This whole sorry episode reminds me of a Thomas Jefferson quote about slavery: “It’s like holding a wolf by the ears. You don’t like it, but you dare not let it go.”
Because it doesn’t matter who you’re dating, married to or friends with. Take Thomas Jefferson, for instance. He kept slaves. Human beings that were his property. He also took a liking to one of them, a young girl called Sally Hemings. When Jefferson’s wife died, she became his de-facto partner, concubine, and the mother of several of his children. Children who, like their mother, were legally the propery of their father.
Now was Jefferson always evil and vile to his common-law wife, who was also his slave? Not necessarily. In fact she enjoyed certain privileges. Some of the children he had by her, he treated well. He saw it to they enjoyed a better education than the other slaves at his plantation.
So you can be racist as hell, literally keep slaves, and still have a bit of a ‘soft spot’ for one or a few of them. Of course to us, today, the very concept of owning your own family, literally owning them as property, is sick. Even in his day, some were weirded out by it. Jefferson didn’t claim the kids as his own. But he did set one of them free, later in life.
By today’s standards, Thomas Jefferson was a disgusting, horrible racist. Not to mention the fact that Sally Hemings was just fourteen when he began bedding her. For his era, though, it should be said that he was relatively benign, maybe even considerate, as far as slave owners go. Still hella racist though.
People are complex. Racists are people, so they, too, are complex. Derek Chauvin may been awfully sweet to his now ex-wife. And decidedly not sweet to the defenseless, unarmed and tied up man he murdered in broad daylight.
Thomas Jefferson is remembered as a progressive man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and called slavery an abomination, yet he was also a slaveholder himself who fathered several children by a woman he owned. Martha Teichner reports.
John Fea’s Virtual Office Hours: Spring 2016 Season – Episode 13
Thomas Jefferson hated confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail. Passionate about many things—women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, Paris—Jefferson loved America most, and he strove again and again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson’s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.
Is there some place where digital democracy can
contribute to the good as opposed to what I think it
tends to do now, which is reinforce preexisting biases.
I’m speaking in vastly oversimplified terms.
But one of the things that the digital revolution has made
You can make yourself heard anyway, whether it’s in
comment sections, or Twitter, or Facebook, whatever it is.
Every man is a pundit now.
And that’s great.
But with power comes responsibility.
And so as FDR once said, simply screaming from the
rooftops doesn’t help us a whole lot.
So is there a way to harness this amazing tool to create,
what one would argue, could be a more
constructive political dialogue?
I would hope so.
And I think we’re not even halfway through this, right?
These are the first moments of this.
And so I think you all–
I don’t mean to preach at you– but you all have a hell
of a responsibility here.
I mean, this is Google.
Some guy last night in Seattle asked me where he could find a
particular letter of Jefferson’s, and I thought he
meant the idea.
No, he meant the letter, the actual one he’d written.
And so I said, well, I don’t have the date off
the top of my head.
He said, well, do I have to Google it?
I said, well, if you have to ask, then yes you do.
That’s a key thing.
So you’re a verb.
So you’re one of the key cultural landmarks of the age.
So I think that there’s an enormous responsibility there
to try to figure out how do you use this immense sea?
How do you channel it into productive ways?
So I should be asking you all this, is my point.