Tuesday, July 08, 2003

CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE. Reading Volokh on Pat Buchanan, I unexpectedly came across a very entertaining passage. Volokh manfully challenges Buchanan's South-was-Right routine, an exercise by which many a young rightist has shown his ability to rise in the Organization; but as he pursues his prey he finds himself ensnared in thickets, not to mention brackets:

The Southern states were not ruled by the people, and as a result neither was the nation. They were ruled by white people. (I set aside here the ineligibility of women to vote, for various reasons; the chief one is that such ineligibility was nearly universal throughout the world at the time, and certainly on both sides of the Civil War, and didn't really begin to diminish in a material way for several decades [race discrimination in voting was prohibited throughout the nation de jure, if not really de facto, by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870; sex discrimination in voting only began to erode around then, and wasn't accomplished nationally until 1920]. I'm hesitant to fault people for falling into universal errors.)...

I find it interesting that folks who get eloquently angry about affirmative action and the terrible injustices it causes white people get a little tongue-tied when special occasions force them to defend the elemental rights of unprivileged classes. So women's lack of suffrage is to one side because it was then "nearly universal" -- sounds like one o' them there "cultural" arguments to me -- and what an insult to 19th-century white males, to presume that they didn't know no better! Next thing you know, Volokh will be sanctioning ritual clitorectomies.

I kid. But I sympathize. When you're right-wing, it's never easy when the talk turns to historic injustices. By rightie lights, even laying blame for slavery on the U.S.A. as a nation is tough -- partly because American conservatives reflexively defend the U.S. no matter what, and partly because of their philosophical temperment (countries don't discriminate, autonomous individuals do!). But if they have to admit one such offense -- as the Buchanan turkey-shoot necessitated -- then, if they're at all honest with themselves, several others (women, Indians, Jews, Chinese-Americans, etc.) come tumbling out of the cupboards. And the question is begged: have we spent too much time congratulating ourselves at the injustices we have begun to redress, and not enough on those we have barely acknowledged?

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