When this story surfaced yesterday, a lot of people e-mailed it to me — they knew it was the kind of thing I’ve cried against for a very long time. One almost wearies of these stories: In Oberlin, Ohio, “a group of parents said they will fight a possible decision to allow a white teacher to lead classes in black history” at the local high school. These parents say that “using a white teacher would send the wrong message to black students.” Blah, blah, blah.
Look, I’ve written against the ghastly racialization of American society for years — and I’m not sure I can say anything more. Excuse the defeatist air, but that’s the way I’m feeling right now. I’m just about ready to wave the white (oops) flag.
If you say a white teacher can’t teach “black history,” you must say that a black teacher can’t teach “white history.” (Why should we have “black history” and “white history” anyway? When it comes to the United States, black people are as much a part of the story as cherry trees, Westward expansion, D-Day, and everything else.) When you say that black children must have “black role models,” because white ones won’t do, you must say, at the same time, that white children can’t look up to Jackie Robinson, Marian Anderson, etc.
But you’ve heard these points a million times. There’s nothing left to do but sigh — or get madder, which, on second thought, is better — more constructive — than sighing.
More on high schools? New York City is about to launch its first school exclusively for gay teens. This is the Harvey Milk School — named after the slain San Francisco politician — located at 2 Astor Place (what a swank address, by the way). You can read the New York Post’s account here.
As American life gets ever more Balkanized, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Two quick points: First, are teenagers so sure about this sexuality business? Some of them are, no doubt. We’ve all known “hard-wired” types. But what about waverers, ‘tweeners, the broadly alienated, the tossed and turned? Surely there are these types, too. Should they be locked in, so to speak, so early? And shouldn’t the life of young people be as little sexualized as possible? Isn’t there enough time — too much time — for that later?
Then there’s the argument about feelings, social comfort: Gay kids — obviously gay kids — come in for a very rough time in school. (Or at least they used to. It’s been a while since I was in school. Is it cool now? If so, the wheel has indeed turned.) Feelings are important — more important than some of us right-wingers are given to admit. But, as New York’s Conservative party boss Mike Long pointed out, what about fat kids? What about clumsy kids? What about kids with acne? What about handicapped kids? Do we farm them all out, ghettoize them, to protect them from the bumps and bruises of community living?
Hell, maybe we should — but there are hard questions to be asked.
A brief word on the shocking, and not so shocking, poll taken in Germany — the one that found that one third of people under 30 believe that the American government staged 9/11. This is a big, big problem: a problem of education (or miseducation). MEMRI — the Middle East Media Research Institute — is the organization that uncovers galling, consequential lies in Arab newspapers, curricula, and so on. Maybe we need a MEMRI for Western Europe (and for certain American public-school districts — like the one in which I was reared).
Look, all of these people — these dangerously ignorant young Germans — are “carefully taught” (to echo the great Oscar Hammerstein II). They don’t emerge from the womb thinking that George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice arranged the murder of 3,000 Americans and then blamed Muslim fundamentalists. Everything in their cultural bloodstream — media, books, and, probably most important, their (leftist) teachers — gets them to think that way. Michael Moore is held out as an American sage. And this sort of indoctrination is a hard thing to shake, once it has occurred.
There was an old, leftie folk song, “Teach Your Children Well” — Walter Mondale used it in a campaign ad in 1984 (really). I would like to say something hopeful at this point: but so much damage has been done, by the screwy, West-hating Left that has taken over so many institutions, that it’s hard to be too cheery.
I don’t mean to depress you further, but I must bring up the matter of Congressman Donald Payne. Here is a snippet from a New York Times article: “As for the Pentagon, [Payne] said, ‘There’s no question, they don’t want to go near Liberia.’ A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mr. Payne said bluntly that the reluctance was racist. ‘It’s because they’re African, and they’re black, and they don’t count,’ he said.”
More sighing. It is clear — at least to me — that Clinton went into Haiti because he thought it was the Great White Fatherly thing to do. Randall Robinson, head of TransAfrica, was on a hunger strike (protesting lack of American action), and this had to grate on Clinton. Nothing was more important to him — as I wrote and, I believe, demonstrated in a million different articles — than the esteem in which he was held by black Americans. It has validated his humanity for him. No matter how atrociously he behaves, he always has black approval in his corner, which trumps everything else. It is the ultimate card.
Anyway, Clinton went in — and Robinson went off that strike.
It should go without saying that race has played a role in our foreign policy, because it has played a role in everything else. But the idea that the Pentagon is racist because of its views on the Liberian situation is wacko.
This subject is worth a serious piece, and I (semi-) apologize for raising it breezily in an impromptu — but such is the nature of this lil’ web bouquet.
I don’t think we’re helping Iraqis because they look like members of the country club in Kennebunkport, do you? (In addition: We are helping ourselves. No, I don’t forget that one, my realist darlings.)
A word — a too-breezy word — on the Middle East. The president, and a lot of other people, object to the fence that Israel proposes to construct along the West Bank. They don’t care about the fence along Gaza — because that’s already there (and effective). They care only about this new one.
They care because a fence is icky, psychologically. Its symbolism is terrible. “Can’t we all just get along?” (The answer is no.) These critics love to compare this fence to the Berlin Wall. “Tear down this wall!” Ha, ha, ha. Never mind that the Communists threw up their wall to keep their subjects in, and that the Israelis want to construct a fence to keep killers of their citizens out. Elementary logic does not apply when we’re emoting and posing.
President Bush said, “It’s very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank.” Yeah, well, it’s very difficult to develop confidence when, day after day, terrorists come in to murder you. Look, the aim isn’t to join hands like hippies in a Coke commercial, singing about love. The aim is to achieve a kind of peace, or a lack of war and murder. We must keep things modest here (speaking of realism) — such a peace, cold and hard, not warm and fuzzy, would be achievement enough.
The fence is one of the most innocuous defenses the Israelis could devise. In fact, it’s sort of a test of intolerance of Israel: You don’t like it when the Israelis undertake retaliatory raids; you don’t like it when they carry out “targeted killings”; you don’t like it when they bulldoze the homes of terrorists; you don’t like the myriad other methods the Israelis employ. Well, how about a fence? You object to that, too? Okay: Is there anything the Israelis might do, to protect their citizens, that would be kosher by you? No? I guess the Israelis just have to fold their tents and go home.
But where’s home?
Moving on: When you see those photos of Abbas — Mahmoud, not Abu — smiling with President Bush, you just know they burn Yasser Arafat and his supporters. Arafat was the most frequent foreign visitor to the White House during the eight years of Clinton. Now he’s holed up in Ramallah, with his fellow terrorists, one of whom was caught plotting the murder of Israeli citizens — using female homicide bombers — just the other day. It is the firmness of Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush that has made the emergence of Abbas possible — they have been the anti-appeasers. Of course, a great many people would rather swallow cyanide than admit this. If these detractors had had their way, Arafat would still be the Palestinian Number One, and chances of progress would be nil (instead of just slightly better than nil, which is what they are now).
I was particularly struck by something Abbas said about Israel’s release of prisoners, etc.: “Some steps have been taken by Israel so far, but these steps remain hesitant.” Hesitant! Hell, man, that’s the least they are! One only hopes that they are not suicidal. Hesitant — for sure. You expected, what? Buoyant enthusiasm, given the course of history?
I trust that you-all caught the ad that the Democratic National Committee has put out. I wonder whether the Democrats will pay any penalty for it. Have their red-hots gotten out ahead of even the party rank-and-file?
The ad says, “America took President Bush at his word.” Then it quotes from that State of the Union address: “. . . Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Those ellipses — the DNC’s own — are almost Dowdian. The ad continues: “But now we find out that it wasn’t true. The CIA knew it. The State Department knew it. The White House knew it. But he said it anyway. It’s time to tell the truth.”
Etc. Perhaps this will work for the Democrats — a lot of smart people invest a lot of time and money figuring out what will work. But it may blow up in their faces, as people prove not too keen on a party that has taken a flying leap off the deep end. I imagine that even many Americans who pulled the lever for LBJ were uncomfortable with the Daisy Ad. I mean, can’t you just oppose Barry without saying that he’s poised to incinerate little girls? (And, if you’re Walter Cronkite on CBS, can’t you express bias against Goldwater without implying that he’s in league with die-hard Nazis in Bavaria?)
About Bob Hope, whom one must now sadly refer to as “the late” Bob Hope, please see the impromptu I composed for his 100th birthday, based on a personal encounter.
Speaking of late entertainers and legends: News has come that Whoopi Goldberg has the rights to Celia Cruz’s life story, and the Whoopster herself will play the Queen of Salsa in some movie. This has some Cubans unhappy because Whoopi is not a Latina (to the best of one’s knowledge). What I’m concerned about is this: Will the movie express any of Celia’s politics at all, acknowledging that she fled Castro, that she abhorred Castro, that he tried to ruin her, and that, in addition to a salsa voice, she was a voice for anti-Communism — meaning, for freedom, democracy, and human dignity?
Don’t bet the ranch.
More on entertainment: Over the weekend, I was at a home in which an Ellen DeGeneres comedy concert was playing on television. I tried to ignore it, but I was enticed in. I was amazed to discover that it was smart, endearing, and marvelously executed. I said to my host, “Gosh, I’m shocked: This is really good. Wonderful, in fact.” And he replied — trying to pull PC rank on me, trying to put me down as a Neanderthal — “Come on, Jay, just because she’s a lesbian doesn’t mean she’s dumb.”
Ooh, burned me.
Of course, what I meant was that I’d expected her to be rather political, strident, culty — a minority taste. Instead, she discoursed on the usual fare of the “clean” comedian — elevator etiquette; the difficulty of opening certain products; stumbling on the sidewalk — and she did so more effectively and winningly than just about anyone.
That’s what I was surprised about. So there.
Friends, there’s tons more — not to mention the mail — but I’ve gone on too long, and you’ve got to go. We’ll end on a little language. The word alternate, when alternative is meant, has absolutely taken over — I mean, it’s a full-scale invasion. No, we’re past the invasion: We’re in the throes of occupation, and it looks permanent.
Even the New York Times had a headline, “Republicans Offer Alternate Head Start Bill.” No, they offered an alternative one. What kind of alternative universe are we living in, that this should occur? The Ladies’ Book Club meets on alternate Tuesdays; alternatively, they may go out for lemonade.
And I’m out for one myself (lotsa sugar).