Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no…

If Americans ever needed rational thinking and free inquiry to solve our serious problems, that time is now. Even so, we refuse to wean ourselves of a practice that prevents us from finding truth and solutions: We slavishly worship sacred cows, those untouchable ideas, ideologies, individuals, movements and places that are closed to discussion except for praise.

Israel, for example, holds a special place in the American imagination as a political and religious entity, making public debate and the publication of critical matters related to the Jewish state next to impossible. Since Israel’s founding 60 years ago, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the welfare of the Jewish nation has been the cornerstone of U.S. Middle Eastern policy.

Although our unwavering diplomatic and economic support of Israel is the primary source of tension in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of Americans dare not discuss the sacred cow behind our blind commitment to Israel: the “Israel Lobby.”

This group works its magic by depicting Israel as an innocent victim just a step away from oblivion at the hands of vicious Arabs if it does not receive unconditional American aid. Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are being viciously attacked for exposing this sacred cow in their landmark book, “The Israel Lobby.” Many Jews argue, with a straight face, that the idea of the lobby’s influence is a myth perpetrated by anti-Semites and self-loathing Jews.

Not surprisingly, mainstream presidential candidates, past and now, never bring up the lobby. To do so would mean the end of any White House ambitions. The Israel Lobby as sacred cow wins out every time.

Like Jews, American blacks nurture a crowded stable of sacred cows.

Currently, blacks are attacking comedian Bill Cosby for attempting to slay two particular old bovines: blaming white racism for black problems in contemporary America and airing black dirty laundry in public.

The attacks began in earnest in May 2004, at the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, when Cosby delivered his controversial “Pound Cake Speech.” In the speech, he committed anathema by chiding blacks for being the eternal victim, for not taking individual responsibility, especially for their children.

“The lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding up their end of the deal,” he said. “In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. . . . I’m talking about people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? And where were you when he was 18, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? Brown vs. Board of Education is no longer the white man’s problem.”

Cosby is not the first, black, white or otherwise, to come under attack for dissing black sacred cows. Others include author Zora Neale Hurston, educator and inventor Booker T. Washington, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, sociologist William Julius Wilson and classics professor Mary Lefkowitz, who made the mistake of challenging the tenets of Afrocentrism.

Then there is the personal tragedy of S.B. Fuller, founder of the Fuller Products Co. Until the company’s bankruptcy in 1968, Fuller had been one of the richest blacks in the United States. A nationwide black boycott of his products was mainly responsible for his bankruptcy. His crime was that he preached entrepreneurship as the only real way for blacks to deliver themselves from dire straits.

His views expressed in a 1963 magazine interview doomed him: “Negroes are not discriminated against because of the color of their skin. They are discriminated against because they have not anything to offer that people want to buy. The minute that they can develop themselves so they excel in whatever they do — then they are going to find that they don’t have any real problems.” Remember Ice Cube’s 2002 film “Barbershop”? It outraged many blacks because of irreverent observations of icons such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. You do not mess with the legacies of King and Parks, period.

Currently, Sen. Barack Obama is the black sacred cow of choice. Criticize him at the risk of being ostracized. Just ask commentator Tavis Smiley, who failed to realize that blacks do not make negative comments about a fellow black who is The First. In this instance, Obama is The First black to have a realistic chance of winning the presidency.

People who are sacred cows rarely hear the unalloyed truth about themselves because their critics are afraid to speak freely. What a pity. And what a dangerous position to be in.

(Bill Maxwell is a columnist and editorial writer for the St. Petersburg Times. E-mail maxwell(at)sptimes.com)


  1. uncledave

    OK, I’ll be the iconoclast …

    1. Israel was founded illegitimately, by occupying territory and displacing or killing its inhabitants. Of course, this is also how the United States was founded. In any case, both countries exist and we have to deal with the present. This means we have to deal with current behaviors, not with excuses, myths or rationales.

    2. There is a “core” Black culture of despair and dependence that many Blacks are unable to overcome. Of course, this is not inherent, but rather the product of 300 + years of slavery and very sinister racism. In this case, too, we have to deal with the situation as it exists now–culture versus opportunity–not with excuses, myths or rationales. (And–this is not a counter argument or excuse–there is a core White culture of despair and dependence that many Whites are unable to overcome. In both cases the culture was induced by repression, poverty, propaganda, and pitting these two groups against one another.)

    3. There is no way that any man or woman, Black or White, can get as far as Obama (or Hillary) without being acceptable to the “powers that be”, which means that he is assuring them that he will not rock their boat (consisting of security, wealth, inside information, power, and environment), while assuring us that he can implement “change”. You can look back and see that every candidate who told the truth enough to be dangerous to the powers that be had his candidacy destroyed–Kucinich, Jerry Brown, Jessie Jackson, and many others. But, once again, we have to deal with the situation as it is, always voting for the lesser evil.

  2. Flapsaddle

    An excellent point often overlooked: No land title on the planet is clean and its current owners of unimpeachable moral authority.

    We stole half of Mexico in an unjust war. True, and the “Mexicans” stole it from the previous owners, the various American Indian peoples. The Sioux became dwellers of the plains after their fellow American Indians forced them out of their original homeland near the Great Lakes. The Apache live in Arizona and New Mexico because the Comanche pushed them out and took over. The Normans stole England from the Saxons…who stole it from the Celts. The Romans stole Italy from the Etruscans and others. Arabs stole from Persians who stole from Babylonians who stole from Akkadians who stole from Sumerians who stole from….on and on, ad nauseam.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  3. phyrac

    Maxwell goes wrong – from the start – where he states “…our unwavering diplomatic and economic support of Israel is the primary source of tension in the Middle East…”. That is a bald-faced lie. The primary cause of tension in the Middle East is corrupt oil-rich despots and the thugs they finance to cover up their own evil. Maxwell should apply his description of defenders of Israel, the word “vicious”, to himself.

    By the way, Israel had an Army to defend itself when attacked at its founding in 1948 because Jews had been there, BUYING land, BUILDING a country, since about 1850. Palestinians left beacuse that’s what happens in all wars. In this case it is the arabs who insist on startinmg war after war.