Harriet Craig and the rejection of liberal victimology
I drafted the below piece in December 2006, but then inadvertently left it aside until I came upon it in my files recently. As for my approving quotation of David Mills, a.k.a. Undercover Black Man, with which the article begins, I did not know at the time I wrote the article about his villainous behavior toward me, as explained in note following the article.
David Mills writes at Huffington Post:
Everything about Randall Robinson’s 2001 bestseller The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks is wrong. Wrongest of all is his overwhelming belief that most black Americans are broken. Broken in a way that only white people can fix.This is an original point. At least, I’ve never come across it before. The more black spokesmen say that blacks are damaged and crippled by white racism, the more whites will say, not, “Oh, this poor wounded person, I must make special accommodations for him,” but rather, “These people are trouble, we need to stay away from them.” The damage as portrayed by Robinson is so severe that it overshadows any concern one might have about the supposed past causes of the damage.
I am reminded of an excellent movie I saw recently, Harriet Craig (1950), with Joan Crawford in the title role, about a psychotically dominating woman and her amiable husband, played by Wendell Corey in perhaps his best performance.
[NOTE: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE AND THINK YOU MIGHT WANT TO SEE IT, STOP READING HERE UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN IT, BECAUSE I’M GOING TO DISCUSS ITS PLOT. IT IS A FINE MOVIE AND I RECOMMEND IT.]
The Wendell Corey character, Walter Craig, is such an easy going guy that he doesn’t realize how much his wife controls him, until he discovers a shockingly treasonous thing she did to undermine his career and prevent his getting a significant promotion, which she did because if he had gotten the job she would have lost her control over his life. When, in the climactic scene of the movie, he confronts her with what she’s done, she starts lying like crazy, and he catches every one of her lies, until her front of innocence collapses. Then she tells him how her father did some disgusting thing when she was a child (she caught him with a floozy), and from that moment she has hated all men.
Now, here comes the amazing thing. The normal happening today, in life and in movies, is that when someone tells of some painful childhood event that traumatized him or her (more often her), she gets sympathy for her plight, right? But that’s not what happens here. Up to this point in the conversation, Walter has been open to a reconciliation. But when he hears Harriet’s story, the fact that Harriet’s father’s adultery so deeply wounded Harriet does not make Walter sympathize with her; it does not remove her responsibility for her terrible behavior toward him. To the contrary, it reveals to him the depth of her hatred—her hatred for men, her hatred for himself. And he’s so stunned by what he sees about her that he realizes he must end their marriage. And he does. And that’s the way the movie ends.
In other words, discovering the childhood roots of her hatred does not make him think, “Poor kid, it’s not her fault, I must help her get over this.” Rather, it makes him think, “If the root of her hatred for me goes this deep, nothing will end it.” It’s the exact opposite of the liberal reaction.
Just as Harriet Craig’s tale of childhood trauma fails to gain her husband’s forgiveness for her bad behavior toward him, Randall Robinson’s claim that whites’ historic oppressions of blacks have twisted blacks into some hideously damaged, anti-white state is not going to win whites’ sympathy for the blacks. It will only convince whites that blacks are indeed twisted and damaged. It will so convince whites that blacks are full of hate for whites, that the whites will naturally want to avoid them.
The lesson is that even if a person has been turned into a monster by what others have done to him, that doesn’t change the fact that he is, indeed, a monster. Harriet Craig is a monster. Walter, amiably drifting through his life and enjoying the nice comforts that his wife provides him (he had been a long-time bachelor when they married), has been blind to his wife’s true character. When he finally sees it, it awakens him from his “liberal dream” and he becomes a man.
In the same way, whites keep tolerantly accommodating black dysfunction and black animus toward themselves; but if the whites come to realize that blacks have an unappeasable hatred against whites for having harmed them, that will change whites’ racial attitude from acceptance to intolerance.
Walter Craig is a liberal chump, unconscious of the evil that is right next to him. But when the evil reveals itself, the discovery snaps him into a different state of being. Before, nothing mattered much, he just drifted pleasantly along. But what his wife Harriet has done to him is wrong, terribly wrong. And this makes him realize for the first time in his life that things matter, that right and wrong matter. And what is the nature of the moral wrong that he now sees in his wife?
Her grievance over a past wrong done to her that she has made into a license to hate all men, and particularly to hate and harm him.
What he sees in her is victimological revenge, the moral ugliness of the oppressed who feels justified in doing anything to get back at the oppressor. And he doesn’t buy it. Breaking with liberalism, he refuses to see her as a victim, he see her as wicked and dangerous.
Not only has Walter discovered evil, he has discovered a liberal form of it, the evil that says, “I am a victim, my victimhood releases me from ordinary moral rules and restraints.” And he grasps this lie to its very root. He is not fooled into thinking that he must “understand” this evil because it was caused by some wrongful behavior. The liberal appeal to compassion doesn’t work with him. His moral sense is now too awakened. He sees the evil as evil and he walks out of the house and leaves it behind him forever, even as he rejects the liberalism that would lead him to accommodate the evil.
Note: As for my quoting David Mills, a.k.a. Undercover Black Man, in the above article, I did not know when I wrote the article about his villainous behavior toward me. As can be seen here, he had engaged in a friendly correspondence with me in June and July 2006. It was only in May 2007 that the truth came out—the truth that just before Mills had had the friendly correspondence with me in June-July 2006, he had, in May 2006, gotten me secretly sacked by David Horowitz at FrontPage Magazine. None of this matters to the above article. But my quoting of Mills, whom otherwise I have not quoted or linked since May 2007 (nor do I ever read his site, though he mentions me regularly as I can tell from Google), needed to be explained.
Also, to avoid an inevitable misunderstanding, when I call Mills’s behavior villainous, I am not referring to the fact that he accumulated a collection of my writings that he considered “racist” and sent them to David Horowitz in order to get me kicked out of FP. That was arguably objectionable, but not villainous; people have a right to communicate their views and information to others. What was villainous was that after he had got me secretly sacked at FP, he contacted me and initiated a friendly, courteous correspondence with me.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 02, 2008 10:25 AM | Send