Wear out the welcome
By Daniel M. Ryan
The word "brazen" could be applied to Louis Farrakhan's latest ravings, or gambit. It's one matter to derogate an entire religion in insulting and hateful terms. It's another to present the derogation to non-clerical representatives of that same religion and make demands for a "dialogue" with them.
I must say that nothing of the sort has ever popped up in my home country of Canada. Some of my fellow Canadians, as well as other foreigners, would interpret this odd variant of American exceptionalism as proof of the harms and horrors of slavery. After all, Farrakhan is African-American; so is the bulk of the Nation of Islam he heads up.
Excusing it on this basis doesn't make an awful lot of sense, as Farrakhan is blaming a small minority who had little influence on the course of American history in antebellum days. Yes, there were Jewish people who lived in the South in slavery times. There were some that fought side-by-side with Gentiles for the Confederacy back then; both Jew and Gentile saw themselves as fighting for a common homeland. But that does not mean Jewish people were influential in setting up and maintaining the institution of slavery. Jewish people were peripheral to the Old South Establishment; in essence, they were living by the rules that others had set.
I need hardly mention the fact that there were Jewish people on the side of the North and Jewish abolitionists. They too lived in their time and place, and with their beliefs.
If the psychological aftereffects of almost a century and a half past were the true reason, there is still something squalid about taking it out on Jewish people. Leaving aside Farrakhan's flagrant distortion of the facts, it's a far more established fact that Jewish influence on the civil rights movement has been far more than peripheral. If the desire to help African-Americans were solely motivated by expiation, as Farrakhan and his ilk seem to believe, then the greatest striving to help African-Americans would have come from the old plantation circuit. The voter-registration drives would have been filled with southern belles and their beaux, as that group would have the most to expiate in terms of ancestral guilt. Had "Whitey" only been motivated by guilt and shame, there wouldn't have been so many Northerners (and Republicans!) taking the Freedom Rides to register black voters. The legacy of the old South wasn't their problem; they had no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. Yet, they were there in force. If slavery were to blame, then the legacy of slavery would have to include a corrosive cynicism which imputes the belief that there's no goodness in anyone's heart except in an in-group.
If slavery were to blame, it would have to be said that the psychological aftereffects of one and a half centuries ago, in one region of America, induced a subtle type of cowardice. The kind of cowardice exhibited by the sorry fellow who slaps his mother around because he won't confront the people who are leaning on him. "Can't" doesn't apply. The Congressional Black Congress has been around for a long time; it's an influential power bloc on Capitol Hill. President Obama is himself African-American. He's the President; the buck stops, or at least should stop, with him. Ever since 1964, any bill with "civil rights" in its title has sailed through without effectual opposition. There hasn't been one filibuster of any of them in my lifetime, and I'm just past middle age. Needless to say, none were vetoed. Despite affirmative action being explicitly contrary to the original intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's been solidly implanted by the American government. The notion that these people are "powerless" simply because of the color of their skin won't stand up to critical scrutiny. It's not that they can't attack a more culpable group, it's that they won't.
Another, More Cynical Explanation
Some people might have cocked an eyebrow at my use of the word "cowardice," wondering if the word can apply to Farrakhan and his group. It was presented for argument's sake, because the alternative – that he and they are in fact brave – is consistent with a less halo-like cast on their actions. To put it bluntly: if Farrakhan is as brave as he claims, then his aim has little to do with seeking long-after-the-fact justice. There is one goal that would make him a fearless man for taking the course he's taken: he really has it in for the Jews. In other words, he really is anti-Semitic and is politicking as such.
Given the anti-Semitism prevalent in radical Muslim ranks, he could be motivated by the desire to be seen as a "player" in those ranks. As fantastic as this may sound, his desire may be to one-up the white racialists. As this ADL article explains, Farrakhan's speech of June 26th put the "black" into the Christian Identity heresy.
One of the behavior patterns of Democrats in power, particularly liberal ones, is commingling domestic and foreign policy. Three days after Farrakhan's speech, but prior to his 'confronting' of several Jewish organizations, the Obama Administration's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, gave a speech herself entitled "Combating Intolerance and Discrimination Against Muslims." Given the prevalence of all-but-official anti-Semitism in radical Muslim ranks, this speech at first blush was both odd and tasteless. The oddity, however, disappears when that commingling is taken into account. It hints at the Obama Administration believing that Farrakhan's anti-Semitism has less to do with the echoes of slavery than with the core of his own faith and supposed discrimination by others against that faith. Farrakhan is, of course, the head of the Nation of Islam.
There's only one explanation consistent with Farrakhan and his cohorts exhibiting genuine fearlessness: he 'confronted' those Jewish organizations as a Muslim of a certain sort, and as a genuine and conscious anti-Semite. His rantings are really a bid for power at the Jews' expense.
One of the better features of American exceptionalism is the fact that America has never had a pogrom. (Neither has Canada, but we Canadians don't make a big deal of it.) There is some cause to believe Farrakhan has pogrom as a long-term aim. He and his ilk may claim they have no power, but that's not because of the color of his skin or even the Nation of Islam's interpretation of Islam. The reason why the Nation of Islam has little or no power is because there are enough grounds for reasonable people to make a prudent judgment about what he would do had he had power: namely, take steps towards pogrom.
Doing so would make America a lot less than a city on a hill. It would be the political analog to America's first famine.
Daniel M. Ryan is currently watching The Gold Bubble.