Blackout Reveals the Emperor’s Nakedness.

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its second Escape from the Democrat Plantation, by Candace Owens. Published September 15, 2020. Hardcover, 320 pages.

I looked forward to reading this book for many reasons, but learning new information was not one of them. I “left the Democrat plantation” over two decades ago, when I was in my early twenties. I knew that there would be scant little here that I don’t already know. Candace Owens stands on the shoulders of giants, black intellectuals that I first encountered when she was but a tyke. Those giants are men like Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Walter E. Williams, and the esteemed Larry Elder.

Owens is important because she offers these perspectives in a simple, straightforward way to a new generation, yet without insulting its intelligence. The Emperor of Progressivism is naked, especially as it relates to delivering any kind of benefit to the black community, and she calls that out. For anyone willing to look past emotionalism and demagoguery, to look for evidence and at hard facts, this is obvious. Too many people aren’t willing to do that, and the black community is poorer for it, both literally and figuratively; culturally and economically.

Candace Owens is often ripped on for growing and changing from the girl who experienced a documented racial incident to a woman who figured out that leftism really doesn’t give a darn about black people. There are few black people who haven’t experienced racism at some point.

The fact that there are individual idiots among us is not breaking news, and it doesn’t mean we should have to pledge our blind, lifelong allegiance to a party that mostly pays lip service to fighting racism. Especially when a mere scratch of the surface clearly reveals that they are the true racists, using the black community as a vehicle for political power. But this is about the book, and I am digressing. This was one of my favorite quotes:

Prior to the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, black Americans had never been granted true freedom. Segregation made it so that we were still oppressed through various limitation. Blacks were not free to choose where to educate themselves, where to live, or even whom to socialize with. Unfortunately, however, LBJ continued his address by stating, “But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, ‘Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.'”

Here he is wrong. Dangerously wrong. Being freed was enough for black America. The year 1964 should have represented a new beginning, when we began assuming full responsibility over our own lives.

After outlining some of the things we should have felt free to do on the strength of our own competency and ability, Owens continues:

Against this reality the president who granted us our rights told us, in the same breath, that we needed help from white Americans to get ahead. Miraculously, just as soon as we were given personal responsibility, it was taken away. In the darkest of ironies, after 345 years of having our personal responsibility stripped from us by governing white society, we allowed that same society to take it right back. Their method for taking it had certainly changed. Rather than callously telling us that we couldn’t be responsible for ourselves, by outwardly barring and banning us from various institutions, this time, they began telling us we shouldn’t be responsible for ourselves because it was unimaginable that blacks would suddenly be expected to perform at their level.

This is spot on, and it’s glaringly obvious to anyone willing to look past the faux empathy and nauseating white guilt to see what has really been going on for the past 60 years. Spoiler alert: The Democrat party didn’t “switch”.  Love her or hate her, this is a smart young woman.

I liked the book, overall. There were a few points of opinion on which I disagreed with Owens, but the overall thrust of her book is well presented, and most importantly, well sourced. The final 19 of the 320 pages consist of notes so that the reader can check the quotes, stats, and historical information present for themselves.

I do think the book could have done well with a fairly ruthless editor. There were instances where the friendship of commas would have been valuable. There were a few minor literary faux pas, but the average reader would hardly notice them, and are not certified copy editors. Since the book is written for the average reader, these are perfectly forgivable. I only mention them because I recognize that some people who read this blog are the types who will notice minor verbiage issues and sentence structure. In the grand scheme however, these are insignificant.

The fact that we live in an age where distortions, half-truths, and outright lies are being used to manipulate black Americans to a regressive rather than a truly progressive future makes this book important for millennials and younger generations to read. It’s a prescription for black Americans, but I would argue that it is an enlightening book for all Americans. I can hardly believe we are having serious discussions about socialism and praising the virtues of forced segregation. Make no mistake: that is exactly what we are doing. The fact that black students and activists are forcing it doesn’t make it any less forced.

In short, I recommend this book. It breaks down and strips bare the truth of what we are being sold as black Americans, and Americans as a whole.

4 out of 5 stars.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Ignominy

This week’s word is ignominy, inspired by this quote:

In the town I was in, there were no such back-alleys in the literal sense, but morally there were. If you were like me, you’d know what that means. I loved vice, I loved the ignominy of vice. ~ Dimitri, The Brothers Karamazov

I am still crawling through The Brothers Karamazov, and loving it. The story is compelling and worthy of contemplation, so I am taking it slow. It’s taking longer than I’d like, but I have other responsibilities tugging at me, slowing me further. I  also feel obliged to read the books my children are assigned in their literature class. In other words, it’ll be a while before I finish The Brothers Karamazov.

I look forward to discussing it in great detail and from myriad perspectives. There is much to discuss here, beginning with the quote above, where Dimitri describes his uncontrollable thirst for vice, including his relishing the ignominy that accompanied it. I suppose we should define ignominy:

Ignominy:

1. disgrace; dishonor; public contempt.

2. shameful or dishonorable quality or conduct or an instance of this.

Upon first read this portion of Dimitri’s confession to his young, devout brother Aloysha, my reaction was shock at the pleasure Dimitri seemed to take in being a disgrace. He didn’t just accept ignominy; he loved it. He loved not only the moral morass in which he existed, he loved the infamy.

I wondered if there is such a thing anymore as ignominy; shameful or dishonorable conduct. I know we have shameful and dishonorable beliefs these days. But there is scant a man can do, and nothing a woman can do, that would rise to the level of ignominy.

Just one of those things I paused to think about.

 

A Most Southern Cookbook

This is post is inspired by the latest post from my favorite food blogger, a scrumptious breakfast sandwich she came up with after perusing this book:

I think this book has been on my bookshelf for about ten years, but it may be closer to fifteen. When I found it, I didn’t know that Edna Lewis was a legend in the southern culinary world. I haven’t purchased any of her other books, but it definitely on my to-do list.

Besides the fact that my roots are Georgian and Louisianan, the thing that most draws me to southern cooking is that it’s the closest thing to a uniquely American food tradition, in the way that jazz is a uniquely American art form.

Southern cooking was born of southern poverty, from people both black and white, who took using the scraps and raised it to a culinary art form. There are some southern dishes I simply won’t eat, such as chitterlings (pronounced “chit’lins” by Southerners) or blood sausage, but I appreciate them nonetheless.

That my children have embraced southern cooking pleases me. It’s not often that younger generations are interested in the traditions of the prior generations. Of course, over time, we’ve switched to healthier versions of the dishes we love. I don’t use shortening for just about anything, for example. Well, at least not until Thanksgiving and Christmas. Making a pie crust with what produces the flakiest crust once or twice a year isn’t gonna kill us, after all.

Edna Lewis’s dedication to wholesome ingredients and food made from scratch was a thing long before the clean eating movement was born. She was, as she was known, the grande dame of Southern cooking.

I don’t use cookbooks very often, but some books are worth keeping for the legacy they impart. The Gift of Southern Cooking is one of those books.

Word Nerd Wednesday/Quotable Literary Quote Double Play

We live in a world that is, by every observable measure, going insane.

It occurs to me with every obvious incongruity, shouted maniacally and accepted as gospel truth.

It occurs to me whenever I see banality celebrated as genius, vulgarity hailed as art, and beauty denigrated as bigotry.

I think of it when I hear pleas for virtue dismissed as weakness and acts of vice lauded as justice.

What manner of madness is this? Did I miss something important when I looked up from the grindstone of daily family life, where right and wrong, sane and insane meant something totally different than they appear to mean now?

So I decided to look up the word sanity; just to make sure I hadn’t missed one of Merriam-Webster’s famous updates:

Sanity: The quality or state of being sane. Especially soundness or health of mind.

So it does still mean what I thought it meant. Soundness or health of mind used to mean an observable congruence, coherence, and harmony in thinking and reasoning.

Most days, I think I’m pretty sane, but what my troglodyte parents taught me is no longer considered good sense. It made me think of a quote I once saw quoted,  but never knew where it came from. I did some clicking and learned that it is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut:

A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.~ from Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

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*I have never read Welcome to the Monkey House. If anyone has, feel free to weight in because it isn’t in my queue.

Shameless Plug

Thankfully, Hearth took the initiative here because I’m not motivated to advertise, but I’m very excited to unpack femininity from a truly traditional perspective.

Focusing on the 1950s template (from the right) or the 1960s revolutionary woman (from the right and left) has landed us in a ditch. Neither of these are what we see historically or what God intended.

Check out Historical Femininity!

Hands, Heart, Hearth

My friend Elspeth and I started a channel over on locals.com. Give us a look – this is a code for three months’ free access to being part of the community. When it deactivates, I have it set at $2/mo. HISTFEMTRIAL

https://historicalfemininity.locals.com/support/promo/HISTFEMTRIAL?_utm_source=fb

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The Politicization of Children’s Books

On the bookshelf of a local store

I was dismayed to see the above display in the book section of a local big box store. Why should children who are only beginning to read, or who can’t read at all, be subjected to these kinds of books?

I implore you parents, regardless of your political leanings, resist such books. Let’s allow children to be children, free from the politicization that threatens to encroach into every area of modern life. We’ve descended into an abyss so dark that even traditional venues of escape, such as sporting events, aren’t free of politics. Until quite recently, children were largely insulated. Of course, there have always been parents too ignorant or fanatical to leave their children at home while they protest, but they were a minority.

After my recent encounters with the Feminist Baby books, this children’s collection of election season literature shouldn’t have been a shock. Somehow, it still was. The usefulness of the books eluded me, and so I briefly lost sight that our culture has long abandoned usefulness right long with truth, beauty, goodness and innocence.

Books that children read, or that we read to them, should impart wonder, magic, loveliness, and wisdom. The beauty of a children’s book is that it can do all of these things in challenging yet non-threatening ways. Books invite children to see timeless truths through new, creative, imaginative lenses. Neverland, Narnia, Wonderland, and even Hogwarts are portals to faraway lands allowing children to dream and appreciate the power of stories.

Our climate has now become so toxic that even well-meaning parents, inundated with the so-called urgency of the moment, can lose their way, corrupting kids’ ability to be kids, unburdened by adult concerns . Let me offer some unsolicited advice.

  • Your three-your-old does not need to be implored to vote.
  • Our children don’t need to take a position on issues that don’t even understand.
  • Childhood is being assaulted daily without additional pressures added.
  • Contrary to foolish propaganda, children by definition are ill-equipped to offer substantive input on complex moral and cultural issues. To ask them to do so is tantamount to emotional abuse.

I hope that none of these ridiculous books sell many copies. There is so much more for children to discover from literature than the banality of modern politics. Here are a few reviews to much better childhood reading fare:

What’s your opinion on the increasing politicization of childhood being reflected in books for sale to children?

The Highwaymen: Art Devoid of Affectations

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We recently went to a museum to tour a limited run exhibit of art by the Florida Highwaymen. I’ve written a little about them before. They were unique, unconventional and successful for a time despite being uninterested in art for art’s sake. These men –and one woman- seemed to be void of any desire to make a name for themselves. They were in the thing to make rent. They even allowed their commissioned salesman, a fast talker from the neighborhood, to occasionally sign his name on their work if it would facilitate a sale or fetch a better price.

As we toured the exhibit I overheard two women discussing the fact that most of these men were not serious, studied artists. It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered this analysis of the Highway men; this implication they weren’t genuine artists. They painted and sold for volume, rather than for a deep love of their craft. This is undoubtedly true, but I view that as a testament to their accomplishment rather than a detraction from it.

Rather than pining for some imaginary life that they thought they deserved, they made hay while the sun shone. Are y’all familiar with that colloquialism? It’s equivalent to striking while the iron is hot, which perfectly encapsulates the trajectory of The Highwaymen. Most possessed natural artistic aptitude, but this was a time when it was particularly difficult for men of their ethnic and socioeconomic background to make a good living. Art school was not a priority for most of them, although a well-regarded local artist guided and heavily influenced their early work.

The cool thing about the these guys, besides the fact that they were able to make a decent living selling paintings that they churned out by firelight while drinking beer in Alfred Hair’s backyard, was their novel interpretation Florida’s natural beauty. They may not have been serious about art for art’s sake, but they captured Florida’s Poinciana trees, wild back country, and vibrant evening sunsets in vivid, Technicolor detail.

Most of the painting were produced on Upson board rather than canvas, because it was cheaper to buy in bulk and it got the job done. Their art sold because of its authenticity, quality, and lack of affectation. These men painted Florida as they saw it around them every day. What they lacked in artistic passion, they made up for with a passion for their subject matter.

Perhaps my roots are showing, but everything about the way this art was developed, presented, and marketed speaks to me. It’s the way I understand earthiness and authenticity. I love The David, The Mona Lisa and The Banjo Lesson as much as any other person who appreciates art and beauty. This art, which depicts my home, by artists who share the same roots and appreciation of the uniqueness that is this place, affects me in a more visceral way.

Their story magnifies rather than diminishes their legacy. At least, that’s the way I see it.

Friday Faves: Real Florida

Though far less dramatic for us than much of the country, the start to our school year has been a hectic one. I’d planned a philosophical education post in honor of the inauspicious national beginning to the 2020 school calendar, but life crowded out the time I’d planned to use for that.

I took it as a sign that now isn’t the time for my pontificating. We are awash in the opinions of every Tom, Dick, and Harry right now. That’s not even counting the random musings of every Mary, Jane, and Sue! Increased digital noise is the last thing we need. As a relief from it, I decided to treat my scant few readers to some extremely amateur photography of scenery so beautiful that the amateurish nature of the shots will be easily forgiven.

Our family is enjoying a revelation of sorts. Despite having lived in Florida my entire life, I’ve neglected to explore this place that has drawn people to its beauty from its earliest settlements. Lately, our family has been doing exactly that, and it has been a time of respite and joy.

The belief that Florida is most easily described as theme parks, shorelines and hurricanes neglects the unique character of this place. Embarrassingly, I labored under the same delusions for most of my younger years, making exceptions for St. Augustine. Most people are familiar with it as the oldest remaining European settlement in what was then the New World. However, there is no much more here, and every Sunday since the quarantine began, we’ve been exploring Florida off the beaten path.

Enjoy some the images of Florida that you may not be familiar with:

I’ll assault you with the digital noise of my philosophical pontificating sometime next week.

Until then, have a great weekend. And, if you can take the heat, go outside!

Overcoming My Short Reading Attention Span

One of my favorite podcasts is Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It. In his opening, he describes it as “a series of mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span”. That tag line always grabs me because I so strongly relate to it, but also because this wasn’t always the case. I used to be able to read long books, listen to long recordings, sit and stare at the world, and do many tasks which require sustained concentration.

In recent years, however, my mind seems prone to wander. I can stay engaged a little longer than it takes to get through one of Mike Rowe’s short mysteries, but nowhere nearly as long as I used to focus. I wonder how much screen life has affected my concentration, how much is increased responsibilities and competing mental demands, or if some of it is simply the passage of time.

One book I have picked up, loved, and yet never gone the distance to finish is Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I usually have some reason I temporarily set it aside to pick up something more concise, and less demanding, but the truth is that my attention span is shot.

While my follow-through needs some exercise, my determination is still active, so I’m reading it again. This time, one of my daughters is going to read it with me, as we treat it as a book club of sorts. She really enjoyed Crime and Punishment, which I did not, so I figured she’d not have any trouble at all making her way through this book. It really is one of Dostoyevsky’s best. At least, that’s my opinion based on repeatedly reading the first quarter of it.

I’m still deciding whether I want to do a series of posts as characters in this book are so rich and multi-faceted. I’ll let y’all know how it goes. In other news…

It’s July 28th, which means the start of the 2020-2021 school year is right around the corner. For us, that means purchasing books, gathering curriculum, meeting with tutors and all the things that come along with educating one’s children outside the traditional paradigm.

It’s quite an undertaking, but once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes a little less daunting. This year there are lots of parents doing this for the first time against their wills. They would like nothing more than to be attending meet the teacher events and walking through Walmart or Target with the school-issued, grade-level supply list in hand. Instead, they have to figure out how to juggle part-time school with part-time homeschool with virtual school, depending on what individual districts have decided across the 50 states that make up the formerly United States.

Because I know how hard this can be when you’re starting out, I thought I’d offer a few tips. These work well, even if kids were going to school full-time as usual, but they are crucial now.

  • Communication: Keep the lines of communication open with teachers. Email frequently and call when you’re not sure the message is being properly conveyed in writing. Generally, the more engaged parents are with their teachers, the more teachers respond to the needs of the kids represented by that engagement. It’s not politically correct, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease in schools the same as everywhere else.
  • Schedule: When educating children at home, a schedule is indispensable. If kids are doing all of their classes via Zoom meetings, which is a horrendous option, then the schedule is probably already set beforehand. This can be good, but is mostly bad. A break between the screen meetings is essential. Push to get one if possible.
  • Sunlight: Don’t forget that being outdoors sometimes is healthy, especially so in Covidtide.

Those are the things that will be helpful if you stay plugged in to the public school matrix, but for those parents choosing the homeschool or micro school option, there is more freedom, but also more work involved. This is where those of us who have been homeschooling for years can give you a leg up.

  • Community: If you try to do this all on your own you’ll get burnt out, especially if you’re trying to hold down a full-time job while doing it. Find people on a similar journey. Even if it’s only to commiserate and bounce ideas, it’s invaluable.
  • Make a schedule and make it a sensible one. For instance, don’t cover every subject every day of the 5-day school week. Some things need to be tackled daily, such as reading, math, spelling, and writing. Others, such as history and science, can be handled twice a week; Tuesday and Thursday, for instance. Keep in mind that schools can graze a little on every topic every day because they have several teachers doing the work as they pass your child from person to person every 45 or 50 minutes. Take it from someone who has learned the hard way. You cannot replicate the traditional school experience at home. It won’t work long term.
  • Life as Education: My kids learned the basic, foundational fractions (1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3) in the kitchen. It wasn’t a replacement for doing the hard work of adding, subtracting and converting fractions the old-fashioned, but it was a start. Try not to miss out on opportunities to learn while doing the routine activities of life. Since you’re stuck at home anyway, make the best of it.
  • Read excellent books, since very few schools bother to do that anymore. Currently, one of our girls is reading Pride and Prejudice on her own. Another is reading Tom Sawyer. Together, we are reading a biography of George Washington Carver. I think Jane Austen is still held in high regard in schools, but I’m not sure about Twain, and despite going to an all black elementary school as a kid in the late 70s and early 80s, we rarely learned about any black historical figures besides MLK. All I recall about George Washington Carver was about his work with peanuts. He was to be credited with so much more!

Because we are in a part-time school, the curriculum is already chosen by the council, but it is in line with our educational values. I’m thankful not to have to pick it. What we’re doing now is gathering the materials (shopping for the best prices) and getting ready for the year, which begins in a few weeks.

How are you preparing for this unorthodox school year? What is different about where you are? What is the same?

Word Nerd Wednesday: Alacrity

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Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart.~ from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Alacrity is in short supply these days, I think. Perhaps it’s the general malaise of this year, 2020, but this word has lodged itself into my mind over the past couple of days.

Our youngest, very recently 12 years old, is re-reading Tom Sawyer. That’s the mark of a genuine bibliophile, I’m told; this propensity to re-read beloved books. This makes me happy. As she was reading, she inquired of me to confirm that her understanding of the word alacrity was correct: Does alacrity mean cheerfulness?”

I confirmed that it does, but I also knew that there was something more to the word than simple cheerfulness. So I went on an etymological dig, as any word sleuth would do! First, there was the basic definition to consider. From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

Alacrity: promptness in response: cheerful readiness

The phrase cheerful readiness is interesting, because it evokes a zeal to do a thing. Zeal feels as if it is in short supply these days. Maybe it’s all the months of restricted activity? When do we see alacrity on display?

I suppose one would accept a party invitation with alacrity. One might open a gift with alacrity as well. Etymology online offers more insight into the origins and meaning of the word:

“liveliness, briskness,” mid-15c., from Latin alacritatem (nominative alacritas) “liveliness, ardor, eagerness,” from alacer (genitive alacris) “cheerful, brisk, lively;” a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps cognate with Gothic aljan “zeal,” Old English ellen “courage, zeal, strength,” Old High German ellian. But de Vaan suggests the root sense is “to wander, roam” and a possible connection with ambulare.

The implication is that alacrity is to move -the Latin ambulare– not only with cheerful readiness, which is the perfect description of Tom Sawyer as he relinquished his paintbrush. However, being an old school, “life is duty” type of soul, I wondered if it couldn’t mean something more. Its origins also seem to imply moving with zeal, liveliness, and courage.

I’ve written at length about the evolution of language in modern and postmodern times, so I’ll try not to read too much into the etymological roots of a word when its evolution clearly indicates a shift has taken place. Nevertheless, it is possible to apply alacrity in ways beyond eagerly moving towards pleasure or relief.

How often do we jump in with alacrity to assist someone with an arduous job? If not, why don’t we? Do we exhibit a “cheerful readiness” to sacrifice something of ourselves in service to others? What does that look like, and how rare (or common) is it?

Just a few random thoughts. Thank you for joining me partway through the maze of my gray matter in search of the meanings and implications of words.

Now more than ever, it is important that we know what words mean and the power they possess.