The dust-up between Senator Barbara Boxer and the head of the National Black Chamber of Commerce has been the talk of the town these past few days. In case you missed it here is a brief summary.
On July 16 Barbara Boxer in
her official capacity as the ranking senator from the State of California
was conducting a senate hearing on environmental policy. In keeping
with the Senator’s partisan biases she attempted to stack the rhetorical
deck in favor of the Obama administration’s Goreistic Green
assumptions and all concurrent social and economic goals. With this
as the context, one expert called before Senator Boxer’s committee
was the president & CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce,
Harry C. Alford. The following is a summary of the exchange in
question (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Barbara Boxer began by quoting a resolution on climate change from the NAACP (Note: In case you missed the obvious here: Mr. Alford is African American and Senator Boxer is Caucasian). The Senator attempted to use this document as a challenge to Mr. Alford’s position. Mr. Alford took umbrage and tried to get Senator Boxer to clarify why she was referring to the NAACP document as her primary source of rebuttal when the NAACP was essentially expressing a generic concern for the environment rather than a cart blanche endorsement of cap and trade policies. Feeling frustrated (and perhaps a bit cornered) Boxer brought an additional source to bear: another African American named John Grant who reportedly represents an organization called 100 Black Men of Atlanta. The dialogue and debate then proceeded as follows.
Alford: "Madam Chair, that is condescending to me. I'm the [CEO of the] National Black Chamber of Commerce and you're trying to put some other black group up to pit against me."
Boxer: "If this gentleman [referring, we can assume, to Mr. Grant] were here he would be proud that he was being quoted."
Alford: "He should have been invited!"
Boxer: "...just so you know he would be proud [Second time she uses the word] that you are here… He’s proud [Third time she uses the word], I’m sure that I am quoting him…"
Alford: "It is condescending to me… All that's condescending and I don't like it. It's racial. I don't like it. I take offense to it. As an African-American and a veteran of this country, I take offense to that… We are referring to the experts regardless of their color. And for someone to tell me, an African-American, college-educated veteran of the United States Army that I must contend with some other black group and put aside everything else in here -- this has nothing to do with the NAACP and really has nothing to do with the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We're talking energy and that road the chair went down, I think, is god-awful."
In the midst of the media flurry of conservative indignation and liberal angst that has swirled around this political thrust and parry may I suggest that we have perhaps missed the forest for the trees in our evaluation of the Senator’s overtures and Mr. Alford’s response?
The trees that we see are obvious: a conservative black businessman finally has had enough and he has the intestinal fortitude to say so. He rises up and shouts what millions are thinking: “Stop patting us on the head and telling us that you are proud of us! Stop implying that just because we are intelligent enough to express a coherent opinion that we should be proud of ourselves and proud of each other. And please - please stop pitting “us black folk” against each other as a means of perpetuating your myopic partisan views. Black people have brains too! We are fully capable of self-confidence and self-direction. We don’t have to agree with everything a white progressive says and frankly we are sick of your patronizing condescension - especially in the face of your transparent efforts to ‘keep us in line.’ Your demagoguery, and its implicit racism, is obvious and we don’t like it!” Yes the soft pines of the Left’s fallacious tolerance of everything but what it deems to be intolerable are waving their shadowy branches all around us aren’t they…?
But look further beyond these trees: beyond the trunks and shrubs of agreement or disagreement with Alford or Boxer and look, as the Oxford Don C.S. Lewis admonishes us, “farther up and farther in.” Step back and take a look at the “forest.”
Three times in her attempted harangue and scold of Alford, Senator Boxer used a derivative of the word “pride.” Three times she said “he would be proud” or implied that “you should be proud.” Three times she did what almost all of us do when flustered: She showed her cards and her real priorities. When cornered we all do this. When we are set back on our heals by a counter punch we all (whether intentional or not), put up our strongest defense - our highest good - our summum bonum – our guiding apologetic – our fallback position, if you will. Watch any debate or argument. When it escalates beyond the point of the controlled and the scripted to the level of reflex, instinct and emotion you will always find the underlying assumptions and values of the protagonist and antagonist. When flustered we become more honest. You do. I do. Alford did and so did Senator Boxer.
For Senator Boxer the strongest counterpunch she could muster in the face of Mr. Alford’s foray was that of pride. She repeated it three times. Proud! Proud! Proud! And therein we start to see the “forest” of her argument. Pride is the ultimate value. Pride is the trump card against all other hands. Boxer seems to almost be subconsciously paraphrasing Michael Douglas’ infamous 1987 Wall Street quote whereby Gordon Gekko elevated another of the seven deadly sins (i.e. greed) to that of virtue versus vice. Can you hear her? “The point is ladies and gentlemen, that [pride], for lack of a better word, is good, [pride] is right, [pride] works. [Pride] clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. [Pride] in all of its forms…has marked the upward surge of mankind … and [Pride], you mark my words will … not only save [our environment and our economy] but [also] the …United States of America.”
Once commenting on the infinite varieties of human waywardness Chaucer said “The root of all these seven [deadly] sins is Pride: the general root of all harms.” Augustine added that Pride “inordinately enamored with its own power …despises the more just dominion of a higher authority” and one of our most endearing twentieth century apologists, C.S. Lewis, ties it all together: “Pride leads to every other vice. Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Pride ultimately leads all who embrace it to declare “I am it. I am the universe. I am your God…” (Perelandra, C.S. Lewis 1965).
You see, Barbara Boxer’s
juvenile mantra of Pride, Pride, Pride, betrays a dark forest of rotting
trees waving gnarly branches of arrogance, condescension, haughtiness,
hubris, self-congratulation and the ultimate of all progressive self-refuting
claims: a sanctimonious call for tolerance while not tolerating anyone
(especially a conservative African American businessman) who dares to
disagree and refuses to follow blindly and obediently behind the emperor
of the Left who happens to be wearing no clothes.
Mr. Alford said it well. This kind of pride is indeed God-awful. It’s awful in the eyes of God and awful as well as to all who seek God and wish to be protected from the pride and prejudice of those among us who yearn to be God.
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About Dr. Everett Piper
Dr. Piper is the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Associated with Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint and Centurions programs, Dr. Piper is the author of "Why I am a 'Liberal' and Other Conservative Ideas" http://www.whyiamaliberal.com/. He has also authored "The Wrong Side of the Door: Why Ideas Matter. Piper is a frequent speaker on Christian education, Biblical worldview, and applied apologetics in both regional and national venues. For more information go to www.okwu.edu or go to www.everettpiper.com .
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