Richard Wright: Condemned as Bourgeois

The God That Failed: Why Six Great Writers Rejected Communism is an anthology which details why each author left communism. Authors include:  Andre Gide, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer, Ignazio Silone, and Stephen Spender.  Richard Wright, author and son of a sharecropper, is the third author in The God That Failed and his story comes from the perspective of a black man in his early adult years.

Richard Wright

It was Wright’s desire to write and be published that led him to embrace communism. When Wright’s co-worker at his local post office in Chicago invited Wright to a meeting at the John Reed Club, Wright’s reply was “I don’t want to be organized.”  His co-worker convinced Wright the club would help him get published.  This promise led Wright one night led to the doorstep of The John Reed Club.  Upon Wright’s first meeting he was asked to write for a magazine called Left Front.

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Later at home he read the magazines his soon-to-be comrades gave him. His mother upon seeing the cover art on one magazine became concerned.  The illustration cartoon showed a bugged eyed, open mouthed worker holding a red banner, being followed by a mob holding weapons.  Wright rationalized that the grotesque depiction was what the artist’s thought would be most eye catching and gain the cause new adherents.  Though the art was too abstract and “missed the meaning of the masses lives” the stories of struggle and the hope for uniting outcasts enchanted Wright.

Believing communism was a proper home for the black experience; Wright presented his crude poems to magazine staff and was surprised when two of his poems were published in three magazines: Left Front, Anvil, and New Masses.  Though Wright was concerned about the quality of his work, staff explained that their magazines wrote about blacks but didn’t have any works by them, thus Wright’s work was needed to influence other blacks and display solidarity between the plight of Negros and the worker.    Upon floors covered with papers and cigarette butts, Wright was soon elected by the “fervent and restless” staff as executive secretary.  Though Wright expressed his disinterest in the position, it had been determined before Wright was informed that he was to be used as the Negro tool to oust certain artists from the group.  His leaders knew no one would vote against a black guy because of how it would look.

One wild story Wright tells is of a new member who for several months was on a mission to rid the club of “traitors.” Comrade Young at a meeting one night verbally attacked a talented artist in the club named Swann as a “collaborator with the police” and a Trotskyite.  While word from the party of Young’s membership never came, Young readily kept up his attacks until one day Wright and others learned Young was an escaped patient from a nearby asylum in Detroit.  It was at this point Wright began to wonder “what kind of club did we run that a lunatic could step into it and help run it?”

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At a meeting of black communists he was patronized by his fellow comrades for being a writer and intellectual. From Wright’s shined shoes to his proper grammar, he was deemed bourgeois from that meeting on.  When Wright decided to work on a project involving a fellow black communist named Ross and Ross’s experiences growing up, Wright’s membership and loyalty quickly became questioned by leaders.  Wright’s first brush with such totalitarian aspects came in the form of a black comrade confronting him at home.  Here’s some of the conversation he describes.

Comrade: “Intellectuals don’t fit well into the party, Wright.”
Wright: “But I’m not an intellectual, I sweep streets for a living”
Comrade: “…we’ve had trouble with intellectuals in the past…only 13% stay in the party.”
Wright: “Why do they leave…?”
Comrade: “General opposition to party policies.”
Wright: “But I’m not opposing anything in the party.”
Comrade: “You’ll have to prove your revolutionary loyalty…the party has a way of testing people.”

At this point in their conversation Wright’s comrade refers to another black party member known for being militant who was wounded in the head by police during a demonstration.

Comrade: “That’s proof of revolutionary loyalty.”
Wright: “Do you mean that I must get whacked in the head by cops to prove that I’m sincere?”
Comrade: “I’m not suggesting anything, I’m explaining.”
Wright: “Look. Suppose a cop whacks me over the head and I suffer a brain concussion. Suppose I’m nuts after that. Can I write then?  What shall I have proved?”
Comrade: “The Soviet Union has had to shoot a lot of intellectuals.”

Wright’s work recording Ross’s experiences became an unwinnable situation when Ross was accused of “anti-leadership tendencies,” “class collaborationist attitudes,” and “ideological factionalism.” This authentic frontier gibberish led Wright and Ross to not even trust each other, two black low-income comrades in Chicago, when alone together.  Suspicion ran deeply throughout the militant John Reed Club and its affiliates.  Wright discovered that in group situations, those who agreed with his points remained quiet out of fear.

Eventually Wright himself was accused of being a “smuggler of reaction,” “petty bourgeois degenerate,” “bastard intellectual,” and “incipient Trotskyite” who manifested “seraphim tendencies.” His friend Ross confessed to crimes against the party he never committed. At this, Wright saw the writing on the wall, eventually asking at a meeting to have his membership dropped from party rolls (though he did ask to stay connected to certain elements at the time).  His question was deferred but Wright didn’t care anymore, he grabbed his hat and walked out the door without a word.

Even that act was twisted into lie about Wright being a wayward Trotskyite leading others out of the party. Yet he was discouraged from leaving because “People would think that something was wrong if someone like you quit…”  Wright’s response is understandable:

“My comrades had known me, my family, my friends; they, God knows, had known my aching poverty. But they had never been able to conquer their fear of the individual way in which I acted and lived, an individuality which life had seared into my boots.”

Unfortunately for Wright, his so-called traitorous ways got him into trouble by the many communists who, according to Wright, often worked in Works Progress Administration positions. Wright was clandestinely kicked out of his job through the Federal Negro Theater.  Transferred to the Federal Writers Project, attempts to oust Wright were thwarted by his supervisor.  One day, Wright left work and encountered picketing in front of his building.  As he walked from the building he heard shouted at him among other insults “Wright’s a traitor!”  Wright said of the experience: “I had now reached a point where I was cursed aloud in the busy streets of America’s second-largest city. It shook me as nothing else had.”

The last story Wright tells discusses the day he realized he’d never feel “that simple sharpness about life” and was done with communism. After a fellow black comrade invited Wright to join his contingent during a May Day parade, suddenly a white district party leader named Cy Perry told Wright to “get out of our ranks.”  Dumbfounded Wright explained he wanted to be there but Perry enlisted another comrade to lift Wright into the air and pitch him headfirst into a sidewalk.  Though Wright avoided a head injury, his mind was forever changed.  Richard Wright went on to write Native Son, The Outsider, Black Boy, and Uncle Tom’s Children.  He lived in Paris until he died of a heart attack at the age of 52.

“Even a Negro, entrapped by ignorance and exploitation – as I had been – could, if he had the will and love for it, learn to read and understand the world in which he lived. And it was these people that the Communists could not understand.”

Photo credit: https://www.loa.org/writers/269-richard-wright

 

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Broken Words Come from Broken People

Last weekend my city once again hosted a giant word fest in the form of a rally and a protest in response to that rally. The terms “Nazi”, “racist”, “white supremacist”, “fascist”, “bigot”, and other descriptions were used to label Patriot Prayer group members as “right wing” and therefore guilty of being bad people.  My wife and I randomly met Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer in January.  We found him to be anything but a racist sexist homophobic a-hole.  We shook his hand and he was pleased to meet us.  Being half Asian, Gibson, along with other members of his crew are racial minorities too.  So how did his group get slapped with the Scarlett Letters of R for racism, B for bigot and other sundry terms?

Having been disparaged for my race has taught me a little bit about what racism really looks like in the sunlight. It looks like brokenness from a broken person.  This brokenness looks exactly the same on the Antifa member shouting “white supremacist!” too.  At the end of the day it’s not really about the direct meaning of words said that shows what a person is internally, it’s the shouting itself.  Whether I’m called a “nigger bitch” (which I have) or a “racist” (been called that too) the point is someone has decided what I am out of whole cloth and refused to be willing to see the many layers of my personhood.  The issue isn’t whether I’m downtrodden or biased.  The issue is that another human took their pain and confusion over life’s challenges and directed it at someone else.

With all the fingers pointing and noise of “revolution” or “resistance” our so-called bigotry slayers literally looked as angry as the whites during the civil rights era who were displeased by black girls going to a traditionally white school. The protesters showed no joy nor called for civility, debate, or cursory communication to learn what the group holding the rally really thought.  Guided only by a biased media whose job is to label people and events to get bigger ratings, and a narrative by those who literally haven’t even met Gibson and his crew, Antifa protested by throwing out insults and eventually projectiles.  If that’s racial justice it’s not helping.

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Shhh…don’t tell but I went there before the rally/protests and chalked messages of love and peace.  Then went home before the mishigas began.

Even if Patriot Prayer was a hate group I’d feel the same way about them as I do about the vitriolic progressives. Word choices may differ but the beguiling temptation of labeling someone or a group without understanding there are no all bad or all good people – serves to increase brokenness for all involved. Broken people say words to break hearts.  These broken words seep into other broken people and more brokenness abounds.  On it goes until someone somewhere decides it is better to strive towards wholeness than attempt to break down others.  Someone who likes their life and themselves, regardless of what another person or group does, digs into their wholeness and adds grace instead of pain.  They fight with civility and compassion instead of self-righteous indignation or dehumanizing insults.

There are plenty of people in the world looking for a fight because it somehow gives them meaning. By having an enemy, the broken seek to break down others rather than heal situations.  No one is immune from lashing out on a bad day or forgetting to forgive.  We all are hypocrites and prone to biases.  To point out how awful certain others are constantly is to lack a willingness to explore one’s own brokenness.  This kind of false peace is a threshold we all face at times, from within and without.

We cannot foster civility unless we are willing to say “yeah I’m sometimes a jerk too.” Is it better to be a jerk that says racist things or a jerk that assumes to know just who is racist?  Is yelling “fascist” in Candace Owens brown skinned face or at Joey Gibson’s almond shaped eyes going to make them into new and repentant beings?  Or is it going to send the message to them that perhaps racism looks more like radical white folks who literally will not listen to them?  What is it really to be a racist today?  It seems to me the answer starts with – someone who refuses to listen to certain others and see them as multilayered humans who carry both flaws and flawlessness. When we fail to see people like Richard Spencer or Sarah Jeong (whose attitudes I abhor) as people who are broken like us, we lose the ability to heal spiritually and in community.

Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you.  Because bravery doesn’t come from cutting off conversation, it comes from learning how to engage another person with all the forgiveness you can muster.  It means being uncomfortable sometimes and hearing broken things from broken people.  Bravery protects what is dear while having mercy for those who cannot embrace mercy.  Our words reflect what is inside us.  They are the fruits of our internal mechanisms for thinking and processing information.  Cultivating good will towards others requires the work of thinking about our own brokenness and manifesting the practice, and it is a practice, of listening without prejudice.

Broken pieces actin’ like we ain’t cracked
But we all messed up and can’t no one escape that.

We some broken people
Came from broken homes
Broken hearts inside of a broken soul
Alcoholics, the addicts
English, African, Arabs

Ain’t a soul on the planet
That’s better than another
And we all need grace in the face of each other.

From Broken by Lacrae ft. Keri Jobe.  Photos from The Oregonian & New York Times

 

 

Hoodwinked by Jack Cashill

In 2005 award-winning writer and former Fullbright professor, Jack Cashill explored the topic of elite intellectual deceptions in the book Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture. Cashill, with a background in PBS documentary production, including directing The Holocaust Through Our Own Eyes, as well as public speaking and magazine editing is a media jack-of-all-trades who explores US cultural/political trends.  One of his specialties is delving into what’s really going on behind the scenes as evident by his two latest books: TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, And The Conspiracy and Scarlet Letters: The Ever-Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism Exposed.

Hoodwinked explores the spin contained in narratives and news stories many American’s may not know. As noted on page ten, Hoodwinked gives the reader access to the parts of a story or movement previously unpublished by popular media in the areas of radical naturalism, sexual hedonism, Marxism, and multiculturalism. Twenty four pages of endnotes serves to add credibility to his research, while the style of writing in Hoodwinked is easily digestible while avoiding dumbing the data down.  What results is a book worth chewing on mentally and referring to when stories today reflect the cultural tensions that litter our current epoch.

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Sacco and Vanzetti: What earthly good would they do us alive?

The first story Cashill begins with in Hoodwinked is the 1920’s case of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants accused of murder who initially were just considered “two wops in a jam” by news media officials.  That changed when local anarchists employed the ACLU and lawyer Fred Moore to revamp the pair’s image across the country and globe as powerless and persecuted immigrants being harassed for unpopular (communist) views.  This case became a proto type for future legal cases of radicals including Mumia Abu-Jamal’s trial years later.  Promoting sympathy for victims of an “unjust system” first Moore then Willi Münzenberg, with the blessing of Stalin, created a labor defense organization to up the ante on the “downtrodden immigrant” propaganda.

It worked. “Spontaneous” protests with adherents sobbing in the streets dominated the news cycle.  Artists, writers, and even French intellectuals rallied to support Sacco and Vanzetti. From Upton Sinclair to Albert Einstein to Edna St. Vincent Millay, many intellectual elites at the time concluded the men who were found guilty of murder were innocent and promoted them as a cause célèbre .  Even H.G. Wells got involved, yet the convicted murderers’ appeals to stop their executions fell flat.  That didn’t matter because ultimately Sacco and Vanzetti’s real roles were to be martyrs not survivors.  When Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Katherine Ann Porter mentioned to a female group leader at a vigil her hope of saving the men, the leader responded “Saved, who wants them saved? What earthly good would they do us alive?”

The Deceitful Roots of Roots

Another excellent example Cashill presents of intellectual hucksterism is Alex Haley’s Pulitzer-Prize winning slavery fever dream of a book Roots: The Saga of an American Family.  Published in 1976 Haley’s successful and accepted narrative became a TV mini-series viewed by at least 130 million viewers.  Cashill notes “Roots gave progressives a perfect “pedagogical tool” with which to instruct their less enlightened brethren in the quiet horrors of American culture.” Haley’s saga traces his owns family’s lineage depicting their captivity in American slavery.  The only problem was that Haley committed copyright infringement when he stole significant sections of white author Harold Courlander’s books The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories and The African.

The judge in the copyright case told Haley it would be prudent to settle otherwise he would have to slap with him with perjury charges. Here’s an example of Haley’s extracted passages from The African:

“…the hunter is not allowed to forget. All his senses must be burning.  He must hear what the farmer cannot hear.  He must smell what others cannot smell…his eyes must pierce the darkness.”

From Roots:

“The hunter’s senses must be fine. He must hear what others cannot, smell what others cannot.  He must see through the darkness.”

Though Haley settled for $650,000, only the Washington Post reported it in a limited way. Haley’s explanation for the infringement was to blame overworking and taking literary suggestions from audience members.  In addition to parts of Roots being in essence, a hoax, Haley’s genealogy mistakes cost him credibility as well.  Genealogist Elizabeth Mills says of Haley’s work “We expected ineptitude, but not subterfuge.”  Cashill’s longest chapter, Colors of the Wind, exposes other examples of the unethical side of the multicultural rainbow.

Fraudulent Evidence for Darwinism

Some of the heirs of Darwin’s philosophy, attracted to the Godlessness of evolution, became zealots for their new religion. Scientist and creator of his own faith, Monism, Ernst Haeckel created drawings of “Biogenetic Law” comparing human embryos to animal ones. These drawings landed in high school science books for decades and were meant to validate evolution because supposedly all embryos mimic “the evolutionary development of that same being stage by stage.”  The first problem, as highlighted by biologist and author Jonathan Wells, is that most biologists rejected the Biogenetic Law claimed by Darwin and Haeckel.  The second problem was Haeckel’s drawings were a fabrication.  Another problem for Haeckel’s legacy is that he was the first eugenicist to address the “Jewish problem” and was a confidant of Hitler.

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From archaeopteryx to the Piltdown Man to fudged statistics by genetics pioneer Gregor Mendel, Hoodwinked shows the scientific establishment has either overlooked questionable evidence or made it up to push an new kind of orthodoxy.  Though even Darwin himself began to lose confidence in his own theories, Cashill notes that promoters of certain scientific theories relentlessly cling to false science.   The last half of the Darwin’s Heirs chapter explores climate change hype focusing on Rachel Carson’s unsubstantiated claims about DDT and ecologist Paul Erlich’s erroneous book Population Bomb.

The Sexual Revolution Problem

Despite socialist Margaret Sanger’s ideas about eugenics being adopted and hideously carried out Adolf Hitler and his minions, Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion movement continues to embrace her as a saint. A woman who could barely raise her own children, was an “expert” on feeble-mindedness and the “racial chaos” of those she considered subordinate to her.  Carrie Buck was forcibly sterilized under the auspices of Sanger influenced Eugenics Record Office.  While not as deadly, Margaret Mead’s falsified “research” on Samoan sexuality in 1928 was also taken as gospel truth.  As Cashill shows in the last chapter of Hoodwinked, Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa was a science classic that was actually pure science fiction, as revealed by anthropologist Derek Freeman.

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Cashill ends his book discussing Alfred Kinsey’s strange private life and frightening forays into unethical research methods. A sexual masochist, Kinsey enjoyed “urethral insertions” and developed a taste for group sex.  His personal fantasies of sex without the constraints of morality filtered into his research by having sex with his subjects sometimes including his wife.  Kinsey’s theory of 1 out of 10 people being gay became accepted ideology in the sexual revolution as well as the gay rights movement.  Unfortunately his pools of participants were skewed as Kinsey relied on prostitutes and college age volunteers for his data.  Worse, Kinsey hired pedophiles who interacted (raped) sexually with subjects as young as two months old to gather information on pre-pubescent orgasms.  The last narrative in the book discloses how scientists Masters and Johnson allowed HIV/AIDS to flourish in gay male communities in order to sell a book.

Last Words

What the reader learns from this 307 page book is that not all is as it seems when it comes to accepted truths the cultural establishment fosters on the public. Lies, distortions, and even glued together bones are not always enough to get advocates, educators, and elites to confess some treasured (and convenient) theories are just plumb bunk.  The investment in manipulating the public in the name of science, the greater good, sexual freedom, and race relations is exposed in Hoodwinked.  In Cashill’s afterword he asks “How could these tragedies have happened and why do we let them continue?”  As the author reveals, the desire to believe in the goodness of a progressive dogma leads to not questioning the data, fearing reprisal for doubting it, and an over-indulgence in one’s own desires. Hoodwinked is an informative call to challenge both the actions and inactions of those who pretend to know what’s best for us.  Don’t believe the hype.

 

Only Love Can Overcome Hatred

heart flowerPlease note this post contains very salty language.

“It felt like I was in a group of people who understood that love was the whole thing…and THAT was the real quest of any religion.” –Regie Hamm

For the third time in six months my wife was verbally attacked in our fair city of Portland, Oregon.

The first time was a transman who disparaged my wife by calling her a “f*cking dyke” and “not cool.” All my lady was doing was standing eating a power bar outside a Whole Foods (or Jeff Bezos as we call it) on her lunch break.  Apparently this was an offensive act by my rather butch wife.

The last two incidents were last week. To save money, twice a week my sweetie takes the bus to work.  No longer is it safe to do so at night so she rides during the day.  This time the daylight effort didn’t pan out because a (presumably) homeless older white woman decided since my wife wasn’t giving her money and was trying to keep a healthy distance, that “COEXIST” being shouted at top level was acceptable.  This woman followed and then walked beside my wife for a long block.   Eventually the yelling was bestowed upon another person.  We call this the “Coexist or else” affair.

The last harassment episode was the worst. As my lovely was heading into work a balding black man who didn’t appear remotely homeless began yelling at my wife from across the street.  Phrases included:

“Long-nosed white b*tch!”

“Faggot!”

“It!”

“I don’t even know what you are!”

“I hate white people!”

“I’m going to f*ck you up!”

As my honey sought to get away from this man he followed her. Not one person standing near stopped to make sure my wife was okay despite being physically threatened repeatedly.  We’re not sure if it is because Portland has become strikingly similar to Europe in terms of bystanders not helping or if people weren’t sure which downtrodden minority should be treated with compassion – the black guy or the lesbian.

My dad died at the end of March. It changed me more than I knew.  My own heart has been like rocky soil with a few strangling weeds in-between.  My love and compassion faded as grief darkened my eyes like a cheap pair of sunglasses.  Not only was I grieving the loss of a parent, I was grieving the loss of a city I loved. Portland was recently called a “cesspool” by Portland Police union leader Daryl Turner.  He noted:

Our City has become a cesspool. Livability that once made Portland a unique and vibrant city is now replaced with human feces in businesses doorways, in our parks, and on our streets. Aggressive panhandlers block the sidewalks, storefronts, and landmarks like Pioneer Square, discouraging people from enjoying our City. Garbage-filled RVs and vehicles are strewn throughout our neighborhoods. Used needles, drug paraphernalia, and trash are common sights lining the streets and sidewalks of the downtown core area, under our bridges, and freeway overpasses. That’s not what our families, business owners, and tourists deserve.

Sadly he’s on point and even more sadly, our leaders here keep coming up with solutions that aren’t solutions. What Turner didn’t mention was the balls-to-the-walls incivility happening here.  Angry Portlanders wallow in their hate for our President and city leaders disparage Trump and those who voted for him (we didn’t but we respect the office).  Worse is our city council insists on making decisions “the people want” without really asking those who may disagree, if they have anything to say.  A typical council meeting on a special issue spends two hours listening to the yea-sayers, and 15 minutes semi-listening to the nay-sayers.

This does not bode well for encouraging civility, kindness and compassion. Because the truth is hating President Trump…is still hate.  Hate begets hate.  It’s as simple as that.  And Portland is a town now where love has gone out to sea while resentment is the dish served very very cold all day and all night.  This negativity entered my heart too, especially as processing the raw pain of losing my dad was very much on the surface.

What happened to my wife should have put me further down the road of irritation and sheer panic for her safety. But she reminded me why I have the faith I do and that my pain and anger could be converted to something more lovely.

Her response to the last incident was compassion, plain and simple. She felt bad for the man who called her an “it” saying she would pray for him because “anyone hurting that bad needs prayer.”  This reaction snapped my spirit back to life because she was telling the truth, and a spiritual one at that.  Those who spread hatred, vitriol, and venom are not happy people.  They are suffering.  They need something yelling back or hating back can’t do.  They need grace.  We need grace.

Marriage is a wonderful vehicle for cultivating grace. In the early years of a relationship both parties usually make a lot of mistakes and without forgiveness, patience, and yes, tolerance, a marriage doesn’t make it very far.  Both people have to realize making peace matters more than being right or getting one’s own way.  Marriage is a perfect training ground for extending Paul’s message to the Corinthians – love doesn’t delight in evil or keeps records of wrongs.  And this is what my wife reminded me of.  Love begets love.  In the face of harassment or a sassy mouthed spouse love shown makes love grow.

While I don’t know Portland’s future, I will fight for this city and those in it with positivity, hope, and love. I will probably make mistakes attempting to foster greater civility because I am only flesh and blood.  However by keeping close to what love is, rather than exacting vengeance on those who threaten my wife or those who spread incivility, I have a better chance of spreading good vibes.

We live in a time in the United States where politics has become the dominate religion and quite frankly it’s not working out very well. Love makes an excellent religion, if only its adherents know what love is.  Like others in Portland I forgot the meaning.  Now it’s time to remember.