Politics & Policy

Votez Euro-Palestine. Doffing Your Cap. Letters About Reagan–and More

Friends, you may have read, in yesterday’s Impromptus, about a chilling poster I spotted in France: “Vote Euro-Palestine: Peace in Europe depends on justice in the Middle East.”

As it happened, the New York Sun published a column by the very knowledgeable and persuasive David Twersky, on the Euro-Palestine party and other charming outfits. The column is here, if you wish.

The leader of the Euro-Palestine group dressed as a Hasidic Jew, gave the Nazi salute, and called out, “Heil, Israel.” Where did he think he was–an American campus?

Other parties in Europe aren’t much better, with one member of the EU Parliament advocating the nuclear arming of Arab states–the better to threaten (merely threaten?) Israel.

When in Europe, I find that America has relatively little support (certainly in the western countries, and certainly among the elites). But Israel? Positively friendless.

By the way, we’ll have to tell the Euro-Palestine people that Al Sharpton got there first: “No justice, no peace,” you dig?

‐I will tell you something interesting about flying Air-India. On the screens, where they show the progress of the plane on maps, you see a message, about every 30 seconds. It says: “No political borders depicted. Physical features map only.”

Highly interesting.

‐So, I’m at Shea Stadium, with some buds. Before the game begins, the announcer says, “Please rise and remove your hats for our national anthem.” Can you imagine–having to tell Americans to remove their hats for the national anthem?

That says something (say I, in my crotchety, kids-these-days conservative voice).

A day or so later, one of these buds called me, leaving the following message: “I’m on the train in Baltimore, and I see a sign that says, ‘You must by law give up your seat to an elderly or handicapped person.’ Imagine that! Having to write a law!”

Yeah, imagine.

‐I’m in an airport lounge. A woman hiccups. An older man from the South, who is her traveling companion, says, “There’s no ‘God bless you’ for the hiccups. You’re going to have to cut that out [before boarding].”

I loved that: “There’s no ‘God bless you’ for the hiccups.”

‐Okay, this is a little racy, a little offensive, so watch out. Friend of mine writes me: “We now have video evidence that Bill and Hillary Clinton are sleeping together. They dozed off next to each other at President Reagan’s funeral.”

‐Another friend notes a curiosity on NARAL’s website: The big abortion group is asking people to send President Bush a message on his birthday: “Happy Birthday–you’d better keep your hands off my womb,” or whatever.

Writes my friend, “Uh, isn’t the topic of birthdays something NARAL would want to stay away from?”

The New Criterion is always pleasing and edifying to read, but the current issue is extraordinary. It begins with a major piece by Roger Kimball, about American identity and the loss of it. He repeats a marvelous exchange–1997–between Ward Connerly and a New York Times reporter:

Reporter: What are you?

Connerly: I am an American.

Reporter: No, no, no! What are you?

Connerly: Yes, yes, yes! I am an American.

Reporter: That is not what I mean. I was told that you are African American. Are you ashamed to be African American?

Connerly: No, I am just proud to be an American.

And taste this, from Roger:

Affirmative action is Orwellian in a linguistic sense, too, since what announces itself as an initiative to promote equality winds up enforcing discrimination precisely on the grounds that it was meant to overcome. Thus we are treated to the delicious, if alarming, contradiction of college applications that declare their commitment to evaluate candidates “without regard to race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or national origin” on page 1 and then helpfully inform you on page 2 that it is to your advantage to mention if you belong to any of the following designated victim groups. Among other things, a commitment to multiculturalism seems to dull one’s sense of contradiction.

The whole history of affirmative action is instinct with that irony. What began as a Presidential Executive Order in 1961 directing government contractors to take “affirmative action” to assure that people be hired “without regard” for sex, race, creed, color, etc., has resulted in the creation of vast bureaucracies dedicated to discovering, hiring, and advancing people chiefly on the basis of those qualities. White is black, freedom is slavery, “without regard” comes to mean “with regard for nothing else.”

The whole essay is written with this kind of brio. Oh, have just one more sample:

Take the movement for bilingualism. Whatever it intended in theory, in practice it means not mastering English. It has notoriously left its supposed beneficiaries essentially monolingual, often semi-lingual. The only bi involved is a passion for bifurcation, which is fed by the accumulated resentments instilled by the anti-American multicultural orthodoxy. Every time you call directory assistance or some large corporation and are told “Press One for English” and “Para español oprime el numero dos” it is another small setback for American identity.

The issue continues with a piece by the brilliant Kenneth Minogue, on the decision (someone’s decision) to refer to our Islamist enemies as “fundamentalists”: “. . . it is an irresistible rhetorical triumph to be able to package together all the people of whom you disapprove in one nauseous bundle. Associating terrorists with fundamentalist Christians is, especially for some American Democrats, a deeply satisfying new take on the state of the world.”

Then we have the perfect Tony Daniels on Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. I was perhaps especially struck by the following: “A man who can find pleasure in the minutiae around him will not easily succumb to tedium vitae, our worst enemy after infectious disease.”

And this? “From an early age, a certain natural contrariety and egotism prevented me from wholeheartedly surrendering my individuality to any collectivity.”

Tony speaks for me, too! (Although I don’t know that I would have thought to use the word “contrariety”–although I certainly was a Contra supporter.)

Later, we get the ineffably perfect David Pryce-Jones on Dylan Thomas. (Among the apercus: “Cruelty is the flip side to sentimentality.”) And then Eric Ormsby on Christopher Ricks, who has written a book exalting Bob Dylan as a Shakespeare or a Keats–as a great–truly great–poet.


I thought of an interview I did with Ned Rorem, the composer and writer, a couple of years ago. He said, “. . . they may be listening on the radio to Bob Dylan, who is beneath contempt. I’ve seen him off and on–I saw him at the Oscars last year. He has no looks, no charm, no diction. His music is all tonic and dominant, on an out-of-tune guitar, and his sentiments are easy to understand: ‘The times they are a-changing.’ So what? . . . I don’t know what people see in Bob Dylan, because I don’t detect any magic, don’t see what he’s got that other people don’t. I find him utterly devoid of . . . anything.”

There is only one Ned.

And at the end of the magazine, Robert Messenger–a maker of the New York Sun — writes about the Tour de France, an event that is exceptional, and exceptionally punishing, and in which I’m interested for the first time, really, because of Robert.

‐Friends, as you may have seen, I had a piece about Reagan (“Talkin’ Reagan”) on Tuesday’s NRO–here it is–and, as you might expect, the piece occasioned a lot of mail. I wish to publish some of it, below, as I think readers generally will be interested. I’ll just “let the tape run” a little, as I say.

Enjoy, and all best.

‐”Dear Jay: In 1972 I left military service confused politically and very frustrated about our handling of Vietnam. I voted for Nixon but became disillusioned over Watergate and voted for Carter. I loved my country but once told friends I would hide any future children of mine in Canada if America went to war again. Ronald Reagan changed that. His vision focused me politically as well as spiritually. My core values were set as if I were a child again and learning from my parents. Ronald Reagan truly saved me, my country, and the world from the evil of Communism, etc. Apparently I wasn’t the only one affected by him. I think liberals were shocked, and maybe frightened, by the outpouring of love and respect this past week.”

‐”Dear Jay: Mass the Sunday after President Reagan died, I was jaw-boning with our Deacon Bob–we’re both crusty middle-aged guys with families. Typical Neanderthals. We, of course, were talking about President Reagan. Bob got this faraway look, and with a huge smile he said, ‘Gosh, I loved that man.’ A lot of us did.

“I was a 26-year-old striver when President Reagan was first elected, and I can tell you honestly that I could not have taken another four years of Jimmy Carter. I didn’t want to turn the damn thermostat down or put on a sweater. I wanted to fix things. My dad had taught me not to whine when things went wrong. I can still hear him now: ‘Get off your lazy *ss and get to work.’ Well, I was ready to get to work, and then along came President Reagan.

“He talked like my dad, but a little more delicately, and he even looked like my dad. He reminded me of things I had always believed . . .”

‐”Mr. Nordlinger: Your essay on President Reagan and his effect on you really hit home. I am a bit your junior; I was in seventh grade when Ronald Reagan took office. I, too, remember the Jimmy Carter years. I remember watching the evening news with my father and hearing about the hostage crisis, the poor economy, etc. I remember being profoundly confused, even as a nine- or ten-year-old, about why the United States–which my grandmother and parents had always told me was the greatest place on earth–seemed to be in such trouble. Then along came Reagan. I followed him closely through high school and into college. His beliefs about America’s place in the world, and in history, shaped my views. It was obvious that he loved America and those who call themselves Americans. I think that was the secret to his success. He genuinely loved us.

“During the service in Simi Valley on Friday, Michael Reagan talked about the ‘gifts’ that President Reagan had given him. It made me realize what a gift President Reagan had given me–a profound love for my country and its history. I never knew my real grandfathers, but I feel that President Reagan was my surrogate one. I have missed him for a long time.”

‐”Dear Jay: I thought recently about the old 1960s liberal-left tearjerker song ‘Abraham, Martin, and John.’ I don’t remember the singer. There was something about ‘freeing a lot of people’ in the lyrics. Ronald Reagan freed hundreds of millions of souls who suffered under a tyranny akin to slavery and Hitlerism. Shouldn’t the song now be sung as ‘Abraham, Martin, and Ron’?”

‐”Dear Jay: I went to Ohio Wesleyan at a time when it was a stoning offense to spell ‘women’ with an ‘e.’ This was the first Bush administration, and ‘Reagan’ was not spoken without spitting before and after lest you risk being outed as a bigot, homophobe, and general moron in the next issue of the school newspaper.

“I will say this, though: It was there that I received my most treasured appellation of all–’anti-government fascist.’”

Anti-government fascist!

‐”Dear Jay: I was much older than you during the Reagan years but still politically leftish–i.e., an ignoramus–so much so that, I am embarrassed to admit, I sent a note of condolence to Jimmy Carter after his drubbing in the 1980 election, and received an autographed letter–unfolded, stiff cardboard-backed–in response. [I interrupt this letter to note what I did not note–what I forgot to note–in my “Talkin’ Reagan” piece. I, too, wrote President Carter a letter of condolence after his electoral defeat; and I got, in return, what must have been the same letter that this reader received.] I did not define myself as Reaganite [continues the reader] until 15 years ago, when I began daily walks with an outspoken conservative neighbor who, over the four years of our exercise-and-political-education sessions, slowly enlightened me.”

‐”Dear Jay: When I was in college, I voted for McGovern. Then I voted for Carter–once. Then I heard the heartbeat of my unborn child in a sonogram early in my second trimester. One of the best days of my life! I immediately realized the lie that had been told by the women’s movement and everyone else who knew better but said the fetus was just a blob of tissue. Then I voted for Ronald Reagan and have voted Republican ever since.”

‐”Dear Jay: I was in my second year at the university, studying marketing. Our professor began a lecture on perception. Her point was that facts don’t matter in advertising, only our perception of those facts. Now, there are dozens of examples you could use to illustrate this, but she chose a map with the title ‘The World According to Ronald Reagan.’ On the various regions and countries were labels such as ‘Commies,’ ‘Blacks,’ ‘Whites,’ ‘Socialists,’ ‘Yellow People,’ etc.

“I was stunned. I approached the teacher at the end of the class and pressed her on three points: 1) ‘That was offensive.’ 2) ‘That was incorrect, because those are your perceptions of how Reagan sees the world, not his.’ And 3) ‘This is a marketing class. Why don’t you just stick to the curriculum instead of giving us your political opinions?’

“To which she responded, ‘This is the way I teach. If you don’t like it–withdraw. By the way, I wouldn’t expect a good grade if I were you.’

“I withdrew and delayed my eventual graduation for four months. Reagan was my hero. I would tilt at windmills for him any time.”

‐”Dear Jay: I am a bit younger than you (in first grade when Reagan was elected), but I was a political junkie from age five. Ronald Reagan and his time in office define who I am. I too am a Reaganite, and so proud of that fact. There really is no better way to put it than to simply say, ‘I’m a Reaganite.’ It’s simple yet brilliant, much like the man himself.

“The parallels between Reagan and my 21st-century hero George W. Bush are striking. Both were passionately hated by the Left, and most of Europe (is that redundant?), yet both will long be remembered for saving the world. No matter how it seems now, the light of history will show how awesome the tasks of both men were. Forgive the Clinton bash here, but in retrospect all Bubba ever tried to do was save his own a** while Reagan and W. concerned themselves more with saving everyone else’s, even those who despised them.”

‐”Dear Jay: In my wallet, which was given to me as a high-school graduation gift (Ocean City, N.J.–1976), there is the remnant of a sticker I received upon leaving the voting booth in November 1980. The sticker read ‘I Voted,’ and I affixed it in my wallet and it has remained there ever since. The wallet is now held together with copious amounts of duct tape and rarely leaves my truck and I am derided by my wife every time she sees it. But I voted for Ronald Reagan that year and his victory brought my presidential voting record to 1-1, and I will never discard that wallet and the sticker that can no longer even be read. My record is now 4-3 and I fully expect to open up a two-game lead this fall.”

‐Friends, these closing letters were sent to me two weekends ago:

“Dear Jay: As someone who describes himself as Irish by birth, German by descent, and American by destiny, I would like to offer my condolences to your entire nation (and, soon enough, mine) on this day of mourning. I have no fear that Ronald Reagan’s achievements shall ever be forgotten–today’s map of Europe and today’s NATO membership list are all there is to know.”

‐”Mr. Nordlinger: It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here still feeling sort of empty. My president is gone.

“When President Reagan assumed office, I was beginning my second hitch in the Navy. I doubt he would agree to the statement that he gave us back our pride and purpose. More like he humbly reminded us of who we are as Americans and what we should stand for. For with great power, goes great responsibility.

“When I heard of his passing, I immediately thought of these lines from Julius Caesar: ‘His life was gentle, and the elements / So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up / And say to all the world, “This was a man!”’

“He was my president and I loved him. I can’t write any more.”


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