Al Jones: There is no ‘other hand’
The saga of the San Francisco school renaming process continues. When the name of Malcolm X Academy, an elementary school, came before the re-naming committee, the chair assumed it would receive an automatic pass to keep its existing name.
Then one member pointed out that Malcolm had been a pimp and a misogynist as a young man. Under the committee’s single-strike rule, one offense is sufficient to have a name removed. Malcolm should be out and the school re-named.
A 10-minute conversation ensued, unusual in the committee’s process (they un-named both the Washington and Lincoln schools in 30 seconds combined). In the end, the committee decided that Malcolm had engaged in a restorative process that atoned for his earlier failures. His name will stay on the building.
“On the other hand,” one might reply, “Dianne Feinstein Elementary will be renamed because of a Confederate flag that she inherited from earlier mayors. If Malcolm can be forgiven because of his restorative acts, certainly the senator can be forgiven, too. Her restorative act removed the battle flag from San Francisco permanently. And she restored the cable cars.”
The Western liberal tradition on which our democracy is founded prizes objectivity. People evaluate facts impartially and weigh them logically against consistent standards, then come to a conclusion as to the best course forward. Considered logically and objectively, either Malcolm’s name should come off his building or Feinstein’s name should remain on hers.
An anti-racist meme posits a “Pyramid of White Supremacy.” At the top, “Genocide.” At the bottom, one of the elements holding up the whole evil structure, “Two sides to every story.” That is, “on the one hand, on the other hand.”
Like the Soviets in their time, today’s progressive left believes that their path is the only path. If the objective consideration of the facts does not lead to the desired outcome, then the facts and their consideration are proof of systemic racism. Two plus two can indeed equal five. And the answer can change to six without notice. No one is ever sure if they are on stable ground. Just ask Andrew Cuomo.
The Malcolm X discussion exposes this attitude perfectly. “On the one hand, on the other hand? What are you talking about? Malcolm is good, Dianne is bad, there’s nothing to debate.”
In other words, there is no other hand.
People with absolutely no personal stake in the future are leading this march from individual freedom: a 70-year-old Senate majority leader, an 81-year-old House speaker and a 78-year-old president. Were they back in their prime 20 years ago, none of them would be taking us down this dangerous path, one so inimical to their freedoms and ours.
They are doing it to hold onto their own personal power long past their sell-by dates. That, though, is a topic for another Other Voices, should The Union choose to print it.
Knowing that the world’s largest totalitarian societies arose through violent revolutions may lull us into complacency.
Yet democracies have voted away their freedoms peacefully. The citizens of the German Weimar Republic effectively brought Hitler to power through an elective process.
Putin took the democracy he inherited from Yeltsin and used its structures to create his authoritarian rule.
The Venezuelans elected Hugo Chávez, who promptly did the same thing, taking his people down a path of ruin. They remain there to this day, 20 years later.
So on the other hand, it doesn’t take a revolution to cancel our freedoms. It can happen here.
Al Jones lives in Grass Valley.
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