Bob Schwartz

The Confederate Flag Solution

Confederate Battle Flag

A current thought is that erasing Confederate flags is a small but effective step in diminishing racism in America. More is better, and so if the effort is doubled and doubled again, we will be just that little bit closer to racial harmony and tolerance. Not a complete solution, but at least a sign of enlightenment and progress.

The effort and the self-congratulation that go with it avoid a couple of matters.

American racism is wide and deep. Even as it seems to wane, social media and having cameras everywhere is going to put once private prejudice on bold and sometimes vicious public display. Fully acknowledging it in all its forms is something to do next, but only when finger pointers check themselves and their own for hidden vermin. It is the age of actual glass houses.

The second point is that racism may not and likely will not disappear soon as a major force, no matter how we try. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but human nature and history give us pause. We can and should shield people from the effects of racism. The rights to do freely or be free of nasty consequence should be guaranteed. But that in no way assures evolution, and in some cases provokes nasty reaction. We might as well learn to live with racism, not so much accepting or condoning it, but digging deeper to learn what we can about the weaknesses that pervade life and self. One day that work of transcending racism may be successful. But that day is not today.

Just as we might acknowledge the prevalence of secret racism, including in ourselves, we might admit that racism is stubborn and intractable. We don’t have to punish ourselves on either count. But the rare process of candid self-examination might ultimately be more valuable than merely basking in the glow of having done the right but very tiny thing.



Winnie-the-Pooh is not only a children’s book, not exactly, though it should be read to and by every child. It wasn’t read to or by me as a child, but I found it later anyway, and have never let go of it since.

Pooh, as you know or might have heard, is a bear formally known as Edward Bear, but nicknamed by his friend Christopher Robin. He lives with his other friends Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and her baby Roo in the Hundred Acre Wood.

In this bit from Chapter 7, Pooh and friends are trying to distract Kanga so that they can capture her baby. Pooh recites some spontaneous poetry:

“Talking of Poetry,” said Pooh, “I made up a little piece as I was coming along. It went like this. Er–now let me see–“

“Fancy!” said Kanga. “Now Roo, dear–“

“You’ll like this piece of poetry,” said Rabbit

“You’ll love it,” said Piglet.

“You must listen very carefully,” said Rabbit.

“So as not to miss any of it,” said Piglet.

“Oh, yes,” said Kanga, but she still looked at Baby Roo.

“How did it go, Pooh?” said Rabbit.

Pooh gave a little cough and began.


On Monday, when the sun is hot
I wonder to myself a lot:
“Now is it true, or is it not,”
“That what is which and which is what?”

On Tuesday, when it hails and snows,
The feeling on me grows and grows
That hardly anybody knows
If those are these or these are those.

On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it’s true
That who is what and what is who.

On Thursday, when it starts to freeze
And hoar-frost twinkles on the trees,
How very readily one sees
That these are whose–but whose are these?

On Friday—-

“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” said Kanga, not waiting to hear what happened on Friday. “Just one more jump, Roo, dear, and then we really must be going.”

Note to English and philosophy professors: Shakespeare is great, but if you are not including A.A. Milne and his Pooh books in your syllabus, you are shortchanging your students. As for philosophy, “what is which and which is what?” and “who is what and what is who?” are questions that could take up a full semester, if not a lifetime.

Note to parents and children of all ages: If you are not reading Pooh to your kids or you haven’t read the book yourself, just do it.

Note to lovers: This may not seem like very romantic literature. But it contains the sort of sweet nonsensical silliness that love, stripped down to its unserious basics, is all about.

WARNING TO ALL: The Disney version of Pooh is known and beloved by many, maybe including you. Sweet Christopher Robin and Pooh would never say unkind or harsh things, such as saying that the Disney version completely misses everything wonderful about the Pooh books and characters, and that it might be deemed a creative desecration. They would never say anything like that.