Saturday, September 14, 2019

Talk Civility to Me

Editors' Note: Now that the Red Sox have resumed their 20th century behavior (huge expectations followed by collapse), thus bringing the baseball season to an end, you may find yourself with time on your hands. Why not pick up a good book? Excellent idea!  We recommend One Man's Meat by E.B. White. Whatever you do, don't go near any of this fall's unreadable tomes. As a reminder to recent Spy devotees, an unreadable book is not just bad, it's so trite and obvious that you can absorb its contents without having to so much as open its cover. For example: 

A Republic if You Can Keep It
by Neil Gorsuch
Crown Forum
$30, already marked down to $17.99

You'll recall Neil Gorsuch as a supporting player in one of the most seedy and corrupt bits of political business in recent decades: the decision by the Republican Party to deny real President Barack Obama the right to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, not because the nominee was unqualified (the nominee being the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Merrick Garland), but because the Republicans wanted to see if by some Moscow-directed miracle, their candidate would win in 2016 and thus fill the seat with a reliable reactionary Republican.

Neil Gorsuch learned how important civility was
from an early age.
So it was, and so Neil Gorsuch now occupies Merrick Garland's seat, one brick in the crushing conservative majority on that Court.  Therefore we are surprised to learn that his book embodies a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, warning in effect that a Constitution was all well and good, but it would take the continuing commitment of later generations to democracy, representative government, and the rule of law to protect the infant nation.

You'd expect from the title a dire warning from “Thanks Mitch” Gorsuch about the peril in which the Republic finds itself, but you'd be wrong.  Instead what you're going to get is a rehash of the complaints of privileged white men who live in fear that their power and glory will be undermined by those less worthy than themselves, e.g., women, people of color, immigrants, and even fellow white men who don't regard the current corrupt plutocracy as entirely consistent with the ideals that animate the best of our country.

Much of the whining is couched in terms of “civility:” the rejection of any criticism of white male power on the grounds that it is not sufficiently restrained or eloquent.  All things considered, we like civility too, or at least not getting the finger when we try to merge on to the Mass. Pike at rush hour.

But, as Rebecca Traister and others have pointed out, civility as a cover for the effort to delegitimize the justified complaints of the oppressed and powerless is, to put it civilly, a crock.  To put it less civilly, it's a tool of oppression.

Indeed, the entitled white man view of civility is entirely cramped: it's civil to wrest babies from their mother's breasts and chuck them into cages, gerrymander minorities into political irrelevance, and subvert all American political norms in the relentless pursuit of money and power.  Calling a reactionary white male hack a “bedbug” (in the context of a news report about actual bedbugs at his workplace) – that's beyond the pale.

Is it civil for a mediocre white lawyer who has spent his entire life enjoying his privilege and in turn working to bend the law to advance it to demand (as Gorsuch does) that if you don't like the current arrangement of power and wealth in America, you should leave the country?

We think we have the answer:

Fuck no.

How to Fight Anti-Semitism
by Bari Weiss
Crown (again)
$20, already marked down to $15.46

Here's what you can learn by reading Bari Weiss's book:
1. Anti-Semitism is bad
2. That's all she knows about it

Tell you what, just send us $10 and we'll call it even.
Bari Weiss interviewed the leading authorities on anti-Semitism

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