Friends, in Friday’s Impromptus, I told a little story about the Bay Area (San Francisco). The parents of a friend of mine are Republicans — and, one day, they found out that friends they had known for years were Republicans too. It’s just that no one had ever opened his mouth.
The revelation had come about as follows: My friend’s father let slip that he and one of his children were attending a Sarah Palin rally. (This was in October.) And, whaddya know: The other families said, “We are too!”
As you might expect, this story provoked a fair amount of mail — including a letter from a Bay Area reader who said,
I also went to that Palin rally, and it was truly eye-opening to see people from my office and community who I never knew shared a Republican point of view. Interestingly, I know who all the Democrats are. They don’t hesitate to speak their minds here — loudly and often.
You get the feeling that, if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, you could be out of a friend, out of a job, or just subtly frozen out of opportunities to advance your career. So I try to keep things close to the vest, and I have even laughed along politely at more than a few Bush-as-idiot jokes.
And when I think I have it bad, I just have to listen to what my wife goes through as a public high school teacher. She has literally come home in tears on days when the vitriol from her fellow teachers has gone too far. All this in a part of the country that is supposedly the most tolerant of others’ viewpoints.
Would anyone suppose so, at this late date? Look, I hear tales in New York that would curl your hair. I know some people who, during the recent campaign, thought they would be fired if they revealed they were voting for McCain — and this was in offices that have nothing whatsoever to do with politics. Maybe the saddest case I know is of a young woman who was afraid to tell her boyfriend she was a Republican.
I don’t give much romantic advice, but I will give this: If he’ll ditch you because you’re a Republican, ditch him first.
Also in that Friday column, I mentioned Chief Justice Roberts, saying that I like his style, quite a bit (along with his jurisprudence). A reader gave me a sample of Roberts, when he goes all Mickey Spillane:
North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three-dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He’d made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.
Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office.
That was not good enough for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which held in a divided decision that the police lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant.
For the opinion — dissent, more specifically — go here. And, yeah, I like his style, muchly.
A reader wrote me, “I’m about to turn sixty, Jay, and it may be a sign of age that I am now finding that I support people based on who hates them. And I am finding myself more and more attracted politically and otherwise to Sarah Palin.” I know the feeling: There’s positive motivation, so to speak, and negative . . .
The Spectator’s Ron Liddle went to see Oliver Stone’s movie W. and liked it, a lot. He wrote,
I think British film reviewers didn’t like W. precisely because it invested the appalling President with a degree of understanding, with a soupçon of humanity. Not that much understanding and humanity, mind — the film, a lot of the time, played it for laughs — but just enough to make the Brits uneasy.
It’s a peculiar thing, the visceral loathing with which Bush is regarded by the European chattering classes and the determination with which we refuse to countenance any attempt to invest the US regime with a purpose which is anything other than purely, unequivocally evil.
Liddle then talks about the desire of people to understand Islamofascist terrorists and other enemies. He writes,
I don’t disagree; we should attempt to understand them. Know thine enemy, as they say. And then shoot him. But it is bizarre that the same latitude is not extended to those who are, nominally at least, on our side. Any notion that Bush’s motives [in the Iraq War] might not have been wholly murderous or venal or duplicitous simply cannot be countenanced — even when, as in W., the whole business is dressed up with lots of humour at the expense of the President.
Interesting writer, Liddle. Very, actually.
In Friday’s column, I had occasion to mention Alma Mahler, and this prompted many readers to remember Tom Lehrer’s song about the lady (lyrics here). I also thought of something Jeff Hart once told me — something that deserves to be true. It was a couple of days after Franz Werfel’s funeral. (Alma had been married to Werfel, and before him Gropius and Mahler. She also had other lovers.) A woman met her on the street and said, “Alma, I didn’t see you at the funeral!” She replied matter-of-factly, “Oh, I never go to them.”
(Almost certainly the story is not true — for one thing, Gropius outlived Alma — but it’s still wonderful.)