Harvard Prof. Henry Gates came up with that concept.
Of course you know him and the whole story by now, so I won’t go there. I not only wasn’t going to address this fiasco again, I’ve even tried to avoid encountering further saturation coverage of it across all the media, print and broadcast. Is there no angle uncovered, no thought unuttered?
Well, here’s this interesting WSJ piece I just stumbled across while looking at top headlines, and couldn’t resist. Original thinking is so compelling.
So what we’ve got here (I think we knew that) is ‘race wars’ vs. ‘class wars’, and both sides are arguing their case energetically, if not creatively. But look further…
Conservatives won this round in the culture wars, not merely because most of the facts broke their way, but because their grievance is one that a certain species of liberal never seems to grasp. Whether the issue is abortion, evolution or recycling, these liberal patricians are forever astonished to discover that the professions and institutions and attitudes that they revere are seen by others as arrogance and affectation.
The “elitism” narrative routinely blind-sides them, takes them by surprise again and again. There they are, feeling good about their solidarity with the coffee-growers of Guatemala, and then they find themselves on the receiving end of criticism from, say, the plumbers of Ohio.
Mr. Obama’s way of backing out of his gaffe was just as telling: He invited Mr. Gates and the policeman who arrested him to the White House for a beer, the beverage so often a gauge of a politician’s blue-collar bona fides.
I did think, with humor, that it wasn’t for a glass of wine or even “a drink” that Obama invited them so quickly to raise one with him. A beer. Nice touch. (Though Obama may just prefer beer, in all fairness. But in all fairness, we wouldn’t be in this mess…..)
Another irony: Long before he became a hostage to the culture wars, Henry Louis Gates had another career as a pithy commentator on the culture wars. The false appeal of victimization was something he understood well. In “Loose Canons,” his 1992 book on the subject, he joked that his colleagues should “award a prize at the end [of a conference] for the panelist, respondent, or contestant most oppressed.”
But when he sits down for that can of beer in the White House, it is another passage from his book that I hope Mr. Gates remembers. Speaking for liberal academics, he wrote in 1992 that “success has spoiled us; the right has robbed us of our dyspepsia; and the routinized production of righteous indignation is allowed to substitute for critical rigor.”
Today the cranking out of righteous indignation is a robust growth industry, and it threatens to do far worse than cloud our critical faculties. Help us to put the culture wars aside, Professor Gates. Too much is on the line these days.
It’s not just up to Prof. Gates. The president catapulted this thing into what it became. Our post-racial president.
Some of the indignation is just over offending common sensibilities of the American people.