Friday, November 27, 2009

Lou Pritchett is Scared

I received this one from my sister. She wrote:

You're so good at responding to these kinds of things, I thought I should send this one to you.
OK, the pressure is on.  Here is my attempt.

I. The message sent to me

----- Original Message -----
From: Neil
Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 8:36 AM
Subject: FW: Please Read this Letter

By the way, I did check this out on Snopes and it is there.
Letter from Procter & Gamble Exec to Obama

Please read, even if you are an Obama fan.  It is legitimate,  written by respected, Lou Prichett, formerly of Proctor and Gamble.   Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America's true living legends- an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world's  highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change management. Lou  changed the way America does business by creating an audacious concept that came to be known as "partnering." Pritchett rose from  soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for  Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.

Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of  the private sector.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest  standard of living in the world.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8  years.

Lou Pritchett


This letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged  it. Big surprise!  Since it hit the internet, however, it  has had  over 500,000 hits.  Keep it going..  All that is necessary for evil  to succeed is that good men do nothing.  It's happening right now.

II. My Response
As usual, there are two approaches to responding to a screed such as this: item by item, or the argument in its entirety. The item by item approach has been done by a couple of other bloggers. This one is pretty good:  There is no particular reason for me to do another.

A side note on the internet conception of "truth" - the forwarder of this email says "this is true - see Snopes". What Snopes confirms is that yes, in fact a man named Lou Pritchett did write the original letter. That merely documents the attribution of the letter, not the truth of its contents. It's amazing how much stuff is believed true because "I read it on the Internet."

On to the big picture. After we read this item, what do we conclude? Lou says he’s scared. He starts every statement that way. He’s trying to get us to be scared. Really scared. Really really scared. It doesn’t matter what the reason is or if there is any logic behind the statements; we are just supposed be scared. Instead of peddling soap, he’s peddling fear. (The letter has about the same intellectual depth as a soap ad.) We’re supposed to be afraid of Barrack Obama. Why does someone peddle fear? It’s an appeal to emotion, which is always done to short circuit our process of reason. Once we become afraid, we follow the call of the fear-mongers to whatever goals they are trying to achieve. A recurrent problem with democracy is that it requires mental participation by the citizens. That’s a lot harder that simply following the lead of a charismatic leader.

This has unfortunately been a persistent feature of the American right since FDR. Senator Joseph McCarthy told us that we had to be hysterically afraid of hidden communists. The Republican Party since 1968 engaged in the Southern Strategy: be afraid of blacks. It worked for them for a long time, but in 2008 it seems to have (hopefully) run its course. But for a fear-monger to succeed, it helps if his audience has some fears and anxieties that he can latch onto, magnify, and align with his own message. So we should consider Lou’s audience. What are their fears?

They have a lot to be afraid of. Many of them live in smaller towns. Let’s face it; small town America is dying, period. There only jobs there for their children are dead-end. So their kids get an education and leave for the (evil) cities; or they stay in the small town with a low-paying job. So the older generation sees their way of life dying; the younger generation sees no future. (As a footnote, there is a parallel in the 19th century – the introduction of the McCormick reaper and other technologies meant that far fewer people could produce the same amount of grain, farming jobs disappeared, grain prices fell with increasing production, and farmers fell into debt. The great demagogue of the time was William Jennings Bryan, whose proposed solution was deliberate inflation so that farmers could repay their debts in cheaper dollars. The enemy was the industrial cities.) Today the enemies now are still the people in the cities, particularly on the three Coasts - East, West, and North Coast (the cities along the Great Lakes - Chicago et al.) These places are where their children leave to, and are filled with lots of "other" people. They "other" doesn't live like "us." Attacking the other has always been a good demagogic strategy - whether Pericles against the Spartans, Hitler against the Jews, or Lou Pritchett against a black man in the White House.

So there a lot of people who are afraid, and the demagogues are playing to their fears. Now we ask a very important Latin phrase: cui bono - who benefits? (We have all those old Latin phrases because none of this is new - the Romans saw it all before.) There are two obvious gains from being a fear-monger: status or power. Status: you can draw attention to yourself as the one who sees the danger - the boy who cried wolf, or McCarthy with his secret list of Communists. Or power: if you can ramp up the fear and get people to follow you, you have the rabble behind you and can use it for political power. (Pick your own list of historical antecedents here.) The latter reason is what lies beneath all the decibels on the American right: be afraid, and follow us.

For the right-wing faction made up of the unholy alliance of small-government conservatives and religious right, fear is all they have left to sell. To rephrase FDR, all we have to fear is the fear-mongers. To Lou Pritchett: when you have some logic to peddle instead of fear, come back and we can engage in discourse appropriate to a democratic republic.

Gratuitous Cheap-Shot Post Script
I know I shouldn't, and it cheapens my argument, but I could not resist the two following observations.

The preface to the letter describes Lou Pritchett as a respected author, speaker, etc. I have not heard of him before, and a search on the Net mostly reveals references to this letter. No Wikipedia entry, which you can find for almost anybody semi-famous. There is a web page by the company that flogs him for speaking engagements ($15K to $25K a pop), and that’s about it. He wrote one book. He’s a soap salesman who negotiated with Wal-Mart, and renamed getting pushed around by Wal-Mart “partnering”. (I'm sure you can think of other words for that relationship.) He retired in 1986; now he's just a cranky old white guy that is looking for some attention.

What also comes to mind is Eddie Murphy's cowboy bar scene in "48 Hours":  "I'm your worst f---ing nightmare, man. I'm a nigger with a badge."  Like Jimmy Carter, I can't help but feel that some of the response to Obama has a (scared) racist undertone.

Wilson Quarterly Article on the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Wilson Quarterly, published by the Woodrow Wilson Center at the Smithsonian, is a wonderful periodical.  It has longer original articles and short summaries or reviews of items of interest in politics, policy, social science, etc.  A recent issue had an inspiring essay on what was going on inside East Germany for years before the fall of the Wall.  (See  It's interesting to note that the Monday night church peace meetings in Leipzig were down to as few as 10 attendees during the mid 1980s, but they kept on meeting.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Response to "Proud to be White" spam email

1 Introduction

This is a five-email thread that starts with a truly disgusting piece that was forwarded to me by a relative. I include the whole chain to see the progression of thought. I have replaced the individual email names with aliases.  Section 2 contains the intial email.  Section 3 has my quick response, which I re-spammed to each of the people on the initial email, just to put in my vote on my feelings.  To my surprise, that generated an unexpected response from one of the recipients, given in section 4.  At that point, I spent more time thinking about a longer response to the original (section 5.)

2 The Initial Email

From: Jill

Sent: Friday, April 10, 2009 6:34 PM

To: Roger; Tom Wilson; Sara; Betsy; Bill

Subject: FW: Proud to be white

Proud to be white all the way to the end............................................

This e-mail does contain wording that is meant to express an open opinion to a major problem in the USA. It is estimated that only 11% of those receiving this e-mail will read it all the way to the end. In addition, it is estimated that only 1% of non-white color will read this past this point and 99% will blow it away because of the title.

It is a shame this sentiment exists when we tell the world that the USA is the best place to Live, Worship, Work, and Play...


"WHITE " Pride"

This is great. I have been wondering about why Whites are racists, and no other race is.....

Proud to be White

Someone finally said it. How many are actually paying attention to this? There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc.

And then there are just Americans. You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction. You call me 'White boy,' 'Cracker,' 'Honkey,' 'Whitey,' 'Caveman'... And that's OK.

But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink .. You call me a racist.

You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you... So why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?

You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day..

You have Black History Month. You have Cesar Chavez Day.

You have Yom Hashoah. You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi.

You have the NAACP. You have BET... If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we'd be racists. If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.

If we had White History Month, we'd be racists.

If we had any organization for only whites to 'advance' OUR lives, we'd be racists.

We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce. Wonder who pays for that??

A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships.... You know we'd be racists.

There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US. Yet if there were 'White colleges', that would be a racist college.

In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.

You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.

You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.

I am proud... But you call me a racist.

Why is it that only whites can be racists??

There is nothing improper about this e-mail. Let's see which of you are proud enough to send it on. I sadly don't think many will. That's why we have LOST most of OUR RIGHTS in this country. We won't stand up for ourselves!


It's not a crime YET... But getting very close!

3 My First Response

From: Tom Wilson

To: 'Jill' ; 'Roger' ; 'Sara' ; 'Betsy' ; 'Bill'

Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 12:26 PM

Subject: RE: Proud to be white

First, this was not said by Michael Richards (Kramer) – see Snopes.

Second, I will comment but try to avoid a long essay about this. Whoever wrote it is deliberately obtuse (to say the least.) The relationship between dominant and minority cultures is nearly always asymmetric, and oppression runs downhill.

I’m certainly not proud to be in the same race as the author.

4 Reply to my Response

From: Roger

Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 4:01 PM

To: Tom Wilson; 'Jill'; 'Sara'; 'Betsy'; 'Bill'

Subject: Re: Proud to be white

Well Hell, I didn't figure Michael Richards wrote it but whoever did write it is right on!

Black History Month... What a bunch of crap... I think I'll start a NAAWP and a United Whitey College Fund... :^) L.T.

5 My Final Response
Well, in the first response I said I would try to avoid a long essay. But I can’t. Why do I respond to this kind of writing? Because it’s important for the person in the room who disagrees to stand up and say something. Some are silent because they believe they alone disagree. Others may not have considered the words carefully.

My answer to this is almost a sermon. I follow the arc of our Western religious and political heritage, drawing on people who are my personal saints. We start first with Jesus, where he sets a very high standard for how we are to treat others.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:43-48).
When Paul takes Jesus’ message out to Asia Minor (modern Turkey, at that time Greek in culture) he writes:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. (Galations 3:27-29)
Now jump forward 1700 years. We all know the quote from Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal.” But this is just the lead sentence in that paragraph. Jefferson takes the high standard of Jesus and Paul and moves it into the civil realm – what do we do when we don’t have those right? Here is the full paragraph, with my emphasis:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So Jefferson says it the right to change our government when it is not living up the standards of life, liberty and equality. He also thought deeply about the issue of slavery. From the walls of the Jefferson Memorial, panel 3:

God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.
Eighty-seven years later the chickens (or God’s justice) came home to roost. The United States fought a war over slavery. No, it was not over vague states right issues; it was because the South knew that there were enough votes in Congress to abolish slavery. Lincoln makes this clear in the Gettysburg address.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
We fought a civil war, and passed some Constitutional amendments, but the promise of those amendments was suppressed for another hundred years. Martin Luther King drew on all these threads in the “I Have a Dream” speech. First he harks back to Jefferson and Lincoln:

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
Then in the finale of the speech he takes it a note higher, going back to deals in the religious tones of Jesus and Paul.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
So – in the light of these quotations and our heritage, how do we read the “Proud to White” email? We don’t know the author, so I’ll call him Joe.

Joe wasn’t paying attention in either Sunday school or American History. This country was created with the original sins of black slavery and Native Americans oppression, and we have been working our way out of it for four hundred years. I will address a few points in the email.

It’s wrong to use racial slurs to refer to non-whites, and it’s equally wrong to use racial slurs to refer to whites. Joe wasn’t even paying attention back in kindergarten when they told us not call people names.

We already have a white history month – all of them. Of the various holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) are European, Christian holidays; Columbus Day and Thanksgiving celebrate the white conquerors of a new continent; Labor Day recognized unions that were all-white at the time. Martin Luther King Day recognizes that during the whole history of the United States, there have been blacks creating the history alongside whites. Twelve years after the founding of Jamestown in 1607 the first slaves were brought ashore. They fought in the Revolution, helped settle the West, fought in our World Wars. We would not have blues, jazz or rock-n-roll without the black culture. African American scientists and inventors performed the worlds first open heart surgery, and invented the first automatic lubricator for machinery, the gas mask, the blood bank, and the traffic signal. But from most of our history books, you would barely know that anyone except whites were in this country. Our histories also ignore the Hispanic history of the Southwest, which the U.S. appropriated from Mexico in 1848 and instantly made Hispanics second-class citizens.

Institutions that have a racial or ethnic emphasis – historically black colleges, the NAACP, La Raza - that’s exactly in the spirit of Jefferson. When the government is not delivering life, liberty, or equality, it is the right of those affected, and the moral obligation of everyone else, to alter the government. In a representative democracy, short of a revolution (Jefferson’s “abolish”), we do this by forming groups to defend or advance these rights.

I’m proud to be a lot of things. I’m proud that I worked hard, got a scholarship, went to college, and have a good career. I’m proud that I have a loving marriage, that my friends and co-workers come from many countries, and that I live in a nation that has usually (but not always) welcomed immigrants -- for that is one of America’s unique strengths. I am proud to be American.

But proud to be white – I don’t know what that means. It’s just my skin color. Those who are “proud to be white” mostly seem to be like Joe. And Joe is not “right on” – he is angry, hateful, and has forgotten the principles that our country was founded on.

-- Tom Wilson, Spring 2009