Happy Post-Election Day, y’all. Gonna make a few notes (as usual). I went to vote at my polling place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. There were just a few voters there — and this was about lunchtime. Place smelled of urine. There were workers, or hangers-on, talking about politics. Are they supposed to? As always, I was not asked for any ID — I just had to sign my name. This seems a little . . . loose. As if it would insult someone to ask for his ID, before he proceeded to vote.
As I mentioned in the Corner yesterday — I know you know NRO’s group blog — I voted for Josh Goldberg, so happily. He was running for City Council, on the Republican line. He is the brother of Jonah, and the son of the late Sid, plus the divine Lucianne. Republican levers actually work in Manhattan — though you may have to give them an extra yank. Back in Ann Arbor, when I was coming of age, we used to joke that the Republican levers barely worked: They were rusted over from disuse.
In addition to Josh, I voted for Michael Bloomberg, for mayor. That is, I voted to reelect him. May I share a little exchange with you? A dear friend of mine, recently moved to New York, e-mailed me in the morning. “I must avail myself of the Jay Nordlinger Shortcut to Knowledge — I know you’ll give me the lowdown. Is Bloomberg worth voting for? As far as I know, good on schools and city management, horrible on ‘nanny state’ and social issues. He will win anyway — right? — so this is just a philosophical question. Does he deserve my vote?”
(I should have mentioned that my friend is a strong, principled conservative.)
I answered this way: “Yes, he deserves your vote — go to the polls now. In New York City, we are single-issue voters: All we care about is crime. Who will keep the criminals at bay? Who will continue the Giuliani renaissance? Who will maintain New York as the safest big city in America, if not the world? Who will perpetuate the Garden of Eden?
“I tell you, you could practically sleep in Central Park, or Riverside Park. The biggest danger in my neighborhood, late at night, is being trampled by happy moviegoers. The biggest danger during the day is being run over by happy young mothers pushing baby strollers. (Or nannies pushing those strollers.) This is not a state of affairs to be taken for granted. It is reversible, with a little inattention and laxity. It needs constant care and determination.
“So, as far as I’m concerned, there is one issue in this city. All the rest is secondary, at best. I wouldn’t care if Bloomie banned ice cream, as long as I could whine about it in a back alley at 2 a.m.”
I’m not entirely sure I’m right, but I am sure that that is how I think, presently.
‐The governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey always get a lot of attention, because they are in off years. This is kind of a shame, in a way: We freight them with so much importance. They’re the only games in town. And they are near the big media markets: near D.C. and N.Y. This year, these races have been interesting, and we’ve had the bonus of N.Y.-23. Very interesting races, all of them. But, you know? Most political races are interesting. Most bear watching (if you like politics). It’s just that the ones in regular years get lost amid the general clamor, the nationwide hustle-and-bustle.
Virginia and New Jersey are privileged, in a way, not having to share the stage with hundreds of other races — not even having to share the stage with congressional elections in those states. The gubernatorial candidates are the gladiators of the hour.
That said: Do the results in Virginia and New Jersey mean something — mean something beyond their borders? Yes, they do.
‐Last Friday, David Pryce-Jones wrote an amazingly stirring post on his blog. Find it here. It has the heading “We Need a Muggeridge for Iran.” DP-J talks of how Malcolm Muggeridge skewered credulous Westerners who visited the Soviet Union. And then he talks about how the spiritual descendants of those Westerners are visiting Iran now:
Here are advocates of human rights enthusing over the general happiness of Iranians even while disgusting crimes of murder and rape are routine in the prisons. Here are ecologists promoting windmills everywhere at home, obsessed with their carbon footprint while oblivious to the Iranian nuclear program. Socialists and Leftists in a permanent fury about American foreign policy have nothing to say about Iranian sponsorship of terror far and wide. Pacifists and aesthetes are so eager to see the splendours of Qom and Mashhad that they are oblivious to the Islamist Republic’s testing of long-range missiles and repeated threats to exterminate its enemies. Feminists eager to uncover gender discrimination in their own sphere respond to the plight of Iranian women by praising the attractive colours of their clothing. Tourism to Iran is apparently the latest fashion among rich Westerners, and they come back saying that the country is peaceful, prosperous, no danger to anyone but altogether a brilliant success. My dear, let’s meet up at Isfahan, you have to see those mosques.
Only a few short years ago, these very same rich Westerners were adamant about refusing to go to South Africa for fear of seeming to condone apartheid. As for Franco’s Spain, it was out of bounds for such people for decades on the strict moral principle that the regime’s violence was intolerable. Even Salazar’s Portugal was forbidden. Iran is a great deal more vicious, indeed fascist, than those formerly pariah states, yet it is excused as they were not. There doesn’t seem to be anyone with Malcolm Muggeridge’s powers of mockery to explode this latest odious example of double standards.
That last sentence is the only thing DP-J gets wrong, you may agree: His own powers are plenty sufficient.
‐The above-quoted material reminds me: Do you know the Fauré song “Les Roses d’Ispahan”? “Tantalizingly beautiful,” to use a cliché.
‐I have said before that you can make too much of “Obama worship,” and too little of it. And you can make too much of the political indoctrination of children, and too little of it. This is all a matter of balance, taste, where you draw the line. I thought of this after my attention was directed to a site called LittleDemocrats (here). It advertises a book called Mama Voted for Obama!. It is by the author of Why Mommy Is a Democrat and Why Daddy Is a Democrat. The ad copy says, “Let your kids know you made the right choice in 2008!”
If a creepy feeling has stolen over you, you and I have something in common.
‐I will concede that “Mama Voted for Obama!” is a nice rhyme.
‐Care for a little language? Some days ago, I wrote “let alone,” as in (something like), “You are better off letting that subject alone.” And I felt strange about it; the sentence fell strangely on the modern ear. Years ago, there was a distinction between “let alone” and “leave alone.” When you left someone alone, you left him by himself: without others around him. When you let him alone, you declined to bother him. (You might still have been in the room, however.)
You know what I mean? But “leave alone” grew to mean “let alone,” synonymously.
‐Here’s another quick language bit: I have noticed the habit, of some Americans, of calling little babies — little girl babies — “mama.” As in, “Ooh, mama, that’s okay — don’t cry.” I have seen women of different races and from different regions do this. An interesting habit, and one that has come to my attention only in the last several years.
‐In a column last week, I talked about music, and whether it could have specific meaning. And I was discussing music without words (i.e., not vocal music). If a composer titles an orchestral piece “Picnic in the Country,” but you are unaware of the title: Is it a picnic in the country to you? Can you hear the cucumber sandwiches, the ants, and the trees?
A reader writes,
Your item reminded me of an event that occurred last week. I was helping out in my daughter’s classroom (kindergarten) for an art presentation (introduces children to art history and appreciation). The children were shown Munch’s Scream, but not told the title. They were asked what emotions the picture relayed. The replies were mostly “surprised,” “excited,” and “happy” — not what I expected, and it gave me a completely different perspective on the painting. Just goes to show how much the title can influence one’s perception of the work, whether in art or in music.
‐I led my Monday column with “African-American” and “black.” If you insist on using “African-American,” and regard “black” as somehow verboten, you can end up in a world of hurt. You can’t talk sense.
A great many people responded to this item, and I published some of the responses in Corner posts: here and here. Let me publish a few more, in this column — and then, no more, because this could continue forever, and the point is well made. So, have a nice quartet — four notes:
1. “As a college professor, I had a student in the mid-1990s write on an exam how great and modern she thought Shakespeare was since he decided to make Othello an ‘African-American.’”
2. “When I lived in Chicago in the ’90s, I would pass a pawn shop on my way to the El every morning. In its window was a large, gaudy frosted-glass mirror depicting the face of a large black man wearing an odd covering of animal skins and bones. On the edges it read: ‘Bud Light Salutes Great African Americans: HANNIBAL OF CARTHAGE.’”
3. “I’ll never forget the caller to a radio talk show who was complaining that blacks had been shortchanged in the history books. He screamed, ‘Beethoven was an African American!’”
And 4. “The ultimate lesson for me was a few years ago when Justice Thomas invited several students from my law school to meet with him. A student asked a friendly question about some of his experiences as an African American. The justice responded, with his characteristic warmth, ‘First off, I’ve never been to Africa. I’m a black American.’”
Sounds like him, doesn’t it?
‐I received a letter from Nebraska that was a little hard to take. See what you think. It responds to my piece “An Unpretty Pass,” in the current National Review. This piece is about Nurre v. Whitehead, a religion-and-the-schools case. A wind ensemble at a high school in Washington State was denied the right to play an Ave Maria at graduation. I also mentioned some aspects of this case in Impromptus.
Anyway, our reader writes,
I shared your Impromptus with friends of mine, and got the following response from a friend who is our Catholic grade school’s music teacher and a recording artist in her own right. She wrote, “[Name withheld] bought boxes of music from the Lincoln Public Schools auction and gave it to Pius X High School. They had gotten rid of all of their music containing the word ‘God.’ As a Christian it saddens me, as a musician it sickens me. Think of all the music that high schoolers will not experience . . .”
I, too, am saddened and sickened. It’s happening even here in the heart of the heartland.
Lights out, baby. (But not really.)
‐A reader writes,
Just learned that the high school a friend of mine’s kid attends has renamed Thanksgiving “Fall Break,” I suspect owing to the potentially religious connotations in the word “Thanksgiving.” Where will it end?
Lights out, baby. (But not really.)
This reader P.S.es: “However, the school does celebrate Festivus by name with ‘music, art, poetry and more.’”
Festivus? Sounds like a car.
‐A final letter from good ol’ southeastern Michigan, where my own bad self hails from:
I was riding my bicycle near Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods when I passed by a rolling cliché, a Prius with a bunch of lefty-enviro bumper stickers. I yelled out to them, “My bike is morally superior to your Prius!” I liked the idea so much I embroidered the slogan on the back of one of my bike jerseys. The problem is, some of the folks who read my shirt don’t realize I’m being sarcastic.
Thanks for joining me, post-election cool ones, and see you.