Monday, June 26, 2017

Oh, Yeah, Deranged Is So Much Better than Deplorable

I expect junk thinking from Center of the American Experiment writers, but I used to think Stephen B. Young was worth reading. Young is executive director of the Caux Round Table, “an international network of business leaders working to promote a moral capitalism.” Specious as that mission may be, I have read some of his thoughts over the years and found them to be part of a reasonable conversation.

I’m not sure what’s going on with him in the past year, however. First there was a Star Tribune commentary from September 2016 titled The Case for Trump, then one from January 2017 called The Gospel of Winning: Trump’s Philosophy, and Its Policy Implications. Both show that Young is deeply misguided about Donald Trump’s abilities and appointments.

I confess I didn’t read them closely at the time, though, and mumbled to myself, Well, that guy is clearly not aging well.

But then there was his most recent piece, Our Half-Century of Derangement. In it, he says one thing I agree with: Pope Francis is seeking to “cure—as best he can—the ills of our world.” I have my disagreements with Francis, of course, but I believe he’s well-intended and tries to live his values.

Young, on the other hand, seems confused and hostile. He uses the right-wing term “Trump Derangement Syndrome” as a given and it goes downhill from there. I can’t get over how he sees no problem calling anti-Trump citizens “deranged,” but goes on and on about how Hillary Clinton’s use of “deplorables” was unacceptable. She, at least, qualified her statement to say she was referring to strident racists, sexists, Islamophobes, and so on.

Racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression do not exist in Young’s world, however. In his view, they are part of an academic scheme that started with misguided opposition to the war in Vietnam War, leading to distrust in government and worse. The Vietnam War, he tells us, was a good fight. Veterans’ PTSD is not caused by the effects of battle, but by internalizing the rejection veterans felt upon returning from the war. Some of those vets were even deranged enough to think Agent Orange made them sick. Imagine!

Young then leaps from his Vietnam alternate history to blaming the Left for the invention of white racism. Whiteness, he says, only existed in the South before the 1960s, and it was the Left that caused it to become part of American culture elsewhere. Young doesn’t see color, as Stephen Colbert used to say. Of course not. It’s the bad old Left that makes everyone white.

Oh, and while he’s at it, Young throws in that feminist fantasy, “patriarchy.” You know, that’s just a myth.

Working against white privilege, white supremacy, patriarchy, and other oppressive social structures: those efforts are “cultural counternarratives [that] have acted as social cancers, filling our souls with unhappiness and resentment.”

We all know who the “our” is in “our souls,” right? The souls that really matter? They belong to people like Stephen B. Young: white, male, straight, wealthy enough to have gone to Harvard in the 1960s…

Yes, I certainly hope my favored cultural counternarratives have filled his soul with unhappiness.

I was hoping the Star Tribune would publish a substantial commentary in response to Young the following Sunday, but instead there were a few letters, one supporting him and three opposed. Here are the three critiques.

From Grace Heitkamp, Lonsdale:

The June 18 lead commentary — “Our half-century of derangement,” penned by Stephen B. Young — was shockingly provocative. To claim, as Young does, that the Vietnam War was winnable and only lost because of antiwar hippies; to claim that Agent Orange and the post-traumatic stress disorder of our soldiers was a result of “Vietnam Derangement Syndrome” is outrageous. To claim that the present citizen “fed-up” mentality against policies, domestic and foreign, is a result of citizens of the 1960s and the ’70s protesting an insane war is obscene.

According to Robert Caro in his LBJ biography: Fifty-eight thousand dead. Three hundred thousand wounded. More than 2 million Vietnamese killed and wounded. It’s hard to grasp numbers like that, knowing now that it was a war based on lies.

Mr. Young is attempting to rewrite history — it’s the lefties’ fault! — and if history is any guide, he will likely succeed.
From William R. Page, Eden Prairie:
Young has persuaded me of one thing. I do not doubt that his soul is filled “with unhappiness and resentment.” If I were as sensitive as he seems, I would be unhappy if he had persuaded me that my belief that racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, etc., should be stigmatized as such is a “social cancer.” I would be doubly unhappy and remorseful (not resentful) if I was persuaded by his assertion that “contemporary racists” (as opposed to the old-fashioned kind who were evidently eradicated by passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts) are those who deplore the continued endemic racism in our society. However, I do not find his arguments persuasive. On the contrary, I find his condemnation of those who support equal rights for all deplorable.
From Deborah Svanoe, Mounds View:
I gagged on the white, pasty pablum served up on the front page of Opinion Exchange last Sunday. Young just can’t understand why we can’t all just be as peaceful as the pope! Why can’t we all get along as well as he did with two fellow classmates who represented their minority race on the manicured grounds and in the rarefied air of Harvard? “Just two more guys”! “I don’t see white,” as Stephen Colbert might say. Young opines that Southern racism is just a manufactured concept, conjured up by those who wanted to make us whites feel guilty, for the purpose of trashing traditional values. Why, don’t they know racism was abolished “for good and forever” by the civil rights law? He uses the word “derangement” like Hillary Clinton used “deplorables.”

Piling on, D.J. Tice (“Jury has done its duty; now we must do ours”) urges “kindness, caution, acceptance and peaceful respect” for the Jeronimo Yanez verdict. He equivocates Philando Castile’s death with “whenever innocents die … citizens or police.”

These two authors are the type who reply to Black Lives Matter with “all lives matter.” They just don’t get it. Star Tribune, you need more black writers!
These writers all get at pieces of Young's wrongness, but I still hope someone will thoroughly critique his incredibly mistaken description of the Vietnam War.

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