Politics & Policy

The beautiful post-racial, &c.

On Sunday, a news report was published, and it makes for very interesting reading. Its headline is “High court poised to upend civil rights policies.” It begins, “Has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?”

That is something of an admission — that the law is not colorblind now. And isn’t justice supposed to be blind, to color and other things?

The article further says, “The court’s five conservative justices seem ready to declare a new post-racial moment.”

I find this fascinating. It is conservatives who want a post-racial America. It has been that way for a long time, of course. Could such a thing have been predicted in, say, 1960?

‐Conservatives have made hay out of the Obama family’s vacations, and Joe Biden’s European hotel bills, and so on. Why should our leaders be livin’ so large when, in these straitened times, we have canceled White House tours?

I am often opposed to mere symbolism in politics. I don’t want the Obamas to give up their vacations. Maybe Biden can travel a little less extravagantly. I don’t know. But listen: I think conservatives are right to make hay. There is a “let them eat cake” attitude coming from our leaders.

Then again, the people elected them — reelected them — didn’t they?

My mother was a little girl in World War II. She remembers hearing that the princesses in London — Elizabeth and Margaret — were going without new coats one winter. They were wearing the ones from the winter before.

Just a tiny symbolic thing. But my mother, not even a Briton, remembered it. These things matter, sometimes.

‐Reading a Claudia Rosett column, I had a flashback to Cold War days. Claudia wrote of North Korea’s missile tests, and Iran’s centrifuges, and other ominous developments, then said, “Time to ring the world’s super cop . . . but who is that these days?”

I thought of Jeane Kirkpatrick — whom Claudia is a lot like, actually. She said (I’m paraphrasing), “People love to say, ‘America can’t be the world’s policeman.’ Fine. But what if there’s a world criminal?”

She meant the Soviet Union, of course — which the United States usually managed to check.

‐I received a note from my friend Jack Jolis. “I’m afraid I must report a landmark,” he said — a landmark “of a horrible sort.” He was listening to BBC radio, and he heard the presenter, Danny Baker, refer to Angela Merkel as “the leader of the Free World.” Never before, in Jack’s experience, had anyone other than the president of the United States been “the leader of the Free World.”

I have sometimes called Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, “the leader of the West.” My colleague Kevin Williamson sometimes refers to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, as “the leader of the Free World.”

Anyway . . .

‐We are all familiar with slurs on Clarence Thomas, including the one that goes, “He’s just a puppet of Scalia, you know. He has no ideas or opinions of his own, he just follows what Scalia and the other conservatives do.” Anyone who knows anything knows this is nonsense, of course. But a lot of people know nothing — and spout off regardless.

In a 2003 Impromptus, I wrote about a disgusting cartoon in the Palm Beach Post. It depicted Thomas as a puppet on Scalia’s hand. Scalia made some pronouncement, to which Thomas replied, “Oh, yeah! Say what?”

There is nothing a conservative can say or do that will not be described as racist. There is nothing a liberal can say or do — no matter how racist, no matter how vile — that will be described as racist.

I thought of this last week when reading a column in the Washington Post. The writer said, “Early in the oral argument, the conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts (a silent Clarence Thomas can be assumed to be their tacit tagalong) — explored the idea that . . .”

What would happen is a conservative writer described a liberal black justice as the “tacit tagalong” of others?

‐As regular readers know, Michael Gove is probably my favorite politician, and favorite statesman. He is a writer, parliamentarian, and education minister in Britain. He was recently on the BBC program Question Time, performing as he is wont to do: perfectly.

There was a questioner in the audience, who objected to Gove’s idea of a core curriculum. He said that Gove wanted to limit the curriculum to “dead white guys,” which is nonsense, of course. Talking about the curriculum he imagined Gove to favor, he said, “That’s interesting, if you’re a white guy. But if you’re a Portuguese Canadian living in England, with African heritage, it’s less interesting, and it becomes incredibly boring.”

I think I have quoted the man accurately. And I’m not sure what you can do for such a person. First, to think of Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Michelangelo as “dead white guys” is bizarre. Their race and sex are the least important things about them. As for their “deadness,” they are more alive than most people living.

Second, to find them boring? Again, what can you do for such a person? He is beyond help, it seems to me. I’m not sure how you can even converse with such a person. Gove was very polite to the man, of course. I’m afraid I would have been speechless.

A generation or two of teachers have taught young people that race, ethnicity, and sex are what matters in life. They have done a grave disservice, wrecking the minds of countless people. Warping their souls, too. I believe these teachers have committed a kind of crime, frankly — a moral crime, or at least an educational one. They have a lot to answer for.

The man in the audience wasn’t born thinking as he does. He was educated to it. “You’ve got to be carefully taught,” wrote Oscar Hammerstein (another “dead white guy”).

‐Speaking of Shakespeare, I was at the Metropolitan Opera the other night, covering a performance of Otello. At the end, as the Moor approached Desdemona, I swear I had this thought: “She should have a gun.” She has no choice but to be murdered in her bed.

Our current debate on gun control — the one we have been having for decades — has had an effect on me, I guess.

‐A colleague was telling me he was flummoxed by the phrase “opposite-sex marriage.” He had to stop and think what it meant: like, marriage marriage? The kind of marriage we have always had? Or the new kind of marriage? “Opposite-sex marriage” is indeed a funny new coinage.

I remember, years ago, when people started to say “straight community.” For some time, they had talked about the “gay community,” which is understandable: The gay population is relatively small. But “straight community”? Like the great majority of mankind lives off in some neighborhood, with a bar, a church, a park, a school, and a grocery store?

Straight community? Really?

‐I’m sort of glad to see a player named Charlie Villaneuva on my NBA team, the Detroit Pistons. “Villaneuva” is an unexpected name for basketball. You expect him to be a baseball player — a Tiger, rather than a Piston.

‐Speaking of the Pistons, I learned a new phrase, when reading an article about them. Let me quote:

“We grinded and gutted it out,” said Pistons’ coach Lawrence Frank. “When you’ve lost 10 games, you need somebody to give you a spark. And Charlie did that in the fourth quarter. It’s nice to get off the schneid. Now we want to continue every night and finish off the season in a professional, competitive way.”

To get off the schneid — to end a losing streak. Very nice. By the way, what do you think of “grinded” rather than “ground”? Acceptable, colloquially, I think. (Everything is acceptable colloquially.) But the writer and his editor should know this: That apostrophe after “Pistons” doesn’t belong!

‐I’ll give you a headline that gave me the creeps: “Texas sex offenders in sight of rare policy win.” I didn’t read the article.

And with that, I’ll leave you, thanking you and saying, Catch you soon.


To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


The Latest