Good manners are “keepers of the peace,” according to a lengthy article in The Christian Science Monitor, and many Americans have “tuned out politics” because they are tired of incivility in that highly combative arena of public life.
Is Limbaugh Paying More?
Such incivility was on display last week when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” after she testified about contraception at a congressional hearing. Limbaugh has since been pilloried by pundits on the left and right, and numerous businesses have announced that they would no longer advertise on his radio show. On Saturday, Limbaugh issued a qualified apology, but it failed to satisfy most critics.
At The Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers joined the chorus of condemnation, but also wondered where the left’s outrage is for the misogynistic outbursts of progressive pundits Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and Ed Schultz.
Powers said Schultz described former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a “bimbo” and called Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut,” while Keith Olbermann “has said that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents” and Michelle Malkin is a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.” Matthews has referred to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “she-devil,” “Nurse Ratched,” “Madame Defarge,” “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “uppity,” according to Powers, and Maher has called Palin a c-nt, among other insults.
“Many feminist blogs now document attacks on women on the left and the right … but when it comes to high-profile campaigns to hold these men accountable—such as that waged against Limbaugh—the real fury seems reserved only for conservatives,” said Powers.
Debating Breitbart’s Legacy
The debate about which political bent produces the most incivility extends to notorius conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart, who died suddenly March 1 at the age of 43. While some liberals, like Arianna Huffington, offered public praise for the man who orchestrated successful media attacks against Acorn, Shirley Sherrod, and former congressman Anthony Weiner, others, like Slate’s Matt Yglesias reveled in his death.
Today, at The Root, Joel Dreyfuss said there’s been too much public praise for Breitbart.
“Avoiding speaking ill of the dead is not a reason to remain mute about an evil legacy,” said Dreyfuss. “Breitbart was an agent provocateur who lied and cheated and distorted the facts to support his right-wing political agenda. He was largely responsible for destroying ACORN, an organization that worked for decades on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. He nearly ruined the reputation of Shirley Sherrod, who had a distinguished civil rights record. Before he died, Breitbart was promising to expose unsavory information about President Obama’s college days.”
But, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat compared the legacy of Breitbart with that of respected and respectful social scientist John Q. Wilson, who also died last week.
“Wilson thrived … in precisely the kind of media-intellectual ecosystem — institutionalist, high-middlebrow, genteel — that Breitbart spent his career putting to the torch. Whether Breitbart was working for Matt Drudge or Arianna Huffington or building his own empire, his first loyalty was always to the sensational scoop, the wild-and-crazy stunt, the overcaffeinated public feud with whichever enemy happened to be hating on him. … He was a P. T. Barnum figure, at once lovable and deplorable, who embodied the online media landscape like no other figure on the right or left,” said Douthat.
“It’s easy to see the shift from Wilson’s old-media conversation to Breitbart’s new-media circus … as a straightforward story of cultural decline,” Douthat said, but he concluded that American journalism in the Internet age represents a return to form and said “a republic that survived the excesses of William Randolph Hearst can presumably survive the excesses of HuffPo and BigGovernment.com.”
Manners Empower People
It may survive, but is the republic made better or worse by incivility?
“Manners empower people to demonstrate respect for others, to avoid inflicting the unintentional insult, to defuse the kind of confusion that leads to conflict and violence. The mannerly know how to make good apologies when they mess up, as they inevitably will. And – as with the well-placed snub – they know how to deviate from convention as a means of voicing their concerns. Observers say manners and civility, in fact, form the core of an ethical life, one lived first with respect for others,” the Christian Science Monitor article said, and I agree.
What do you think?
Is incivility destroying public discourse and damaging the republic?
Haiti does have a long history of “dealings with the Devil.” But not in the way the televangelist suggested.
Last week’s earthquake in Haiti has turned the world’s attention to this poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti was rocked to its very foundation by a 7.2 earthquake that decimated its capital city, Port-au-Prince, leaving countless thousands dead and millions more homeless, hungry, and in need of medical care. As much of the island is reeling from the recent devastation, without electricity and water, this is but the most recent disaster in a string of tragedies to hit Haiti’s shores.
Over the past several decades Haiti has suffered famine, civil war, hurricanes, and floods just to name a few of its many unfortunate trials. And now the most devastating earthquake ever recorded on the island has the world watching and praying. Many of us are also taking crash courses in Haitian history in our need to know more about this Caribbean island that has suffered hardship after hardship. We’ve watched the reports from Haiti on CNN and Fox News, listened to scholars and commentators on NPR, and tried to understand the complicated story of this star-crossed nation.
Sadly, not everyone watching the events in Haiti have come away with the normal humane sentiments of shock and grief. As we’ve all heard by now, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is more bothered by the fact that President Obama will be viewed as “humanitarian” and “compassionate” as a result of the tragedy rather than the fact that millions of human beings are in crisis.
But Limbaugh is a political rabble-rouser who thrives on drawing fire with his ridiculous (and often racially tinged) remarks. More disheartening were the comments from TV preacher and erstwhile presidential candidate Pat Robertson, who used his 700 Club platform to offer an impromptu history lesson on why Haiti may be the recipient of such catastrophic misfortune, even as he asked for donations for relief efforts. With his helpless co-host looking on (the poor woman’s face seemed to plead, “Please don’t say something crazy, Mr. Robertson!”), Robertson said this:
Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.” True story. And so, the Devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor.
That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have — and we need to pray for them — a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.
By now, most reasonable people have rebuked Robertson for the insensitive tone and poor timing of his remarks. But what about his take on Haitian history? Looking at the events through Christian eyes, did Haiti’s historic grab for freedom truly constitute “a pact with the Devil”?
A Voodoo Legacy?
In his controversial remarks, Robertson seemed to be referencing the legendary Bois Caïman voodoo ceremony that some believe took place in 1791, though scholars now disagree as to the historicity of the event. The ceremony, led by voodoo priest and activist Dutty Boukman, supposedly inspired the Haitian revolution.
That’s one reading of the history, but unbeknown to most Westerners, Haiti’s dealings with the Devil started long before its rebellious slaves overthrew their French oppressors — and it continues to this day. The bargaining for the soul of the island began when Christopher Columbus happened upon this Caribbean paradise and its natives in 1492, supposing it was part of India. He renamed it “Hispaniola.”
In less than a century the Spanish had exterminated the indigenous population, the Taínos, and imported slaves from the continent of Africa to cultivate what would soon be called the “Jewel of the Antilles.” The French, seeking possession of this valuable piece of real estate, went to war with Spain a century later and was only able to conquer half the island. As a result, the island once known as Hispaniola is today divided, with the eastern side now called The Dominican Republic and the western side, Haiti.
A Myth That Keeps Giving
Before the fateful Haitian revolt, the island of Haiti produced half of the sugar, coffee, and indigo consumed in all of Europe. By this time, North and South America, as well as the Caribbean, were engaged in colonization and the slave trade by various European nations — Spain, France, Portugal, England, etc. It is here where we begin to witness the Devil’s doing … or undoing. After many failed attempts by the black people in Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and the United States to free themselves from the satanic practice of the West called slavery, the Haitian slaves began a revolt in 1791 that eventually surged under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture. The Haitians finally won their independence in 1804.
Battle at Santo Domingo is a painting by January Suchodolski depicting a struggle between Polish troops in French service and the Haitian rebels during their revolution.
The Haitian revolution became the first successful slave revolt in history, and Haiti was the second European colony, after the United States, to win its independence. However, many white Christians continue to believe the not only false but ridiculous rumor over the centuries that the Haitians secured their freedom by making a “pact with the Devil” in exchange for their freedom from French rule.
Not long after Haiti declared its independence, Napoleon Bonaparte, the then-leader of France, often hailed an “anti-Christ” by many of Robertson’s peers, failed in his attempts to regain control from the rebels and France lost the war — and, I might add, most every war after that. Why anyone would need to strike a bargain with the Devil in order to beat France in a war is beyond me. Perhaps the thought of “ignorant savages” having the ability to overthrow their white masters to secure their own freedom was too much for some European minds to grasp. Therefore, these “mere slaves” must have required the assistance of some “supernatural power.” And this “supernatural power” invoked by the Haitians naturally must have been of satanic origin because the Christian God served by France and the other European nations obviously smiled upon the slave trade and the many blessings colonial imperialism was inflicting on His other children throughout the world. He certainly couldn’t have come to the aid of slaves who cried out for centuries for God to deliver them; surely there is no biblical precedent for this.
Perhaps, by now, you’ve picked up on my sarcasm.
The Devil’s Triple Play
You don’t have to be a military strategist or have ever read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to know that you never just give up territory to the enemy. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said Jesus. And He was not referring to the house of France, but the House of Satan itself. If the Bible be true, and I believe it is, why would Napoleon, a supposed “anti-Christ,” release one of his greatest trophies in Haiti? Especially since he had a “two-for-one special”: 1) One of the most prosperous islands in the Caribbean at the time, supplying massive amounts of cash crops to the rest of Europe in the name of “Mammon,” while 2) extracting it at the expense of untold human suffering and carnage in the form of “slavery.”
It is apparent to anyone who knows the history of Haiti that the real dealings with the Devil have been three-fold: First, its initial contact with European colonization and the satanic institution of slavery; second, the nearly century’s long embargo that the West imposed on the island as retribution for liberating itself; and third, the economic exploitation perpetrated against Haiti by those very same Western players in modern times, as well as the poverty prostitution the nation has been forced to perform for the Devil’s spawn — the Bretton Woods system and its minions.
The fact that the Haitians themselves have had a hand in their own suffering is well publicized, sampled, looped, and mixed. But it takes two to tango. I’ll address the second and third aspects of Haiti’s “Dealings with the Devil” more fully in a future article. Until then, Pat Robertson, like the rest of us who profess to be believers in Jesus, should engage in “religion that is pleasing to God.” That means guarding our tongues against saying cruel things; it means coming to the aid of the widowed and orphaned in their distress; and it means keeping oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:26-27).”
Haiti needs our help and prayers at this time, and in doing so we should heed what God has shown us to be good: “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with Him (Micah 6:8).