Politics & Policy

An American story, &c.

Some readers have said, “Will you comment on the Imus thing?” Well, what is there to say? To me, the episode is, above all, very, very American. Very modern.

Don Imus called these women “nappy-headed hos” — a disgusting thing to do. And it was verboten, because Imus is white. If you’re black, you can say “nappy-headed hos” till the cows come home. And if you have some rap talent, you’ll get $50 million and become a cultural hero. You’ll be praised as “authentic.”

Those are just the facts of life.

And everyone behaved in a very, very American fashion — a modern American fashion. People didn’t say, “That’s disgusting: I’m never listening to Imus again. I’m not listening to that station. I’m even boycotting the advertisers!” They said, “Fire him.” And, lo, he was fired.

Furthermore, we see once again that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are the moral arbiters of our national life. They may be liars, cheats, demagogues, and skunks — but they’re our arbiters.

The more you live, the more you think nothing changes, that the news is always the same. Patterns are endlessly repeated. Some white schlub crosses some racial line. There is a national uproar. Jackson and Sharpton weigh in (it used to be just Jackson). And there you have it. Over and over.

What was that movie about groundhogs? Do you ever feel you’re living in it? I’m sorry to be so jaded, so blasé — Mr. Ennui. But that’s how I feel about this episode, and the 8 billion like it. Real problems — especially those of black Americans — get ignored. Phoniness is king.

By the way, if you can bear it, here is my 2000 piece on the glorious career of the Reverend Sharpton.

Also by the way: You may have been forwarded this many times, but I highly recommend the April 11 column by Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star. I myself have not seen anything better on the Imus affair. Then again, I haven’t looked very hard.

‐I have another “by the way,” making it my third one: The word “nappy,” which featured in the Imus matter, reminded me of another Great Racial Controversy. This one was in 1998. A white, progressive, idealistic teacher taught in a “tough” Brooklyn neighborhood. (This was the ghetto, but I guess you can’t say that.) She read to them a book called Nappy Hair, which was written by a black woman to celebrate such hair. This was a typical “I’m Black and I’m Beautiful” book.

But a parent complained, and the teacher was subjected to what amounted to a mob attack. She was lucky to get out of the place uninjured. All she’d wanted to do was serve the underprivileged.

The whole episode was absolutely perverse, and, as I was saying above, 100 percent American. If you’d like to read about it — try this Washington Post article.

P.S. bell hooks wrote a book called Happy to Be Nappy.

‐I wonder if you saw this news bulletin from the Iraqi civil war, where it’s Shiite vs. Sunni, plain and simple:

A suspected al-Qaida in Iraq suicide bomber smashed a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas into a police checkpoint in Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people — the ninth such attack since the group’s first known use of a chemical weapon in January.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, which asserts fealty to Osama bin Laden, was believed to be hitting back at Sunni tribesmen who are banding together to expel foreign fighters from their territory.

Yup. But don’t let anyone tell you that the Iraqi situation is anything but a civil war in which the U.S. has no business meddling.

‐Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno offered some straight talk about Iran the other day, as you can see in this article. He said that we strongly suspect that Iran is aiding both Shiite and Sunni extremists in Iraq. And why would they do this? he was asked. He answered:

“I think it’s mainly because they want to continue to create chaos in Iraq. They do not want this government potentially to succeed. But additionally, I think they want to try to tie down coalition forces here [in Iraq]. And it’s clear that they are attempting to affect what’s going on inside of Iraq on a daily basis.”

It can be incredibly refreshing when someone states the obvious. Because the obvious is sometimes muffled.

‐And did you catch what Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said over the weekend? In fact, let me quote a chunk of the relevant AP report:

Democrats know they might lose this month’s showdown with President Bush on legislation to pull troops out of Iraq. But with 2008 elections in mind, majority Democrats says it is only a matter of time before they will get their way.

Senior Democrats are calculating that if they keep the pressure on, eventually more Republicans will jump ship and challenge the president — or lose their seats to Democratic contenders.

“It’s at least my belief that they are going to have to break because they’re going to look extinction, some of them, in the eye,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of his Republican colleagues.

They are going to have to break. And Democrats say it is only a matter of time before they will get their way.

I’m afraid that’s true, aren’t you? As in Vietnam — as in April ’75. They eventually got their way. And what horror ensued.

What was I saying earlier about that groundhog movie?

‐Last week, Newsweek had a cover showing Arnold Schwarzenegger spinning the globe on his finger. The cover words were, “Save the Planet — or Else.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In my March piece from Davos — “Fever in the Alps” (sub. req.) — I quoted a Sunday Times headline. (Or rather, Charles Moore did — I quoted him.) That headline was “Last warning: 10 years to save world.”

My question is: Will these publications ever go back and examine their headlines, explaining them or apologizing for them? Or will they just glide on, to the next round of alarmism? For example, all those headlines and articles about the coming ice age (and the worldwide food shortage, etc.): Has Time or Newsweek or the rest of the boys ever dealt with them? I am unaware.

Journalists get away with murder, I imagine you agree: They write stuff, the stuff turns out to be nonsense, but it is unremembered. No one ever goes back. No one is ever called to account. Politicians, to a respectable degree, are accountable. Journalists, never.

The beauty of our racket!

(Incidentally, this is the power of Mona Charen’s great book Useful Idiots. She records who said what during the Cold War. But no one, I’m afraid, cares. Many of the same bloviators are bloviating, wrongly, about the War on Terror — to the extent they acknowledge such a war exists, or needs to be fought.)

‐Another word about global warming, or climate change, or whatever we have to call it. (If you say “climate change,” you’ve covered the waterfront, so to speak.) I love what Butch Roberts, a meteorologist in Gray, Maine, had to say earlier this month. (And you can find it in this AP story.) He said,

“We had Easter on December 25th. People had crocuses coming out and blooms on bushes. And now we have Christmas, with all this snow. It’s a little topsy-turvy sometimes.”

Yes, weather is “a little topsy-turvy sometimes.” That is the most sensible thing I’ve heard on the subject in years.

‐Friends, I think I last wrote to you in the mid-March 20s. I said I was going to the Salzburg Easter Festival to lecture, which I did. I also attended and covered the performances — and I offer up some reviews published in the New York Sun.

For a review of Wagner’s Rheingold — performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, et al. — go here.

For a review of the BPO under Sir Simon, with the pianist Yefim Bronfman, soloist, go here.

For a review of the BPO under Sir Simon, with the pianist Lang Lang, soloist, go here.

And for a review of the BPO under Bernard Haitink — performing the Missa solemnis — go here.

Care for a concert pre-Easter Festival? For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Sir Colin Davis — celebrating his 80th birthday — go here.

‐I think I should mention that I’m way behind on my mail — as usual, I’m afraid — for which I apologize, dear reader-writers. I will catch up ere long (to use a phrase heard in “Give My Regards to Broadway”).

‐A word — a brief word — about Pat Buckley. I was not able to participate in yesterday’s NRO symposium, but would like to say a quick something now.

Of course, I could talk for days on end about Pat. Or I could simply say — I knew her, and I’m glad I did. Logged many hours with her. I remember a Christmas cruise in particular, in the lovely, soft Grenadines. I have a million stories to tell, a million comments to quote. (Don’t we all?) Someone very close to her wrote me yesterday, “She was Something.” And that capital S was absolutely right.

I loved her, and I will miss her, but I smile at her — with her — even now, thinking of just about the last thing she told me.

It also occurs to me to say this: She loved crossword puzzles, and there is a word used only in crossword puzzles (to my knowledge): “oner.” It means unique, one-of-a-kind. It fits.

And she often said to me, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” That was a regular signoff: “I’ll call you tomorrow.” She won’t call me, not on the telephone, but, baby, I’ll remember.

‐She might have liked the following opinion (and, if not, she would have told me): We are admonished by our accountants not to send in our tax returns through the U.S. mail. Better to send them via some other means, to be sure they get there.

Isn’t that kind of comical? I mean, here we are, paying our taxes in order to have public services. And the U.S. mail is a service we don’t dare use, to pay for our services.

Or am I just being right-wing? And, if I am just being right-wing — am I wrong?

See you.


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