A tale of our times, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

An event has taken place at the University of Illinois, an event that bears on our times. Let me quote a news report:

An indigenous student has written an open letter to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administrators and all indigenous and Native peoples of the world saying she wants to commit suicide. She says she would use a gun on the school’s quad because of the painful burden she experiences in dealing with the Chief Illiniwek mascot.

This event is more maddening than saddening, in my opinion: This child was not born thinking these thoughts she has. She did not come out of the womb with them. They were stuffed into her head by adults — who have wrecked her with imagined grievance and victimization.

I have seen this with my own eyes, in other cases.

Normally, I don’t like it when things other than physical abuse are labeled “child abuse.” But this sort of treatment almost qualifies, I think.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the Illinois story. This friend was born and raised in a Communist country; her family managed to escape to the West. She said, “I don’t like it when I’m walking around and see a Che Guevara T-shirt, or a person wearing a red star. But I don’t threaten to kill myself.”

She is made of sterner stuff than a great many of us native-born Americans, I’m afraid.

I was pleased to see an example of solidarity from the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a human-rights group in Miami: “Activists from Ukraine, Venezuela and Cuba Sign and Release Joint Statement for Freedom and Democracy.”

The Venezuelan signatory, by the way, has the smile-making name of Kennedy Bolívar.

Years ago, I heard a black political figure describe Hurricane Katrina as “our 9/11.” I thought of this last month, when Congressman Charlie Rangel commented on a gas explosion in Harlem: “It’s our community’s 9/11.”

Actually, 9/11 is our 9/11 — everyone’s.

For many years, I’ve written about media bias, but I doubt I’ve ever been able to do better than Douglas Carswell, of the Telegraph. Last month, he had an article called “Questions the biased BBC never seems to ask.” That’s what I’m always complaining about: questions that are never asked.

Carswell jotted a list (as I have done in the past). For example, “How can you call it austerity when the government continues to spend £100 billion a year more than it takes in tax? That’s a spending stimulus, by definition, no?”

And, “If supermarkets manage to be open 24 hours a day, why are most GP surgeries shut on weekends? Where is the consumer power?”

And, “In a region of turbulence and strife, what is it about the liberal democratic state of Israel that makes it such a remarkable success story?”

And, “Isn’t the climate in constant flux? And if the Roman or Medieval warmings weren’t caused by industrial activity, why do we suppose that any contemporary warming, if it exists, must be down to human activity?”

(“Down to” is British for “attributable to.”) Such good questions — deserving of answers.

People have been talking about the SAT — which keeps being “reformed,” in the hope that such reforms will produce more desirable results.

I thought of the civil-service exam. We once had a civil-service exam in this country. But we didn’t get the results we wanted, so, in time, we abolished the exam.

Will there come a day when we abolish the SAT, for the same reason?

Let me jot you some notes on San Francisco — where I had some business last week.

Maybe conservatives aren’t supposed to like San Francisco, but how can you dislike such a beautiful, stylish place? On a (relatively uncommon) sunny day, it sparkled. The clang of the cable car added an exclamation point.

It would be a crying shame to leave such a place entirely to the Left.

I was wondering how people in the Bay Area get work done. It is such a delightsome piece of land and sea. It says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” The federal debt? North Korea? Iran? The mass murder in Syria? “Chillax, dude, you’re harshing my mellow.” (Maybe that’s a lower part of California.)

In times past, I’ve remarked that visits to San Francisco are spoiled by mendicancy — aggressive begging, usually by able-bodied young men. I noticed much less of that this time. Much less.

Just an accident? Or the result of reforms?

Last year, I did a piece called “An Entrepreneurial Life: Pictures from struggling, wonderful California.” My friend Richard Spencer said to me, “People tell me it would be better for my businesses if I moved to Idaho, or Nevada, or Texas, or North Carolina.” (I’m paraphrasing.) “They are no doubt right. But the thing is, I don’t want to leave California. I love it here. I don’t want to live anywhere else. For all its problems, California is still a golden state. There’s still magic here.”


Across from the Fairmont Hotel, there is a lovely, large brown building. No markings (that I could see). I did some Googling: the Pacific-Union Club, a.k.a. the “P-U.”

Speaking of smells, let me relate this: Russell Baker once wrote, “What this country needs is a polite term for ‘right-wing nut.’” (I resented that.) What this country could also use is a polite term for “dog sh**.” “Dog poop” is just too cute — no, worse than cute, cutesy.

There is a sign at a San Francisco park: “Dog Owners Responsible to Remove Feces.” No, no, no — “feces” is stupid there.

Another park says, “Owners Must Pick Up after Their Dogs.” That’s very good — but skirts the issue.

I enjoyed this sign, this name: “True Sunshine Episcopal Church.”

And this was kind of fun: “Best Inn.” The sign was dilapidated, and so was the inn.

Buying postcards, I found it hard to choose. Sometimes, it’s hard to find an attractive postcard in a city. But San Francisco has an abundance of them. Apparently, the city can’t take a bad picture.

But get this: For a bag, you have to pay ten cents. Ay, caramba.

Speaking of this sort of thing: A hotel room has the sign “Save the Planet.” It has to do with washing the sheets or towels or something. Don’t people realize that, if you use stupid hyperbolic language like this, people will simply tune out?

They have already, right? (I should probably speak for myself.)

In a column last week, I wrote,

I have a beef with the “environmental movement”: I am pro-environment, and anti-pollution, and think we ought to be “good stewards of the earth.” But, in my lifetime, the environmentalists have been so extreme, I have been forced to be “anti-environmentalist.”

You know?

A reader of ours sent the following note:

I hate it when I’m called “anti-environment” because I think global-warming alarmism is a hoax, or because I think California’s Central Valley should not be denied water on account of a small, smelly fish. I am old enough to remember just how dirty our air and water were in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when smokestacks billowed unabated, and raw sewage was dumped into our lakes and rivers. I still cringe when I see someone cleaning off his driveway with a water hose, or someone who leaves the water running the whole time he is washing his car.

So, like you, I am a conservationist, in the sense that we should reasonably conserve our resources, but these environmentalist wackos are just that — wackos.

Last month, Larry Walsh died — Lawrence E. Walsh, the famed lawyer, judge, and Iran-contra prosecutor. I was pretty anti-him, because of the number he did on Caspar Weinberger and other people I admired. But I must say, I talked to him once, for a piece I was writing — and he was very friendly and reasonable. He had a case, for the things he did in the Iran-contra matter.

Anyway . . .

End with a little language? Lately, I’ve seen the phrase “service dog” — which makes me wonder, Is “seeing-eye dog” verboten now? It’s sometimes hard to keep up with such things. (And that happens to be the subject of my next piece, an essay, in National Review.)

Later, gators.

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