In Monday’s Impromptus, I wrote of an extraordinary event: Three Israeli F-15 jets circled Auschwitz last week. Those jets were piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors. They were paying tribute to the murdered. As the jets flew over, 200 Israeli soldiers on the ground at Birkenau — a part of the camp — stood at attention. One can hardly think of a more meaningful, more moving event.
But, for inane reasons, some at the Auschwitz Museum complained. They said the flyover was a “demonstration of Israeli military might” at “a place of silence.” I retorted, Damn right it was a display of Israeli military might — and what could be more appropriate? Moreover, why should Auschwitz be a place of silence? Wasn’t silence sort of a problem in the first place?
Forgive the repetition, but this is all leading up to something. I received a note from Jeff Jacoby, which I share with you now (with the author’s permission, of course). Jacoby — for those who don’t know him — is the award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe.
He writes, “As the son of a Holocaust survivor — my father was the only member of his family to leave Auschwitz alive — I am particularly involved in this question of silence in the face of Hitler’s genocide. I thought you might like to see the last few paragraphs of a speech I gave for Yom Hashoa, the annual Holocaust remembrance day. They describe something that occurred during a visit I paid to Auschwitz in my father’s company a few years ago.”
Here are those paragraphs:
When we were in Auschwitz — in the huge section called Birkenau, the part of the camp where the trains pulled in, where the selection took place, where the gas was — my dad and I saw a large group of Israeli students. They had come on some kind of school program, and as we walked along a path near the crematoria, these Israeli kids overtook us. Like school groups everywhere, they were loud and boisterous, joking and laughing with each other.
I can’t tell you how offended I was. “Shut up!” I wanted to tell them. “Have some decency! You’re in Auschwitz. This is the biggest Jewish graveyard on earth. Don’t you realize how many people were murdered here? How many Jews died just for being Jews? You’re laughing here? In Auschwitz?”
And then, suddenly, I had a change of heart. And I said to my father: “Who do you think would be more appalled to know that all these Jewish kids are running around and laughing in this place — your mother? Or Adolf Eichmann? Who would be more revolted? Who would feel more defeated?”
On Yom Hashoa, we remember. We cry. We swear “never again.” But we can also take heart. The most powerful nation in Europe set out to annihilate us. It drew upon every resource and tool at its command. It stopped at nothing. And yet Jewish children still laugh and play. Even in Birkenau, you can hear the laughter of Jewish children. We are still here, “am Yisrael chai” — Jews living Jewish lives, as we always have, as we always must.
Not bad, huh?
You have perhaps heard by now that the Saudi government has banned Barbie dolls (the story is here). Why? Oh, come on, don’t pretend you don’t know! Because Barbie is Jewish, silly! The Saudi government has denounced Barbie as “The Jewish Doll,” and she absolutely taboo.
Funny, but Barbie’s creators probably thought they were making the perfect American WASP. And, all the while, they had . . . a Hebrewess! How embarrassing!
Now that the Saudis have gone on a jihad against Barbie, can we all agree — even the big businessmen and the academics among us — that that regime is very, very, very bad?
On Monday night, I had the immense privilege of seeing A. M. Rosenthal, the great journalist (former executive editor of the New York Times). I thanked him for writing about China — for not forgetting about it. He shrugged, in his usual way, and said, “How can I?”
His most recent column is here, and I offer you an excerpt. As my regular readers know, all of this resonates loudly with me:
In the past year or so, I have written virtually every column about . . . deprivations as they exist in countries ruled by tyrannies. Those governments seize our attention by making war against their neighbors or against those of their people who deviate in any way on any subject . . .
And yet I feel laggard, because I know that for months I have had to ignore some countries where vicious violations of human rights bring nausea to the foreigners who know about them and blood or death to those who cannot escape the torture . . . I salve myself sometimes by the fact that since I write only one column a week, I have to vary the subjects. Sometimes, I tell myself that I am a newspaperman, and newspapermen have to write about the juiciest story of the day. Right?
Wrong — unless it suits the columnist’s mind and conscience. Otherwise, ignore the friend who warns that people won’t read you if you write another human-rights column about brutal countries and their brutal affairs. But I have never heard from readers who are annoyed by learning about the sufferings of other people, no matter how often I write about them. And if I ever do get such letters, I will throw them in the garbage can.
I remember that during the first Clinton administration, a high official visited my office. I said I had an important question. “Human rights again, I suppose,” he said with the sneeriest of sneers.
“You bet your sweet whatever,” I answered, and then asked my question. I can’t remember what it was, but I will never forget the official’s contempt for the subject of human rights.
So this column is a visit to Communist China, which strikes me as having the nicest, hardest-working people in the world — and the most vicious of governments.
Abe will never quit.
Gary Coleman, as you know, is one of the gang running for governor of California. He is “the other Arnold” — not Schwarzenegger, but the former child actor who played Arnold Jackson/Drummond on the TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.
During an appearance on Fox News, he was asked by Sean Hannity who the vice president of the United States was. He couldn’t answer. Later, Charlie LeDuff of the New York Times asked him about this: “Hannity is evil,” Coleman said! “He didn’t ask Schwarzenegger that.”
Well, well. If I were Coleman, I wouldn’t feel too bad. Chances are, Dick Cheney can’t name a single character on Diff’rent Strokes — which is a greater indictment of a person’s Americanism.
I’ll tell you something else funny about that LeDuff piece. He wrote, “To many Californians, the prospect [of a fringe candidate’s going to Sacramento] is simultaneously repulsive and engrossing, something like watching a Woody Allen love scene.”
Sort of amazing they allowed that in the Times!
Consider: John Kerry “announced his candidacy . . . in a place called Patriot’s Point in South Carolina, in front of the USS Yorktown, and surrounded by Vietnam veterans.” (I’m quoting from a Dan Henninger column.) If a Republican did that, we’d hear cries of jingo, jingo, jingo! But with liberal Democrats, it’s different, you know?
The other day, I reviewed the latest CD of David Daniels, the superstar countertenor (a shocking phrase to write — but Daniels has brought it into being, over the last several years). The album contains one of the most repulsive songs ever written — and I don’t say that lightly. I’m referring to “So Pretty,” the Bernstein song whose lyrics were penned by Comden & Green. This is a Vietnam-era protest song, premiered by Barbra Streisand at a “Broadway for Peace” concert. The song is so devoid of understanding and hateful in its implications that I can barely stand to type the words, but here you are:
We were learning in our school today
All about a country far away,
Full of lovely temples painted gold,
Modern cities, jungles ages old.
And the people are so pretty there,
Shining smiles, and shiny eyes and hair . . .
Then I had to ask my teacher why
War was making all those people die.
They’re so pretty, so pretty.
Then my teacher said, and took my hand,
“They must die for peace, you understand.”
But they’re so pretty, so pretty.
I don’t understand.
Odd, but Bernstein, Comden, and Green didn’t seem to care much for Vietnamese people — whether pretty or not — after 1975, when they descended into their real hell. And the Vietnamese who perished in the South China Sea, trying to flee the Communist victors, and the Vietnamese who were tortured and killed in the concentration camps — were they perhaps pretty as well? And how about Cuban, North Korean, and Chinese people? Are they not pretty too?
Etc., etc., etc.
Which brings us to Kathy Boudin, the popular Brinks murderess who has now been sprung from prison. She and her gang killed three people, and planned on killing many more. But hey: They were progressives, doing it for the people, man. The friends who arranged to house Boudin after her release hung a “Welcome Home” sign, featuring the symbol of peace. Yep, that was the Weathermen and all those other idealists: lovers of peace. Tell it to the families of Waverly Brown, Edward O’Grady, and Peter Paige.
A major homie of mine writes, “Saw an interesting quote from the coach of the Grambling football team the other day. He is trying to entice Maurice Clarett of OSU to go to Grambling. When asked if he had concerns about Clarett, he said the following: ‘A lot of people would like to have Maurice Clarett. I don’t think a headache comes with the kid. He didn’t shoot nobody. They didn’t arrest him for drugs. He didn’t rape nobody. Ain’t no problem with the kid.’ The coach is right on the facts, but he sets the bar for behavior pretty low, doesn’t he?”
Jhumpa Lahiri is a very hot writer, but she is full of left-liberal pieties, which she ought to be called on. Why not here on good ol’ NRO? Lahiri, an Indian-American, says, “A true Indian doesn’t accept me as an Indian and a true American doesn’t accept me as an American.” Far be it from me to speak for another person’s experience, but . . . allow me: Baloney. Baloney, I say. Concerning the second part of her neat little statement, baloney. I, for one, certainly accept her as an American — in part because what could be more American (latterly) than ethnic whining and self-pity?
I was reading obits the other day, and was drawn to that of Moe Biller, the old labor warrior — the postal boss — who died at 87. I would see him on Crossfire during the ’80s, and it was like watching a perfect specimen of a (nearly) defunct type. The obit remarked that Biller’s actions “defied injunctions and laws barring strikes by federal employees.” Do you love that “defied”?! I’m going to remember that the next time I break a law: I didn’t break it; I defied it! Luckily, Reagan cut loose those PATCO-niks when they “defied” the law.
I also noticed the obituary of Charlotte Selver, a “sensory awareness” guru who died at 102. What I found most remarkable was that “she is survived by her third husband” — whom she married four years ago.
Last Saturday, three justices of the Supreme Court — Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer — made their operatic debuts in Washington. They participated in Die Fledermaus, as guests in the party scene. I regard this as perfect because this is the part of the opera (operetta, really) where the score and libretto don’t rule, and the performers can depart as they wish — virtually making it up as they go along. So the justices found a living opera, evolving.
I’m not sure I can explain why, but I dearly love this, and I hope you do, too. The actor Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, etc.) told Ramp magazine, “I drank all the time. I’d reach for a beer first thing in the morning. I’d drink all day. They used to ask me in interviews, ‘What about all the drugs, cocaine, and marijuana?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, I just do them to cover up the fact that I’m an alcoholic.’”
Somehow priceless. One of the funniest things I have ever read. Again, hard to articulate . . .
By the way, have you subscribed to the online version of National Review yet? It’s mighty handy for those who like their magazines online: fast, complete.
A reader wrote me, “I just subscribed to your digital edition. I let my print run expire because, as a die-hard lefty, I couldn’t justify the expense, merely to read more about the alleged wonders of George W. Bush. But I salute NR’s digital initiative. Hey, it saves trees, and you know we lefties love trees, so you roped me back in…”
In a couple of previous columns, I purveyed some funny, real-life headlines. Readers have contributed more (and I think we’ll call it a day). I warn you: This may get a little blue! (Hubba, hubba.)
“Dear Jay: My mother was from a small town in Texas — named Call. My father was young minister when they married. The headline read: ‘Preacher Weds Call Girl.’”
“Jay, I have ‘Manly Man Marries Fertile Woman’ beat: I live in High Point, North Carolina, Furniture Capital of the World. A favorite saying down here — and it is entirely based in geographical fact — is that High Point is halfway between Horneytown and Climax. The map doesn’t lie.”
“Jay, in Illinois there is Normal, home of Illinois State University and a Mitsubishi plant famous for sexual harassment. And there is Oblong, home to not much famous. But just about everyone in Illinois knows about this famous headline: ‘Normal Man Marries Oblong Woman.’”
“Jay, I’ll try to do my bit. In the late ’50s (somewhere in there), the University of Minnesota football team — the Golden Gophers — had a QB named Bobby Cox. At one point he was injured. The Minneapolis Tribune ran a story under the headline, ‘Gophers to Play Saturday with Cox Out.’ Didn’t catch the ensuing attendance figure.”
“Mr. Nordlinger, I grew up in a small town in the Oklahoma panhandle, practically on the Kansas line. This small town, Tyrone, is on U.S. Highway 54, exactly halfway between Liberal, Kansas, and Hooker, Oklahoma. I can only imagine the wedding headlines if a man from Liberal married a woman from Hooker.”
Finally, “Jay, if you look at a map of Pennsylvania you’ll notice that New Holland is halfway between Blueball and Intercourse.”