I tend to think of Harvard as an abode of lost souls, but it can’t be all bad since Ruth R. Wisse is a professor there. In these confusing times, she is a humanist who does what humanists ought to do, namely sort out what is right from what is wrong. Just now, she sent me her newest book, No Joke. Making Jewish Humor. In the trade, you are not supposed to write about books by people you know and think well of; “puffing” is the word for it.
Hours after I finished reading this brilliant book, the news came through that the Western powers had come to an agreement with Iran. Iran is supposed to delay opening a plant with a program for developing an atom bomb and to curtail its production of fissile material. In return, seven billion dollars held back under sanctions will be released. The Iranians confidently claim that their right to go nuclear has been recognized. After six months, all being well, there will be further agreements. The West has surrendered, with further surrenders implicit down the road.
Responding to this triumph, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejoiced that God’s grace had given him what he hoped for. Huge and attentive crowds shout, “Death to America, Death to Israel.” The ayatollah also broadcasts that Israel is an “unclean, rabid dog,” and vows it will soon be destroyed. In the night, a BBC reporter laid out what this might mean, describing how Syrians are cutting the penises off boys and chopping them up in front of the victims as they die. Of the 120,000 or so Syrians killed so far, 11,000 are children.