Friendship, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

President Obama has described the U.S. as Israel’s “greatest friend.” True. But can we say there isn’t very much competition?

I hadn’t heard the phrase since the Clinton years, I believe. Clinton said, on at least one occasion, “I believe in a God of second chances.” And here comes South Carolina’s Mark Sanford: “I believe in a God of second chances.”

Fine. I believe in second chances, and third chances, and fifth chances, and hundredth chances. But I would rather Sanford not be elected again.

I’ve been reading a little about this Arizona case. One news report began, “Supreme Court justices disagreed Monday over whether states can require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.”

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t have a settled opinion. But I wonder this: The people on the “lenient” side (for lack of a better description): Would they do anything to keep an illegal alien from voting? Anything at all? Would they countenance any requirement whatsoever that you and I prove we are citizens before voting?

I don’t think they would — which bothers me. (You can hardly get through an hour of life without showing ID.)

The headline read, “Is ‘Latino’ a race, or an ethnicity?” You know, I don’t give a rip. Do you? I didn’t even glance at the article. Someday, maybe, we can just be Americans, or people. But that day seems a long way off, and perhaps never-arriving.

I recall a piece that the great Ward Connerly once wrote for us — and by “us” I mean National Review. It was titled “Don’t Box Me In.” It called for an end to “racial checkoffs.”

Hear frickin’ hear.

There is a group of prisoners on the island of Cuba that the world is very concerned about. They are the terrorist detainees held by the U.S. government. The world is much, much less concerned about the political prisoners held by Cuba’s Communist dictatorship.

You may have read that some Guantanamo detainees are on hunger strike. No? Yes — you can read a news report here. And listen to the poor babies’ complaint: “Lawyers say the protest began Feb. 6, when a relatively new officer in charge of camp operations, Army Col. John Bogdan, ordered an intensive search of the communal pod-like area where a majority of detainees are held. Guards confiscated personal items such as family letters, photos and mail from attorneys.”

Oh, but there’s more: “The prisoners also said government-issued Qurans were searched in a way they considered religious desecration.” No!

A Guantanamo spokesman “said there had been no changes in the way searches are conducted. He said Qurans are searched for contraband by Muslim translators, not guards, and are treated in a respectful way. The protest is simply a way to attract attention, he said.” Yeah, no kidding.

Okay, how about hunger strikes no one cares about? (All too few care about them, I should say.) When Orlando Zapata Tamayo died, two years ago, I did a piece for NR called “Death by Hunger Strike.” Here are some things I said about Zapata:

He was 42 years old when he died. Zapata was fearless in his demands for basic human rights, one of those dissidents who will risk everything. He was arrested, for the final time, in the notorious crackdown of March 2003, known as the “Black Spring.” In prison, the guards beat him constantly. They also tortured him in the usual, shocking ways. He began his hunger strike on December 3. . . .

. . . the authorities denied him water for 18 days — they typically do this to hunger strikers. Zapata suffered kidney failure. Then they held him naked over a powerful air conditioner, which gave him pneumonia.

And so on and so forth. Zapata held out for an amazing 83 days. When he was dying, his mother, Reina Luisa, called on their fellow Cubans to express solidarity. To express it even if it meant being attacked by the state’s goons. “Do not be afraid of blows,” she said. “It is worthier to die upright than to die kneeling.”

Do you want to hear some news of the great Che Guevara, hero of a billion T-shirts? This bit of news comes from an obit in the New York Times. The obit tells us about Erwin Harris, an ad executive who died at 91. He did advertising for the Castro dictatorship when it was new, and the dictatorship, lo and behold, stiffed him — wouldn’t pay its bills.

By his account, he went to see the Cuban finance minister, Che Guevara, who kept him waiting for hours.

“Che laughed in his face and threw him out of the office,” Mrs. Harris said. “Then he threatened to kill every member of his family if he ever came back.”

Yup. That sounds like our Che.

I was talking to a friend of mine, who said he wanted to say something about the weather. My friend is a member of the New York intelligentsia. And he assured me that he believed in global warming — man-made global warming. (Funny word, “believe” — to “believe” in global warming.) He made sure I knew he wasn’t a heretic.

Funny he would have to reassure me, of all people, but there you have it.

And then he said, “But, you know? We’ve always had weather — severe weather, strange weather, extreme weather.” He gave several examples, from decades past. “People today act like we’ve never had weather. We’ve always had weather! Come on.”

Exactly. Well said.

Care for a little music? Or rather, a little language? Last night, I was supposed to cover a concert of the San Francisco Symphony in Carnegie Hall. But the orchestra is on strike. And the Carnegie people had to announce that the concert “has been cancelled due to the orchestra’s current work stoppage.”

I was thinking, “Is a work stoppage the same as a strike? Better, worse? A euphemism?” I don’t know.

By the way, I can’t tell you why Carnegie Hall used the British spelling of “canceled.” And do you think it’s wrong to say “due to,” rather than “owing to,” in that instance, above? I’ve softened on this — though I myself would still be reluctant to write “due to.”

More language? Okay — this is a good one. A reader writes about my Impromptus yesterday, in which I took up some common mispronunciations: “mischievious” for “mischievous,” “verbage” for “verbiage,” etc.

My wife uses the term “foilage” for “foliage” — it’s a West Virginia thing. Also, you may like to know that she says “being haved” — not “behaving,” but “being haved.” “Are the dogs being haved?” “Don’t tell me the kids aren’t being haved.” She never knew what she was saying until I pointed it out to her about five years ago. Isn’t English wonderful?

Yes, truly wonderful — one of the loves of my life, and our lives.

Not all PC is wrong — some of it is just common sense, and common courtesy. The problem is, there’s so much left-wing nonsense and intimidation in our lives . . . anyway, we don’t need to get into it now.

The other day, I heard a child refer to a crayon as “flesh-colored.” I hadn’t heard that term in ages. I thought it was pretty much banished. This little girl, by the way, is Hispanic (and adorable and scrumptious). “Flesh-colored” is a term we can do without. Flesh comes in many colors, not just around the world, but in this country alone. In this country, blood from all corners flows.

I think PC is a bane of our existence (as I write day in, day out). But “flesh-colored” — that deserves to fade away.

This story was a big surprise: Adrian Dantley, the great AD, the basketball star, is working as a school crossing guard in Silver Spring, Md. He “says he took the job for the health care benefits and to have something to do.”

I wonder whether the kids have any idea the greatness they’re brushing up against. How could they?

Let’s end with some sports — and a name. A reader from Duke writes with praise of a guy from UNC, believe it or not:

Jay,

I know you have an appreciation of interesting names. I offer Skye Bolt, an outstanding freshman baseball player for the No. 1-ranked UNC Tarheels. He is a very talented player who has a strong future in baseball and perhaps will be making an appearance with a major-league team in the next five years or so.

Skye Bolt — a fine name for an athlete. Maybe for a car too.

See you later, y’all, and thanks much.
 

To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.