The Pool of Bethesda, 1645, Joost Cornelisz Droochsloot
Shirley Sherrod says she is not certain that she would accept a reinstatement to her office even if the USDA offers it to her.
I think she should not. This woman needs to write a book. Politics aside, (and Sherrod may have had a little time to reconsider her absorption of the NAACP’s message that tea parties = racists) her personal story is gripping, poignant and wholesome – a staggering snapshot of where America was 50 years ago, and how far the nation has come, despite the political opportunism and flame-fanning of the worst elements of our society. Sherrod’s remembrances of parents and siblings are gorgeous lovesongs to the value of the nuclear family. “My father was just everything to us,” she says.
Her father sounds like the sort of unsung hero–hardworking, good-humored, family-focused, liberty-seeking–who should resonate with all of us who do not wish to be told where or how we may live, or whether our house may be built of brick or blocks.
And his murder–two months before the birth of his longed-for, beloved son–(watch from 8:00 on) and how it impacted Sherrod’s decisions as a 17-year old, and the story of her own evolved thinking – this is the stuff of a book that could be more than a great, inspiring read. This is a book that could teach, and unite and bring real healing. Her story encompasses the lunacy of a bygone age, the shared personal sorrows to which all can relate, the lessons of faith, surrender, personal and social triumph and, finally, how precariously we all stand in our present moments.
Talking about the slowly risen dawn of her understanding, Sherrod said to the young people attending her talk:
“When you are true to what God wants you to do, the path just opens up.”
She is so right.
We make a lot of jokes about Rahm Emmanuel’s obnoxious dictum to “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Yes, it’s a cynical politicians mindset. But it is also true that great things are often born from leaning into what seems like a destructive storm. The waters of Bethesda did not heal until they had first been stirred by an angel. The Resurrection of Christ did not overcome death until death first had its illusory moment.
Perhaps Sherrod (who–according to Breitbart–was not meant to be the focal point of his ill-played response to the NAACP’s needless provocation of the Tea Party) is not meant to return to her old job. The country doesn’t really need another bureaucrat–she could use a good deal fewer, in fact–but she does need someone to tell a true American Story, one that can strike common chords of liberty, aspiration and the constantly-evolving conscience.
God is not done with anyone, until their last day. He is not done with Shirley Sherrod, or with you or me. We are all on quite a journey, and perhaps this debacle is meant to shake up stagnant entrenched thought–on personal and societal levels–on the right and the left. For certain, we cannot continue on our present trajectory.
If it is still possible for people to, even briefly, put politics aside and simply listen to each other (and I’m sure Ms. Sherrod and I would disagree on many policy issues) that would be a book I want to read, and to see discussed in America.
Don’t go back to the office, Ms. Sherrod; tell your story; it is ours.
I think she’s owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart. I generally think Andrew is on the side of the angels and a great champion of the cause. He says he received the video in its edited form and I believe him. But the relevant question is, Would he have done the same thing over again if he had seen the full video from the outset? I’d like to think he wouldn’t have. Because to knowingly turn this woman into a racist in order to fight fire with fire with the NAACP is unacceptable. When it seemed that Sherrod was a racist who abused her power, exposing her and the NAACP’s hypocrisy was perfectly fair game. But now that we have the benefit of knowing the facts, the equation is completely different.
And check back…I have a feeling I’ll be updating this story several times throughout the day!
In mild hysterics, David Frum goes after some of the very “conservative” folks who were very quick to say, “waaait a second, there,” (note the date, Dave!) and ask to see the whole tape. In this, he is almost as negligent about doing due diligence as was Breitbart. Frum rides in on a horse of hindsight, though, and with great nobility, with his sword drawn to slay the savage hoard as he does precisely what he essentially accuses Breitbart of doing: tries to tar many with one brush. Opportunism, flame-fanning and posturing will apparently not be abated by what should be a thoughtful moment for the whole nation.
Also, Richard Cohen, writes of “the cowardice of Tom Vilsack,” for firing Sherrod. He makes no note of the NAACP’s fast initial condemnation of Sherrod – without first talking to her, and even though they were in possession of the full tape of her speech. There is lots of blame to go around, here–no one associated with this story is covered with glory–but perspectives and narratives are being carefully parsed by all the usual suspects, which indicates that lessons are not really being learned, after all.
Ann Althouse: getting analytical:
When he saw that video, Jealous’s reaction against Sherrod was immediate. She was toxic and had to be spat out.
To react like that is to display the same human weakness that underlies racism itself. You see one thing, you see the whole person as nothing but that one thing, you feel instinctive aversion and fear, and you reflexively push that person away. Blaming those who showed you that one thing does not absolve you from your responsibility to rise above the level of instinct and fear. It is up to you to go beyond your first perception, to search for the truth, and to use reason and judgment before you make a decision about someone.
UPDATE IV: Mary Katharine Ham Sounds the right notes…but her last link just depresses me. Apparently this “teachable moment” doesn’t do much to advance anything.
UPDATE V: Breitbart Needs to Apologize. I’d call that a big “duh.” He needed to do it already.
Also writing (linked to but not always read by me due to time constraints):
Sissy Willis: NAACP & Tea Party in Last Throes of the Fear and Smear Machine?
Confederate Yankee: summing it up calmly
Examiner: Journolist stuff. The WaPo must be so glad the Sherrod story appears to be dwarfing the Journolist stories.
The Macho Response: (Language Warning) Tired of this stuff