Friday, June 7, 2019

Who Knew?

Civic Saturday.

Shorter David Brooks, "The Racial Reckoning Comes", New York Times, 6 June 2019:
I just learned that throughout American history some people haven't had the same chance as others to achieve the American dream! Like the Native Americans from whom the land was stolen and the African Americans held for centuries in brutal chattel slavery. I learned this from a book by an Aspen Institute guy who's one of those multiculturalists, which sounds pretty scary, but he has a reconciling, loving temperament, and likes Abraham Lincoln. And he claims Trump is not a historic aberration but the embodiment of white supremacy that has always been near the core of the American experience and a lot of liberals think the same way and they could be right! Can you believe that? I'm gobsmacked, this could be really important!
The Aspen Institute guy is called Eric Liu, and his thing that he does is to be the CEO of Citizen University, a Seattle-based organization that holds Civic Saturdays, church-like occasions of sermons and hymns of a civic religion in which the congregation reflects on liberty, equality, and self-government and the doctrine that Citizenship = Power + Character, which is exactly like the civic religion David Brooks has been asking somebody to start up for years, except for the power part, the notion that having the right sort of Character won't help you change society if society doesn't allow you the Power to do something about it.

I'm not sure this part has fully registered with Brooks, but it may be the thing that has sunk in enough that he's begun to notice it.

Liu, from Poughkeepsie, and a nephew of the Taiwan university administrator and occasional government figure (he was prime minister in 2008-09) Liu Chao-shiuan, comes to public life from the Clinton administration, in which he served as as a speechwriter and eventually deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, after Elena Kagan left the job to join the Supreme Court. He has written a lot of books, including The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker (1998) in which he lamented his inability to read Chinese, and the newly issued collection of his Seattle homilies Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy, which is the thing Brooks is blurbing today. His Ted Talk has been viewed over one million times.

There are no job opportunities as Citizen University at the moment, but younger readers might like to contemplate the year-long Youth Collaboratory, in which
24 highly-motivated students from around the country will join Citizen University and travel to cities around the nation, meeting leading civic innovators, sharpening their literacy in citizen power and producing their own independent projects in their communities.
“The highlight was getting to connect to people in the successful, professional world and talk to them about the issues and projects that they’re working on. It’s really inspiring.”
Or you can just make a secure donation. The webmaster gave them a blog page, but they haven't tried to do anything with that yet. It's stupid for me to complain that Civic Saturdays are calculated to exclude observant Jews, as if I knew any observant Jews who would suffer from this. Come to think of it, I don't believe I know any seriously sabbatarian Jews at all, though I see them toddling around the neighborhood to their tiny fissiparous shuls every week. Perhaps I should think of Citizen University as a kind of post-Reconstructionist Judaism without (many) Jews, a multicultural offshoot like Christianity of the ancient faith, in which a melting pot minyan seeks to repair the world by "revitalizing the practice of civic gatherings."

I don't know why it's so difficult for me to not be spiteful about all these clearly well-meaning and hopeful folks, just because I don't think the project has no chance of achieving anything but what David Brooks has sometimes described (with reference to people who practice recycling or go on protest marches) as a "tingly feeling" for its upper-class participants.

Look at what they've accomplished already! They've given David Brooks a fleeting sense that oppression exists in our society! If it lasts, I'll really need to reconsider.

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