Culture

‘Knowledge and Virtue,’ &c.

On the Middlebury College campus (Photo via Facebook)
Middlebury College, Donald Trump, Joe McCarthy, Vladimir Putin, Kirsten Flagstad, the ‘Flippin’ Birds,’ and more

I’ve never been to Middlebury College, but I’ve always had a romantic view of it. One of those exquisite New England colleges. Can you imagine it in the fall, when the leaves turn?

Also, Middlebury has a famous foreign-languages program. I know several people who are graduates of it.

The motto of the college is Scientia et Virtus, i.e., Knowledge and Virtue.

This college, as you’ve probably heard, was the site of a mob attack on Charles Murray, the conservative-libertarian scholar, and Allison Stanger, a Middlebury professor, who was seeking to help Murray. She wound up in the hospital.

The young people who go to Middlebury are among the luckiest, most privileged people in the world. They have won a kind of lottery of life. Those of them who are ideologues and goons — they are almost as sad as they are disgusting.

Do they know how good they have it? Are they grateful? Will they grow out of their current brattishness, unreason, and illiberality?

After the attack, Middlebury’s president, Laurie L. Patton, issued a letter that was pretty good — for a letter from a college president on this subject. But listen to her words: “deeply disappointed”; “painful”; “troubling divisions”; “building bridges.”

Believe me, if there were a mob attack by right-wingers against a left-wing speaker or anyone else, there would be no talk of “building bridges,” etc. There would be nothing but outrage, condemnation, and expulsion.

Why are college administrators, and progressives in general, so timid on this subject — the subject of free speech, physical safety, and intellectual diversity? Fortunately, President Obama was less timid, at least from time to time.

Here he is in September 2015, speaking to a town hall in Des Moines:

“It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem, too.

“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.

“I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.”

For many years — certainly since 9/11 — you have heard people say that the only people who can stop the violent jihadists are other Muslims. Decent Muslims. They are the ones who must chastise, rebuke, and subdue. They must say “Not in our name.”

Similarly, it may be that the only people who can stop the campus goons are non-goonish progressives. They would be more effective than we conservatives, I think. Let them come forth.

‐For many years, I’ve written about clashes of piety — in particular, left-wing piety. What do I mean? What are these “clashes”?

Well, let’s say you like birds. A lot. Especially endangered species. But you like wind power too — and those turbines are notorious bird-chompers.

What then?

Say you like abortion, or at least abortion rights. But you’re not too crazy about sex-selection — which typically results in aborted girls.

I could go on and on.

Anyway, there are plenty of clashes on the right, too. Consider this tweet from President Trump:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

There are plenty of people who love Donald Trump — and who love Joe McCarthy, too. What are they to make of this?

‐One interesting phrase in that tweet is “just before the victory.” There’s something about those two words “the victory.” I’m surprised the “v” is not capitalized — as “election” is in this other Trump tweet:

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

‐Early in his career, Bill Buckley inclined to defend Senator McCarthy (Joe, not Gene). He expressed his ultimate thoughts about McCarthy in a novel, The Redhunter. I read it while on a trip with him (Bill, not Joe). We talked about it every day. (There’s nothing an author likes more than to have his book read. And understood. There’s nothing quite like it.) Buckley’s view was that McCarthy had set back the cause of anti-Communism ten years, at least.

‐President Trump tweeted, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

“Bad (or sick) guy!” Some people say that very thing about Trump, the author of the phrase.

Last month, Trump was singing a different tune about Obama, and the Trump-Obama relationship. Bill O’Reilly noted that the two of them seemed to get along.

Trump answered, “It’s a very strange phenomena” (meaning phenomenon). “We get along. I don’t know if he’ll admit this, but he likes me. I like him.”

O’Reilly interjected to ask how Trump knew that Obama liked him.

Trump answered, “Because I can feel it. You know, that’s what I do in life. It’s called, like, I understand.”

‐A few weeks ago, Trump, via a tweet, insulted Mark Cuban, the Dallas businessman. “He’s not smart enough to run for president!” said Trump.

This past weekend, he was doggin’ someone else: “Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me.”

One day, maybe, Trump will wake up and realize he’s president of the United States — the top dog. He doesn’t have to stoop. He can be above singling out various Americans, whoever they are, for insults.

‐Another Trump tweet: “Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?”

Is it true that a person, or an organization, can allow or disallow the FBI like that? I’ll have to read up on my law enforcement. It seems to me they don’t usually ask nicely …

‐This time, a Sean Spicer tweet — a tweet from the presidential press secretary: “Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.” He was talking about matters Russian.

I was interested in the phrase “neither the White House nor the President” — a strange division. And I thought of George P. Shultz.

When he was secretary of state, he said something like this: “People always say things like, ‘The White House is calling.’ I say, ‘The White House is a building. It can’t call. Who in the White House is calling?’”

‐Speaking of matters Russian: Our “radios” in Europe — Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty — report that President Putin “has launched a military-patriotic movement known as the Young Army.” Watch a short video, here. I don’t know what y’all will think, but it gave me the creeps.

‐One thing about foreigners: They can often see your country better than you do, or at least differently. I enjoy going to foreign countries and observing. Often, the people there are interested — and amazed — by what I have to say. And I enjoy asking foreigners in America about America.

I was talking last week to a friend of mine, an intellectual from Latin America. He said, “You make a big distinction between the ‘immediate family’ and the ‘extended family.’ When you ask, ‘How’s your family?’ you mean the ‘immediate family’: Mom, Dad, kids. Maybe grandparents. We mean everybody: cousins, aunts, uncles, and all. We have no ‘immediate family’ and ‘extended family.’ It’s all one.”

My friend also said this — which I thought was doubly fascinating: “Your janitors and building superintendents and so on: They walk around with many, many keys on their hip. That is a sign of power, those keys. And the keys make noise, wherever the men go. This confers a status on them. They have what unlocks. It adds to their self-confidence and overall importance.”

‐A little music? As you may know, physical appearance is a big deal in opera today. Fatties are nervous. They’re trying to lose weight, they’re having that surgery done. There is something close to panic.

This is particularly true as operas are broadcast in movie theaters, and people expect opera singers to look like actors and actresses.

The phenomenon, though intensified, is not new. I was poking into Kirsten Flagstad the other day, and read her Wikipedia entry. (Flagstad is a legend, a Norwegian soprano who lived from 1895 to 1962.) Check this out:

… in the summer of 1934, when the Met needed a replacement for Frida Leider, Flagstad agreed to audition for conductor Artur Bodanzky and Met general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza in St Moritz in August 1934, and she was engaged immediately. Upon leaving St Moritz, Bodanzky’s parting words for Flagstad were “Come to New York as soon as you know these roles (Isolde, the three Brünnhildes, Leonore in Fidelio, and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier). And above all do not go and get fat! Your slender, youthful figure is not the least reason you were engaged.”

Heh. Damn.

‐I was reading a sports story about Michigan — the University of Michigan — and the headline had two unexpected words in it: “Flippin’ Birds.” What the …?

Turned out, the Michigan gymnastics team had hosted the team from Southern Utah. The nickname of this university is the Thunderbirds. The gymnasts are the Flippin’ Birds.

Well. (Utah!)

 

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.

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