I posted the following on Jay Bookman’s blog, April, 30, 2015, and following this post is my explanation on Maureen Downey’s blog, the same day, in answer to how my words below explore “unorthodox” thought:
The problem as I see it is that we want to think in stark terms, and do not see in terms of gradients.
Slavery was evil. Jim Crow was evil, but not all people who owned slaves were evil and not all white people who were silent during Jim Crow were evil. We all have elements of evil and good within our psyches. In a rare twist of irony, in DaVinci’s painting of “The Last Supper,” the same man whom he had painted as Jesus Christ was also chosen to be Judas, 10 years later. DaVinci was not aware of that fact until they talked near the end of the work’s completion. The man’s features had changed so much in ten years after a hard, rough life that DaVinci thought he was another person, not his original Jesus.
When we can accept the evil in our own souls, then we become less judgmental and more aware of the fullness of human nature. And, we stop thinking in stereotypical, caricatured images.
Ben Affleck’s reaction of wanting to hide the fact that some of his ancestors owned slaves shows me how emotionally immature he remains even as a grown man, who is an accomplished dramatist.
That is the richness of knowing about people more fully, discovering the nuances of good and evil and how those qualities interact within each of us.
This past President’s Day, Jay Bookman told a true story of George Washington’s search for his wife’s runaway slave. Washington was presented with his petty side showing. Frankly, I thought that, although that story was true, the reasons that it had been true were not explored deeply enough in the context of Washington’s total character, and in the context of his marriage, and in the context of that age of history. Besides that, I thought, tell that truth and get it out there, but don’t tell it on George Washington’s birthday. That was the time to honor all the good in that man’s soul from which we are all still benefiting today. We must stop seeing others, like the looters in Baltimore, as all good or all evil. That is an adolescent way to see the world.
I grew up in the system of Jim Crow in the South. Unless you grew up in it yourself, you cannot imagine how there could be “good” people who supported segregation (as I did not.) Likewise, none of us grew up in the days of slavery, so for us to judge others unduly who were born into a social system of slavery as I was born into a social system of Jim Crow cannot possibly understand the many variances of thought within ONE individual. It is a current fad to condemn Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves which he inherited, but what people do not register is that Thomas Jefferson was against slavery all of his life. In the Declaration of Independence he tried to condemn slavery but the delegates from SC and Georgia would not sign unless he took that part out. Finally, after about a decade, Jefferson simply gave up with that idea, as did Washington in his circumstances. LaFayette had had long talks with Washington about how to eliminate slavery in America. Nevertheless, Jefferson always maintained that slavery was spiritually wrong and he predicted it would end about the time it did, though he voiced he hoped it would be a peaceful transition, not one which involved war. In other words, there were “good” slave owners and there were “sadistic” slave owners. Just as today there are good cops and sadistic cops.
The entire reason I am on this blog is to try to get people to embrace unorthodox thought.
Someone earlier had asked of my one post on this thread, how my thoughts could be considered “unorthodox”?