Friday, November 11, 2011

Tribal Loyalty

Today's dialog is about tribal loyalty ... at Penn State, in politics, and just maybe in Richardson.

My favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, is from Louisiana and a big LSU football fan. Notice I didn't say football fan. I said LSU football fan. If you're a regular reader of Dreher, it's hard to imagine him as any kind of a sports fan. Instead, think of a Bizarro version of Niles Crane on the old Frasier television show, only one who is Cajun and deeply religious and you'll be closer to the mark, I think. Anyhow, Dreher blogged about the child sexual abuse scandal unfolding at Penn State and the loyalty to the institution shown by those caught up in it and by students who rallied (and rioted) in support of Joe Paterno.

A few days earlier, on another subject altogether, I had commented on Dreher's blog that I thought that sometimes he was himself guilty of what he criticized others for, but was unable to see it in himself. After the jump, how my dialog with Dreher resumed with the Penn State story.

The dialog below might read a little disjointed because it consists of edited excerpts from a much larger blog post and comment thread.

Dreher: "Let's say that I was a 44-year-old white man, same as I am now, living in my own hometown in the Deep South in 1956. I am seeing every day black people discriminated against, by law. Do I stand up against it? I am sorry to say that I am virtually certain that I would not."

Dreher: "Here's the more interesting question about something like this (I mean, the daily evil of Jim Crow): Would I have even been able to see it? That is, would my own acculturation, especially acculturation in in-group loyalties, have made it impossible, or virtually impossible, for my mind to accept what was plainly happening in front of my eyes?"

Myself: "Probably impossible. That's what I was getting at the other day when I said I found it puzzling why you can't see yourself in much of your criticism of others. You asked for an example, which I neglected to provide because I felt an example, any example, would have been rejected, just like any argument against Jim Crow would have been summarily dismissed by almost any white Southerner in the 1960s. Acculturation simply makes it impossible for you to question the premises that acculturation is based on."

Myself: "My statement was too strong. Societies do evolve, so do individuals. But I contend it's not done through conscious reasoning. It happens slowly, by acculturation osmosis call it, until one day, it seems like the new way of thinking is obvious."

Myself: "Speaking of tribal loyalty and turning a blind eye to wrongdoing, how about this exchange in Wednesday night's GOP presidential primary debate?"
BARTIROMO: Mr. Cain, the American people want jobs, but they also want leadership. They want character in a president. In recent days, we have learned that four different women have accused you of inappropriate behavior. Here we're focusing on character and on judgment.


All this makes me wonder about how people perceive events in Richardson politics. One faction accuses the city of cronyism, corruption, disregard for the public and the law, etc. Everything that happens is viewed through that same lens. Then there are people (I include myself here) who tend to roll their eyes in skepticism upon hearing every new charge of wrongdoing. Rod Dreher's own musings make me wonder, has the knee-jerk reaction of the chronic critics to anything that happens in Richardson conditioned me to be unable to see real problems?


glbeach said...

First, let's agree no individual and no system built by individuals is perfect. With that as an underpinning - and knowing there is probably a bell curve regarding corruption of which every municipality fills a spot, I think it is safe to say there probably are some issues and problems within Richardson. Having said that, I'm inclined to believe there is also a small but vocal faction that sees conspiracy, cronyism, and corruption in everything the City Father's do, but have yet to supply any credible (in a legal sense) evidence to support their many claims of wrongdoing. The lack of credible evidence and the continued claims of wrongdoing at every turn in my mind erodes their position - sort of a 'little boy crying wolf' scenario. It is unfortunate in that it is always good to have an honest pair of eyes for oversight, but I get the feeling the critics are not looking for honest oversight but rather for opportunity to usurp power - and that gives me no comfort at all.

mccalpin said...

It's interesting, Mark, that you should write this now...the website author (who lives in San Antonio) who was the source of a great deal of misinformation that you wrote about under "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished - Parks Edition", has updated his website.

On the lower left hand side, he maintains a set of links to other blogs and web sources. For a long time, he had one to your blog called "Mark Steger" he has changed the link to read "Mark Stinker".

Talk about tribal loyalties and petty behavior...he prints a lot of misinformation, slanders a few people, fails to refute anything that you say...but now you're the "stinker" it any wonder that decent people will cross the street rather than have anything to do with this guy?


Nathan Morgan said...

Willy & beach,

In spite of desperate attempts to obfuscate information, more and more questionable activity is becoming known to the citizens of Richardson. Understandably, people concerned about the quality of public service investigate matters. I am struck by how certain operatives endeavor to trivialize, label and group as "conspiracy" the long list of grievances brought by many respectable citizens.

The predictable response from Willy is directly out of a political science textbooks. He was apparently a good student.

There are significant problems with how public servants operate in Richardson. Why don't we all agree that there is merit in concerns raised by the public and set about fixing problems rather than quibble about shooting the messenger.