, would tend to lean Democratic and be race-conscious.    

As you read these stories, ask yourself: 1. Do these men (mostly) deserve the status of martys?  2. Does race overtly enter into the stories of their deaths?  3. If you were in the position of the police, what would you do differently, often with a split-second to make your decision? 

Twenty-Nine Martyrs

Malik Williams (Line 1, figure 1) got into an argument in Federal Way, south of Seattle, in an apartment parking lot.  When the police arrived, finding Williams sitting in a parked car, he allegedly attempted to shoot them, and was killed in return fire.  “I’m disgusted that the Federal Way police department MURDERED my brother,” Monique Phelps wrote on Facebook the day her brother was killed. “What happened to be a 911 call for disturbance led to some POORLY TRAINED officers shooting my brother 45 times.  INSTEAD OF USING De-escalating tactics. I’m SICK. I’m in rage. And for those 7 officers that was involved, I hope you ROT IN HELL. You killed my brother.”   Williams appears to have wounded two officers in the firefight.  

What is emphasized in press accounts is that Williams used a wheelchair.  (Which, however, was in the back seat at the time, out of sight, according to the police.) 

Williams shot two officers with a 9mm hand gun.   He was a violent criminal who had served time for armed robbery, as even the Weekly admits

"In April 2018, Williams was charged with first-degree robbery after robbing two people at gunpoint on separate incidents at the Renton Transit Center. He was sentenced in January 2019 to concurrently serve 15 months in prison for second-degree robbery and nine months for first-degree theft for the crimes."

Dante Redmond Jones (Line 1, figure 2), a former Marine, died in a high-speed chase in the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington.  He allegedly was trying to ram police vehicles, and was shot.   Three deputies suffered minor injuries.  Jones had been brought up by a foster mother after his birth mother had abandoned him.  In a heart-breaking interview, his foster mother describes Jones' generally kind  and giving nature, and how he had been traumatized by the sight of children who had been killed by bombs, apparently in Afghanistan, called himself a "monster," and "would harm himself."  

One wonders if this was a case of "suicide by cop."  

Bennie Branch (24, Line 1, figure 3) was with his homeless mother when he was approached by police.  He was wanted for felonies, but precisely for what, is unclear.  His mother claimed he was shot while running away.  The police said a weapon was recovered, but his mother claimed it was just an airsoft gun and he had not been reaching for it.  Apparently Branch suffered from drug and mental problems.  

Hashim Wilson (Line 1, figure 4) of Spokane was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Tacoma.  He alleged got out of the car and pointed a gun at police.  

According to a police spokeswoman

"When the vehicle stopped, the driver got out," said Cool. "He was pointing a gun at the officer. The officer gave several commands. The suspect did not comply with them. The officer fired his weapon and struck the driver who was transported to the hospital with life threatening injuries."

I could find little further information about Wilson, or why he might use a gun in such a way.  I also found no disputes with the police account: neighbors apparently witnessed at least portions of the confrontation.    

Mantry Norris (Line 1, figure 5) came into a bar waving a knife and mumbling.   When he charged a man and stabbed him, the police shot him.  An eyewitness reported: 

"It was kind of strange.  He was lunging at people with a knife," said one Robert Powell, a black man of about 30.  "He charged the other man and police had to do their job."  

Kerry Brown (Line 1, figure 6) wife and three children hid when her husband began shooting the house up.  According to the Tacoma New Tribune, "His wife reported than he was shooting a gun and she had locked herself and three young children in the basement."  When the police arrived, he fired one shot, hid behind a building, then came out with his handgun.   A single rifle shot through the abdomen killed him.  

Russell Smith (Line 2, figure 1) was wanted for a series of robberies in Bellevue, bank robbery, and assault of a child.  When the police showed up at his house, he was in his Mercedes Benz.  He put the car into reverse, smashed into a Ford, then put it in drive.  Concerned that he was about to run them over, the police opened fire, killing the suspect.  

William Floyd McCord (Row 2, Figure 3), shot two Bremerton police officers in a "“firefight."   He had been barred from owning firearms after punching his wife in the head, then fighting and injuring officers whom the wife had called.  The family of one of the officers, Kent Mayfield, who was shot in the stomach in the later firefight mentioned above, released a statement: 

"If there is anything Dad wishes might come from all of this, it is simply that you will hug your own loved ones just a little bit longer and tell them how much they mean to you."

Martin Duckworth (Line 2, figure 4) boarded a Route 27 bus in Downtown Seattle, and was asked by the 64 year old driver, Deloy Dupuis, to pay.  Duckworth is described by the alt-Left Seattle Weekly as a drug addict and "chronic violator.  He opened fire, wounding Dupuis in the cheek and arm, before being shot by police.  Dupuis said "It's good to be alive," and made light of "dodging bullets," but his wife said he remained terrified.  

The Federal Way Mirror explains that Dennis Clark III, 27 (Row 2, figure 5),  shot his girlfriend in the head.   She cried out for help first, and he shot a 62 year old man who was trying to call 911.  He also turned his weapon on two men in the parking lot of Pinewood Valley Apartments, in an effort to clean the premises of eyewitnesses, for a total of four murders in one day.  Clark seemed to have a habit of beating his girlfriends: the police had visited at least once before.  

Damarius Butts (Row 2, figure 6) "was shot and killed by Seattle Police after exchanging gunfire with officers following a robbery," according to Seattle station knkx.

The Seattle Weekly says that William Stokes (Row 3, figure 1) was reported to have been armed with a machete and holding a hostage.  "Stokes refused commands to put down the machete.  The officer felt threatened at one point, fired his gun and killed Stokes."

Marvin Hunter, aka Che Taylor (Row 3, figure 2), "spent 22 years in prison for rape, robbery, illegal possession of a firearm, assault and drug possession and delivery," according to KIRO 7 in Seattle.  He kept a recently-fired gun in his car, which officers said they thought he was reaching for, and had large stashes of what appeared to be heroin and crack cocaine on his body.   

Officer “Jake” Gutierrez responded to a domestic dispute call in Tacoma and was shot "multiple times" by the next Chaz martyr, Bruce R. Johnson II (Row 3, figure 3).  Gutierrez sacrificed himself to save a partner.  His assailant, on the other hand, "barricaded himself inside the home and used two young children as human shields," before being dispatched by a Tacoma SWAT team.  

Omer Ismail Ali (Row 3, figure 4) attacked a gas station clerk, a woman in the same store, then a police officer, using a wooden club about five feet long.   (The creator of the "25 + Black Lives Killed By Police in Washington State" poster is shameless enough to show Ali with his club.)  This series of events is all on film: Ali struck the officer on the head, put him on the ground, and was preparing to attack again, when the officer, fired and killed the criminal, then rolled on the ground in pain from his own wounds.  

Charleena Lyles (Row 3, figure 5), suffered from mental problems but was, apparently, able to care for three children who were at home at the time.  Lyles called the police to investigate a burglary.  In an audio of the call, two officer first calmly and dispassionately discuss what they know of the family, then for two minutes, talk with the woman about the alleged burglary, also in a calm and businesslike manner.  Then suddenly, at the very end, you hear "Get back!  Get back!  Get back!"  Then the firing of a weapon.  Lyles was pregnant, the knife she was holding does not appear very substantial.    

Marcos Perea (Row 3, figure 6) walked into a care facility south of Seattle one morning early in 2016, and shot his 27-year-old girlfriend, who had recently taken out a restraining order against him.  (The town of Lakewood is famous for the cold-blooded assasination of four police officers in a coffee shop several years before.)  Perea then led the police on a chase down I 5, which ended in a shootout with twelve officers from three departments, one tribal.  The brother of the murdered nurse, Jessica Ortega, recalled: “She was all about her kids.  She had just got into nursing and was the sister that always kept a smile on her face and always talked about the good things.” 

MiChance Dunlap-Gittens (Row 4, figure 1), was killed by undercover police in Burien, who suspected his friend of a hit-and-run killing a week before.  It is alleged that Michance opened fire before being killed, but this is disputed by family, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit and were awarded more than $2 million.  The exact sequence of events is hard to determine from press reports.  

Giovonn Joseph-McDade (Row 4, figure 2) was allegedly trying to run over officer William Davis when he was shot and killed by Davis.   No alternative accounts of the shooting seem to be available.  Joseph-McDade was a student at Green River College, and his friends find the police account hard to believe.  

Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith (Row 4, figure 3) was shooting off guns in what a neighbor who called police described as a threatening manner.  Tinker-Smith was wanted for various drug infractions.  After a long standoff with a SWAT team, in the evening Tinker-Smith opened fire on the police, and was killed by a shot to the head.  

Dwight Steward (Row 4, figure 4) had served time for rape, robbery, and assault.  Several people reported that he had pulled a gun on them.  The Spokane Spokesman reports

"Steward was shot after he refused to obey orders to drop two knives he was holding while walking toward police near Andy’s Market on Monroe Street at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to court documents.

"Officers found six knives and a machete on Steward, court documents stated.

"Police received a call at 3:43 p.m. from a man who said Steward pulled a gun on him and his friend, according to court documents. A woman also called police and said Steward had pulled a gun on her husband.

"Officers located Steward between Andy’s Market and the Franz Bakery Outlet. They ordered Steward to get on the ground, but he pulled two knives from his waistband and approached officers. Officers fired six bullets, according to court documents, and two may have hit Andy’s Market."
Hussein Hassan (5, 5) was allegedly killed while attacking a police officer with a sword in Kennewick

"Hussein Hassan, 46, of Kennewick, was walking on Olympia Street near 10th Avenue with the sword about 6:30 p.m. Witnesses said he seemed to be trying to hide the weapon with a newspaper.
"When Kennewick Officer Jason Kiel got out of his car to talk with him, Hassan charged and started hitting Kiel in the head with the sword.
"Just then, a second officer, Joshua Kuhn arrived. Kiel managed to pull back and both policemen drew their weapons and fired at Hassan.
"Hassan was taken to Trios Southridge Hospital, where he died, said a police news release. Kiel suffered a head injury and was treated at Trios and later released."
Hassan was a Somali refugee who apparently had had mental health problems, though he had helped refugees in Kenya in the past.  Officer Kiel's injury required 17 stiches.  
D'Angelo Davis (5, 6) was shot by Tukwila police (near Sea Tac airport) in a shootout after an alleged armed robbery at a Cash and Carry food store.   Another account offers a few more details: 
"At around 7:30 p.m. an employee inside Cash & Carry called 911 whispering that there was a robbery in progress. The employee called 911 while the robber took the manager to the back of the store to get money.  Several officers rushed to the scene as the armed robber was walking out of the store. Tukwila Police say the suspect’s gun was visible. Gunshots rang out but police at this time are not sure which side fired first. The suspect died on the scene."
In a sympathetic account in Crosscut, Eugene Nelson (5, 7), a convert to Islam, is described from his brother's point of view as a giving young man who had just lost his mother and others close to him.  However, the account describes his death as follows:  
"According to the Kent police department, he had approached his ex-girlfriend’s business in a Kent strip mall, violating a no-contact order set as the result of a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge. When confronted, the department says he fled in a stolen vehicle, dragging an officer and a police dog who tried to stop him.  Two officers fired, killing Eugene.
"The officer and the dog sustained minor injuries.
"Court records show there was a $25,000 warrant for Eugene's arrest; he’d swiped the keys from a BMW dealer when the manager wasn’t looking. It was another tick in a growing list of legal troubles for the 20-year-old, mostly theft charges and what his family describes as a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend."
Manuel Ellis (Line 5, figure 1) died in a case that is being billed, including by Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards, as a parallel to the George Floyd case.  The police approached Ellis when they saw him trying to open the doors of occupied vehicles.  The main parallels seem to be that Ellis also said "I can't breath" while being restrained by police.  Methamphetamines were found in his blood: he had a record of drug abuse and mental illness.  Woodards mentioned "longstanding racism," but no evidence was given that race was a factor in this homocide.  An enlarged heart probably was.   He allegedly assaulted an officer and struggled as he was held down.  No weapon seems to have been used against him. 
The second figure in line 5 is not named, nor does a photograph of him appear.  
Shaun Lee Fuhr (Line 5, figure 3) had reportedly been beating on his girlfriend for hours.  He had a gun, and had grabbed their one-year old child.  The mother was in hysterics as she called the police and begged for help (she had had a restraining order against her lover):
“My baby's daddy has a gun. He's in the park. He shot in the park. He has my baby . . . I want my daughter. Please. She's only 1. Please I'm scared for her.”
A neighbor was impressed with the gentleness with which the police treated the young child after the shooting.  The audio of the mother's call, and a video of the police action, were released to the public. 
Tiffany Eubanks (Line 5, name four, no photograph) had been staying recently at the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima.  Sometimes she seemed friendly, sometimes agitated.  She had been imprisoned for a month for assaulting an officer in Oregon.  Suffering from drug addiction and mental problems, Eubanks was found weaving in and out of traffic in early June of this year.  She became combative with medics, and was placed in the police car.  She seems to have suffered a heart attack and died.  Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice explained: 

"Curtice said a drug overdose could be a possible cause of death as well as excited delirium, a condition that can cause agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death, according to a paper on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website. It can be associated with drug use or mental illness."
While this case is still under investigation, there does not seem to be any evidence that Ms. Eubanks was killed by the police. 
Finally, Said Joquin (Line 5, figure 5) was shot at a traffic stop in Lakewood (the city south of Tacoma where Maurice Clemmons had murdered four officers in 2009).  The officer, Mike Wiley, said Joquin had been ordered to raise his hands, but claimed Joquin seemed to be reaching for a gun.  Joquin's cousin apparently denies this is the case, and the family has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit.  I can find little further information about Joquin: his friends deny the police report is credible, but I have found little further about any criminal background or lack thereof.  
All 27 named civilians killed by police gunfire either had weapons, or were perceived as having weapons.  Two unarmed civilians died in police custody, apparently of a combination of drug abuse, heart trouble, and the stress of being arrested and struggling, or of being restrained.  It does not appear that anyone used what would normally prove lethal force on either of them.  
Of those with weapons, or thought to have weapons, eighteen had guns.  Three of those cases seemed to have involved either a non-lethal "firearm" (an airsoft gun), or cases in which it remains unclear (at least, from what I could find) whether or not the suspects had guns at all.  In one case the reporter records the police claim that the suspect was reaching for a gun, but does not say whether or not a gun was found, or whether or not the suspect had any criminal history.   But fifteen cases seemed to clearly involve a suspect making threatening actions with a firearm, either against police or against civilians, sometimes both.  About 16 of 27 suspects killed by police seem to have murdered or assaulted a civilian before being killed themselves, and seemed in danger of further violence.   
Aside from guns, suspects used other weapons perceived as potentially deadly: vehicles (3), knife (2), sword (1) machete (1), and a stout 5-foot club (1).  In one of those cases, the knife, a close look at the weapon shows that it may not have been very formidable.  The officers probably did not have time to carefully examine it before opening fire.  
Five of the twenty-seven cases in which police clearly killed a suspect, could themselves be called suspect.  All five seem to have involved an officer perceiving threat to his own life.  It is hard to tell for sure, from news reports, how reasonable that perception was from the officer's point of view, or in some cases, objectively.   Couldn't two officers disarm Ms. Lyles of her flimsy-looking knife?  Or did it all happen too quickly to react in any other way?  What really happened to Dunlap-Gittens?  Did this 16 year old boy selling booze really have a weapon?  Why did a 20 year old student at Green River College, or a visitor from North Carolina, die in traffic stops?  It may be that the officers in one or more of these cases made deadly split-second errors.  Did race play a role?  Given overall statistics showing that white officers are not more likely to shoot black suspects, and given the lack of positive evidence for any racial motive, there is no reason to think it did in any one of these cases.   
"Police brutality" does not seem to explain these cases any more than racism.  In most of these cases, violent police action was clearly warranted.  In those five, available details are insufficient to judge.  
What clearly did play a role was perceived danger and fear on the part of the police officer.  Could such fear be alleviated with more training, or stricter hiring?  Honestly, given the violence of American society, and the prevalence of weapons of all kinds, and the frequency with which civilians use violence against the police, I doubt any amount of training or screening will prevent occasional mistakes from being made.  Parallel mistakes are made vastly more often on the operating table, in the classroom, in the corridors of political power, and in the news room.  There must be some point of balance, beyond which stricter controls and more "fear of God" on the police, will result in far more harm than they bring good.  The Ferguson Effect describes the harm to civilians that results when the police become less aggressive in patroling.  
So this poster does not support the central claim of Black Lives Matter, that the police are a grave threat to innocent, law-abiding citizens, except in the rarest of difficult cases.  Nor is there a hint of evidence to support the claim that "Blue Lives Murder," spray-painted on a wall in Chaz.  
If we go by facts, rather than images, the narrative of BLM collapses.  I think we can safely assume that Washington State is not, in this regard, an anomale.