Meditation on Some Things that Need Forgiving

In honor of the recent trip through the Deep South, some Southern thoughts on the sins that Easter forgives:

John Derbyshire and Racism

For a long time, when this blog was younger -- it's nine years old now -- we had a link section called "Admired Voices."  William Raspberry was one of them; he's been retired now for several years.  John Derbyshire was another.  What I admired about him was that he was never dissembled even a bit about what he thought, whatever the consequences.

I see that Derbyshire's latest piece got him fired from National Review.  Well, National Review has been run by cowards for a while now.  Still, there is one part in particular that really deserves condemnation:
In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.
That's a hell of a thing to say to any man who was your friend -- or rather, who ever thought he was.  If Derbyshire is advocating such deception -- toward a man you'd dare to call a friend! --  it's the kind of deception I admired him for never making.  If he has actually made such deceptions in the past, he's not the man I took him to be from his writings.

Other flaws in the piece are lesser because they lie within the scope of fair play for social commentary:  he is guilty of anecdotal evidence for very serious claims, which should expose him to refutation if there is stronger evidence against his positions.  But that is fair play:  refute him.  Or, he makes much of IQ data the value of which is in serious contest; that's a fight that can be had fairly as well.  Or, his recommendations for practical action are uncharitable and may be overwrought; but there, too, a response can be formulated.  (I went down to Freaknik '93 myself, alone and after midnight, and suffered no ill effects; though several young men did advise me that I would be subject to violence if I did not leave, none of them seemed inclined to actually undertake it.  Is that evidence for against his position?  Whichever, it's only one more anecdote:  where is the data?)

The question isn't whether Derbyshire is a racist:  he always proclaimed that he was one.  I'm an antiracist myself, but I've known enough racists who were otherwise good men -- even very good men -- that I have come to think that this is something we need to think through much more carefully than we usually do.

One of them we have almost forgotten:  the Reverend Mr. Wright.  He was a fighting man too, a former Marine, who nevertheless had some hostile and vicious things to say about us and our country.  I always liked him, just because he was the kind of man who would call on God to damn me.  God probably should.  The whole miracle of Easter week is that God did so much to avoid damning those of us who merit it.

Derbyshire has written many things I disagree with, but that's why I always liked him.  His word was good:  right or wrong, he'd defend the ground where he planted his flag.

If his racism has caused him to travel under false flags, deeming black men unworthy of an honest accounting of his friendship, that is a very great offense.  It is worse that it violates a virtue that he had otherwise given every appearance of mastering.  It should not, however, prevent us from recognizing that he is currently defending his honest position -- whether he lives or dies on this ground, he has chosen it and will fight for it.

Long Riders

Grandfather Mountain

Now, this week was an example of a man getting just exactly what he was asking for.  I said I was going to the forest, the home of the playful fates that rule the natural world:  and sure enough, I found them at home.

Clouds Gather in Carolina

I had checked the weather on three separate weather services up until Sunday morning, just before we left.  All of them agreed that -- while there was a mild chance of rain the first day, in places -- the week was going to be warm, dry, and sunny.  No part of that proved to be true.  The merry fates were having a good laugh.

The Pisgah National Forest

The rain started as a couple of little drops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- just a few clouds building up on the far side of the mountains, nothing to worry about.  We ran hard to Curtis Creek to get ahead of it, but no joy.  Just as I began to set up the tent, there was a crack of thunder followed by one of the most intense little storms I've ever seen.  It picked the tent up off the ground and flew it like a kite while I was trying to set it up, shattered one of the fiberglass poles, and left about a half an inch of water in the bottom of it in the two minutes it took to get the tent up and the rain flap attached.

Fire and Water

I still managed to get a fire started.  Many years ago now a Boy Scout leader took us out in a downpour and taught us how.  We stripped the bark off dead wood that was hanging off the ground in trees, and built up a hot little fire out of the smallest twigs so gathered, which could then begin to dry the larger pieces.  The largest pieces, once stripped of bark, we chopped into the thicker pieces to fuzz out the drier wood inside, and put on the fire to dry and burn.

None of us but him could do it at the time, and we boys called him "Liquid Sunshine" behind his back.  Nevertheless, with practice, I found that I could do it.  It's been a skill I've been very glad to have over the years, and this week as much as ever.  So thanks, Liquid Sunshine, wherever you are.

Rocks in Curtis Creek

Once the rain stopped, it was a beautiful place.  Getting up the muddy forest service road to the Blue Ridge Parkway was not easy, however, and the rains came back hard for the rest of the morning.  Thoroughly soaked, we pushed north toward Virginia, which was still reputed to be sunny.

With the heavy weather, it took all day to get there, but sure enough just before we crossed the Virginia line we found blue skies and perfect weather.

Blue Skies in Virginia

What we didn't find was a campsite.  I had checked to be sure the campsites would be open... that is, I checked to be sure the Forest Service campsites would be open.  It never occurred to me that rest of the Federal government's campsites would open on different days.  Turns out that even the Forest Service's campsites don't all open on the same days -- and the Parkway's campsites won't be open until May.

Which is no big deal, if you're in the national forest, because you can camp in a "dispersed" fashion without problems.  There is no dispersed camping on the Parkway.

Oh, and my plans to camp in Shenandoah National Park?  Apparently those campgrounds had a later opening date as well.

Virginia in the Morning

So we said goodbye to Virginia earlier than I had intended, and fell back to the rain-soaked Pisgah forest.  That is the most beautiful country in the world, and never more than when thunderheads are gathered on the peaks.

Two Feet off a Forest Service Road, Looking Down

We also found another campsite that was shut down, the Mortimer site near Grandfather Mountain.  I had checked that one specifically, and was assured it was open; but apparently an inspector showed up and closed it after I checked, due to damage from all the recent rains.

Naturally, the Forest Service didn't put up a sign to this effect at the start of the road, but only at the gates of the campground, thirty miles back. Since we could only go about 10 miles per hour back in that country (my motorcycle is not a dirt bike, in spite of the fact that I periodically insist on using it as such), we spent hours in a thunderstorm getting in, and then had to work our way out to find another place to rest.

It was a grand adventure, in other words. Exactly what I wanted. I was sorry to see it end, as all good things must do. The last day of the ride was misty and cold in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon. We cut down through South Carolina, taking the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Parkway.

The Tugaloo River Crossing, from the Georgia Side

I hope you've had a great week in my absence.  It looks as if there's been lots to talk about, but for now, let me just wish you a Happy Easter.

A Photo from the Road

I have some internet access this afternoon.  It's been quite a trip, what with the unexpected storms all across the Carolinas.  I'll have more for you this weekend, but for now, just one photo.

Hopefully, your travel plans for today include Carnesville.

The Garden of Eden

In case you've ever wondered what your garden could look like if you had 7 million tulip bulbs and ten months of the year to devote to one eye-popping 60-day show every spring.

Holy Week

Holy Week: when, as Grim reminds us below, we remember how God faced down Death.

. . . Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither,
As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.
Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them ?
What love was ever as deep as a grave ?
They are loveless now as the grass above them
Or the wave.

. . .

Here death may deal not again for ever;
Here change may come not till all change end.
From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,
Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.
Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing,
While the sun and the rain live, these shall be;
Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing
Roll the sea.

Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
Death lies dead.

From "A Forsaken Garden," Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837-1909

Wind in Real Time

Here's a site I'll be returning to often. If you look right now, you'll see it looks as though someone pulled a drain plug in North Dakota. I'll be looking forward to viewing the site the next time we have a really good nor'easter or hurricane.