aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Facts are stubborn things (you hope)

Yesterday was All Jeremiah Wright, All the Time on cable TV. My perception of him differed greatly from the secularized commentators.

I found him to be personally engaging, funny, and intelligent. I don't agree with him, but I know lots of people like him, white and black. But then, I'm a clergyman.

The most disturbing thing he said didn't get much response, perhaps because the idea is too complicated to deal with by talking heads shouting over each other. When asked if he really believed that the US government created the AIDS virus in order to kill off people of color, Wright cited the Tuskegee experiment on black men suffering from syphilis -- an authentically awful episode in American history -- and went on to say that he believed the US government was capable of anything.

My mind immediately flashed on an old TV show examining the life of Thomas Jefferson. The question of whether he fathered Sally Hemings's child(ren) is a thorny one. The Hemings family spent years badgering the (other?) descendants of Jefferson to gain admission to the family reunions at Monticello. Some of Jefferson's descendants embraced the Hemings claim, others didn't. DNA seems to prove that some Jefferson fathered one or more Hemings children, but Randolph Jefferson seems a better candidate than Thomas. So you pays your money and you takes your choice.

But when one black historian was asked whether he believed that Thomas Jefferson fathered some or all of Sally's children, he replied that in the end, it didn't really matter. She was his slave, he said, and he could do anything he pleased with her. To me, that seemed like an incredible non sequitur.

But then, the Left doesn't care much for facts, just "truth." And what is truth, as Pilate asked? Well, whatever comforts "the community." The left believes that truth can be (in fact, of necessity is) manufactured. Critical Theory explicitly believes that all groups (including blacks and whites) are in eternal conflict over the resources of society (which includes not merely money, jobs, social power, and natural resources, but even words and facts). In the everlasting Zero Sum Game of life, there are no irrelevant issues -- everything either advantages me, to your cost -- or vice versa.

And why is this such a problem? Why are we white folks so obsessed with the stability of facts? The lefties (including the black grievance lobby) say it's because the facts as currently constructed favor us, so we want them to stay the way they are, because that keeps us up and all others down. But there's another reason.

Let us suppose that we have a guy who has committed a terrible crime. Maybe he went to prison for it, or maybe he got off on a technicality. But that he actually did the deed is not in dispute. He even admits it. So, he has done a terrible thing. Some years later, a very similar crime is committed by somebody in the society of which this guy is a member. Suspicion immediately attaches to him. He did it before; he's obviously capable of doing such things; therefore, he's guilty. "The community" demands that he be punished. Trial is a mere formality. Put him away!

Now, admittedly, the "presumption of innocence" is sometimes hard to maintain, especially when people who have done provably bad things are on trial for similar bad acts. But it's still important. It's not only important for this person's sake that his innocence be maintained until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but it's important for other reasons. Principal among those other reasons is the fact that if he did not actually commit this crime, somebody else did, and that person is still at large. That person getting away with the crime is not only an injustice, but a threat to everybody else in the society, for he might do it again.

And you'll notice that I haven't said what the racial/ethnic group of the accused was. This cuts both ways, and all groups in society have an interest in seeing that people are only convicted of crimes they actually did. Emotionally satisfying verdicts that see that somebody is punished -- somebody who fits our preconception of what kind of person would do this awful deed -- are terrible. Done by governments, they are the worst form of tyranny; done by communities, they are lynchings.

So, the US stands accused of having done terrible things, of which some are, in fact, true. There were government doctors in Tuskegee, Alabama, years ago who allowed black men with syphilis to go untreated, just so the doctors could see what happened. This is part of our national shame, and must never be covered up or excused. But this does not prove anything about AIDS.

Did the US government in fact create the AIDS virus for the purpose of genocide against people of color? To say so is not only an injustice against the US, but a refusal to seek and acknowledge the real origin of the virus and to assign responsibility for its spread on those whose behavior did, in fact, spread it. And that is a worse injustice than anything Rev. Wright complains of.

The Left talks endlessly of Justice, but their idea of justice always ends in injustice. In revolutionary France, it ended in the Terror. In Maoist China and Stalinist Russia, it led to the deaths of millions. Up in Canada right now, the lefties' Human Rights Commissions routinely drag ordinary people through the legal mill and fine them thousands of dollars on trumped-up charges of thought crimes.

The Left is not wrong because of this policy idea or that one. Policy ideas come and go, and often get adopted by new political parents after a while. As Comrade Deng once put it, "It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice." No, the Left is wrong because it wants us all to live in a world where facts have no stability, where no one is ever safe from condemnation, where instead of "speaking Truth to Power," Power (when I finally get my hands on it) declares what the Truth shall be.


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