It must be insanely difficult to be a liberal. How can they possibly keep straight all of the various statements they would need, to reconcile all the various interest groups they need to avoid offending -- if they want to keep their Politically Correct card.
Exhibit A: Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt, affectionately known as Matt Damon's best friend or, to us, just good old Ben Affleck.
Ben Affleck, as you probably have heard by now, was the topic-of-the-week recently, when it came out that he had lobbied the producers of the Sony-produced TV show "Finding Your Roots", asking them to omit all the facts about an ancestor of his who had apparently been a slave-owner, sometime in the distant past.
The "past" would be the period of the USA in which people actually legally owned other people, in an institution called "slavery." That would be prior to the War Between the States and before the Emancipation Proclamation. Among the slave-owners that Affleck's progenitor shares that attribute with are a few U.S. presidents, revered ones like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and less-famous ones like John Tyler.
Now, none of my ancestors lived in the USA as early as 1865, and my wife's family were all in Italy back then, so I cannot say how I would feel if it were discovered that one of them had been a slave-owner. But happily, I don't have to -- not only do I not have any ancestral slave-owners, but I'm not a liberal, so I really don't have to care!
No; it's not that I think that slavery is worthwhile or a good or decent thing; I simply don't believe in the stupidity of applying 21st-Century values to 18th and 19th-Century people, even if I had happened to have been descended from them. People thought differently then, good people who created our country, as well as some not-so-good people. Slavery was controversial, but it was accepted, however grudgingly. Different times, different morès.
But Ben Affleck, well Lordy, is he ever in a pickle. As a typical Hollywood lefty, when the story came out that he didn't want aired -- not the slavery part, but that he had pushed to omit it to protect himself (we of the Watergate era call that a "cover-up") -- he needed to figure out what to say. As a flaming liberal, he had to say the right, ultra-PC thing, but what even is the right thing? How does he condemn his own ancestor?
Ben somehow came up with this which, in true 2015 style, he posted to his Facebook page:
“We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and
the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation,
still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery [Editor's note: no; the "interest in the story" is your hypocrisy in trying to cover up an ancestor's actions]. It is an
examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however
indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don’t like that
the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country’s history
is being talked about.”
So what are we to make of this?
Here's what I make of it: In an effort to protect his own hide and his ultra-liberal bona fides, he made a statement about our accountability for our ancestors' actions that could bite liberals in the backside, if we choose to handle it properly.
What he was trying to say was that very last statement in his post, the one he didn't get to fast enough without tripping over his keyboard. He figured that, like any liberal, he would call for "dialogue", in this case about slavery, and that he was happy "we're talking about it because of him".
Why we need to talk about it is quite another thing; I challenge you to find anyone in the USA with an IQ above 80 and an age above 10 who doesn't know (A) that there was slavery in the USA until 150 years ago, and (B) that we had long since decided it was not a good thing and stopped it.
Sure, Ben, we need to keep talking about that slavery thing, even though the last actual slave died about 100 years ago and the last slavery ended 150 years ago, and everyone hates slavery. Yeah, sure, thanks that your cover-up has us talking about it.
I will choose to focus on what he actually wrote: "We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors ..." Yep, Ben, that's the one part that I agree 100% with. Our ancestors' values are theirs, not ours, and we owe not a shred for what they did, or thought, or felt -- not one bit. We can love them, and we should. But we deserve no credit for their wonders and no blame for their flaws.
Of course, the implications of that statement, coming as they do from a loud liberal, are far more wide-ranging than he ever thought in his haste to cover up his own cover-up.
First, if we "deserve neither credit nor blame" for our ancestors, then we need immediately to stop apologizing for the very thing Affleck brought up to disassociate himself from his ancestor -- slavery. The slave-owners are all long dead, and their children are long dead (grandchildren, such as the two of President Tyler's who are actually still alive, are the closest). We deserve no blame for the actions of people who are ancestors, so according to Ben Affleck, slavery is officially forgiven. Hip hip hooray! Now stop babbling about it!
Let us cease all the chatter about "reparations" to the descendants of slaves; they deserve no credit for the long-ago sacrifices and hard work of their ancestors. Black Americans who are descended from slaves can claim no entitlement over those, like Barack Obama, with not a shred of the descendent blood of slaves. You're all the same once you were born; in fact, you're the same as I am -- I whose ancestors all came to the USA after slavery was banned.
Right Ben? "We deserve neither credit nor blame."
How about the descendants of the Turks who massacred Armenians in huge numbers a hundred years ago? They're all dead now, right? Their descendants? They're in the clear. Was your grandfather a Nazi? Hey, there's only a few of those left -- they get the blame, but their children and grandchildren are safe, thanks to Ben Affleck.
And here's the thing -- I agree with him! All my life I have been asking people to think what they do of me based on what I do, what I say, not what my father, a lifelong Army officer, or my grandfather who died 28 years before I was born, ever said or did. I love and respect their memory, but judge me on my actions, not theirs.
And for that, while we may revere our antecedents, we may neither take credit for them, nor risk being blamed for them. Ben says so, and I agree.
It is worth noting here that the actor and director Bill Paxton had a similar situation on the TLC network show "Who Do You Think You Are", a show with a very similar premise. The segment on Paxton aired last week, We discovered, as did Paxton, that an ancestor of his, who had fought as a 14-year-old in the American Revolution, grew up to own a few slaves in Virginia. Let's just say that Paxton was disappointed, but he had the good sense not only to leave the scene in (I don't guess that he had a choice), but also to shake his head, weigh the ancestor's full life against that fact, and recognize the difference of the time and the acceptability of the practice (The next week, the singer Melissa Etheridge discovered on an episode of the same show that she was also descended from a slave owner. Same reaction -- "part of our past, I guess.")
Ben Affleck, meet Bill Paxton and learn.
How hard it must be to be a liberal. You have to manage to say you're promoting dialogue, when it's only about issues (like slavery) that have only one answer. You have to say that you believe in diversity, when you don't believe in diversity of opinion. And when you are caught in hypocrisy, as Hillary Clinton has been half a dozen times this year, or Ben Affleck was in this case, it becomes impossible to defend yourself without contradicting some other liberal orthodoxy.
But be comforted. No one will blame your grandchildren for your sins.
Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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