Potemra on the wonders of black culture and more
In the October 15 edition of National Review, there is an article by Michael Potemra entitled “Two Kings, a City, and a Country.” The article is about Memphis, Tennessee, and it confirms, rather explicitly, many of your critical points about the magazine, particularly concerning the assumptions of liberalism. It really has to be read to be believed. Here is a representative passage:
The whites gave the blacks slavery, and in return, the blacks invented Gospel, blues, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. (This was a less equal exchange even than Peter Minuit’s purchase of Manhattan for $24.) And they did so at exactly the moment when their creativity was most needed. In the 20th century, the Western art-music tradition—“classical” music—withered: There’s a reason most of the classical repertoire one hears comes from more than a century ago. We needed someone to emerge and create new works of melody and beauty, and that’s what American popular music—music by blacks and music inspired by black sources—has done.
And so America’s most prominent “conservative” magazine again assumes descendants of Europeans have yet to remove the stain of their original sin, and that we should all be grateful for the cultural vibrancy of blacks. This is simply pathetic.
That is typical of Potemra. But he has written much worse than this. He is the single worst, and single most non-conservative, person at NR.
Here is Potemra in 2003 (discussed here at VFR) celebrating David Brooks’s column endorsing homosexual “marriage” (and lauding Brooks as “one of the most valuable conservative thinkers around”):
MUST-READ DAVID BROOKS OP-ED [Mike Potemra]
I commented: “Thus Potemra sees one of the stupidest, most ridiculous arguments in Brooks’s column, as deeply profound.”
David Brooks is one of the most valuable conservative thinkers around, and in yesterday’s New York Times he addresses the issue of gay marriage. He does not address the process question—i.e., who decides? the people or the courts?—but he attempts to make a traditional moral case on the underlying substantive issue. Readers of The Corner will have their own opinions on what he has to say, but there’s one passage that I personally found very moving: “Some conservatives may have latched onto biological determinism (men are savages who need women to tame them) as a convenient way to oppose gay marriage. But in fact we are not animals whose lives are bounded by our flesh and by our gender. We’re moral creatures with souls, endowed with the ability to make covenants, such as the one Ruth made with Naomi: ‘Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.’” In this, Brooks is on to a truth that goes far beyond our current controversy over gay marriage; and the principle he expresses there is one of which we need constantly to remind ourselves.
Posted at 03:40 PM
Here is Potemra, again at the Corner, in October 2011, celebrating women in combat:
Great Line from a Proud Dad
About which we had the following exchange at VFR:
A reader responded to my post about fighter pilot ‘Lucky’ Penney, telling me about his young daughter’s ambition to be a Navy flier for our country:
Several people have expressed concern over sending my little girl to a war zone. I tell them that my little girl isn’t going anywhere near a war zone. My grown daughter might go. But that’s up to her, not me. And she will be well prepared.
You, sir, and your daughter … rock.
[end of Corner entry]
Timothy A. writes:
- end of initial entry -
The attitude of conservatives towards allowing homosexual military members seems to be following the same trajectory as their attitude towards allowing women to serve in combat—opposition followed by acquiescence followed by celebration. For a recent example of the celebration of women in combat see Michael Potemra, and most of the commenters on his post, at NRO.)…
Which among other things convinces liberals that they, the liberals, are right on all these issues and that conservative opposition amounts to nothing but prejudice, anger, discomfort with what is new, and footdragging, all of which will eventually be overcome.
Except that, reading this now, I would have to say that my analysis does not really apply to Potemra. He is not a conservative who fights a liberal innovation and then after it wins he surrenders and starts supporting it. Potemra supports the liberal innovations from the start. He is not even a phony conservative.
Whereas if Republicans/conservatives did NOT follow the usual conservative pattern of opposing some liberal innovation, then supporting it once it has won, but continued opposing it AFTER it had won (which is what VFR stands for—see my Traditionalist’s Credo), then the liberals would be forced to recognize that there are serious human beings who have principled opposition to the liberal program and who will never accept it. This would bring the liberals up short. Some of them might even start listening to the conservative arguments. But so long as conservatism consists of nothing but “kvetch and retreat” (Rabbi Mayer Schiller’s phrase), liberals have no reason to take conservatism seriously.
To repeat: by embracing liberal measures and beliefs after they have won politically and socially, conservatives are showing themselves to be, not just opponents of liberalism who have been defeated, but indispensable allies of liberalism—allies sending the message that opposition to liberalism has no valid or rational basis, and therefore that liberals are right to despise conservatives. Such conservatives put the seal on the rightness of liberalism and the wrongness of conservatism.
James P. writes:
The whites gave the blacks slavery, and in return, the blacks invented Gospel, blues, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. (This was a less equal exchange even than Peter Minuit’s purchase of Manhattan for $24.)
What a fascinatingly stupid interpretation of history! It assumes that the only thing whites have ever given blacks is a bad thing (slavery) and the only thing blacks have ever given whites is a good thing (music). If we started a genuine balance sheet, there would be a lot more positives on the white side of the ledger and a lot more negatives on the black side. It ignores the fact that some whites gave blacks slavery, but other whites gave blacks their freedom—and paid a high blood price to do so. It assumes that blacks created music solely in order to provide a gift to whites, and not to entertain themselves or for internally generated creative motives.
As the original poster put it, in this formulation, all whites are eternally guilty and all blacks are eternally innocent. This is pure liberalism, and it is false and pathetic.
Potemra’s “conservatism” seems to consist entirely of an opposition to abortion. He’s celebrated the New York law legalizing homosexual marriage, he’s in favor of more women in the various offices of the Episcopalian Church / Church of England, including bishiops. It is truly difficult to see anything in any opinion he writes that is not fully in line with the prevailing cultural winds of the day except for opposition to abortion.
Potemra is a clear example of where the “leadership” of Rich Lowry has led the magazine that Buckley founded to stand athwart the cultural tracks yelling “STOP!” Now National Review sits by the side of the road, waving at traffic …
Except let us remember that NR stopped yelling “Stop!” decades before Buckley passed away. In fact, it had probably stopped yelling “Stop!” by the early 1960s.
Which is not to diminish the indescribable badness of what has happened to the magazine since Lowry became editor in 1997.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 08, 2012 01:50 PM | Send