The New York Times ran a superb piece by a reporter named Richard Fausset. Called “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” it was about a homegrown Nazi, or a homegrown extremist — the Nazi next door, if you will. I thought the piece was absolutely chilling.
But it caused a firestorm among Times readers and others, who thought the piece was Nazi-friendly. Who thought the piece “normalized” Nazis.
Gimme a break. Often, these people do not come with convenient horns and tails. They look, and act, like everyone else (until they don’t).
I recalled an opera I reviewed in 2014, Charlotte Salomon, by Marc-André Dalbavie. At the end, I said,
I would like to make a final comment, relating to the production: The Nazis were depicted with distorted, grotesque faces. The singers and actors portraying the Nazis were wearing masks of some sort. One can appreciate this decision: The outer is reflecting the inner. Part of the evil of totalitarians, however, is that they look like everyone else.
‐Ravi Bhalla has been elected the mayor of Hoboken. As this report tells us, he is “the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey’s history.” I much appreciate what he said:
“I was born and raised in New Jersey. I grew up playing Little League baseball and watching the Yankees. I think this victory [his election] represents the American dream. My father came here as an immigrant from India with no money in his pocket. He lived in a trailer park, but he had faith in this country and faith that there is no conflict between religion and succeeding in this country.”
In Bhalla’s eyes, his election proved that, “in America, if you work hard and you’re qualified, the sky’s the limit and you can do anything.”
Years ago, I did a piece on Indian Americans (as opposed to American Indians) in politics. I mentioned Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh who was elected to Congress (from California) in 1956 — the Eisenhower reelection year.
‐Reading about Harvey Weinstein — and other sex abusers — I had a thought: People in power can lord it over others. They can act on their base instincts. They have license. They can get away with it (often).
Are many, many men like Weinstein? Men who are never in a position to act on those instincts? I’m sure.
I thought of slaveowners. Imagine owning human beings as chattels: the way you would furniture or clothes or cows. You can do anything with them you want. You can work them, rape them, torture them, murder them — whatever your fancy is.
Earlier this year, I interviewed George Walker, an American composer, born in 1922. His grandmother, Malvina King, was an ex-slave. She had had two husbands. She lost the first when he was sold at auction. (The second one simply died.)
As many Holocaust survivors would never talk about the Holocaust, Malvina King never talked about slavery — except once, when her grandson, not being able to help himself, asked her about it. She spoke one sentence, only: “They did everything except eat us.”
‐I was talking to Mona Charen about Bill Clinton, the Lewinsky affair, and the social shift in America — away from what some call morality and others call prudery. I remembered something from early in the Lewinsky affair: I overheard two men talking. They were Charles Percy, a former U.S. senator, and William Webster, a former FBI director and CIA director. One said to the other, “He’s got to go.” The other said, “Yup.”
They were talking about President Clinton, of course.
I repeated this conversation at work. And one of my colleagues said, dismissively, “Couple o’ has-beens.”
This was not especially nice, but he was right: They were has-beens. And their outlook reflected an America that had been and was not.
‐Nancy French is a writer, like her husband, National Review’s David French. She is a conservative and religious woman — someone who has collaborated with, for example, Sarah Palin. A few weeks ago, she wrote a column related to the Roy Moore matter: about a terrible experience she had with a preacher when she was a girl.
I highlighted this story on Twitter, saying that it was moving, wise, and important. And I got a lot of snorting comments from the Trump right: They wouldn’t read the column because it was published in the Washington Post.
This mentality is self-defeating in the extreme.
‐News President Trump doesn’t like, he labels “fake,” or “Fake,” or “FAKE!!!” He was doing this on Saturday, as he was retweeting, and thanking, a website called MAGAPILL, which had praised him. For that tweet, go here.
How about MAGAPILL? Fake News or real news? I refer you to Michael Warren in The Weekly Standard:
The website’s name, MAGAPILL, references Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” along with the “red pill” concept popular among the online alt-right and white nationalist movements. Taking a red pill in these circles refers to being awakened to the “reality” of the alt-right worldview …
MAGAPILL traffics in the kookiest conspiracy, in the manner of Alex Jones and InfoWars. In fact, Jones might say, “Whoa, man, that’s far out!”
Yet the president of the United States retweets MAGAPILL while decrying “Fake News.” This is strange.
‐Speaking to reporters, Trump said, “China likes me. China likes me.” He was referring to the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese dictatorship. They may, they may not. But China is bigger than the Communist party, bigger than the dictatorship: It includes democrats, dissidents, and political prisoners, some of whom are murdered for seeking the same rights that we Americans take for granted, and that many of us believe are given to us by God, not to be trampled by man.
An American president should remember this, as he goes about his business.
(Over and over, I said this kind of thing while Barack Obama was president. The Right appreciated it. Today, less so.)
‐Trump said, “We’re going to the Philippines, where the previous administration was not exactly welcome.” He later said, about Obama, “He had zero chemistry with Putin.”
Okay. A welcome can be good, in diplomacy as in other areas of life. So can chemistry. But they can also be something else. There is such a thing as having too warm a welcome from a dictator, and too much chemistry with him, too.
‐Obama and his people often complained about the previous administration, and we righties slammed them for it, hard! Whining, whining, whining! How about this, from the incumbent president? “Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!”
‐LeVar Burton, the actor, has taken it on the chin from Trump fans. What did he do? Criticize the president? No, a man named LaVar Ball has been trading insults with the president — Ball is the father of one of the athletes whose release from a Chinese prison Trump won. Some Trump fans have been taking it out on LeVar Burton. (For an article, go here.)
To quote the punch line of an old joke: iceberg/Goldberg.
‐I was in a Starbucks, eating a candy-cane whoopie pie. And I marveled, once more, at American capitalism, at innovation, at imagination, at variety. Damn, it was good (the whoopie pie) (and seasonal — Christmassy).
Flash forward. I needed a charger for my phone, and there was a convenience store in a rural area. No problem. “Convenience” is right. Dunzo.
I also marveled, once more, at the humble handi-vac, or dustbuster, or whatever we should call it. I’m not sure “humble” is the word. “Proud” is more like it. One of these little babies beats the pants off a whisk broom.
Anyway, we should pause now and then to be grateful, even for the everyday — and even when Thanksgiving has passed.
‐As I mentioned in Impromptus yesterday, there is a new podcast, Jaywalking, which is sort of an audio version of Impromptus. Try the inaugural episode, here. (Although “episode” should be reserved for something like a sitcom, I think — Sanford and Son, for example.) (“Well, I never.” “And you never will!”)
‐Of all the things I despise in the world, this may be at the top of the list: attempts by classical-music people to be cool; to be hip. It is pathetic to watch, and it always ends in tears.
I was reading about a festival director who — I quote — turned the festival “inside out, from a sleepy recount [redoubt?] of the classical canon to a vital, hip group of often multi-genre experiences.”
Gag me with a spoon, as we used to say at Tappan Junior High, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Met with some classmates last week, on the eve of the Ohio State game. Very nice — the meeting, not the game.)
Thanks, Impromptus-ites, and see you.
A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.