Tuesday, June 28, 2005

KQED Forum: christopher hitchens on thomas jefferson

jun 28th
a most interesting forum from may -- an hour of conversation with hitchens, whom i admire for his candor and his wit. he wrote a definitive biography of jefferson, it appears. (podcast available, no need for an ipod, just get itunes and ipodder on your computer and enjoy all the podcasts in the world).
sally hemmings, thomas jefferson's slave 'wife', comes across as the heroine of story. hitchens in fact calls her the 'mother of the country', if jefferson is the father. she was a quadroon (father and grandfather were both white), very beautiful, very bright, and she bore him several children who were manumitted (probably on sally's insistence) and who probably passed off as whites.
interesting irony: jefferson was a humanist and an abolitionist, yet he does not mind sleeping with and repeatedly impregnating a woman, sally, who was his wife's half-sister, *and* his property, his slave.
there are inherent contradictions in the things even rather great people say they believe in and what they practise. jefferson was, after all, the author of the us constitution, and a renaissance man: a scientist, etc. he also didn't particularly trust the us congress, and behind their backs authorized the attacks on and the slaughter of the barbary pirates, arab pirates from libya and so forth who were a menace to merchant ships in the mediterranean and the atlantic.

well, we are used to politicians saying one thing and doing another, aren't we?

i haven't read the book, but it sounds fascinating. has anybody on this blog read it?


san said...

Speaking of forbidden loves, I was reading further news on
Gang-Rape Case in Pakistan of Miss Mukhtaran Mai.

So the reason for the assault against her was because her brother's affair with someone of the wrong caste?

It once again proves that the evils of caste are not specific to Hindus or India, but rather are more deeply rooted in the primeval culture of tribalism which exists across the region and even the wider underdeveloped world.

Caste is an english word, and has unfortunately come to be synonymized in Leftist circles with the Varnas mentioned in Vedic texts. But I've never heard of these ever mentioning any "Kurmi caste", "Patel caste", "Nair caste", "Iyer caste", "Jat caste", etc -- instead these appear to be primitivist tribal affiliations rather than creations of theology.

The scourge of casteism must be combatted, but this cannot be done through politically-motivated misdiagnosis and misattribution of its origins and roots.

I remember once debating that insufferable idiot Kuldip Nayar, on the issue of bride-burning being a social evil endemic to Indian society. When I presented to him bride-burning statistics in Pakistan, he replied that because he was a "patriot", he could only discuss India and could not comment on Pakistan.

My point in presenting the statistics on Pakistan was not to downplay the culpability and responsability of Indians for social evils in their midst, but rather to point out that these social evils are sufficiently transcendental that they need a deeper examination than merely railing at a country in the popular knee-jerk fashion.

I must say though, that I've never heard the word "patriot" invoked in that way before. It's a good thing Dr Condoleeza Rice is not the kind of patriot that Kuldip Nayar claims to be.

Anonymous said...

Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence. He was not even present at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.