Bill Clinton’s new patriotism, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

I was somewhat alarmed to hear that Bill Clinton is a vegan, or sort of a vegan, and preaching that life. He is warning against the perils of meat, cheese, milk, and fish. He has said, “You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, and that of your family and your country.”

Really? So Clinton’s preferred diet — present preferred diet — is a matter of patriotism? Ay, caramba.

Frankly, I liked it better when he was having marathon meals with Chancellor Kohl.

Let’s pause for a language note (already). Above, I wrote “meat,” and, later in the list, “fish.” There was a time when fish was included in meat. Think of Jesus, in King James language. He calls out to his disciples, who are fishing, “Children, have ye any meat?”

He didn’t mean pork chops.

Reading a post in the Corner last month, I thought of something from long ago: from the Clinton transition, in fact. The transition from Bush (41) to Clinton, in late 1992 and early ’93.

In that Corner post, I learned that Michigan’s department of education sent bureaucrats to the campus of Hillsdale College, the famed conservative institution (located in the south-central part of that state). This occurred in 1999. Why were the bureaucrats sent?

Apparently, so that they could gaze on the races of students at Hillsdale. It was very important to the education department what color they were.

I thought of something Lynne Cheney said (and I’m going from memory, although I believe it’s burned in). She had been chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, under Bush (and in the second term of Reagan, too). After the election, some Clinton people arrived at NEH, carrying clipboards. Why?

They were checking on female employees with Hispanic last names. They wanted to verify — to the extent possible, I guess — that the employees themselves were Hispanic, rather than married to Hispanic men or something.

And this was well before the New York Times invented the term “white Hispanic,” owing to the need to make George Zimmerman, the shooter in the Trayvon Martin case, a honky.

America is screwed up — in addition to wonderful — in myriad ways. We are most screwed up, I think, when it comes to race and ethnicity.

On the theme of race: An Associated Press report began,

A federal jury has rejected the argument that use of the N-word among blacks can be a culturally acceptable term of love and endearment, deciding its use in the workplace is hostile and discriminatory no matter what.

But that’s not true, is it? I mean, that word can be a term of love and endearment. Anyone who has eyes and ears in America knows that.

But, oh, what a troubling, painful issue. Years ago, when I was in high school, it was an issue: Should black students be allowed to call one another that? Or should teachers and administrators bust ’em for it, as they would have others?

I’m not sure how it was resolved. A rotten headache of an issue — not quite black and white, if I may put it that way.

So, I was looking at “a guide to the world’s most libertarian countries.” And North Korea was on the list. Really? Yeah. Evidently, the big criterion is coolness with drugs. And “substances such as marijuana and opium are completely legal” in North Korea (because they’re not recognized as drugs at all).

Okay, then. Maybe the next Burning Man or whatever can be held among the Norks?

For years now, we’ve been laughing at Arab paranoia over spies — animal spies. Remember the sharks at Sharm El Sheikh? How they were sent by the Mossad?

Well, here’s another one: “In a case that ruffled feathers in Egypt, authorities have detained a migratory bird that a citizen suspected of being a spy.”

Stories such as this are funny, yes. (The “ruffled feathers,” in the above-cited report, is a nice touch.) But the stories are sad, too. Because they illustrate a mindset that holds millions of people back.

The world — or America, at least — has been oohing and ahing over a new little panda cub at the National Zoo. She is an entrancing creature. For a story, with photos and a video, of course, go here.

May I share a memory with you? I had it when I read about the panda cub, and the widespread rejoicing over it.

When I was in high school, I heard an anti-abortionist argue on television. He said it was illegal in our country to destroy a bald eagle’s egg. What was in the egg, obviously, would become a bald eagle. Similarly, a gestating human baby would become . . . well, a baby, recognized as a human being by everybody.

If you destroy a bird’s egg, said the anti-abortionist, you’re a criminal. You will probably go to jail. If you destroy an unborn child — no worries.

Ooh, was I annoyed! “What a simplistic, right-wing jerk!” I thought. But I had a problem: I really couldn’t answer the simplistic right-wing jerk.

I have another memory for you — less contentious, I trust. A few weeks ago, I read an article about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson: “Will Woods and Mickelson renew their rivalry?” Woods is at No. 1; Mickelson is at No. 2. Etc.

After reading the article — in particular, the quotes from the two players — I thought of something a leading opera administrator once told me. This was maybe ten years ago. I’ll paraphrase:

“Everyone talks about the ‘rivalry’ between Luciano and Plácido. [Pavarotti and Domingo, the top two tenors.] But the rivalry is only in Plácido’s head. Luciano never thinks about Plácido. It would never occur to him there’s a rivalry. He think there’s only Luciano.”

So too, I have a feeling that Woods doesn’t believe he has a rivalry with Mickelson. (Woods has 79 Tour wins; Mickelson, who’s five years older, has 42.)

I found rather poignant an obit of Dean Meminger, who was an NBA player — a player who had serious problems with drugs. He had children with a couple of girlfriends, and did not assume the role of father. He was aware of this, and it gnawed at him. He was quite proud of the man his son, Dean Jr., became:

“Understands what values are, a loyal, family guy. I don’t know where he learned it from.”

In a column earlier this week, I had a note on a word — “botheration.” I’d never seen it before. It is an interjection. Or it is “the act or state of bothering or the state of being bothered.”

A useful word, you will agree.

A reader writes, “Greetings, Jay. C. S. Lewis was fond of botheration — the word, not the experience. As in a passage from Surprised by Joy . . .”

Which is this:

[T]hough I liked clergymen as I liked bears, I had as little wish to be in the Church as in the zoo. It was, to begin with, a kind of collective; a wearisome “get-together” affair. I couldn’t yet see how a concern of that sort should have anything to do with one’s spiritual life. To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk of spiritual matters. And then the fussy, time-wasting botheration of it all! The bells, the crowds, the umbrellas, the notices, the bustle, the perpetual arranging and organizing.

A different reader writes, “Hey, Jay — I associate the word with a Chuck Berry song, ‘Too Much Monkey Business.’ I always thought he made it up! Go figure.”

The lyrics in question:

Workin’ in the fillin’ station — too many tasks.
Wipe the windows — check the tires — check the oil — dollar gas!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
Don’t want your botheration, get away, leave me!

Great stuff, y’all. Thanks, and have a good weekend. Botheration-free!

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