Once more, our old buddie George Orwell gives us invaluable guidance on how to best deconstruct the pronouncements of the Kansas City Star editorial board…
In the phrase above, taken from Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, we hear the classic voice of authoritarianism. All groups in society are equal in theory but in actual practice the government favors those who are its most loyal political supporters, i.e. some indeed are “more equal” than others. The fact that the first part of the latter statement directly contradicts the second part can only escape someone with ideological blinders on.
The other way to analyze the Star’s offerings is to apply the methods of literary criticism, no matter how seemingly obscure. (I’ll admit I was formerly skeptical of most academic theory, just as I was skeptical of the writings of so-called mental health professionals. However, I read an article on “Narcissistic Personality Disorders” that succinctly explained a lot of otherwise inexplicable behavior by people I know so I’m willing to give the “lit-crits” a try!)
Literary deconstruction is an approach to analyzing writing, especially fiction.
It involves the close reading of text “in order to demonstrate that any given text has irreconcilably contradictory meaning rather than being a unified, logical whole.” If the text is by a KC Star opinion writer, you can be sure that’s true.
For four weeks our community has been shaken by the three killings on April 13th at the Jewish Community Center and the Shalom Geriatric Plaza. This is particularly upsetting for my family since my late aunt, Barbara Welch Sutherland, was one of the J.C.C.’s first members. The Shalom Geriatric Plaza is located on what was our family farm for many years at 123rd and Nall Avenue.
In view of last month’s tragedies, virtually every public voice has joined in deploring those who promote racial or ethnic hatred. The Star has been particular insistent on this point (“As A Community, we must move beyond silence”), especially when they can use these ritual denunciations to blame conservatives for the murders. Yet on April 20th, the Star’s Mary Sanchez wrote a column that was at best ambivalent about the desirability of race-baiter “Reverend” Jeremiah Wright’s scheduled speaking appearance in Kansas City that week.
The actual sponsor of Wright’s lecture was the St. Paul School of Theology, now located on the Overland Park campus of the Church of the Resurrection since losing its former home on Truman Road in K.C., MO. When the Church publicly disavowed any role in affording Wright a podium for his anti-white views, Sanchez at least implicitly criticized the Church for its hands-off posture (“Watch the distancing!” is how the Sanchez article sarcastically begins.)
Sanchez goes on to applaud Wright’s role in explaining the views of Dr. Martin Luther King in attacking evils such as racism, war, greed, AND CAPITALISM (emphasis added). However, she follows this with the confusing statement that while M.L.K. “famously” spoke against these evils, “readers may not be familiar” with such views because they have been “ill-phrased or taken out of context.” (Like Jeremiah Wright’s own views?)
In short, Ms. Sanchez has no tolerance for racial or religious prejudice, unless it comes from the Left and is directed at the perceived enemies of the Left. It then becomes thought provoking and worthy of a public hearing and debate.
Ms. Sanchez followed up on this myopic masterpiece with another angry screed on April 25th, five days later. In this article (“Affirmative Action Finds Brave Defense in Sonia Sotomayor’s Dissent”), Sanchez applauds Justice Sotomayor for her statement during her confirmation hearing to the effect that as a Latina woman she would bring unique wisdom and insight to the Supreme Court.
As a minority group member recruited by elite institutions like Princeton and Yale Law School under the racial spoils system that goes by the name Affirmative Action, it’s hard to see how the liberal justice can claim to have suffered discrimination first hand. Her claim, like that of Ms. Sanchez, to have suffered personal victimhood is dubious at best yet we’re supposed to believe that it is putative victimhood that gives her superior moral standing to understand and fight racism and prejudice.
What Sanchez and Sotomayor instead are unwittingly saying is that as people who have directly benefited from Affirmative Action, like the system of racial preference in college admissions under challenge in the Michigan case the Sanchez article is about, they have a vested interest in seeing the system preserved. They will angrily resist any attempt to change it, since any challenge to its fairness would undermine their own sense of self-worth. (That is the “brave(ry)” Sanchez refers to, i.e. angry defensiveness.)
The mental gymnastics that such defenders of Affirmative Action employ are pathetically self-contradictory. They vehemently deny that its use in connection with college admissions requires lower academic standards for minority students, yet no college or university will release the average GPA or S.A.T’s of incoming minority students. By the same token, the academic credentials of non-favored minorities (Asians!) are also treated as state secrets, because disclosing them would show such students have to meet higher standard than other applicants, minority and non-minority alike.
In the past when it was Jewish students who were subject to arbitrary enrollment quotas, liberals would argue that the only fair way to admit students to elite institutions was on the basis of objective standards, i.e. grades and test scores.
With the flexibility that makes them so adept, the same progressives who formerly scorned anything but strictly objective standards, now say that when it comes to black and hispanic applicants versus Asian applicants, you can’t just narrowly focus on grades and test scores. You have to look at the whole student. You have to have reward “strivers”, who may not have had a chance to acquire the credentials other applicants bring to the table.
If you want to create a truly national institution, you have to have a student body that looks like America. (These are the same people who scorned the old admissions office goals of the “well rounded student” or “geographic” diversity. When they say they want a diverse student body that looks like America, it’s Blue America only, the big cities on the two coasts, with a few college towns thrown in from fly-over country- Madison, Boulder, Ann Arbor, Austin, Columbia, Lawrence,etc.-for comic relief.)
Since I started writing these posts a year ago, I’ve raised the question of why we seem determined to give rewards of money and status disproportionately to the very top in any given field. This is why there is such vicious infighting over who should get in “top” (i.e., the most selective) schools, way out of proportion to the actual number of students involved. This goes beyond all the debate about how much we should tax the 1% or how we lessen growing income inequality.
Why is it that in sports, in music, in movies, in business, in finance, in the professions all the money and prestige go to a handful people of at the very top?Why,for example is the top paid executive at the The McClatchy Company,the Star’s publisher,paid two hundred times the annual wages of the lowest paid Star employee? How does the Star have the nerve to lecture anyone about “income inequality” ?
Why have we become a “winner-take-all” society? That seems to be the more important, threshold question that has to be answered. We have to decide who gets the rewards before we get down to setting the procedural rules on how they’re being handed out. We have to decide on the substance, that is, the kind of society we want, before we worry about procedure, i.e. who is (or is not) gaming the system through taxes, preferential hiring, etc.
The NASCAR track held a race here not long ago with a $2 million first prize.
There were no other prizes. Isn’t this an effective metaphor for the kind of society we’ve become? Until we answer these questions, the rest seem to me to be secondary in importance.