2015 started with a bright blast here in Seattle: the thermometer struggled to reach 32°, the skies above cleared themselves wide open and bluer-than-blue, and the sun, visible for once, permitted a scroll of wonders: snow-tipped mountains sparkled everywhere along the horizons and the waters of the Sound shimmied black-blue and thoughtful, their cresting gurglings tipped in white cockscombs. A meteorological rarity, although smart money, were it inclined to betting, would hedge on a quick change (Come on Gray and rain, Gray and rain—Daddy needs a new pair of shoes…).
In this impending atmospheric falling-off our staff here at And Why Not? see parallels to one of this season’s most curious habits—the formation of New Year’s Resolutions, many of which (I’m going to the gym 5x/week! I’m done drinking alcohol!) surely won’t outlast the blue, cold skies above.
And that’s fine, for while we can measure the objective stickiness of one’s resolutions (I haven’t had a beer in 6-hours!), we’re more interested in a subjective and intangible component, which is what the act of forming resolutions tells us about ourselves as people, namely: that we believe ourselves capable of making changes to our lives.
For isn’t the ability to change our lives both the premise we start from and the belief we validate in the act of making a resolution? Regardless the actual objective outcome of our self-promises, the point is that by forming a resolution we can believe, for however long we are capable, that we can change.
Making a resolution allows us to believe that who we were last year isn’t who we must be this year. To whatever limits one allows the mind to run, our lives can be suffused with freedom and hope.
And so, in the spirit of believing we can in fact turn over a new page in our lives, we offer the following reflection on David Duke, a fiery figure who has bubbled to the surface of national politics recently after it was revealed that Representative Steve Scalise, currently the third-most-powerful member of the US House of Representatives, spoke at an event in the early 90’s that was sponsored in part by Duke.
For those not familiar, David Duke’s naughtinesses are, if we may employ a Biblical term particularly apt, legion. Of the many highlights from his resume we can point to the following: former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, convicted felon, white-separatist/nationalist political writer, and Holocaust-denier, amongst others.
(Lest these inflammatory facts resound as mere youthful indiscretions, allow us to point out that as recently as 2013 Duke was expelled from Italy for attempting to establish an organization aimed at exterminating—yes, that language again—black and Jewish populations in Europe. And No, this was not Duke’s first state-sponsored expulsion on hate-related charges.)
Leaving aside for a moment the obvious problems this situation creates for Scalise and other Republicans (also known as: Yet another reason people of color won’t be voting Republican come the next election…), we came across an interesting paragraph in a NY Times article analyzing this story. The article provides the following summary of David Duke today:
Mr. Duke, 64, who now calls himself a “human rights activist,” continues to sell books, a newsletter, DVDs, art and apparel and to speak on racial and cultural issues. He regularly tells audiences he is not a white supremacist and “condemns any form of racial supremacism and oppression.” But he rails against “the ultimate racists, the Jewish, Zionist tribalisms.”
We’re unsure if this should be labeled successful ‘rebranding,’ outright mendacity, or high/low(?)-browed sophism. And while we’d love to get our hands on some of Duke’s “art,” the point our staff would like to emphasize relates back to the opening conversation about resolutions and our belief in our powers to effect change.
In other words—if David Duke can transition into calling himself a “human rights activist,” surely in the new year all of us can floss regularly and make it to the gym.