April 2013 Archives

Is Senator Cornyn Aiding And Abetting Terrorism?

    This past Wednesday, the United States Senate refused to support any legislation that would ban the sale of automatic weapons and large ammunition clips. 45 craven U.S. Senators, 41 Republicans and  4 Democrats, voted against an even more modest compromise bill, co-sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin (D -W.Va.) And Pat Toomey (R-Pa), that would have closed some loopholes on gun purchases at trade shows and from some third party sellers; and that required slightly more expanded background checks, particularly before felons and mentally ill persons, could purchase firearms.  This legislation was defeated despite the fact that  90% of the population of the country supports reasonable gun controls. Collectively, the 45 Senators who voted "nay" represent states with less than a quarter of the U.S. population.
    During the days prior to the Senate vote, the Newtown parents and many of those who were affected by the carnage at Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Columbine had actively lobbied reluctant, undecided and wavering Senators. In person-to-person meetings, they begged them to support the proposed gun legislation on behalf of their loved ones and the still grieving families and the more than one million Americans who have had died from fire arms' violence in the past thirty-three years.

    As reported by Jennifer Steinhauer in the New York Times ("Tangled Birth, and Death of a Gun Control Bill," April 19, 2013), the encounter of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely injured by gun violence in Tucson, with her one-time colleague and now Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican, from her home state of Arizona was especially poignant. Unable to speak clearly because of the gun shot wounds to her head that she had sustained, Giffords "grabbed his arm and tried -  furiously and with difficulty - to say she had needed is vote. The best she could get out was the word,'need.'" Senator Flake who voted against the proposed  legislation, told The Times' reporter, "I said I was sorry. I didn't know what else to say. It's very hard."  

      On Wednesday afternoon, after the Senate vote, President Obama, appeared on the steps of the White House with Vice President Biden and a number of the parents whose children were killed in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Former Congresswoman Giffords and her husband stood alongside them. President Obama remarked that the Senate vote was a " pretty shameful day for Washington." The President noted that there were no coherent reasons why a majority of Republicans voted  against the Manchin-Toomey bill and he stated his belief that it all "came down to politics" and a fear on the part of GOP Senators  that "the vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections" and "that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment."

    The following day, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx) took to the Senate floor in to defend his Senate votes on gun legislation and to take issue with the President's remarks. In a prepared speech, Senator Cornyn stated,"[I] say this more with sadness than anger -- I watched the President of the United States say it was a pretty shameful day for Washington on the national news. That was yesterday. And I agree but for different reasons than the President himself articulated. When good and honest people have honest differences of opinion about what policies our country should pursue when it comes to the Second Amendment and gun rights and mass gun violence, the President of the United States should not accuse them of having no coherent arguments or caving to the pressure.

    "The President could have taken the high road, could have said, 'Ok now that we have been unsuccessful in these measures, let's move on to area where we know there is consensus, and that has to do with the mental health element in so many of these mass gun tragedies.' But instead, he chose to take the low road. And I agree with him, it was a truly shameful day.

    "I, and many of my colleagues, are not worried, as some of the press like to portray it, about the gun lobby who would spend a lot of money and paint us as anti-Second Amendment. I don't work for them. I don't listen to them. I work for 26 million Texans, and I'm proud to represent them. And the views I represented on the floor of the United States Senate are their views. And if I don't represent their views, then I am accountable to them, and no one else.

    "And no, those of us who did not agree with the President's proposals are not being intimidated, as he said yesterday. And it's false -- it's absolutely false to say it comes down to politics, as he said.

    "For me, it comes down to a meeting I had with the families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I told them that I was not interested in symbolism, in things we might be able to do that would have had no impact on the terrible tragedy that day or at Tucson, or Virginia Tech, or at Aurora, Colorado. I'm interested in trying to come up with a solution.

    "I told them that day, the family members who came to visit with me, as we grieved with them for their terrible loss, I told them that, as I understood what they were telling me, they weren't coming to sell a particular political point of view or an agenda or a legislative laundry list of things they wanted to see passed.

    "It really boiled down to this: These families who lost both children and parents and spouses want to make sure that their loved one did not die in vain. They want to make sure that something good comes out of this terrible tragedy. And why wouldn't we want to work together to try to help them achieve their goals?

    "Instead of calling the President names and taking the low road, like he did yesterday, and chastising my fellow senators for their good-faith disagreement and the best policies to pursue in order to make sure these families' loss was not in vain, I'm here to ask for his help. I'm here to ask for every Members' help, to try to make sure that we actually continue to look for measures that we might be able to get behind to actually make things better, that would have offered up a solution to some of these problems."

    "So I believe that there is actually a way forward for us, and I hope that Senator Reid, the Majority Leader, who controls the agenda on the Senate floor, will not choose to quit in our effort to try to find solutions, indeed something we need to pursue, instead of just symbolic gestures which would have had no impact on these mass gun tragedies."

    Senator Cornyn's pious platitudes in defense of his own vote and those of his nay-saying colleagues could not obscure the fact that the U.S. Senate is a undeniably dysfunctional institution because of its disproportionately rural and unequal representation, compounded by its arcane and anti-majoritarian voting rules that protect and maximize the influence of the smallest minorities of influence groups. Its very existence raises a question as to how any serious student of government could possibly describe the United States as a functioning, transparent democracy that even remotely serves the public interest.  

    Aside from these profoundly troubling institutional concerns, Senator Cornyn's comments reek of hypocrisy. Throughout his senate career, Cornyn has been, most charitably put, a political australopithecine. In the 2004, for example, in a debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment, he released an advance copy of a speech he was to give at the Heritage Foundation. In that speech, he wrote, "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right.... Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."  Equally telling, on the critical issue of gun control legislation, Cornyn has consistently received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association because of his unyielding opposition.

    Senator Cornyn's comments are also preposterous on their face. Good and honest people do not have honest differences of opinion about what policies this country should pursue "when it comes to the Second Amendment and gun rights and mass gun violence." Scalia and his four  linguistically- challenged colleagues in District of Columbia, et al v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) notwithstanding, the text and syntax of the Second Amendment is unambiguous and defines a collective, as opposed to an individual, right subordinate to a requirement of formal military training: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a fee State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In addition, all of the evidence compiled from Canada, Europe and Australia shows that rational gun control measures and uniform regulations, including licensing, training, and registration requirements, and limits on  kinds and quantities of forearms have had dramatic and measurable effects in preventing gun violence.

    Last week's debate over gun control legislation occurred in the immediate aftermath of the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. A few days before these almost parallel unfolding events, CNN and other news outlets reported on an Al Queda video from 2011 that had resurfaced. The video shows Adam Gadahn, who was born in California and who became an al Qaeda spokesman. In the video, Gadahn describes how easy it is to buy guns in the United States and he urges his fellow jidhadists to buy guns here. "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms," Gadahn states, "You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?"

    We now know from the execution of the MIT police officer, the shooting of an MBTA police officer, the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston terror suspects, after a ferocious firefight with police, and the apprehension of his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as the second terror suspect, that the two were heavily armed with automatic weapons and with a number of explosive devices that utilized gun powder as an agent. What will happen if, as is likely, the government's investigation shows that these two suspects obtained their firearms and gun powder here in the United States, whether through third parties or because of existing loop- holes that permit the unregulated sales of firearms, including semi-automatic weapons and assault-style rifles, at gun shows and through private sales?

    In December of 2005, the good and honest Senator from Texas justified his support for the re-authorization of the Patriot Act with the statement "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead," and he implied that those who opposed the measure were soft on terror. As he declared in a homeland security statement released by his office, "Defending against threats to America's security will always be one of my highest priorities in the U.S. Senate. I'm committed to ensuring that our first responders have the training and equipment they need to protect our families, our homes, and our nation against any and all terrorist threats."

    How will Senator Cornyn square those remarks with his unwavering opposition to any form of reasonable gun control once the evidence becomes incontrovertible that the lack of uniform gun control legislation does, in fact, pose a threat to America's security?

    Over years, Senator Cornyn and his right-wing GOP colleagues have intimated that the  concerns raised by many about the increasing abridgment of civil liberties since September 11, 2001 and fears about the possible rise of a surveillance or garrison state are naive and misplaced. Isn't their unwavering support for the unrestricted ability of zealots and terrorists to purchase guns for commit acts of violence here in the United States now sauce for the gander?     
    If it is discovered that innocent Americans have been murdered by terrorists who have taken Adam Gadahn's advice to heart, how will Senator Cornyn respond? Wouldn't his continued refusal to support reasonable gun control legislation be tantamount to aiding and abetting terrorism?
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Will The Terror In Boston Challenge Our Open Society?

    On a nearly perfect spring afternoon in Boston, the city's civic celebration of Patriot's Day and the 117th Boston Marathon were marred by a violent terrorist attack. In addition to identifying and bringing to justice the anonymous perpetrator(s) of this carnage that has killed three people so far and maimed hundreds of other innocent and defenseless citizens, the attack again raises the troubling question of how we should respond collectively, as a democracy, to this violence.

    In 1945, Karl, Popper, a professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics, published a two volume work entitled The Open Society and Its Enemies. In his work, Popper criticized the writings of Plato, Hegel and Marx. Popper argued that their political philosophies were based upon a teleological historicism which falsely asserted that the movement of history was governed by universal laws. Popper also claimed to detect in the writings of Hegel and Marx, in particular contained the seeds of 20th century fascist and communist ideology.

    However mistaken Popper was in his understanding of the writings of Plato, Hegel and Marx, his work was an emphatic endorsement of liberal democracy. Popper insisted that liberal democracy was the only form of government that permits continued political evolution without revolution  or violence.

     Although Popper's choice of the phrase "the open society" has sometimes been narrowly interpreted by right-wing admirers of his writing to apply only to liberal democracies such as the United States and Switzerland, there is no doubt that the non-Western world clearly understands that the social democracies of Western Europe are equally open and tolerate wide ranges of dissent and argument within the context of robust, secular democratic institutions.

      Unfortunately,  Popper himself did not fully recognize that sometimes the most ardent advocates of liberal democracy might simultaneously be among its enemies. Within the liberal democratic project, there exists a profound sense of insecurity that liberalism has fostered,  predicated as it is upon individualism. Liberalism's emergence from the Protestant Reformation seems to have instilled within it a permanent sense of anxiety and apprehension.

    Although Luther's insistence that personal salvation could be gained by one's one receptivity to the Word alone released the self from the bonds of obedience to the universal church and its magisterium, the penalties for personal emancipation have continued to exacted a severe psychological toll. As Hobbes observed, the severance of man from nature - the natural order, natural law - estranged man and left him alone and afraid. Fear and a sense of personal isolation, and therefore personal vulnerability, in turn, can lead to panic and hysteria.

    So, too, Locke's emphasis upon the self was the obverse of his fear of the exercise of traditional political authority. With the gradual demise of the Great Chain of Being came also the demise of the imperium - the traditional authority of the magistrate to bind his subjects and his power to command. Even the ascension of the Protestant William of Orange to the throne of England was effectuated not by the right of succession, but by an invitation from the Parliament.  

     Thereafter, the power to command would depend upon the need to receive formal, legislative consent which, while a significant advance for democracy, was not without its downside. Since political institutions were, in Locke's view, of dubious legitimacy and should exercise only limited, arbitral, transitory authority, there has always dwelt within the corpus of the liberal consensus  of thos country a sense of the fragility of social and public institutions because they were created in the American Republic by an act of covenanting.

    This toxic brew of fear, anxiety, vulnerability, and concern about the fragility, and hence, stability, of political and social institutions, has contributed to the periodic eruptions of extremely ugly incidents in American politics. Harvard historian Louis Hartz in his justly famous study of The Liberal Tradition In America characterized this phenomenon as "irrational Lockianism."

     The Salem Witch trials and the frequent preemptive forays into Indian territories by colonial settlers who feared Indian insurrections (which, in turn, lead to the extermination of countless numbers of the aborigines) were precursors to the kind of hysteria that gripped the newly-independent United States after the French Revolution. The XYZ and Citizen Genet affairs were the precipitants for the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in the administration of John Adams.

    Later, recurrent fears of slave insurrections in the first half of the nineteenth century prompted the enactment of ever-more punitive laws in the slave-holding states to punish "run-aways," abolitionists, and anyone who tried to educate a slave. In the 1840s, the Native American Party -the Know-Nothings -emerged in the Northeastern United States in response to a climate of intolerance and fear that had been preceded by the burning and sacking of an Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1834, and by frequent attacks upon Irish and other Catholic immigrants.

    In the twentieth century, the imprisonment of war critics, such as the socialist Eugene Debbs during World War I, and the aggressive acts of Attorney General Palmer's "Red Raids" after the Bolshevik Revolution exemplified the kind of war frenzy and jingoism to which Americans have so often succumbed. Two decades hence, after the isolationism espoused by Father Coughlin and the America First Committee proved to be delusional, the attack on Pearl Harbor made palatable the confinement of thousands of American citizens--citizens of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast of the United States were forced into internment camps, without trial or any evidence of personal guilt, for the duration of World War II.

    Justice Black's infamous decision in Korematsu v. United States, 321 U.S. 760 (1944) excused this mass imprisonment. His decsion is stark evidence - which has been confirmed on countless other occasions throughout American history - of the timidity of the federal judiciary within this putatively liberal democracy to defend the most basic civil liberties whenever the courage to decry public hysteria is required.  Instead, the courts have, with few precious exceptions, routinely deferred to the executive branch's claims of a national emergency even where the evidence has showed that the alleged emergency - such as the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 - did not threaten or imperil the continued existence of the United States.

    An exaggerated fear of vulnerability and danger was continually fueled by politicians during the Cold War after World War II. Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and a cabal of professional fear-mongers and political opportunists successfully inflamed the worries and concerns of ordinary citizens about the evils of socialism and the purported Communist infiltration of American institutions and now the threats of terrorism.

    Later, this lamentable penchant to induce and to pander to the most base fears and anxieties of ordinary Americans for purely partisan political purposes was honed and perfected by the administration of Bush-Cheney and by their Svengali, Karl Rove. Equally appalling was the unsuccessful attempt by Rudolph Guliani to win the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination by running, as then-Delaware-Senator Joseph Biden remarked, "on a noun, a verb, and 9/11."

     Sadly, even President Obama has acquiesced to the emergence of the "Homeland Security" state with his continued endorsement of extra-judicial imprisonments in Guantanamo , wiretaps and other forms of extensive surveillance that strike at the very heart of all notions of legitimate privacy.

    The root of this exaggerated fear on the part of the courts and our elected political leadership can be directly traced to the liberal ethos of our politics: Because we have accepted the proposition that our institutions and even government itself are fragile because they are mere creatures of contract, we fear that all of our institutions are vulnerable to dissolution and disruption, particularly when subjected to outside stresses.    

    This country's legacy of individualism has contributed to the sense of social isolation, fear, and vulnerability that so many Americans harbor. It poses a danger and a challenge to the American body politic, our sense of who we are, and how confident we are in our ability to confront the challenges of the future. The attendant fear - that forces more powerful than the self pose a threat to personal autonomy - may, in large part, explain the anger, frustration, and vitriol exemplified by the Tea Party movement which first came to prominence in the summer of 2009.

    As Erich Fromm observed in The Escape From Freedom, "The individual became more alone, isolated, became an instrument in the hands of overwhelmingly strong forces outside of himself; he became an 'individual' but a bewildered and insecure individual." Hence, as Fromm notes, "Once the primary bonds which gave security to the individual are severed, once the individual faces the world outside of himself as a completely separate entity, two courses are open to him since he has to overcome the unbearable stage of powerlessness and aloneness. By one course he can progress to 'positive freedom'; he can relate himself spontaneously to the world in love and work...he can thus become one again with man, nature and himself, without giving up the independence and integrity of his individual self. The other course is to fall back, to give up his freedom, to try to overcome his aloneness by trying to eliminate the gap which has arisen between his individual self and the world."

    If we heed Fromm's sage advice, in the midst of our adversity, we will discover an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to remain an open society in which all of us accept our obligations to look out for one another. We will also not to be cowed by the forces of evil or the advocates of repression, but rather will choose to respond rationally and proportionately to every single incident of terrorism. As Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, as Americans we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

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Shouldn't Teachers Help Children Learn To Reason?

     Most Americans are at least vaguely familiar with the data that shows that, at almost every level, school children in the United States are out-performed academically by their peers throughout Western Europe and in Southeast Asia. This data is equally compelling whether the  subject-matter tested for measures knowledge of mathematics and science or the  ability to read, use and understand language properly, or the ability to draw proper inferences from the materials presented and to think logically.

    An article appeared in The New York Times ("Students Told to Take Viewpoint of the Nazis," by Jesse McKinley, April 12, 2013) that provides a focus and a context for these continuing concerns. McKinley reports that students at Albany High School were given what he described as " an alarming thought puzzle":  A Tenth Grade English teacher assigned about 75 students  a "persuasive writing" exercise. The students were instructed to imagine that their teacher was a Nazi and they were told to construct an argument that Jews were "the source of our problems." In support of their argument, they were told to use historical propaganda and the traditional essay format: "Your essay must be five paragraphs long, with an introduction, three body paragraphs containing your strongest arguments, and a conclusion," the assignment read. "You do not have a choice in your position: you must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!"

    The assignment - which was first reported by The Times Union of Albany - elicited a tsunami of criticism from school district administrators, rabbis and "concerned"  parents.

     "Obviously, we have a severe lack of judgment and a horrible level of insensitivity," Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, the superintendent of Albany schools, observed, "That's not the assignment that any school district, and certainly not mine, is going to tolerate." Dr. Wyngaard later met with Jewish leaders in Albany and was reported to have offered a public apology on Friday. She opined that the assignment was apparently an attempt to link the English class with a history lesson on the Holocaust. Although Dr. Wyngaard insisted that,"No one here believes that malice was the intent," the teacher has been suspended and faces disciplinary action that the superintendent said could include termination. 

     Rabbi David M. Eligberg of Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Albany, told McKinley that the lesson was "incendiary, inappropriate and academically unsound." "The assignment is flawed in its essence," Rabbi Eligberg was also quoted as saying. "It asks students to take the product for a propaganda machine and treat it as legitimate fodder for a rational argument. And that's just wrong." Rabbi Eligberg even criticized a part of the assignment which instructed students to use one of three classic Greek ideals -ethos, pathos or logos - to support their anti-Semitic argument. ("Choose which argument style will be most effective in making your point. Please remember that your life here in Nazi Germany in the '30s may depend on it!" the assignment read.)

    Rabbi Donald P. Cashman of the B'nai Sholom Reform Congregation, whom McKinley's article identified as the father of three Albany High School graduates, was described as  more forgiving. "Hypothetical situations are often effective teaching tools," he stated, and debating positions one may not believe in can also be valuable. "We know it's important for kids to get out of their comfort zones," Rabbi Cashman remarked and added that the assignment seemed to correspond with Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah, which was commemorated on April 7th and 8th of last week.

    Nick Brino, a 10th grade student, heard about the assignment secondhand from a classmate. "I thought it was wrong," he said, "But she was flipping out, saying if anyone was going to do it, she wasn't going to be their friend."

    A ninth-grader, Jyasi Nagel, stated that he thought the teacher was not anti-Semitic, but was just trying to teach different points of view. His father, Moses Nagel, did not advocate a harsh punishment for the teacher, but still said that he thought  another topic might have   provided a more suitable lesson. "It just seems like there's a million other examples to use rather than going there," he noted.

      In the United Kingdom, for generations, universities and secondary schools have sponsored and endowed debating societies. Perhaps Oxford University's is the most famous. A primary goal of these debating societies has always been to train young men - and now women - to stand for public office and to prepare them to become Members of Parliament. As a consequence, the ability to think quickly on one's feet, to rapidly dispose of hostile questions from the audience, and to argue from different perspectives (even if not believed) and to debate seemingly inane or vile topics have become the standard repertoire of successful debaters.
    In the U.S., since the late 19th century, colleges and universities - and increasingly now many high schools - have also sponsored debating clubs and societies, albeit for more prosaic purposes. Unlike their British counterparts who explicitly acknowledge a nexus between reasoned discussion and the kind of informed civic discourse that is the lifeblood of democracy, many American debaters would also suggest that the art of debating is good preparation for entering into the rough and tumble of the world of commerce. In the U.S., too, while university debating topics are more formal, and the debate format more restrained (audience participation is prohibited), it is not unusual in special, non-competition tournaments for the debate judges to ring a bell in the middle of an argument and require the debater, without prior notice, to immediately begin to argue against the very proposition that the debater had only moments before been advancing.

    The purpose of debating is to develop the intellectual agility that will enable future citizens and public office holders to quickly understand opposing arguments and the evidence upon which they rest in order to be able dissect the strengths and weaknesses of each asserted proposition.

    Most serious debaters, as part of their formal training, have also studied Aristotle's Rhetoric and can immediately recognize and challenge faulty logic - non-sequiturs ( it does not follow), non causa pro causa ( noncause for the cause), reductio ad absurdum,  post hoc ergo propter hoc, (after this, because of this) and the classic fallacies - argumentum ad populum, ad baculum, ad verecundiam, ad hominem, etc.        
    The Times' article raises profoundly disturbing issues, especially in view of the fact that so few young American adolescents will ever be exposed to a formal course in logic or join a debating team. It also raises serious questions about academic freedom and the extent to which the First Amendment's guarantee of fee speech protects the rights of teachers, the extent to which school districts are truly committed to development of critical thinking skills among pupils, and the extent to which teachers should be invested with autonomy and wide latitude - as licensed and qualified professionals and consistent with the curriculum  - to raise controversial issues and to utilize controversial strategies without censorship by non-teachers, whether superintendents, school administrators, clergy or parents.

    The suspension of this tenth grade English teacher is inimical to the open exchange of ideas between teachers and learners in a democratic society. If disturbing, unseemly, and unsettling questions are the Rubicon beyond which teachers in U.S. school districts may not cross, the moral development model of inquiry, for example, that was created by Lawrence Kohlberg will also become another outlier: Kohlberg's work, based upon Piaget's developmental psychology and Kant's ethical precepts, could never again never be used in a classroom because debate and the open discussion of each moral dilemma presented are essential and indispensable parts of the process by which the quality of empathy and a broader understanding of one's obligations as a moral agent are cultivated.

     How can young people learn to apply the lessons of logic and develop the ability to distinguish between propaganda and good evidence, truth and falsity, if they have never been required to try to defend the indefensible?

    Isn't this teacher being punished because, in our politically correct culture, we would rather not think about unsettling ideas, but simply declare them to be out of bounds?
    Didn't the Germans in the 1930s think that they, too, were ordinary people?

    Weren't the Western democracies, including the United States, morally complicit when they refused to allow safe-havens for Jewish emigres who were attempting to escape the Nazi genocide?

    Didn't Pope Pius XII remain silent and decline to excommunicate Adolph Hitler, despite his crimes against humanity and violations of fundamental Catholic teaching?
    Didn't most Southern whites before the Civil War believe that they, too, not unlike the Germans of the 1930s, were virtuous, misunderstood and support slavery as that "peculiar institution?"

    Didn't most Southern whites, with the acquiescence and tacit acceptance of the rest of the American population, support Jim Crow and the persistent violence and degradation of Southern blacks until the 1960s?

      Although not of the same magnitude of evil as the pogroms against European Jews, didn't most "decent" white Southerners abandon the Democratic Party because the party of their historic allegiance finally divorced itself from Jim Crow and became the party of civil rights?

    Weren't the appeals to the "silent majority" and the "Southern strategy" of Nixon and Reagan, the latter's criticisms of "welfare queens," the elder Bush's Willie Horton ads, and the GOP's continued blatant appeals to the resentments and grievances of hard-scrabble working-class white citizens akin to the Nazi's strategy of blaming the Jews for most of that country's ills?

    Isn't the ability to analogize and to draw parallels and deduce inferences an essential part of the learning process?
    Doesn't the very survival of democracy depend upon the ability of citizens to make informed decisions based upon actual evidence and the reasoned analysis of that evidence, no matter how disconcerting it may be to our own cherished worldviews?

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