Discover more from Letters from an American
May 17, 2020
Three stories tonight.
One from the future, one from the past, and one from the present.
From the future…
The story of Trump’s 30-day notice that he was firing Steve A. Linick as inspector general of the State Department bothers me for a different reason than the obvious. Of course, Trump’s continuing purge of inspectors general is not okay. Neither is Republican senators’ willingness to go along with it.
But I am also curious about something else. The media is reporting that Linick was looking into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan have been using staffers to conduct their personal business. But that story is actually not new: there have been similar complaints about the Pompeos since 2018.
So why was Linick on the chopping block now? It is just a further purge? After all, he is the fourth inspector general to be fired lately. Or was there something else going on? Pompeo’s aggressive Christian stance at State, combined with his affinity for propaganda outlets like Breitbart, has always made me nervous about how he is approaching foreign affairs, so it is entirely likely I’m overly suspicious. But the Pompeo story is something I’ll be watching in the future.
From the past…
Today is the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing school segregation. The decision was made under a Republican Chief Justice, Earl Warren, who had previously been the governor of California, and the decision was unanimous. “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” the court said.
It handed down the decision in the midst of the Army-McCarthy hearings, which ran from April to June. In these televised proceedings, Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, also a Republican, but part of a small faction that hated America’s active post-World War Two government, tried to prove that the government that had pulled the nation out of the Depression and mobilized it for war was welcoming communism into America. Communism had spread even into the military, McCarthy charged. Seeing the senator bluster and bully on television, rather than hearing his frightening charges tidied up in newspapers, turned Americans against him. His star fell after the hearings, and he died of complications from alcoholism two years later.
But school desegregation gave his warnings and his bullying style a new lease on life. Brown v. Board enabled opponents of the postwar government to tie racism to their hatred of government regulation of business and provision of a basic social safety net. They insisted the Supreme Court’s decision proved that the activist government Americans had embraced in the 1930s and 1940s was designed simply to redistribute wealth from hardworking white taxpayers to lazy African Americans. Government officials and programs, paid for with taxes, offered black Americans benefits like good schools and the military protection necessary to attend them. This argument would attract southern Democrats to the Republican Party, and by 1970, the party would abandon the cause of civil rights in favor of an anti-communism that was shot through with racism.
All these decades later, the formulation embraced by opponents of Brown v. Board has landed us in a spot where any government activism, even requirements that people wear masks during a deadly pandemic, is greeted with fury by a part of the population that sees any government action that helps ordinary Americans as socialism, and usually links that to race.
And from the present…
I have walked by this scene my whole life and never paid much attention to it. A new eye and a new angle turned it into something else altogether.
Happy Sunday, Everyone. Let's buckle up for a busy week.
[Photo by Buddy Poland]
On Christian leadership: https://www.state.gov/being-a-christian-leader/