Kate Smith; Emails are Forever: Gerrymandering Redux*

Kate Smith

Kate Smith, known at various times as the “Song Bird of the South” and “the First Lady of Radio,” is best known today for her rendition of “God Bless America.” She also sang two songs that many see as disgustingly racist. The lyrics of those renderings are perceived as shocking, demeaning and repulsive. Having learned of those songs, the New York Yankees recently banned her rendition of “God Bless America” which was played at every game since 2001, and the Philadelphia Flyers have done the same. The Flyers also have removed her statue from the front of the Flyers’ stadium, saying “The NHL principle ÔÇÿHockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for. As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”

Kate Smith’s rendering of “God Bless America” has been viewed by many as a celebration of America and Americanism. The song itself has no racist overtones or undertones.

Does the voluntary censorship by the Yankees and Flyers of everything Kate Smith mean that political correctness has gone too far? Or has it not gone far enough?

All of the Founding Fathers were slave-owners. All endorsed slavery in America’s founding documents. Why do we continue to celebrate their legacies? Why do we observe holidays in their names? Should their blatant racism not be addressed and banished as well?

Only a minority of white Americans were anti-slavery prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s unilateral declaration was unpopular at the time. Why aren’t those who opposed the Proclamation derided for their overt racism?

Racism in America didn’t end with the Civil War. It was perpetuated for over a century afterwards by Americans who believed in African-American inferiority … and who did everything in their power to keep African-Americans down. Shouldn’t those who actually practiced discrimination be pilloried, their memories exhumed and defiled, and their statues destroyed?

No one questions the accomplishments of Charles Lindbergh. No one seeks to remove his name from history books despite his Nazi-ism, racism and anti-Semitism. Should his name indeed be expunged?

As recently as 1972, a Democratic presidential hopeful – George Wallace – whose position on racial matters had been “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” won the Florida Democratic presidential primary with 42{29ea29b64b10057f61377b2c087cd5b7537a0cd24da4295a308b0bf589469f35} of the vote. How should America treat his legacy today? But, then, perhaps his statements and actions simply aren’t as foul as Kate Smith’s singing of racist songs?

America has not been immune to bad acts and bad actors. Many of America’s heroes have had their malevolent sides. Whatever was said or done in the past is prologue, occurring in a different era within a different culture having different values and different taboos. Celebrating greatness doesn’t mean overlooking historical fact. It also doesn’t mean overlooking and discarding greatness.

According to reports in the media, Kate Smith’s only crime transgression was to have sung two racist songs in the early 1930s. She is not alleged to have engaged in racist acts or to have supported racist causes (of which there were an abundance during her lifetime, many engaged in by prominent Americans). To the contrary, in a 1945 radio broadcast she reportedly called racism and bigotry “diseases that eat away at the fibers of peace.”

Any number of thoughts and actions that were acceptable in previous generations are unacceptable today. They properly have been rejected. Racist songs, whether sung by Kate Smith or anyone else, should be among those rejections. Does that mean that Kate Smith herself and her rendition of “God Bless America” should be rejected as well?

Emails are Forever: Gerrymandering Redux

A three-judge Federal court panel in Michigan last week unanimously ruled that nine of Michigan’s fourteen congressional districts had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the State’s then-Republican-controlled legislature. The court recognized that its decision is subject to standards that will be determined by the Supreme Court in ruling on the North Carolina and Maryland gerrymandering cases argued earlier this month (see the April 24th TLR) and therefore carefully set out the legal basis for its finding that “partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional” under the 1st and 14th Amendments.

For The Lonely Realist, the most important legal lesson to be gleaned from the case is that Emails are Forever. They can cause self-inflicted, potentially lethal wounds for users who fail to understand the danger. Prudent lawyers advise their clients to never put anything in an email or text that wouldn’t be acceptable if printed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal … or presented before a judge or jury. Wise clients follow that advice, while unwise ones … do not. Given how damaging emails and texts can be, it’s surprising how many businesspeople and lawmakers ignore that guidance. One email from a Michigan Republican lawmaker reportedly made the purpose for Michigan’s partisan redistricting all too clear: “We need for legal and PR purposes a good looking map that [does] not look like an obvious gerrymander.” The new map, as another email allegedly pointed out, “protects all nine [Republican] incumbents and it looks good.” The court would have had a most difficult task in finding against the redistricting in the absence of those pointed admissions.

Finally (from a good friend)

An Obituary for Common Sense:

It is with a heavy heart that I inform my readers of the death of a beloved old friend. Common Sense has recently passed. Known affectionately to friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, Common Sense devoted himself to a life of public service. He was once reported to have been seen in the halls of Congress, but hasn’t shown up there in years.

No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children, are in charge), and it’s okay to come in second. A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the Technological Revolution, Common Sense survived cultural and educational trends including body piercing, whole-body inking and new math.

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when he became infected with the “if-it-only-helps-one-person-it’s-worth-it” virus. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost his will to live as religious charities became businesses, criminals received better treatment than their victims, and people couldn’t defend themselves from burglars in their own homes. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little on her lap, sued and was awarded a huge judgment.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 4 stepchildren, I Know My Rights, I Want it Now, Someone Else is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

No one attended his funeral because no one realized he was gone.

*┬® Copyright 2019 by William Natbony. All rights reserved.

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