Sunlight as a Disinfectant: Justice Louis Brandeis

August 11, 2019

Sunlight as a Disinfectant: Justice Louis Brandeis


Louis Brandeis

Justice Louis Brandeis served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1916 until 1939. He was America’s great lawyer before he joined the Court and, always, a great writer. In Other People’s Money – and How Banker’s Use It (1914), he observed:

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

Our nation suffers from a social disease which has plagued us for its entire existence: racism. Wait. What? When we elected Barack Obama we got a post-racial America. Shangri-La. Right? Uh, not so much, for Mr. Obama handed over the keys to the man who made his bones by claiming that that very man, Mr. Obama, was born in Kenya. Not qualified to serve, said Donald Trump. And this man, Trump, got himself elected by focusing on The Other, always.

We hear from Mr. Trump constantly. Let’s listen to some other people.

In the news this week we heard about a newly released tape of a conversation between President Richard Nixon and then California Governor, Ronald Reagan. Here’s the money quote:

To see those monkeys from those African countries, damn them. They are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.

(Two things: President Nixon laughs when Governor Reagan shares his observation. And, the National Archives did not disclose this tape for decades, as a courtesy, because Governor Reagan did not know he was being taped.)

In the past few days the PBS Newshour and NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday have captured regular, stupid people, making deplorable statements.

The first story reported on Ferguson, MO, five years after a police officer killed Michael Brown, Jr. The report talked about traffic issues in the city. Five years ago, the city paid its bills by citing drivers. Often and, disproportionately, African American drivers. Now? Not nearly as many citations (and a much smaller city revenue base.)

And the deplorable comment? It comes from Judy McCarty, who said:

If you watch how some of these people drive, you know what – you know what color they are. I’m not prejudiced, but we can tell by the way they drive.

Right-o, lady, and if you watch the Newshour, Ms. McCarty seems like a very nice, decent person.

Then, there was this exchange between Dianne Cook and Sarah McCammon from NPR. (The story? Two Virginia Churches Caught Up in Debate Over Trump’s Racist Rhetoric.)

McCammon: One of Pastor Lucas’s church members is Dianne Cook. Her car is parked near the America – love it or leave it sign. She agrees with the message and her pastor. And she says Trump was right to criticize the four Democratic Congress women who include the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Dianne Cook: Where do their parents come from? Are they Americans? Just because she was born in America does not make her American.

McCammon: Doesn’t it legally, though, under the Constitution?

Cook: Under the Constitution—yes. But I don’t know how to express it to make you understand that I wish she—I wish they—well, I don’t want any Muslims in America.

G-d bless these people, for sharing their ugly, awful feelings. I wish they had a different perspective but, at least, they’re not hiding their dark hearts. Too—and more so—G-d bless the media for not self-censoring. (By the way, nothing I’ve quoted was taken out of context, or otherwise offered unfairly. Listen to the tapes!)

Our country has a big, bad issue we have never really confronted. Have we made progress? Absolutely. Have we resolved the issue? Get the **** outta here! Only with constant exposure, holding up hatred for all to hear and see and ridiculing its very premises, will we have a more perfect union, or Make America Great!

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