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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Remediate present before repudiating past

    While the new state budget wasn't yet complete, with several big issues waiting to be settled, the other day the state House of Representatives found time to pass a resolution that more or less repudiated and apologized for the conviction and execution of people alleged to have been witches in the Connecticut colony 400 years ago.

    Advocates of the resolution said it was needed to assuage the feelings of the distant descendants of the wrongly prosecuted, though if there really are any people with feelings so tender, they need a legislative resolution less than round-the-clock sedation.

    For does anyone in Connecticut consider witchcraft convictions from centuries ago to be a mark of shame against anyone alive today?

    While the witchcraft resolution was being considered, Connecticut's news was full of reports about matters whose shame is contemporaneous -- like the miserable educational performance of children from racial minorities, the growing violence in the cities, the mental illness and drug addiction of most of the offenders being released from prison, the rise in poverty and homelessness, and worsening social disintegration that suggests the state has become the set of a zombie movie.

    The General Assembly has yet to repudiate or apologize for any of those things. For doing something about them would require profound changes in government policy and probably substantial appropriations, even as posturing self-righteously with a resolution of no practical help to anyone is free.

    But more discouraging than the legislature's propensity for stupid posturingis the growing presumption that inspired and advanced the witchcraft resolution and inspires other claims for apologies or reparations -- the presumption that the past is so bad that it should shame everyone in the present.

    Of course some shameful things from long ago have present consequences that may be remediable. The disproportionate failure of students from minority groups may be considered the consequence of slavery, though slavery ended 160 years ago. It may be considered the consequence of prejudicial policies that ended 50 years ago, though far more recent policies may be at fault, policies no one in authority cares to question.

    In any case the natural order has been for mankind to advance over long periods -- to gain knowledge, wisdom, and decency so that, for example, prosecutions for "familiarity with the Devil" are understood as unjust and based on the superstition and irrational fear inherent in ignorance.

    That society improves gradually used to be understood as what was called the ascent of man. Painful as that ascent sometimes has been, ascent it was, and no shame attaches to those who did not participate in old injustices, a point that the opponents of the House resolution on witchcraft tried to make.

    Besides, once society begins apologizing for the mistakes of the distant past, there may be no end to it even as its only practical effect will be to provide distraction from the mistakes of the present, just as the witchcraft resolution has done.

    Biden is Trump’s appeal

    In a desperate attempt to regain ratings two weeks ago, CNN partnered with former President Donald Trump in televising a public forum in New Hampshire that was packed with Trump supporters while hostile questions were posed to Trump by reporter Kaitlan Collins.

    Running for president for a third time, Trump got exactly what he wanted -- another chance to behave outlandishly, call names, and demonstrate the demeanor that has troubled even people who favored some of his administration's policies.

    The audience in New Hampshire loved it, providing more evidence that nothing disgraceful, from mere lies to graft to sexual assault, can hurt Trump with his base. As he discovered with happy surprise when he began his first campaign for president in 2016, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters."

    Trump is the embodiment of the contempt our government increasingly deserves.

    Responding to the CNN broadcast, President Biden asked the country: "Do you want four more years of that?" But seeking re-election, Biden -- the doddering, corrupt, and gaffe-producing tool of wokeism and open borders -- is himself why many people might choose four more years of Trump.

    Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

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