Politics & Policy

Our old friend proportionality, &c.

There are, of course, 50,000 things to say about the war in the Middle East, and the war in the world at large. But there are lots of people to say them, including on this site, so I’ll confine myself — for today — to one point:

Ahmadinejad said on Iranian state television, “The Zionist regime behaves like Hitler.”

I’m a little confused. From him that’s supposed to be a criticism or what?

‐Sorry, another point: People are saying that Israel’s “response” is “disproportionate.” I would like to know what “proportion” looks like. Cross into Hezbollah territory, kill — what? — eight of theirs, kidnap two? Maybe double those numbers? Ridiculous.

I am reminded of something I’ve mentioned to Impromptus readers before: of what John Kerry, and other Democrats, said when Reagan bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986. They said that Reagan had reacted “disproportionately.” A “proportionate” response, surely, would have been the bombing of a discothèque in one of the Berlins, frequented by Libyan soldiers.

Because that is what Libya had done to us.

Anyway . . .

‐I have to keep going: Is there a more cretinous figure on the world scene than Jacques Chirac? I never respected him before last week (as you well know). But he has now achieved a very low low.

You recall, no doubt, how delicately Chirac tripped in the Ivory Coast, when the French had a spot of bother there.

‐And how about Putin? A delicate man with his Chechens, to be sure.

‐But a positive note: Is Stephen Harper an hombre or what? Are we sure he’s a Canadian? I mean, an elected one — and one elected prime minister at that?

‐As long as I’ve broken my “one point” pledge, let’s have a media note: A lead from the AP read, “Israeli warplanes punished the Lebanese capital on Friday . . .” (The article is here.)

We can debate whether Israel is “punishing” Beirut or doing the necessary to protect Israeli citizens from attack and murder. But no matter what your stand — does that word, and that opinion, belong in the lead of a wire-service article?

Are you sick of my griping about these leads? I wouldn’t blame you . . .

‐Another AP report described Bush’s support for Israel as “fierce”: “But it is Bush’s fierce support for Israel that puts him at odds with some of the other G-8 nations.”

I wonder what qualifies support as “fierce” and what kind of support is un-fierce. If you support the right of Israel to exist, but are not so hot on Israeli actions to assure such existence — are you being un-fierce?

Perhaps the AP could provide some guidance.

‐There has been talk about World War III, or maybe World War IV, if you count the Cold War as the third world war. Interesting how Chávez lines up with Ahmadinejad, lines up with Castro, etc., etc. This is an Axis for our time, all the worst, in one anti-human camp. As before, there are those willing to confront the worst; and those trying to frustrate the necessary confrontation.

It is very, very important that the Churchills and the Bushes win out — don’t you think?

The statement I have just made is of the type people call “simplistic.” It may be so. But what matters, I’m afraid, is what’s true.

‐A friend of mine in the China human-rights field sent me the following missive:

“Please be aware of an international appeal in behalf of Ching Cheong, the Singapore Strait Times journalist who has been detained in China since April of last year. We understand that Ching Cheong will be put on trial by the end of this month and hope that an international appeal will bring attention to his plight. View a brief documentary at the Visual Artists Guild.”

Ching Cheong is just one man, and the PRC’s victims are many. But I’ve always thought that one shouldn’t shirk from learning about a few, you know?

And on this subject: I remind readers that Jian-li Yang’s website is here. According to the ticker, he has been in jail 1,543 days.

‐Friends, I’m going to revert to the subject of bumper stickers — you may remember that I discussed it, some, in a column last week.

I saw a few the other day — bumper stickers, I mean. In Nantucket. (What a glorious place. No wonder it’s so popular. Everything it’s cracked up to be.) One sticker said, Gut Fish, Not Houses.

I’m thinking, “No houses whatsoever? No houses that ought to be gutted, in favor of a new and decent one? That’s a tiny bit extreme, idn’t it?” (But I like the gutting-fish part.)

And then there was this: After We Bring Democracy to Iraq, Can We Have Some Here?

Gee, I don’t know. The owner of this car will just have to ponder that in his prison cell, where he has been sent for brandishing that sticker in a non-democracy.

Finally, I saw a humorous one, on a pickup truck studded with right-wing bumper stickers. (Yes, this was Nantucket — some outside worker or something.) One of the stickers showed a brave in a headdress and read, “Vegetarian”: An Old Indian Word for “Bad Hunter.”

I’m afraid I chuckled. And let me hasten to say that many of my best friends are vegetarians. (Terrible-sounding statement, but true.) I am not anti-veggie, by any means. (I am anti-some vegetables, to eat: most prominently Brussels sprouts and lima beans. Blech.) But I think that, if I were a vegetarian, I myself would get a kick out of that sticker.

Maybe not.

Well, I received lotsa mail about bumper stickers, and I’m going to share some.

Jay,

Saw one just today on Wisconsin Ave. in D.C. that I hadn’t seen before. It read, Darwin Loves You. Obviously a bumper sticker in the vein of the Christian fish with feet. Doesn’t that seem just rude?

Yup.

Jay,

Here in liberal Connecticut, I keep seeing a bumper sticker that says I Miss Freedom. I am dying to ask the operators of these vehicles whether, in their minds, they have moved to Cuba or North Korea.

My guess is they would blink at you uncomprehendingly.

Dear Jay:

I was behind some car and saw Republicans for Voldemort. [He’s the bad guy — very bad, I gather — in Harry Potter.] I have to tell you, I laughed my hiney off. I always thought that one difference between liberals and conservatives was that we could laugh, even at something we disagreed with.

Have another one — very amusing:

Jay,

I notice that the Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers have a tag line that reads, A Stronger America. How hard would it be to print up little a’s to paste over those o’s?

And in the category of “Anti-Conservative Stickers You Can Laugh At (or With)”:

Jay:

Business has taken me for a number of years through Reagan National Airport. Back in the glorious days of the Republican Revolution, I noticed a sticker in the congressional parking lot: Nuck Fewt.

Last, enjoy a note from Seattle:

Jay,

Your bit on bumper stickers reminded me of something I came across the other day. As I was driving in this hopelessly blue city, I saw a car with a Kerry-Edwards sticker on one side of the bumper — and on the other side was a sticker reading, I’m Too Poor to Vote Republican.

The car in question was a BMW Z3. So where’s the logic in that?

Got me there.

‐Care for a speck of music criticism? For a recordings roundup, published in the New York Sun, please go here.

‐Feel like a little language? I just noticed that the president, the other day, used the word “diss.” He was asked about some anti-Cheney jibe that Vladimir Putin made. GWB said, “It was pretty clever. It was quite humorous, not to diss my friend the vice president.”

Seems like two seconds ago, diss was some novelty from the streets. And now the President of the United States is saying it. Golly, do I love English.

‐One more language note? I saw a headline from the AP the other day, and it featured a very, very rare transitive use of the verb “fret”: “Statements on Married Priests Fret Vatican.”

‐You may remember that, in my last column, I mentioned a high-school teacher who actually chastised a student for wearing a Che shirt. I said (essentially), “Who is this marvel, this one-in-a-million, this teacher who actually understands about Che? I would love to meet him and bow deep to him.”

Well, I heard from several anti-Che, anti-tyranny, pro-liberty teachers. Have some of their mail:

Mr. Nordlinger:Just wanted you to know that there are many teachers out here who teach the truth about Che and the “glorious” Cuban revolution.

Now that I teach world history to sophomores (and repeat juniors and seniors) near [I will withhold the name of the city], I get the chance to integrate Che and his crimes into my curriculum. I have begun to challenge students on why they wear a shirt glorifying a wanton murderer. A few have never worn such a shirt again, though some still do, I’m sad to say.

Another:

Jay –

One of my students was wearing a Che shirt, and I asked him if he knew who the man on the shirt was. His answer was that he was a “revolutionary.” I asked him if he knew anything about the man and his methods, and of course he didn’t. I told him about the executions and the death squads and told him to go do a little research about what he was representing on his chest.

He came back the next day and said he wouldn’t be wearing that shirt anymore. Kinda cool.

I’ll say.

Dear Jay,

I am a history teacher in a public school in Virginia. Several students in my school have donned the Che shirt (although none has been brave enough to wear it in my room). It is my practice to ask them if they know anything about the individual they seem to support. (The closest thing to a coherent answer is, “He was a revolutionary.”) I then upbraid them for sporting a T-shirt that honors a mass murderer. I even purchased one of the “Commies Aren’t Cool” T-shirts, with Che crossed out, to hang proudly in my room. There are a few of us in the trenches at the public schools still fighting the good fight.

May you prosper.

Jay,

I am a relatively new teacher (social studies and language arts). During my student teaching (Spring 2005), I had a couple of students who regularly wore Che shirts. I was teaching world history to high-school juniors and didn’t comment on their shirts. But at the end of the semester, I spent a lot of time teaching them about the Cold War and Communism, and I included a day on Cuba.

After listening to me talk about the cruelties of the Cuban revolution, one of the Che wearers asked about Guevara. I responded, “He helped found a government that imprisoned and killed people for, among other things, lending the wrong books to people. He was even in charge of the prison and labor-camp system.” The student was a bit defensive, but didn’t wear that shirt again.

One other thing: One of the other teachers at the school had a small poster of Che on her wall next to a John Kerry poster. At first I was horrified, but then I said to myself, “I wouldn’t imply an association between Che and the Democrats, but if she wants to, who am I to argue?”

There are a few teachers out here who try to teach about the evils of Communism. Alas, only a few, but maybe, as the ex-hippies retire, it will be a greater percentage.

P.S. Please don’t publish my name. I am still relatively new to the profession and appearing on NRO might not be so good for my long-term job prospects.

We understand! Oh, do we, baby!

See you.

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