Whose Truths do We Hold to Be Self Evident?

Yesterday afternoon, I received a telephone call from what is known locally as an “Old Ag.”  An Old Ag is a former student of Texas A&M, and more especially a former student of riper years who is troubled by what he sees happening at his dear old alma mater.  This particular Old Ag was troubled by the recent ruction over the statue of Sol Ross, for which he feels affection, and by the simultaneous enthusiasm for the proposed statue of Matthew Gaines, of whom he had never heard.  In an effort to learn something about Gaines, this Old Ag did some reading and stumbled upon my recent post about the short and colorful career of the former Texas Senator and slave. Continue reading

Suffer No Strange Tales

When postmodern academics use the word ‘theory,’ they mean something very different than an ancient philosopher or modern scientist mean by that word.  For an ancient philosopher, the theoretic life was a life of detachment from the passionate hurly-burly of human striving.  Lucretius described it as the Ivory Tower.  For a modern scientist, a theory is an explanation that has been confirmed by experiment.  The ‘theory’ of a postmodern academic is also an explanation, but unlike the theory of a modern scientist, it is an explanation validated by the benefits of acting as if the explanation were true. Continue reading

Flippers

The lady in the mask was back in my mailbox yesterday, undeterred, it seems, by the impertinent remarks I made after her last visit. Far from cutting me for mocking her Juneteenth posturing, she now addresses me by my first name and declares that she is grateful that I am on her team.  She is, to be sure, begging for money, and we know that beggars cannot be over-particular, but I take this as an example of the broadminded magnanimity liberals so often remind us they possess in such great abundance. Continue reading

Stumping for Revolution (with a Digression on Juneteenth)

This winsome visage was stumping for votes in my email last Friday, modern communication technology sparing her the rigor and possible embarrassment of bounding to the top of an actual stump.  Back in the day, bounding to the top of an actual stump was the technology whereby a democratic politician would make himself both audible and visible in a crowd; but the podium of pioneers is now only a metaphor, replaced by the e-mail blast.

Continue reading

Through a Cockeyed Gate (Reposted)

The Aunt Jemima brand is no more, so I’m reposting this old item on my visit to Aunt Jemima’s grave.  

“Ours has been a desultory ramble, as rambles should be.”

William Senior,  By Stream and Sea (1877)

I was rambling over back roads and chanced to pass a cockeyed gate.  Over the gate there was a sign indicating that it gave way to the Hammond Colony Cemetery.  Now when I ramble over back roads, I ramble slowly, progressing when possible at about ten miles an hour; but even to the eye of so sedate a traveler, this Hammond Colony Cemetery appeared to be nothing but the usual mix of dusty thickets and rank bunchgrass.  It lays on one side of the valley at the head of Pin Oak Creek, in the sand hills of Robertson County, and in comparison to its surroundings looked like much of a muchness. Continue reading

Why the Monuments Matter

“Eventually they will win, because it is their movie—Gotcha!

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)

All histories are semi-fictions.  There are historical facts induced from various kinds of evidence, but these facts are mere fragments, and to write history you must select the fragments that you think are important, arrange these fragments into a pattern that you think is significant, and then fill the gaps between these fragments with the theoretical mortar best suited to hold them in place. Continue reading

For Those Still Wondering About the Great Disruption

At the beginning of the Great Disruption, I wrote that it would serve, and was possibly intended, as a “habit breaker.”  It will also serve as a habit maker, since “social distancing” entails snuggling up with the Global Machine.  As the advertisement below says, we have all now had nearly four months to “get comfortable doing things digitally,” so there has never been a better time than now to lock in the new normal and “go completely paperless.”  This is naturally presented as more convenient for me, should I wish to check my retirement account while waiting at a stop light or vacationing in Astrakhan, but the lion’s share of advantage is obviously on the other side.  Companies will be able to cut costs through further automation and spies will no longer have to get out of bed.  As Neil Postman used to argue, technological change always favors those who are most adept in the new technology, which in this case means the early adopters who did not need a Great Disruption push them into the arms of the Global Machine.  When the Great Disruption has done its work, those who needed the push will find that they are cripples limping about in a world that other people made.  I am, for instance, destined to spend my golden years being humiliated by the paperless TIAA system. Continue reading

“Our Own Chicken Pie”

The university has responded to the vandal attack on the Sol Ross statue by announcing that it will erect a compensatory statue of Matthew Gaines, a Black State Senator of the Reconstruction era.  The President tells us that Gaines played “an important part” in passing the legislation that established this university in 1871, but this is polite exaggeration.  The enabling legislation was, to be sure, part of the Radical Republican program of Governor Edmund Davis, and Gains very likely voted for it as a loyal member of Davis’s Radical Republican machine, but his service to the university was really very small.

This does not mean that the university should not put up a statue, since Gaines was an interesting character, and looking at his likeness will give all of us something to think about. Continue reading

No Country for Old Crackers

Some time back, I noted the first rumbling of a gathering storm that promised to end with removal of a once cherished statue from the Texas A&M campus (here and here).  It is a statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, Indian fighter, Confederate General, Governor of Texas, and quondam President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). Ross is generally credited with saving the young and struggling college when the State Legislature wanted to disband it, and he was able to do this because Texans of his day respected him as a man who had honorably defended the South against its enemies. Continue reading