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Journal of Disbelief

The Journal of Disbelief
If Jim Cook were a blogger, and not a liar, this is what he would blog today.

In the 1950s, the Trailways bus station in Flagstaff was housed in the railroad depot. Many nights, I sat in a cafe across the street, drinking coffee with my buddies and talking about our dreams of the future.

If black people got off the Trailways bus and started toward the cafe, the proprietress met them at the door. She told them she couldn’t serve them.

The African-Americans did not act surprised, or outraged. They were refused service all across America. Many of us sensed that it was wrong, but accepted it as the way of the world–bigotry by default.

A black person needed to carry his food with him when he traveled. He also could not rent a hotel room, except in cities large enough to support black-only hotels. That discrimination was ended by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as the Voting Rights Act.

Now there’s a Senate candidate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, who thinks the Civil Rights Act should have excluded private businesses which wanted to discriminate against people of color.

Whatever your politics, you’ll probably agree with me that lately, the world has been getting crazier faster. Your definition of “crazier” may be different than mine, and that’s fine. This is America–so far.

During my years as a journalist, I reported on the movements of the time as they came along: the civil rights movement, the protest against the Vietnam war, the women’s movement. Things moved more slowly then, but they tended to move forward.

I was optimistic, but I also was naive. It didn’t take long to realize that whatever gains are made, new bigots are spawned every day. We are all born ignorant. Some of us try to get over it, and others pass it on to their children.

Furthermore, the idea of freedom scared the living hell out of some conservative Americans and their institutions. At this moment, educators in Texas are trying to rewrite school history books to represent a conservative bias.

I believe that I wrote the first serious article about women’s liberation in Arizona. I didn’t intend for it to be serious, but an organizer for the women’s movement made so much sense that she didn’t leave me room to be snide. Those were the days when women mentioned in news articles were not allowed first names; a woman was identified as “Mrs. John Somuch.”

The organized warned me that I would receive more complaints from women than from men. She was right. The housewives of Mesa were furious. I had challenged their traditional roles. But over the years, I watched several traditional women demand equality, fight for it, accept it as their due.

I came to understand that there are always people and institutions that would drag us back into the Nineteenth Century.The coal industry has come close.

There are people in Congress who bang on their high chairs in front of CNN cameras every time someone suggests governance that does not favor their favorite contributing industry. Some of these guys can’t even have a civil discourse with themselves.

Any measure that suggests a more beneficial relationship between a taxpayer and his government is called “socialism,” and in some cases it is. Social Security sure isn’t classic capitalism. That would be British Petroleum.

Despite ourselves, we have come a long way since 1964. In general, more people are more equal than they used to be. The knuckle-draggers have slowed progress, but they haven’t stopped it.

So now we have a candidate for the U.S. Senate who thinks the Voting Rights Act of 1964 went too far. It would be easy to ignore him, but I suspect he has a lot of friends out there. Still.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

4 comments to Journal of Disbelief

  • Kathy Block

    Jim, my husband Ed and I truly enjoy your humor, and also this more serious writeup! Ed recently observed several cases at our local munipal court (he’d gone there to see what happened to a gal who’d broken into neighbor’s car and stolen and used his credit card, she didn’t show). One case, however, was sn African American man from Colorado who’d been at a local hamburger place with another man. This friend apparently began using profane language in front of a customer there with two young daughters.The friend was asked by the customer, politely, to tone his language down. When the friend refused to quiet down, the customer approached the defendant (who wasn’t apparently talking profanely) to ask him to quiet his friend, and got punched in the face by the defendant. The argument was that the defendant felt “threatened”. The judge fined him $1000 and told him he should choose better friends! This was a case where a restaurant had every justification for telling a customer to leave….the behavior not the race. This should be the criteria – behavior, maybe drunk, starting a fight – a big difference!

  • Brett M. Gerasim

    Wow. That must have been an intersting time to be in the news business. It was certainly a much different world in those days. As to the younger Dr. Paul, I trust Kentuckians to send people to Washington that share their views. That is the point of representative government, after all.

    I must say that I am a bit disappointed to see this sort of content on this blog. No doubt some fellow travelers here will view this as small-minded, but I kind of enjoyed having this particular corner of cyberspace dedicated to the goings-on around Wickenburg. I enjoy the history, the pictures, and, yes, the tall tales of the area. This is not to say that I keep my head in the sand by any means. It was just a bit of a shock to see this sort of content here, and I would hate to see this blog become a stopping point for the kind of people that tend to haunt places that discuss the nation’s political scene.

    After a while, progress tends to be in the eye of the beholder. As someone who is old enough to remember a time when one could discuss the weather, automobiles, or personal health without running headlong into politics, I’d have to say I kind of miss that aspect of the not-too-distant past. Maybe that makes me an old crank. It might even make me a knuckle-dragger itching to roll us all back to 1847 in some folks’ eyes. I really don’t care what it makes me. I also know I am free to head elsewhere, before that point comes up. It just seems a shame, that’s all.

  • Jim, thanks so much for writing this. The way I see it, today we have two Americas: us and them. One side is open-minded and open-hearted. The other side is bigoted and concerned only about their own personal agendas.

    I’m not happy about what’s happening in America. It’s only by speaking out against what we believe is wrong — such as civil rights violations — that we can prevent America from sliding down the slippery slope to fascism or something worse.

  • C. D. Tavares

    I respect the contributions of Jim Cook, especially when he’s rolling along in “liar” mode. 🙂

    However, the contents of this particular column bring nothing new to the one-sided mainstream media mugfest. It puts me in mind of all the complaints we’ve heard recently from Washington politicians about an Arizona law that it turns out none of them have actually read.

    A better approach might be to research how someone could have arrived at what initially appears to be an outrageous position (a good example: “more guns equals less crime”), and often in the process you will learn something new and valuable.

    Rand Paul, like his father Ron Paul, is a libertarian by philosophy. Libertarians believe that all people have the right to do as they wish with their lives and property, provided they don’t physically harm or threaten others, or damage or destroy their property. We believe that everyone has the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and the peaceful use of their property. (You might think those values are self-evident and hard to argue against, yet otherwise good people violate them a dozen times a day without even noticing it.)

    Defending these freedoms wherever they are threatened is an obligation for those who love liberty. HOWEVER, sometimes this involves defending the rights of people whose beliefs and lifestyles we find reprehensible. You can’t avoid it.

    So, yes, in a free society, all owners of private property deserve the ability to manage their property in any peaceful way they want. And yes, that includes even racist business owners, who should have the freedom to discriminate in such matters as who they choose to serve and even who they choose to hire.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that libertarians APPROVE of such discrimination—any more than our defense of a racist’s right to publish a newsletter means that we endorse the IDEAS in that newspaper. Nor does it mean that the libertarian position would leave our society helpless in the face of racism and segregation, or that such things would flourish in a libertarian world.

    How many of you recall when the National Socialist Party of America (that is, the “Nazi’ wing of “socialist”) planned a confrontational march through the Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois? Reprehensible, right? And yet their RIGHT to do so was defended by no less than the American Civil Liberties Union, and was ultimately upheld by federal courts—even though neither of them approved of the content of the message being delivered! (And after all that, the march was a major non-event, exactly as it should have been all along—another example that liberty can work, when we let it.)

    This is how a TRULY free society operates. If you concede this principle as it applies to the rights to speech and assembly, you must also concede it as it applies to the right of association.

    For sure, I suspect the largely liberal ACLU would be concerned to learn that (according to Jim) their defense of this principle of liberty was linked to some sort of “crazy, conservative bias,” or a political jihad against “socialism.” Furthermore, it’s obvious that the people who are “having the hell scared out of them” by the particular “idea of freedom” floated by Rand Paul are not conservatives.

    It’s a mistake to try to categorize these rights as somehow being the native turf of the left or right. What they are instead are choices that we chose to reserve to free people instead of to an authoritarian government of either the left OR the right.

    Let me make one irony very plain: the waitress at that Flagstaff cafe wasn’t necessarily expressing her personal opinion, or even that of her boss—she was as much a victim of ARIZONA LAW of the time as the hungry men she was turning away. Such travesties were only possible because government itself violated freedom of association by establishing and enforcing racial discrimination laws in the first place. Jim Crow statutes of the early 20th century would never have arisen in a society that truly honored our individual freedoms. It was only the ability of powerful “special interests” to abuse and co-opt the force of government to create unconstitutional law REQUIRING racist behavior by everybody else that gave this nightmare the staying power that kept it an issue for decades.

    Libertarians encourage solutions to social problems that are voluntary, not force-based. That’s why we reject the notion that a government law restricting a merchant’s freedom in one direction was the best and only possible cure for the abuses committed by another government law that restricted a merchant’s freedom in the opposite direction. We believe instead that moral and effective solutions to such problems almost always involve letting people exercise their own liberty to make their own choices, without government forcing the issue one way or the other, as long as none of those choices physically harm or threaten other people.

    Not only would true respect for liberty have prevented these evils from taking place, but our free speech, freedom of assembly, and property rights continue to provide the good people in our society the tools they need to combat them. We can attempt to persuade a business owner (that is, once he no longer has a government-endorsed Jim Crow law to fall back on!) not to discriminate; we can inform his customers or his practices; we can publish and circulate exposés; we can refuse to do business with him; we can tell him, his customers, and his suppliers that we will not patronize them as long as the discrimination continues. In extreme, we can even picket him.

    In America today, with or without a Civil Rights Act, businesses that discriminated against blacks or other minorities would face an avalanche of disapproval and ostracism. Few businesses—certainly none of any significant size—would be able to stand up to that.

    Those few businesses that might nevertheless persist would stand as monuments to our society’s deep commitment to liberty even for viewpoints we find reprehensible. Ironically, this serves the cause of liberty.

    To be sure, libertarians strongly applaud those portions of the Civil Rights Act that forbid the GOVERNMENT from discriminating against their “customers” or employees on the basis of race and color. Discrimination has no place in a public institution: government is compelled to serve us all equally under the law, and therefore possesses no right of free association.

    However, in the realm of private society and private commerce, Libertarians believe that the vast majority of Americans will choose to do the right thing; and that even if some small number choose otherwise, a person who is not free to make mistakes is not free. Americans will peacefully reject and defeat racism and segregation IF the tools of freedom—property rights, free speech, and freedom of assembly—are vigorously protected for all; not just for those who share our personal opinions.

    C. D. Tavares
    Libertarian Precinct Committeeman
    Morristown Precinct