A Little Mail

by Jay Nordlinger

In China, there is a criminal charge known as “causing a disturbance.” I mention this in Impromptus today. I also mention my favorite charge: “pre-criminal social dangerousness.” You find that one in Cuba. It’s a funny-sounding phrase, but the charge is deadly serious: Many good people have been jailed and tortured on it.

When you are pre-criminally dangerous — pre-criminally socially dangerous — you have not committed an outright crime. Not yet. But you have been known to say a wrong thing, or think a wrong thought, or associate with a wrong person. You are pre-criminally socially dangerous. The state can take no chances.

A reader writes, “Is that the way our Left sees the Tea Party and other such groups? As guilty of pre-criminal social dangerousness?” I think that’s going too far (even for a notorious goer-too-far such as I). But I also remember the old observation that even paranoids have enemies.

On to something lighter: In my column, I mention broccoli — because our president has declared broccoli his favorite food. We can only hope he’s lying. It would be too creepy to be ruled — even governed — by someone whose favorite food is broccoli.

Bush 41, of course, was the opposite: He declared a pox on broccoli. He said he had never liked it, didn’t like it now, and would not eat it. What’s the point of being president if you can’t refuse, at long last, broccoli?

I brought this up with one of the Bushes’ sons, Jeb, a while back. He said, “Yeah, he liberated us all from that one.” He was speaking of the Bush family, not the nation at large. But more than a few Americans, I think, were pleased to have presidential solidarity.

A related letter from a reader:

Hi, Jay:

Your mention of Jeb Bush’s liberation from broccoli reminds me of a story from my youth. My mother’s favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts and my father’s favorite is lima beans. I had a distaste for both. Unfortunately — because a child doesn’t get a veto over dinner vegetables — those two were inflicted on me quite often.

Then a magical thing happened: When I was about twelve, I was sitting at the table, pushing around a couple of Brussels sprouts on my plate. My dad said, “You know, I don’t really like them either.” As if it could get any better, my mom spoke up with, “I’ve never been a fan of lima beans.”

From that day forward, Brussels sprouts and lima beans were made only as single servings for the person who liked them, and I was free from both. It was like some sort of mutual vegetable disarmament.

Our reader even appends a language note: “It wasn’t until this retelling that I noticed both foods are named after cities — but only one remains capitalized. Odd.”

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