In the waning years of the Obama Administration, a strident new form of race hustling emerged. Combining elements of identity politics, Foucaultean power dynamics, Cultural Marxism, and Nineties-style corporate diversity training, Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as a powerful ideological bludgeon with which to batter anyone with the audacity to be white.
At its core, CRT proposes a simple thesis: any person of color, in any material or spiritual condition, is automatically oppressed compared to white people, because white people benefit from inherent privilege due to their whiteness. Alternatively, black and brown people face systemic racism—racism present in the very structure of the West’s various institutions—so even when not facing overt acts of racism, they are still suffering from racism nonetheless. The source of white people’s “privilege” is that systemic racism benefits them at the expense of black people.
The problem is easy to spot: any personal accountability is jettisoned in favor of group identities, so any personal setbacks for a darker-skinned individual are not the result of that individual’s agency, but rather the outcome of sinister, invisible forces at play within society’s institutions themselves. Similarly, any success on the part of a lighter-skinned individual is due to the privilege that individual enjoys.
I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday. I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.
With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate. On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times. The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours. In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.
As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made. It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto). But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.
Granted, there were downsides: the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads. Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them. Of course, the converse is true: many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.
So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities. So, where is the hate?
In looking back at posts from March 2020, it’s wild how many of my posts were about two plagues on humanity: the Democratic Party primaries and The Virus. What’s particularly interesting is how those posts—including the one below—still assumed that life would begin returning to normal after two weeks; after all, we were all promised “two weeks to flatten the curve,” and now we’re living under perpetual public health tyranny.
Amidst all of that plague talk, I penned a short post about the Strasbourg “Dancing Plague” of 1518. After being told to vegetate indoors for a year, I’m beginning to think a mystery plague that causes hysterical dancing might be preferable to the foolishness we’re enduring at present.
But I’ll keep the preamble brief and let the post do the talking. Here is 23 March 2020’s “The Boogie Woogie Flu“:
As a bit of a mea culpa for my positive post about Mitt Romney’s pro-natalism plan, I thought I’d atone by looking back to one of my better posts: a detailed rundown of the Romney family’s long history of waffling on important issues, and attempting to play both sides of the political spectrum simultaneously.
Romney’s father, George Romney, was one of a (thankfully) dying breed: the Rockefeller Republicans. These “moderate” and liberal Republicans essentially were a paler echo of the postwar Democratic Party: they espoused heavy spending, government intervention, and socially progressive policies, just in a more toned-down manner than their more overtly progressive colleagues in the opposing party.
In this post, I review Romney the Elder’s infamous “brainwashing” interview, in which he claimed his earlier pro-Vietnam War position was due to a thorough “brainwashing” by the United States military. It was a politically catastrophic and bizarre statement, and one that demonstrated yet another of Romney’s shifting positions to fit with the tenor and fashions of the time.
And so it continues with Romney the Younger, who voted this week to proceed with the farcical impeachment trial against a man who is no longer holding office. Romney will yet again bask in temporary accolades for his “courage” and “bipartisanship” in the press, before they return to reviling him for being a Republican.
At this point, why can’t these Republican squishes—Romney, Murkowski, Collin, et. al.—just show their true colors and join the Democratic Party?
The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.
But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)? Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:
To take us into the last weekend in January, I thought it would be nice to do at least one more entry in my unplanned Friday miniseries on “The Joy of Romantic Music” (read the second installment here). I very much enjoy the music of the Romantic composers, and have discovered some new favorites as I’ve been covering them in my Pre-AP Music Appreciation class.
Last Friday I wrote of the beauty and power—the sheer joy—of Romantic music, a topic I’ve covered once before on this blog. In writing last week’s post, I noted briefly that Romantic music is nationalistic, which was certainly true in a number of cases.
Europe following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars was a hotbed of political activity and nationalist sentiment. The Congress of Vienna (1815) redrew the map of Central Europe, reducing the hundreds of German principalities, bishoprics, duchies, baronies, and the rest into about a dozen political units, hoping these larger Germanic kingdoms would serve as a bulwark against future French aggression. They did, and more—under the steady Realpolitik of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia gradually grew to unite these new lands into the Second Reich—a unified Germany.
Meanwhile, smaller nations chafed under Austrian or French influence. Bohemia—now part of the Czech Republic—fought against Austrian political rule and the German language that came with it. Bohemians championed the revival of their native Czech language, and began revisiting Czech folklore and music as the resting place of the national spirit.
This process was not unique to Bohemia or the Czechs, but today’s featured piece, Czech composer Bedřich Smetana‘s The Moldau, is a prime of example of how nationalist musical ideas can capture beautifully a sense of a place, while also transcending national identity and borders.
This semester started with two weeks of online learning (of which today is the last day before students and teachers return to campus after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), so it’s been an unusually slow start to the already sleepy January term. However, that hasn’t stopped my music classes from listening to great music; indeed, we’re now covering what is perhaps my favorite period in the history of Western music: the Romantic Era.
While I adore Baroque and classical composers and their works, Romantic music builds upon the forms established in those eras, stretching and expanding upon them to reach new heights of emotional intensity and musical expressiveness. The music of the Romantic composers delights with its musical exploration of the supernatural, the mysterious, the Gothic, and the nationalistic.