Sunday, January 20, 2008

An American Story--My Grandfather's Son by Justice Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas is someone that I have admired since I first became aware of him in the early 1990s. As soon as this autobiography appeared, I knew I had to read it. Now that I have done so, I think it needs to be read by anyone and everyone. It offers an inspirational road map to achievement, and devastates the notion that Blacks may advance only with a hand-up from the Democrat party or a hand-out from the government.

As should be obvious from the title, My Grandfather's Son is a paean to Thomas's grandfather, Myers Anderson. "Daddy" as Thomas called him, was one of those honest, religious, tough as boot-leather men who used to proliferate in America. He taught Thomas the value of work--hard work--faith, an education, honesty, and self-respect. In the past, such men helped shape and mold future Supreme Court justices. In our degenerate, emasculated culture today, they'd probably be hauled before child protective services.

Thomas includes some memorable chestnuts from his grandfather in the book, among them:
"Old Man Can't is dead—I helped bury him."
"Hard times makes a monkey eat cayenne pepper."
Thomas's view of the Catholic Church and the status of his first marriage is somewhat problematic. His grandfather was a devout Catholic, and Thomas himself attended Catholic school in his youth. His own personal devotion was such that he entered the seminary with his grandfather's blessing. Unfortunately, the racial problems of the 1960s created conflicts between him and his fellow seminarians and left Thomas disillusioned. He eventually left the seminary, wrongly ascribing the racist attitudes of some of his fellow seminarians to the Church as a whole.

The rest of his early life was one of moral confusion. He dissolved his first marriage for reasons that remain vague but seem best explained by immaturity and an inability to sacrifice his own needs for the sake of his wife and young son. He was also a heavy drinker. To his credit, Thomas overcame his alcohol problem and obviously feels considerable guilt about his treatment of his first wife to this day.

The story of how he battled back from the angst, frustration, and moral failings of his early years dominates the middle of the book. Thomas chronicles his intellectual development--his transition from an angry Black radical to a conservative. He came to believe that government intervention is ineffective in helping Blacks and that in the case of issues like forced busing, it had done more harm than good. The result of this intellectual shift is that he was effectively ostracized by other Blacks in his circles for whom the doctrine of the political left was not to be questioned.

Thomas's description of his bruising battle for a seat on the Supreme Court is perhaps the most riveting part of the book. Thomas is effusive in his praise of those who provided moral, political, and spiritual support for him during this protracted fight, John Danforth in particular. He also pulls no punches when it comes to identifying the frauds and slanderers who attempted to destroy him. Joe Biden, Howard Metzenbaum, and (not surprisingly) Anita Hill end up appearing positively villainous along with the entire spectrum of pressure groups on the political left.

By the end of My Grandfather's Son, it becomes very obvious that the political left did far more to destroy this talented Black man than the KKK ever could have. It leaves one wondering how many others the left has beaten down and demoralized to the point that they just surrendered. As Thomas's mother, Leola, is quoted as saying in the aftermath of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings:
"I ain't never votin' fo' another Democrat as long as I can draw breath. I'd vote for a dog first."
If more Blacks came to that realization, it would be to the benefit of the entire country.

Reading this book will also be a stark reminder of the intellectual bankruptcy of the women's movement in the United States. The same radical feminists who attempted to destroy Clarence Thomas using trumped up charges of sexual harassment were nowhere to be found when, a mere six years later, a Democrat president was demonstrated to be guilty of exactly the same kind of tawdry, disgraceful behavior. Wait, I take that back. They were to be found--supporting and exonerating the harasser and excoriating the whistle-blower.

In short, this book is fascinating, moving, well-written, and highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand who Clarence Thomas is and where he came from.

1 comment:

sandyeggo said...

I bought Justice Thomas' book for my older sons this last Christmas, but I haven't read it yet myself. One inspiring (almost mind boggling, really) note: Justice Thomas' favorite prayer is the Litany of Humility, which he has hanging on the wall of his office.