When the Seeds Were Sown and a Retraction

Posted on October 17, 2021


All farmers, from the first to today, know that you need to sow the seed if you expect to get something. Even today’s mavens of the new mostly urban, Woke culture, subscribers to BLM, and true believers of the 1619 Project know this simple truth. To reap, you have to sow.

And, of course, for those reading these lines, you have a few items to take care of, like fertilizers, weeds, rain, drought, critters, and a host of other claims on your crops and harvests.

With this principle in mind, I have occasionally returned to the 1950s and 1960s to examine the roots of today’s politics buried in that very fertile soil. So, this is lesson #2 in our history course this fall: YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.

Who were the principal influences on the formation of the political, social, and economic manners, thoughts, and ideology of today’s faculty in colleges and universities across the Americas? If education is one of the three formidable influences on today’s youth (the other two are the home and the Church), who taught them and what did they teach them?

The name Saul Alinsky popped up on my radar a month or two ago. I remembered his name vaguely as a political activist, someone who many of my more politically engaged tribe of faculty occasionally mentioned.

He was born in Chicago to Russian Jewish immigrants. He became a community organizer in Chicago, especially among the workers in the meat packing business, and a controversial political activist. His book, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer (1971) was a kind of guide for the struggle for social justice, especially in blighted, urban communities.

And a month or two ago I received a note from an old childhood friend in Lima, Peru, a close watcher of politics in both Europe and the U. S. Sometimes a voice and view from abroad is good to hear, since it is usually less passionate, more objective than subjective. The Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville who traveled the U. S. in the early nineteenth century and left his immensely astute observations of life in the new democracy is a good example of the type.

Alinsky’s alleged observations have been published by many web sites in the past few years with his “advice” to radicals and socialists. Most of these are spurious and false and are not what Alinsky wrote. I trusted the Web and reproduced them in this column.

I’ve since done some checking in sources I can usually trust, like Wikipedia and Snopes (see https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/how-to-create-a-social-state/ for example) and others who actually used Alinsky’s two books and other writings and actions as sources for what he advocated for.

Alinsky was a radical political organizer, advocating community organization to get things done in the name of urban working classes—like those working in the meat packing industry in the Chicago area.

Here’s a snippet from Snopes for those curious about Alinsky:

“Saul Alinsky was the Chicago-born archaeology major who, in the midst of the Great Depression, dropped out of graduate school and became involved first with the labor movement and then with community organizing. It was in the latter field that he made his mark, working from the late 1930s through the early 1970s as a community organizer (first in poor areas of Chicago, and later in various cities across the U.S.) seeking, often through unconventional means, to “turn scattered, voiceless discontent into a united protest.” Along the way he authored the books Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals to provide counsel to young radicals on how to effect constructive social change.”

He was not a communist nor a particularly devoted socialist wanting to change the way people related to government. From what I’ve read, he was a bit testy, self-confident individual who believed and practiced his devotion to making things better for the huge working classes in this country. His keys were to organize them to make their cases.

I apologize for parroting half a dozen or more web sites which falsely attributed to Alinsky an agenda on how to make revolutions work. Thanks to a student of Alinsky for pointing out the truth and lies about Alinsky’s life.

I continue to be interested in investigating the origins of much of what is being taught in colleges and universities today re. the Woke culture, critical race theory, the 1619 Project, and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs all across higher education.

Many of the answers are not based on examining history alone, but also looking at the changes in the world today, from social networking, to work habits, to religion and across the spectrum of life.

In education, Dr. Earl Tilford, an alumnus and respected historian, and others, mostly alumni who include legislators, journalists, lawyers, educators, businesspeople, and private citizens of many stripes with a deep love and respect for the university and public education in Alabama, are working to restore values attendant to the classical pursuit of academic excellence…more on this to follow.

And my second thought today: beware of  trusting to the Internet for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

Published as “Looking back on when the seeds of today’s politics were sown,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021

Posted in: Politics