Politics & Policy

The danger of song, &c.

In yesterday’s Impromptus, I mentioned the Singing Revolution, i.e., Estonia’s freedom struggle back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Which brings me to this bit of news:

State-controlled Belarusian Radio has reportedly banned a popular glasnost-era Soviet song by rebellious rocker Viktor Tsoi. The song, titled “Peremen” (Change), features lines like “Our hearts demand change, Our eyes demand change” and requests for it have reportedly spiked in recent weeks as protests against the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have gained steam.

Oh, yes. (Full story here.)

I trust you’ve not yet forgotten Ibrahim Kashush. Last month, he was singing songs in Syrian squares — songs of protest. “Come on, Bashar, get lost,” he sang. “Take your brother Maher and take off. Get lost, get lost. Freedom is very near.”

They slit his throat, cut out his vocal cords, and threw his body into a river. Songs can be annoying, you know.

Have a June report about Belarus:

They’re called “silent demonstrations;” thousands of people clapping their hands during weekly protests in more than 30 cities across heavily policed Belarus. The applause is for themselves, for overcoming their fear of police beatings and arrest.

(Full story here.) The government is poised to ban these protests, whether they’re silent or not. And someone over in Russia has an idea. A headline from earlier this week read, “Putin supports merger of Russia and Belarus.” (Story here.)

As readers of this column know, Belarus is one of the most battered and stifled nations in the world. It is the last dictatorship in Europe. The winter was really, really bad. Summer has not been a picnic either.

‐I have to ask you: Does this headline make you feel bad for President Obama? “Try as he might, Obama can’t shake Bush tax cuts.” (Story here.)  Try as I might, I can’t work up tears.

‐A man named Cu Huy Ha Vu is someone we should get to know, and keep an eye on. The Associated Press reports, “An appeals court upheld the seven-year prison sentence for the dissident son of one of Vietnam’s founding revolutionaries Tuesday, despite arguments that his support for a multiparty system did not mean he was against the Communist Party.” (Story here.)

Vu, defending himself, said, “I did not oppose the Communist Party of Vietnam. I only demanded a multiparty system that would allow healthy competition for the ultimate interests of the people and of the nation.”

What a man.

‐How would you like to be Naser Abdo’s lawyer? Leaving the courtroom in Texas, he shouted, “Nidal Hasan, Fort Hood 2009!” Great, great. Dream of a client.

You can read about Abdo here. He’s the Army private who wanted to follow in Hasan’s footsteps. He was set to commit an atrocity. He had come across an article titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom.” The article appeared in al-Qaeda’s magazine, or one of them. (Are these guys also big in publishing?) Some people take magazine articles very seriously.

Abdo’s dad, Jamal, was deported from America after soliciting a minor. Abdo himself has been charged with possession of child pornography. A tragedy of a family (and I mean that sincerely, non-sarcastically).

Abdo had wanted to be called a conscientious objector — or is one or something. I quote from the article I’ve linked to: A group called Courage to Resist “said in a statement that it had removed Abdo’s profile from its website.” I guess. “It said it has paid $800 of Abdo’s legal fees in the conscientious objector case.”

Just when you think you have a poster child . . .

‐I’d like to quote from that article once more, and then make a point — kind of a strange one. In fact, I’m not quite sure what it is. Anyway, the quotation:

Abdo was arrested after a gun-store clerk told authorities he bought six pounds of smokeless gunpowder, shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol on Tuesday — while seeming to know little about what he was buying. Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin has suggested that without the tip, a terror attack could have been imminent.

“If you see something, say something.” That’s what we’ve been hearing, for ten years. It’s important. It’s also a little . . . what’s the word? Double-edged? I don’t know.

When I was in high school, people talked about “narc-ing.” This meant “telling,” “reporting on.” It was very pejorative — had the sense of “ratting on.”

I remember how dispiriting it was to hear a school administrator bad-mouthing a kid for having “narc-ed” on someone. When the school administrators aren’t against the drug culture — who is?

‐Yesterday, I read this article and thought, “The Barney Frank of Argentina?”

An Argentine Supreme Court justice faces a possible ethics investigation for renting out apartments used for prostitution.

Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni has said he had no idea that six of his 15 rental properties were being used as brothels.

‐For years and years, I heard David Pryce-Jones, John O’Sullivan, and other sharpies say, “If legitimate political parties in Europe — especially the conservative parties — don’t do their jobs, they will leave the door open to fascism. If they don’t deal seriously with major and festering issues, they will leave a vacuum that fascism will fill, and that will be really, really ugly.”

Over and over, we see the wisdom of what they say: “They descended by the hundreds — black-shirted, bat-wielding youths chasing down dark-skinned immigrants through the streets of Athens and beating them senseless in an unprecedented show of force by Greece’s far-right extremists.” (Full story here.)

The legitimate parties had chance after chance to deal honestly with immigration, national identity, law and order, social-welfare spending, and all the rest of it. And they refused. I believe we are reaping the whirlwind of political correctness and cowardice (and stupidity).

‐In the current National Review, I have a little essay on Borders bookstores — on the closing of them. They will soon be no more. I’ve been going to Borders for a very long time. I explain in my essay,

The original Borders was in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich. The store was founded in 1971 by the Borders brothers, Tom and Louis, who were students at the University of Michigan. We all went into that store. The selection was enormous, even exciting, and they would let you read, as I recall.

The staff was renowned for its knowledge, although whether that renown was justified, I can’t tell you. I think they were somewhat arrogant and snotty. I also think that most customers kind of liked it — the way people like waitresses in New England chowder houses who bark at you.

I also quote my sainted mother in that piece — behold:

Let me share with you an e-mail I received from my mother, about an hour ago. (She has no idea I’m writing about Borders, and I quote her without permission, of course.) She lives in the woods outside of Ann Arbor. She writes, “Quite annoyed at people mourning the demise of badly managed Borders.” Mother is blunt. Once, she was asked why she didn’t want to go to a particular restaurant, much praised. She said, “The food is bad, the carpet is dirty, and the waitresses are surly.” Anyway, in her e-mail, she continues, “Our public libraries are magnificent. Even my hokey district one has latte, etc., and will find any book you want in a day or two.”

I’d like to quote a bit more of my piece, before getting to something new:

I was a little tickled — there’s a Michigan word! — when the store went national. When it became a chain. Sometime in the mid-1990s, I went into a Borders in Washington, D.C., the city in which I was living. On the wall was a photo of the original Borders staff. I recognized most of them. Got a little pang.

Well, this must be Family Week. After the piece was published, I got an e-mail from my sister, who said,

Nice trip down Memory Lane! Let me add mine. On my first visit to Singapore some years ago, I was strolling along a busy commercial street and stumbled upon the grand opening of Borders Books. Asians were in awe of the concept of taking a book or magazine off the shelf and lingering as long as they wanted, reading on one of the store’s sofas. I guess the awe wore off, but I definitely felt proud of our little Ann Arbor company!




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