Friday, March 27, 2015

Death as an Abstraction

Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks

News of the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 creates a familiar refrain: Another person has chosen to end life with the destruction of those in his or her proximity.
Death is an abstraction to these individuals.  It might incorporate an element of fantasy, in that death allows that individual to achieve a higher state of being.  However, it is not something associated with grief, despair, or the more humanist emotions.  Abstract death is devoid of emotion.
We don’t yet know if the Germanwings co-pilot exhibited a penchant for the Hate, but shouldn’t be surprised if it surfaces.  Death and hatred share an embrace.  Abstract death reflects the highest form of the Hate.
I bring this up because our news organizations carefully avoid associating the teaching of hate with its ultimate expression.  Our culture won’t go there.
A recent example is the efforts of Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, in promoting the Race Together initiative.  He tells us that “the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in the country, not just a select few.”
Mr. Schultz knows that racism exists only with Republicans.  He sees himself as an altruist, working to remove the scourge of White Male Privilege from Republicans.  There is no need to change the wealth and personal makeup of people such as George Clooney or himself.  They are above it all.  It is Republicans who must pay reparation.
People inherently feel uncomfortable (especially Republicans!) when they are being taught to hate under a guise of altruism.  That’s natural.  What’s surprising is that recognition of the technique cannot be addressed in our culture.
Luckily, a free market will drive home reality for Mr. Schultz.  While sales of Starbucks beverages might soar in locations such as Seattle or San Francisco, I would imagine the “Race Together” initiative created significant sales declines in Utah and North Dakota.
Death and the Hate are fascinating topics for discussion, yet our culture fixates on racism.  Dan Henninger, Deputy Editor of the Editorial Page for The Wall Street Journal posted his “Wonder Land” column yesterday.  (Text copied at the bottom of this post.)
Mr. Henninger tells us that it takes some ability to use race in promoting the anti-Republican political message.  He shows how president Obama and Eric Holder are skilled at it.  Howard Schultz is not.
Race, Hate, Death:  Two of these are timeless issues to address in our culture and in human affairs.  One of them is used for political advantage by the Democratic Party.
That’s the one that gets attention in our American culture.

UPDATE 2/16/2016:
Mr. Schultz shows us how Starbucks confronts misogyny.  This from an article in The Washington Times by Tammy Bruce:

A person attempting to be a Starbucks customer was waylaid by the 6th century. Thinking she would get her java at the Riyadh Starbucks, instead she received some tall extra-fat Sharia and encountered a sign which she promptly tweeted. Outside the coffee shop was a notice that read in English and Arabic, “Please no entry for ladies only send your driver to order thank you.”

Social media exploded when “ManarM” tweeted, “#Starbucks store in Riyadh refused 2 serve me just because I’m a WOMAN; asked me 2 send a man instead.”

Confirming the situation, Starbuck’s issued a statement to CNN that was not filled with disgust and outrage, but instead, excuses. It cited “local customs” and “local law” as it explained that the only reason women were temporarily banned from that Starbucks was because they needed to build a gender wall inside the store.

Race After Obama

Redefining the issue to make solutions possible.

Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz took it in the neck from all sides for asking his baristas to chat up half-awake customers about race in America. Mr. Schultz, however, is merely one voice in the conversation on race, which since the Ferguson shooting and Selma’s 50th anniversary has settled on American politics like winter in the East, harsh and unending.
While much of it is predictable or discouraging, others are trying something really new—a positive point of view. We start with the discouraging words.
The nomination of Loretta Lynch, the black federal prosecutor from the Brooklyn district, has elicited comments about her delayed confirmation vote in the Senate.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar.”
North Carolina’s Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus: “I think race certainly can be considered a major factor in the delay.”
These two members of Congress are saying some Senate Republicans, five decades after a bipartisan vote passed the Civil Rights Act, are opposed to Loretta Lynch because she is black.
When the president of the United States was asked if race was playing a role in the delayed nomination, Mr. Obama replied, “I don’t know about that.”
Eric Holder said, “My guess is that there is probably not a huge racial component to this.” He added that “this is really just D.C. politics.”
A fair parsing of these comments by the president and attorney general also suggests the possibility of racism among Senate Republicans.
Mr. Obama could have said, “No. I do not believe race is an issue in the Lynch nomination.” Instead he said, “I don’t know about that.”
Mr. Holder could have said it was all about Washington politics. Instead he said the racial component “probably” isn’t “huge.”
Others, whose work doesn’t require them to look at all of American life through the keyhole of politics, have different ideas.
Appearing on “The Daily Show” a few weeks ago, the hip-hop singer and actor Common discussed race relations with Jon Stewart. Common had just won the Academy Award, with John Legend, for the title song to the movie “Selma.”
“We all know racism exists,” he said. Then he said, “Let’s forget about the past as much as we can and let’s move from where we are now. How can we help each other? Can you try to help us because we are going to try to help ourselves, too.”
The popular rapper ASAP Ferg said something along these lines in an interview with National Public Radio last week. Rephrasing ASAP Ferg’s words is a tricky proposition, so the interview itself remains the best source for his thinking on race. He did say he thinks the charge of racism has become a cult: “I think it’s a cult-like thing . . . Because whoever is pushing this agenda of people being racist, they like, ‘Yo. Keep doing it. Keep doing it. Yeah. Yeah.’”
In an interview with Oprah last April, music producer Pharrell Williams talked about a “New Black” movement, which he says “doesn’t blame other races for our issues.”
At Vanderbilt University last week, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said every black person in America should vote Republican in one election: “You [black voters] have labeled yourself ‘disenfranchised’ because one party knows they’ve got you under their thumb. The other party knows they’ll never get you and nobody comes to address your interest.”
As the Obama presidency ends, the status quo on race is in a bad place.
If media coverage reflects reality (a limitless “if”), the country’s racial polarization is as bad as most people can remember. Ferguson, Staten Island, the Brooklyn cop killings, the Oklahoma fraternity—a visitor from Mars might conclude next to nothing good has happened since Selma. On the surface of politics, the left browbeats the right in a bleak, zero-sum standoff.
In some conservative circles, a school of reduction holds that the black vote is gone and the Hispanic vote is a waste of time. The future lies in reanimating the 1980s voting bloc of Reagan Democrats that Ted Cruz identified his campaign with this week.
But just as there is black opinion talking now about getting past the Sharpton race cult and extending a hand, some of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates are doing the same thing.
Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, in words or with policies (such as Gov. Bush’s early school-choice program), have sought minority support. Gov. Christie has done a lot of town halls in black neighborhoods across New Jersey, and in 2013 got 21% of the state’s black vote. Shaquille O’Neal did commercials for Mr. Christie.
The race issue will remain after the Obama years. Emerging now is a desire to redefine this subject in ways that make it available to solution.
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