A Dowding Thomas

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Sometimes
you come across an article so serially erroneous and illogical that
it's better to respond to each distortion point by point and forsake
traditional composition. Maureen Dowd's bush-league vitriol toward
Justice Clarence Thomas in her
February 14 New York Times column
is such an article.
(In addition to being Black History Month, February seems to be
Bash Clarence Thomas Month.)

"After
10 years in the shadows, after a mute decade on the bench, Clarence
Thomas had a black-tie coming-out party last night."

So
when I met Thomas at a publicized speech in 1999 and saw him speak
on C-SPAN several times thereafter, this was all illusory. Does
Dowd think I shook hands with a doppelganger that proceeded to impersonate
his Honor at other venues?

As
for the muteness dig, how does inquisitive frequency bear on juridical
quality? This seems an extraneous stylistic preference; if anything,
Thomas's relative silence confirms his deliberative maturity.

"The
Garbo of the Supreme Court talked. And talked. And talked."

This
reminds me of Ben Stiller's line in Your Friends and Neighbors:
"I'm accused of speaking." (The context was a bit different.)
Yes, Thomas actually engaged in substantive utterances during a
speech. I take it Dowd would've preferred some pseudo-sophisticated
minimalism a la John Cage's "4'33." (Thomas's
speech can be read here
.)

"And
what Justice Thomas said was pretty bellicose. Rejecting the president's
call for compromise and harmony, he said, u2018Today there is much talk
about moderation,' but there is an u2018overemphasis on civility.'"

It
was less bellicose than affirmative, but bellicosity's not so bad
anyway. Quite often, a prescription of "etiquette" or
"civility" seeks to instill docility in the face of injustice – what
Thomas referred to as "yielding to a false form of civility."
(Don't be uppity with these objections to tyranny; it's just uncouth!)

"As
Bill Clinton went to Harlem seeking validation from a mostly black
crowd, Clarence Thomas went to the Hilton seeking validation from
a mostly white crowd."

A
good sign of critical enfeeblement is the resort to psychoanalysis;
there's often a strong strain of condescension in it. Of course
motivational speculation can have merit; once words like "validation"
start being used, though, the road to ink blots is near. (Dowd appears
to be slouching in her
New York Times picture
; is this indicative of a woman
with low self-esteem? I don't know and would find it arrogant to
conclude so.)

"Many
of the whites who crowded around Clarence can't stand Bill [Clinton].
And many of the blacks who crowded around Bill [in Harlem] can't
stand Clarence."

This
has lots of rhetorical appeal and zero significance other than reflecting
the political orientations of white American Enterprise Institute
supporters and some black Harlem residents. And what's with the
first-name reference to Thomas? I doubt Dowd knows him – so much for
her critique of his civility.

"As
Ebony magazine recently wrote of Justice Thomas: u2018Why does it appear
that he consistently votes for issues supported by racists and archconservatives,
and opposed by . . . almost all blacks?'"

Martin
Luther King, Jr. once said of Barry Goldwater: "While not himself
a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulates a philosophy which gives aid
and comfort to the racist." Dowd shares King's penchant for
fallacious argument. (Call it the fallacy of guilt by functional
concurrence.) I'm sure white supremacists share my opposition to
antidiscrimination laws. Does this entail my endorsement of their
toxic creed? That'd be a no.

Oh,
the Left: so much resentment, so little rationality.

February
23, 2001

Myles
Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Myles
Kantor Archives

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