Politics & Policy

Impromptus

Are you partisan? Heaven at Ronnie's. Rebels against race — and more

If you’re like me, you may wonder every once in a while, “Am I too partisan? Do I give the other side too little credit?” And, again if you’re like me, your answer is no (!).

The other day, I came face to face with true partisan extremism — and it was comforting. That is, if this is what it means to be partisan, why, I’m an evenhanded lamb!

I was reading about Mitt Romney and his sons, and their rescue of some distressed boaters in New Hampshire. The Massachusetts governor (a Republican) was at his vacation home there. After news of this action was reported, a Democratic state senator in Massachusetts (Jay Kaufman) said, “There are lots of people drowning in the Commonwealth right now who would certainly welcome rescue.” Ah. A spokeswoman for the state’s Democratic party — Jane Lane (how poetic) — said, “Mitt Romney only chooses to run for office from Massachusetts — he doesn’t vacation here.”

I mean, jeez. For the sake of (non-partisan) sanity, another Democratic legislator, Eric Turkington, said, “When somebody’s drowning, we’re not Democrats or Republicans. I’m impressed that we have a governor who can do that kind of thing.”

And I’m impressed that there’s a Democrat in existence who could state such a thing.

As long as I’m bashing Democrats (in strictly non-partisan fashion, mind you): Joe Lieberman has a reputation of being a good, sensible moderate. Indeed, I have said that Lieberman is the most potent candidate in the field “because he’s a human being.” I mean, he comes off as a real flesh-and-blood person, and not a political or ideological robot.

But this does not mean that Lieberman stops being a Democrat — or a man of the Left. Lieberman, this good, religious, values-totin’ moderate, a man of the Left? Yes.

Consider: When Ward Connerly announced that he would invite Michigan voters to renounce racial preferences, Lieberman said, “This is a divisive and destructive act, and people of all political persuasions should condemn it as such.” This, of course, stands truth on its head: It’s the racial discrimination — “reverse” or not — that is dividing and destroying. What Connerly stands for is the good old liberalism, whereby you judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, and you uphold equality of opportunity and equality under the law — the Civil Rights Act and all that square stuff. Haven’t we learned, at this point, that judging and hiring and admitting and promoting on the basis of skin color is, in fact, divisive and destructive? (And un-American?)

Lieberman also said, “Mr. Connerly and his allies want to put a stop sign on the path of progress. This ballot initiative is a step backward, not a step toward racial equality.” And that language is practically — to use an overworked word — Orwellian. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Lieberman more demagogic — even when he was denouncing the GOP’s plans for the Arctic reserve as an assault on “one of God’s most awesome creations.”

Actually, my little item here could work in Lieberman’s favor: “See, Democratic primary voters, the right wing thinks of me as stupidly leftist! Vote for me without fear!”

This, from Laurence McQuillan’s column in USA Today, concerning the president’s trip to Africa: “But Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., head of the Congressional Black Caucus, says Bush’s five-day trip won’t fool black voters into thinking he cares about their concerns.” Oh, no: One must never imagine that this Republican president could ever care about black people!

More from that column: “[Jeremy] Mayer, a political science professor at Georgetown University, says Bush won’t reach black voters merely through his travels. ‘The idea that African-Americans are strongly connected to Africa and its politics is simply wrong. . . .’” If that’s the case, might we not want to reconsider this newish, troublesome designation “African-American”? Don’t we have enough hyphens in this country already?

The New York Times published a strangely fascinating article on Norway and the probability that it will mandate quotas for women on corporate boards — yes, on corporate boards. (You would have thought that such matters were private, non-governmental? What are you, some kind of dinosaur?) I was sort of intrigued by one of the quoted officials, Laila Daavoey — mainly because she is Norway’s “minister of children and family affairs.” A country that has a ministry of children and family affairs is one in which freedom must be in at least a speck of trouble, wouldn’t you say?

The Times article also states, “Sweden, which has vigorously pursued women’s rights, is following Norway’s example.” It’s a shame that that term “women’s rights” has to be used — when it comes to such things as quotas on corporate boards, instead of, say, voting. For that matter, it’s a shame that “civil rights” has to mean legislation that has nothing whatever to do with real civil rights. Thus do golden terms turn ambiguous, and then like tin.

From time to time, this column has reported on the fate of Jianli Yang, the Chinese human-rights activist and hero who was arrested by the PRC last year. (One such item is here.) His family and supporters have been unable to confirm even that Jianli is alive.

So, a letter sent out by Jianli’s wife, Christina Fu, came as a relief. It read,

“Dear friends: I have a great news to tell you. On July 8, our lawyer, Mo Shaoping, and his assistant met Jianli in the Beijing State Security Detention Center. I’m thrilled and much relieved that Jianli is alive and in good health. (According to our lawyer, ‘Jianli looks fine.’ He wore the clothes that were left at the center by his brother earlier this year.) . . .

“Mo told Jianli about H. Res. 199, S. Res. 184, the U.N. decision, and many, many efforts around the world to free him. Jianli looked confident and hopeful.

“All I can say now is that it is your deep care and tireless work over the past fourteen months that have saved Jianli’s life. I’m very, very grateful to you all.

“Now it’s critical and urgent to build support in the Senate. Again, I respectfully ask you, please write your senators if they have not signed on to S. Res.184, and please also send a thank-you note to those who are already a co-sponsor.

“I depend on your continuing efforts to bring Jianli home in the near future.”

Again, the site dedicated to freedom for this extraordinary man is www.SupportJianli.org.

In a column of about two weeks ago, I spoke of Ahmed Jubarah, the Palestinian terrorist who killed 13 people (wounding more than 60) in 1975. He has just been released by the Israelis from prison, and he is shown walking with his family, being greeted as a hero, and so on. He is 100 percent unrepentant. I lamented that we could hear nothing about his 13 victims — those who might like the chance to visit with their own family, too.

A reader wrote, “It took me a while, but I finally found a searchable database of Israeli victims of terror. The site is found at www.gal-ed.co.il/leumi/search.asp.

“The site is all in Hebrew, however, so not only will you need to have some rudimentary Hebrew skills, but your browser will, too. (Another site, www.TerrorVictims.com, is in English, but it goes back only to 1994.)

“Here’s a list of the victims from the bombing on July 4, 1975, when Jubarah detonated a refrigerator left at the curbside near a busy Jerusalem square: Ariv Abu-Hadiga, age 25; Yoseph ‘JoJo’ Amer, age 40; Micha-el BenYitzchak, age 40; Rivka BenYitzchak, age 35; Yoram Zizuvi, age 41; Nezihah Hamad, age 26; Fatimah Hamad, age 53; Daoud Khouri, age 60; Shabtai Shevi Tschikoshvilly, age 10; David Cohen, age 43; Ahava Zracha ‘Ahavalah’ Zimmerman, age 10; Meir Zimmerman, age 34; Rosita ‘Raizel’ Zimmerman Yoffa, age 30.

“According to news reports, two of Jabarah’s victims were Americans. The list of people he murdered includes two children, plus four women. He killed Jews and Arabs. He murdered two married couples. Two of his victims were a middle-aged Arab man and his yet unmarried young adult daughter. Three others were a husband, wife, and their ten-year-old child.”

Good to know, somehow — important to know.

Don’t ever let it be said that a Democrat won’t condemn Fidel Castro. On CBS, Bob Schieffer asked presidential candidate Al Sharpton to defend his description of the Cuban dictator as “awesome” (also “brilliant,” “reasonable,” and “intelligent”). Said the Democrat, “I don’t admire him putting his political opponents in jail any more than I admire the Bush administration for locking us up for protesting in Vieques.”

So there!

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a place, near Savannah, called Ronnie’s, and it is one of the most divine places on earth. It’s on Dean Forest Road, off of 16. I’ve been to it many times, having dear friends in Savannah, whom I visit.

It’s a greasy spoon, an eatery, a dive — however you want to describe it. I doubt I’ve ever had a better milkshake (and this is one area in which I am a world-class authority — you can forget all the rest). The onion rings are pretty memorable, too. The waitresses may look about 14, and chances are they smoke, vigorously. For many years — at least since I started going there — there has been a photo of Dan Quayle on the wall. He’s making a campaign stop, probably in ‘88. Not sure whether he had a shake (the former veep doesn’t look like the type, frankly).

My friends and I will do almost anything for a Ronnie’s shake. I’ve been known to have more than . . . well, never mind. Even a web column can be too intimate.

I’m just tipping my hat here, to a special, cherished site in the Southland, in these United States, which grow more interesting the more you discover them.

Care for a few letters? They will play on a theme.

“Aloha, Jay: I read the letter that ended your Impromptus today [about having to declare race on a marriage license], and just had to relate my story.

“Upon the birth of our daughter last year, the State of Hawaii sent the requisite forms to acquire her legal birth certificate. The predictable, odious racial-category box appeared on the form, and I treated it in my usual manner — I checked the box that said Other and wrote in “human.” (I’ve been doing this for years, even on census forms, though threatened by my own government with a $500 fine.)

“A week later, a very serious-looking letter arrived, informing me that ‘human’ was not a race recognized by the State of Hawaii. I was warned that, unless the form were completed properly, my daughter’s birth certificate would list the father’s race as ‘unknown.’ So it reads, forever more. I am pleased with my little act of civil disobedience, and look forward to explaining it to my daughter when she is old enough to ask. (My wife, however, is not so pleased with the implication . . .)”

“Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I am Caucasian. I am also a sort of pinkish tannish color. When I was applying to colleges, my guidance counselor said that if he could change one thing on my application, it would be my race. That would get me accepted almost anywhere. I imagine that, years ago, many applicants knew that they only had to change that one thing to be accepted. Somehow we seem to have overshot our mark of equal opportunity.

“P.S. On a side note, I hate it when people say, ‘If you aren’t a liberal at 18, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by 30, you have no head.’ I am 18 years old and proud to have enough sense to be a conservative — although it seems to me that the title ‘conservative’ is a little anachronistic. Let me say I am proud to be a supporter of the USA.”

Say it, sister!

“Dear Jay: I am a 45-year-old retired Army major, with a Korean-born naturalized American wife and three wonderful daughters. My daughters all attend a small Catholic grammar school, from which they receive a sound, morality-based education. All in all, it is well worth the cost of the tuition.

“However, the country being what it is, we cannot fully escape the administrative need for racial classification, even in my daughters’ school. Every year, we must fill out an application for the following school year; and every year, the application asks me my daughters’ ‘race.’

“My wife and I do not make a big deal of our ethnic backgrounds in our daily lives; my wife is very proud of her American citizenship and her adopted country. It seems so strange to answer this question. How should we respond? Neither white nor Korean is a complete answer. Korean-American or Asian-American appears to leave no room for my side of the family. Eurasian sounds so exotic; besides, other than some distant cousins, my ties to Europe are nonexistent.

“In the end, I answer the question of race in the way I want my daughters to think of themselves, the way that seems most right: ‘American.’ Thankfully, the school has let this answer stand and has not called in the power of the state to correct our thinking.”

God bless that school.

“Dear Jay: I noticed that you, or a reader, recommended that people misreport their race on application forms. Unfortunately, I can’t apply to the University of Michigan’s undergrad program, but I did write them to find out, in case I’d like to go there for law school, what exactly qualifies as a minority. Well, apparently, it’s whatever you identify yourself as. And, sir, as the proud twelfth great-grandson of the sister of Pocahontas, I, Whitey, will be checking off the Native American box when I apply to law school.

“If there has to be a bias, I want it in my favor.”

“Dear Mr. Nordlinger: Greetings from a fellow Michigander! The University of Michigan recently rejected me. I had applied to their masters program in economics. It’s hard for me to believe that race had nothing to do with it. As far as grades, GRE scores, and the like were concerned, I had a top-rate application.

“After filling out my application, I looked over it in a manner I’d imagine an admissions officer would. Two things stood out as possible drawbacks. I’m white (and Jewish), for one, and my bachelor’s degree is from a small conservative college (private). There was nothing I could do about where I went to school, but I lingered for a while over the ‘race’ portion of the application. I truly did not want to fill it out. I thought about leaving it blank but ended up filling it in, disgusted with myself for doing so. I truly feel is it is something people should not be allowed to ask. I am resolved never to answer that question again (in the manner they expect).

“From now on, I’m checking Other, and in the line that asks me to specify, I’m putting ‘American.’ And I couldn’t be prouder of my new ‘race,’ and all we’ve accomplished in our history.”

Congratulations on your new race, sir!

“Jay, here’s my story of race and the marriage license. After listening to the G. Gordon Liddy show for a number of years — he rails against the misuse of the English language — I’ve been using the box ‘Native American’ if it is offered. After all, I am a native American; I was born in America, not anywhere else. When my future wife and I applied for our license, we saw the Native American box and both checked it.

“Just last night, I had a chance to skew a survey and took it. I received a phone call for a radio survey. The last question was race. Being of European descent, I answered black.”

See you later, my rebel friends!

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