Friday, March 21, 2008

Parvum Opus 270 ~ Foi Grace


Number 270



Talking to my French student about the metaphorical uses of body parts, I said I thought I’d read that in French, the liver was supposed to be the seat of some admirable quality of mind or character. But he said this was a confusion between “foie” meaning liver and “foi” meaning faith. I was relieved since I am never aware of my liver and I’m not sure where it is.


From marathoner Ezra Sykes:

Marathon training continues as I progress through my own kind of March Madness. I'm injury free, and I still love running, both of which are good signs. Firstly, I want to thank everyone who has made a contribution to the charity for which I am running, MSPCC. Between family, friends, coworkers and strangers (well, not anymore), I have already raised $4,000! I am so appreciative of all you have done to support MSPCC and my running endeavors. Secondly, I am asking everyone who has not yet donated to consider it. The deadline is April 1, 2008, so time is running out! As you know, my goal is to raise $5,000. Donating is easy…Just go to to make a contribution. As an added incentive to donate, I am offering my CD Juvenile by Design as a thank-you gift. It's a seven-song album of children's music that friend David Brodie and I wrote and recorded. It's a great gift for any of the young ones in your life. If you would like multiple copies, I’d be happy to accommodate you. If you'd like me to mail you copies, just make sure I have your address. For more information about the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), visit Thanks so much for any support you can provide!


Do watch the new series, John Adams, on HBO. It’s very good. Even if you missed the beginning on Sunday, those episodes will probably be repeated. The author of the best selling biography, David McCullough, even likes the series. Some people are put off by Adams because of the Alien and Sedition Act and maybe one or two other missteps, but on the whole he was a very great man. In the movie he tells his wife that people need a strong government because so many of them are barbaric, and when you see a mob tarring and feathering a man, you have to agree. Not that Americans are worse than any other people. Adams was also scrupulously fair-minded, and successfully defended the British soldiers who fired into a mob in Boston (the Boston Massacre). But he was adamantly determined to create an independent United States out of the colonies.


Melvyn Bragg on doing a photo shoot for BBC’s In Our Time radio program:

The most memorable direction was “I want you to look pensive. Just clear your mind.”


Bob O. asked if Obama’s speech had changed my opinion of him. I wasn’t moved, flanked as he was by eight large American flags after he’s made an issue of not wearing a lapel flag. Here’s a sketchy outline in reply to Bob, whom I answered at length because I agree with him that this is an important election. We’ll call it an exercise in rhetorical analysis.

Naturally, if I liked Obama’s politics, I’d like his speech better, but I’ve had a bias against him ever since the remarks he made immediately following the Virginia Tech massacre, comparing that violence to the verbal “violence” of Don Imus’s insulting joke about the black girls on a championship basketball game. (How about the verbal violence of the Duke rape case?) This told me that Obama is all about race, even at a funeral, and he’s all about making political hay even out of deaths which had nothing to do with race.

||| Some have said that Wright’s rants were “out of context” and Obama said about himself that he’s like a projection screen on which different people can project different ideas. Am I going to believe them or my lying ears? Obama doesn’t want Wright to be judged by his most extreme statements, but a number of black TV commentators as well as parishioners exiting Wright’s church said his viewpoint is typical in many black churches and black Americans generally.

||| ... but America and white people in general are to be judged by their worst moments. Speaking for myself, I didn’t do the things Wright is angry about, my ancestors weren’t slave owners, and I haven’t profited noticeably by being white.

||| Slavery is long over, and the Civil Rights movement was pretty successful, even though every racist thought has not been eliminated from every white ~ or every black ~ mind. While many black people in this country are successful, the black community on the whole seems to be in worse shape than it was before the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, largely because of the break-up of the family, drugs, and gangs. Dave DaBee (who also likes Obama) referred me to a speech by Bill Cosby on the subject, which I think is more honest than and much superior to anything I’ve heard from Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama. Cosby said, “We’re raising our own ingrown immigrants.”

||| Anyone who’s still getting exercised about slavery should turn his attention to the slavery that exists all over the world today, instead of worrying about petty verbal insults. If Wright could follow his black family history back far enough, he might find that some of his ancestors had been stolen and sold by other ancestors or related tribes, which is worse than being bought and sold by strangers. (By the way, the New York Times reported that more black Africans have voluntarily immigrated to the U.S. than were brought here through slavery.)

||| Obama compared the ranting racist Wright to his grandmother, who said she was sometimes afraid of black men on the street. Find me any woman, black or white, who is not afraid in certain circumstances of being alone on the street with certain black ~ or white ~ men, particularly young guys who dress like gangsters or hip-hoppers ~ not older men with ties and briefcases. Even Jesse Jackson said the same thing. As Christopher Hitchens said, here’s a politician who pretty literally sold his grandmother.

||| Obama said he could not disown Wright any more than he could disown the black community. His loyalty is a virtue. But is he saying that all black people think the same? Or is he saying that he is disowning his white half?

||| Obama had first claimed ignorance of Wright’s views ~ after knowing him for more than 20 years ~ before claiming knowledge.

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely ~ just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

I haven’t been to any church with a minister who sounds like Wright, and I wouldn’t be a member of one. The erring ministers and priests know when they’ve done something contrary to their teachings, but what Wright thinks and teaches is wrong. “Christian values” ought to be enough for a church; why a church with “black values”? What are “white values”?

“Fierce critic” means Obama thinks America and the current administration are actively evil, i.e. responsible for 9/11, creating AIDS to commit genocide (though it’s most prevalent among gays), putting crack into the black community, and more. At least Obama blamed Muslim atrocities on the Muslims who commit them.

“Controversial” means hateful to whites and about whites ~ for example, Obama’s own mother, if she were alive, though perhaps she’d agree with Wright’s worldview. Controversial apparently doesn’t mean disputed by black people.

||| Obama blames the past for current black poverty, but most people of any color who are at least comfortable today are so because of their work, not because of inherited wealth, as he claims. Obama said on self-help:

Ironically, this quintessentially American ~ and yes, conservative ~ notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

Wright didn’t notice that society has changed a lot. That doesn’t mean that everyone will succeed, especially those who blame the past and other people for their failures. But it’s a waste of time to demand that “society” or everyone in it must be perfect or that everyone will like everyone else in order for everyone to succeed. It’s not going to happen. The Bible teaches us to help the poor, but Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.”

||| On education:

... by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.

Education is not about money. My parents went to one-room schools and came out better educated than many high school grads today. They grew up poor but did not become criminals when they moved to the city. Everybody can get books from a library, but they have to learn to read and they have to like reading, and home influence is essential. “Ladders of opportunity” have been provided to Obama and his wife, and to the current generation. What’s he talking about?

||| On health insurance:

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care.

This doesn’t even make sense. Those lines are people who are getting health care in the Emergency Room, free, because they don’t have insurance. Who’s paying for it? Everyone else. Which is exactly what he, and Clinton, want anyway.

His wind-up with the story about a girl named Ashley could be read differently. She made a sacrifice when her mother was ill. It’s not that I wouldn’t want her mother to have necessary medical care. But wasn’t it a good thing that this girl took the opportunity to sacrifice herself? This is the Christian message.

||| Obama’s picture on the current Rolling Stone cover has him virtually surrounded with a halo. Many people think it would be good for us to have a black president. I think so too, but not this one. He’s a slick politician but lacks depth; he’s more like a clever adolescent, dancing around the truth. He’s not being honest when he says he’s going to transcend race. If he really did transcend race, people like Wright would contemptuously call him a “Negro”, as he calls black people with a different point of view. Obama could have chosen, as Tiger Woods did, not to identify with one race, as only one part of himself. But he didn’t, and he chose Jeremiah Wright. Do you think, as some say, that blacks cannot be racist, only those in power (i.e. whites) can be racist? Or is Obama simply naïve, as Dave DaBee suggested? He’s too old to be that naïve, and who wants a naïve president?

To read:

The Roots of Black Anger, IBD Editorial

Obama So Far: Better As Icon Than President, Thomas Sowell

A Bound Man, Shelby Steele (Steele also has a white mother and black father.)


Discussing language, education, journalism, culture, and more, Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2008. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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