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A Conservative Soul

City Journal has a great piece up on classic soul music called “When Black Music was Conservative”.

In fact, though, the explicit sex and violence of contemporary black music represent a major cultural shift. A few decades ago, black popular music—what’s come to be known as “classic soul”—was notable for featuring lyrics that celebrated marriage and downplayed obstacles to black progress. Its lyrics championed the sort of family life that lays the groundwork for upward mobility and the optimism associated with a period of social breakthroughs and economic improvement.

True, African-American music has never been prudish or circumspect. The classic jazz and blues eras embodied a rich tradition of ribaldry, double entendres, and even relatively overt sexual lyrics. The terms “jazz” and “rock and roll” themselves may be euphemisms for sex. Nor was there anything coy or pro-fidelity about bluesman Muddy Waters, in his 1954 hit, singing “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” And black dance, notwithstanding its roots in the Pentecostal church (from which came Anna Mae Bullock, a.k.a. Tina Turner), also had its suggestive side. Common, too, is the idea that black music has historically been suffused with expressions of alienation, from Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail” to Leadbelly’s “Bourgeois Blues,” or more explicit social protest, such as Billie Holiday’s legendary “Strange Fruit,” a haunting ballad about lynching.

Nevertheless, the assumption that the state of contemporary black music is part of an unbroken chain of lusty lyrics and social protest leading back to the early days of rock—and even further back, to jazz and the blues—not only plays to the pernicious stereotype of a hypersexualized black culture; it also ignores a rich musical history that can be credibly described as socially conservative. The classic soul recordings of such sixties giants as Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Percy Sledge, The Impressions, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, and others embodied values at odds with those purveyed in much black popular music today. This music deserves appreciation for reasons that transcend nostalgia and even quality—as substantial as that was—and its decline raises troubling questions about the condition of black America and about American culture as a whole.

The 1960s and early 1970s was the era of what music critic Peter Guralnick has called “sweet soul music,” the title of his definitive book. Even as “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll” became the rallying cry of an increasingly libertine youth culture, soul music—a popular variant of church-based gospel music—enjoyed a golden age among black audiences, reflecting in many ways more traditional beliefs, including optimism about the future. “Soul music, then, was the product of a particular time and place,” Guralnick writes, when “the bitter fruit of segregation transformed . . . into a statement of warmth and affirmation.”

Janus Minded

Kim Davis' mugshot -- after her arrest for contempt of court for refusing to sign marriage licenses for gay couples

Kim Davis’ mugshot — after her arrest for contempt of court for refusing to sign marriage licenses for gay couples

Let me preface this post by saying we should not be here in the first place. The Supreme Court should never have butted its nose in the gay marriage debate. But here we are and so what are we supposed to do? and by “we” I mean folks with sincerely held religious objections in government positions. There are many ways to look at this and I will out my knee-jerk bias as being a rule of law guy — even if the other side doesn’t always follow the rules. I’m also a higher law guy — there is, somewhere a line out there I will not cross. I am NOT and never have been an “America right or wrong” kind of guy. I cotton to the Apostle Peter’s notion that I am a sojourner here and not a true citizen (eternally, temporally — legally — of course I am a citizen — and a loyal one).

So what should Ms. Davis have done? I really do not know. I am still going back and forth. I link here to people I respect on both sides of the issue they are helping me to be even more conflicted. :-) Whichever side of this particular issue you come down on — we have crossed a threshold — on the other side of which I fully expect to suffer material consequences for holding to my faith in the next decade or so. Please go read all of these pieces.

So for a Calvinistic Protestant Christian perspective on the “pro” Davis should refuse side I goive you Douglas IWlson from his “Blog and Mablog” blog:

So I want to begin by making an observation about that hill-to-die-on thing, but then move on to discuss the foundational principle that is at stake here. After that, I want to point out what it would look like if more government officials had the same understanding that Kim Davis is currently displaying — despite being opposed by all the intoleristas and also despite being abandoned by numerous Christians who admire her moxie but who don’t understand her moxie.

First, whenever we get to that elusive and ever-receding “hill to die on,” we will discover, upon our arrival there, that it only looked like a hill to die on from a distance. Up close, when the possible dying is also up close, it kind of looks like every other hill. All of a sudden it looks like a hill to stay alive on, covered over with topsoil that looks suspiciously like common ground.

So it turns out that surrendering hills is not the best way to train for defending the most important ones. Retreat is habit-forming.

This brings us to my second goal this morning, which is to highlight the principle. Pick some absurd issue — admittedly a dangerous thing to do in these times that defy the tender ministrations of satire — and that means that to be sufficiently absurd it would have to be an issue like legalized cannibalism. Now let us say that we live in a time, some weeks hence, when cannibalism can be practiced generally on established free market principles (Dahmer v. Illinois, 2023). But if you want to have a BBQ of that nature in a city park, on city property, then you are going to need a permit. Now say that you are Kim Davis’s granddaughter, and your office issues the permits for all activities in all the city parks. Do you issue the permit? Or do you arrange for a compromise? Find somebody in the office not nearly so squeamish as you are? “Hey, Queequeg! Can you handle this one?”

I interrupt this post to anticipate an objection to my choice of illustrations. “Are you saying, Wilson, that same sex mirage can be equated with cannibalism?” Well, no, they are very different sins. That said, they are both very wicked and God hates them both, and county clerks ought not give either one the sanction of law. But I am not trying equate anything here — I am simply trying to illustrate how a believer’s conscience ought to work if he is employed by a government that tries to sin grievously through the instrumentality of a godly magistrate. This is just how I paint illustrations, with bright yellows and gaudy greens. I do that so that people can see them.

Also on the pro-refuse side is the stalwart Constitutionalist Mark Levin:

Mark Levin opened his show tonight defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk, who was jailed today for refusing to violate her faith to honor a lawless Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

While some so-called conservatives are arguing that Davis is trying to nullify the rule of law, Levin brilliantly points out that her religious beliefs are protected by the first amendment and that it is the Supreme Court that is nullifying the rule of law, not Davis.

Levin also addresses the ‘supremacy’ of the court, which he says is not constitutional.

The radio clips are at the link. He basically takes a 1st and 10th Amendment tack.

On the con side (meaning she should issue the licenses) and also from a Christian (Orthodox) perspective we have Rod Dreher in The American Conservative:

Davis is in jail not because she holds that belief, but because acting on that belief in her capacity as a government official is, under these circumstances, breaking the law. If she resigned her post, or permitted others in her office to do what is legally required, she would not be in jail. Again, she’s not incarcerated for having the belief, but for acting on it in this way. She would be perfectly entitled to hold that belief as long as her government agency obeyed the law, which says otherwise.

As longtime readers know, I’m very much for an expansive definition of religious liberty, but if we grant individuals the right to defy any law they like without consequence, as long as they claim religious liberty, the rule of law ceases to exist. As much as we might admire Kim Davis’s grit — she said earlier that if she has to go to jail over this, she will — I don’t see where the judge had any other choice. He offered to set her free if she would allow her deputies to issue same-sex marriage licenses, but she won’t do that either.

Politically, though, the government is making a martyr of Kim Davis. Look at the comments of Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee above. My TAC colleague Alan Jacobs, who believes that Davis has no right to swear to uphold the law but also get away with defying the ones she doesn’t like, senses that something is up.

And here is Donald Trump’s take via Hot Air and the Joe Scarborough show(links at this link):

“The other simple answer is rather than going through this, [because] it’s really a very, very sticky situation, a terrible situation — 30 miles away they have other places, they have many other places where you get licensed, and you have them actually quite nearby,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s another alternative. I hate to see her being put in jail. I understand what they’re doing. It would be certainly nice if she didn’t do it, but other people in her office do it but from what I understand she won’t allow other people in her office to do it.”

Bottom line, host Joe Scarborough said, is that if Supreme Court makes a decision, that’s the law of land, right?

“You have to go with it,” Mr. Trump said. “The decision’s been made, and that is the law of the land.”…

“She can take a pass and let somebody else in the office do it in terms of religious, so you know, it’s a very … tough situation, but we are a nation, as I said yesterday, we’re a nation of laws,” he said. “And I was talking about borders and I was talking about other things, but you know, it applies to this, also, and the Supreme Court has ruled. It would be nice to have other people in her office do what they have to do.”

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Friday Open Thread

Rice RB Dicky Maegle -- on the way to a 95-yard TD run is about to be ambushed from the bench by Alabama reserve FB Tommy Lewis in the 1954 Cotton Bowl. The officials walked off the rest of the run for a touchdown. Rice 28; Bama 6.

Rice RB Dicky Maegle — on the way to a 95-yard TD run is about to be ambushed by Alabama reserve LB Tommy Lewis in the 1954 Cotton Bowl. The officials walked off the rest of the run for a touchdown. Rice 28; Bama 6.

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Smashing Pumpkins.

Thursday Open Thread

Todd Blackledge led Penn State vs. Nebraska in September 1982 on the way to a national championship (PSU won 27-24 in a barnburner)

Todd Blackledge-led Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Nebraska in September 1982 on the way to a national championship (PSU won 27-24 in a barnburner)

Bring your own bean soda, somewhere there’s a party ...


Besides the usual suspects on the alphabet networks and/or media outlets with floundering ratings/sales, who says only the Republicans can enjoy in-fighting? Certainly not the latest Taki’s Mag piece from David Cole Stein (I somehow missed the column a couple week’s ago). Please be sure to check out the rest of it here.

“In short,” the piece concluded, leftist groups like Outside Agitators 206 have “declared war on the Democratic Party.”

The fact that for many mainstream Democrats this was news is a testament to how well the left buries its factional squabbling. And indeed, about a day after PoliticusUSA’s honest appraisal, mainstream Democrats were working overtime to bury the truth. Career leftist Van Jones took to to outline the five reasons for the Sanders protest, and wouldn’t you know it, not one of them involved the existence of a segment of the left that has “declared war on the Democratic Party.” As the furor over the Sanders protest waned, we saw, once again, that the media—always so quick to gloat about dissent and squabbling among Republicans—quickly put an end to any discussions of leftist/Democrat factionalism.

And the reality is, neither faction liked the spotlight. The mainstream Dems want to continue to keep their base, especially that all-important “people of color” demo, from devolving into the type of “you’re the RINO! No, you’re the RINO! No, you’re the RINO!” internal bickering that helps keep the GOP stagnant. And the “burn down the system” loons? They like the détente with the mainstream because they profit from it. Black “revolutionary” and anti-Democrat Omali Yeshitela of the “Uhuru Movement” (black separatists favoring the partition of the U.S.) got himself a fancy permanent exhibit at the University of South Florida honoring his work advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, courtesy of Obama/Democrat “stimulus” money.

The last thing the revolutionaries want is to lose the tasty table scraps the party throws them, and (more important) the last thing the Democrats want is public awareness (and media coverage) of the factionalism. Indeed, there is every indication that the two “BLM” women who crashed the Sanders rally were loose cannons, because even the group that supported them and blasted out their press release, Outside Agitators 206, appeared to back away from that support when the stunt went a little too well.

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Wednesday Open Thread

Univ. of California Center Roy Riegels runs the wrong way after picking up a fumble against Georgia Tech in the 1929 Rose Bowl. His teammates tackled him on the 1 yard line. Georgia Tech 8, Cal 7 for GT to win the national championship.

Univ. of California Center Roy Riegels runs the wrong way after picking up a fumble against Georgia Tech in the 1929 Rose Bowl. His teammates tackled him on the 1 yard line. Georgia Tech 8, Cal 7 for GT to win the national championship.

Godspeed 15

Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers QB Bart Starr in action against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship Game

Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers QB Bart Starr in action against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship Game

ESPN the Magazine has a great piece up about Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr and his quest to make it back to Green Bay for the retirement of Brett Favre’s jersey in November. Starr’s had a tough sled since a series of strokes. Here’s to praying he makes it back this Fall:

Starr generally doesn’t recognize himself, either, when ol’ No. 15 turns up on the screen. Lombardi? Does he recognize that gap-toothed man in the camel hair coat? “No,” Cherry says. “You know, Bart may grasp it at times, but he’s just not fully conscious of his career or anything.”

Bart Jr. sat with his father recently to watch parts of the Ice Bowl, the Packers’ 1967 NFL Championship victory over the Dallas Cowboys played in a wind chill of minus-48 degrees. “He doesn’t remember it like you wished he did,” Bart Jr. says. “It’s not verbal, but he might understand more than we realize.”

One thing Starr understands on most days is the mission to return to Lambeau. The people in his life tell him he has to be there to wrap his arms around Favre and hopefully Aaron Rodgers, too. He has to walk onto the field under his own power. He has to let the Green Bay fans thank him one more time for winning the Ice Bowl on that daring sneak, for winning more championships than any quarterback dead or alive and for always opening his front door when strangers knocked unannounced and asked if they could take a picture with him, or maybe come inside for a minute to see a plaque or two.

That’s why they adore Starr in Green Bay. He was never about personal gain and glory, and always about the betterment of the team and the feelings men generate for one another when they work as one. In other words, he was about the love.

That’s a good thing, too, as far as this Thanksgiving night mission goes. Eight hundred and seventy-nine miles separate Starr’s Alabama house from his old house, Lambeau Field, and only the care and nurturing of his new team will get him from A to B. So his last great drive is a love story, and it begins and ends with the woman who keeps blocking for him in ways Jerry Kramer never could.