This is probably the least surprising news I know: Desmond Tutu has won the Templeton Prize (worth $1.7 million). Tutu may well be the most honored person in the world, next to his fellow South African Nelson Mandela. Mandela is definitely No. 1. The anti-apartheid cause is one that everyone can get behind. If you do something like oppose the Cuban dictatorship — not so much . . .
A couple of years ago, I undertook a little study of Tutu, because I was writing a history of the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won (in 1984). There are some things to admire about Tutu: In opposing apartheid, he favored a nonviolent course. (At the same time, he semi-excused those who took up the gun and the bomb.) He performed well in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is willing to speak out against the Chinese government. He is willing to speak out against the Zimbabwean government — something few African leaders do.
Unfortunately, Tutu is a defamer of the United States and a defamer of Israel. In these things, he resembles many of his fellow Nobel laureates. (In speaking out against the Chinese and Zimbabwean governments, he does not.) Let me quote from the aforementioned book:
. . . he is a persistent, harsh critic of Israel. You are not likely to find him criticizing other Middle Eastern governments or groups. Tutu has promoted divestment from Israel, and has accused this country of being an apartheid state — no light accusation from a South African such as Tutu. . . .
In 2010, the Cape Town Opera was planning to include Israel on an international tour of Porgy and Bess. The company had changed the setting of this American opera to apartheid-era
Soweto. . . . Tutu demanded that the company boycott Israel. He wanted the Jewish state to have the same stigma as apartheid South Africa. The company told the archbishop no. It went ahead to Israel.
I don’t believe Tutu has ever betrayed any understanding of American actions in the War on Terror (as we used to call it).
No avoider of the limelight, he even participated in an off-Broadway play dedicated to portraying Guantánamo Bay as a house of horrors — the “Gulag of our times” that Amnesty International’s Irene Khan claimed it was. He of course opposed the Iraq War, seeing no good in it whatsoever. He said that it was not only “illegal” but “immoral.” And he said, “God is weeping. God is weeping. God is weeping because — one of the incredible things, I mean, is that Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, George Bush are all God’s children. And as God says, ‘What ever got into Me to create that lot?’” Some of us think that Tutu’s moral sense can go badly off the rails; his grouping of George W. Bush with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is the type of thing that prevents a number of people from taking Tutu seriously as a moral thinker or leader.
I’ll leave the final word (for now) to Ronald Reagan: “Tutu? So-so.”
I greatly admire a man named Wang Quanzhang, whom I learned about from HRIC (Human Rights in China). Writes HRIC,
On April 4, 2013, a judge at the Jingjiang City People’s Court, Jiangsu Province, put a Beijing rights defense lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, under a 10-day judicial detention for “serious violations of court procedure.”
What did he do?
Sources told Human Rights in China that on April 3, the court — where Wang was representing a Falun Gong practitioner, Zhu Yanian, in a hearing — confiscated Wang’s mobile phone when he attempted to use it to photocopy a set of original documents that he was submitting to the court. The presiding judge, Wang Pin, ordered court security officers to take Wang into custody at the end of the hearing.
Being in custody in the PRC is not the same as being in custody in, let’s say, Topeka, Kansas. They do horrendous things to people in custody. Wang Quanzhang is amazingly brave. He is
known for his willingness to take on sensitive cases and represent vulnerable groups. He was involved in the defense of Shandong reporter Qi Chonghuai, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence. In 2012, [Wang] was physically dragged out of a court in Northeastern China when he defended another Falun Gong practitioner.
Why do people stick their necks out in this way? Wang does not have to be spending his life as he’s spending it. He just wants to, I guess. Feels compelled to.
I saw a headline last week: “US missile defense shield to counter NKorea threat.” (Story here.) I was all confused. Isn’t “Star Wars” just a stupid Reagan fantasy? Isn’t that what we were told for years and years?
Here’s another headline: “Audit says Katrina aid may have been misspent.” The story begins, “Federal investigators said Wednesday that as much as $700 million in federal aid intended to help some 24,000 Louisiana families elevate their homes after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 may have been misspent.”
This story is kind of rich: The Wisconsin government has spent about $850,000 defending itself against lawsuits. Unions are suing the state over Governor Walker’s moves in 2011. And now Democrats are complaining about the expense of the lawsuits — the expense to the taxpayers.
That is really something: We get to sue you, but you can’t spend money to defend yourselves! Ha!
You’ll love something the Associated Press did — just love it. Listen: “Senate opponents of a treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade said Wednesday they have the votes to block ratification of the pact, which is also opposed by the outlaw regimes of North Korea, Syria and Iran.”
Reminds me of what the “MSM” used to do back in the Cold War: When pro-lifers peeped up, the media would mention that Ceausescu’s Romania banned abortion.
Nice, nice . . .
I thought you might like to see a story out of Britain:
If you punch a punk in Manchester, it could be a hate crime.
Police in the English city announced Wednesday that they will begin recording offenses against members of alternative subcultures in the same way they do attacks based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The Greater Manchester force — the first in Britain to take the step — says “Goths, emos, punks and metallers” and members of other alternative groups often endure abuse.
I will say what I have said for years now — maybe decades, I’m not sure: I don’t see why a crime isn’t a crime. Assault is illegal, right? Murder is illegal, right? And so on. Isn’t that, like, like . . . enough?
The headline said, “Mexico to investigate column insulting maids.” Here’s the deal: “Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination says it will launch an investigation of an online magazine column accusing maids of being ‘ungrateful, whining, abusive thieves.’”
Alternatively, Mexico could drop the investigation and permit freedom of speech — which can be less exhausting . . .
Care for some music? For my “New York Chronicle,” published in the April New Criterion, go here. Care for some more music? Couple of weeks ago, Mona Charen and I did a podcast. This was a survey of music, from Elizabethan times to just yesterday. Knock yourself out.
And have a good one.
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.