As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
No sooner I say I’m going to refrain from something, I go ahead and do it anyway. All I can say is, I sit and stare blankly into space until an idea occurs to me. If I choose to ignore that idea, then I get nothing, and go back to staring into space until a concerned Carol sticks a cosmetic mirror under my nose. So here it is, in spite of my promise to avoid this type of thing.
Of the assault on the Capitol, there was this comment to a fb post on the event:
“From what I’ve seen, it’s despicable, just like all the other protests, riots and looting that occurred previously.”
Writing recently on the spiraling decline of the American Republic, University of Texas Professor Michael Lind draws a comparison between the Seattle Commune (the weeks’ long “occupation” of a downtown Seattle neighborhood over the killing of two Black men by local police) and the assault on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., arguing essentially both are different sides of the same coin.
Do we remember Christopher Columbus for his navigational prowess and skills as an explorer, and ignore the murder and enslavement of the native populations he discovered in the New World?
But are the protests of police violence against Blacks equivalent to what we saw in the halls and on the steps and the balconies of Congress? How about we put it this way: Do we remember Christopher Columbus for his navigational prowess and skills as an explorer, and ignore the murder and enslavement of the native populations he discovered in the New World? (Was it “new” to the Arawaks that had been there for thousands of years before Columbus?) Or to fast forward to more recent times: Do we remember Hitler for his vast oratorical skills and for designing the Autobahn and the Volkswagen? (He was also a budding painter and architectural artist. Should there be a gallery of his work in Berlin?)
In 1980 historian Howard Zinn published A People’s History of the United States. Turning the semi-cynical notion that “history is written by tbe winners” on its head, Zinn retold American history as a narrative of progress achieved through the efforts of the oppressed, the subjugated and the marginalized, and not the elite and powerful leaders of the country. Needless to say, the elite and powerful dismissed it as propaganda, and worse.
Zinn wasn’t simply trying to be a pain in the ass to his colleagues (though this is precisely what drew me to his writings). There was a real method to his madness, but since my own intellectual heft is nowhere equal to Zinn’s, I will not try to explain it, so much as to acknowledge that what I believe is derived from whatever it is Zinn was pedaling.
Zinn believes, for instance, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness to be a noble one. He calls it an “ultimate value.” The laws, public policies and traditions that are designed to bring us that ultimate value are the instruments necessary to achieve it and are called “instrumental values.” The rub comes from elevating the two to an equivalent significance. If peace (ultimate value) can only be achieved through a particular war (instrumental value), it’s a short trip to the Orwellian “war is peace.” Stretching that trip, if the only way for Columbus to achieve his ultimate value as a navigator and explorer par excellence was the subjugation and genocide of the Arawaks, then so be it. Likewise, if to achieve his ultimate value as an artist, Hitler needed to exterminate the Jews…
Both the Seattle Commune and the Capitol Insurrection conflated ultimate and instrumental values. But that should not obscure the fact that the ultimate values of either (racial justice for the one, racial hatred for the other) are, in fact, the moral opposites of each other, and that no equivalence is possible in a rational world.