Impromptus

A dangerous and marvelous love, &c.

Detail of Romeo and Juliet by Henri-Pierre Picou (Wikimedia)
Burma, Michigan, Mexico, Trump, Clinton (Bill), China, Rowny, and more

One of the most interesting and affecting stories of the recent period has appeared from the Associated Press out of Burma, here. It is a Romeo-and-Juliet story, more dangerous than most.

She comes from the Rakhine people, he comes from the Rohingya. They are married. Such marriages are almost unheard of. Her side doesn’t know about it. “If they knew,” she says, “they would kill me right away.”

Asked about their marriage, he says this: “She sees me as a human being and I see her as a human being, and it’s that simple.”

What a statement, in a madly and viciously tribal world.

•  You have perhaps seen a story from the Detroit Free Press, concerning immigration and deportation. It is an unsettling story — even for immigration hawks.

A man named Jose Garcia was brought to this country from Mexico, illegally, when he was ten. He is now 39. He has a wife and two children, ages 15 and 12. His wife and children are American citizens. He has now been deported.

The parting at the airport was something, as you can imagine.

I must ask, How is America benefited by this? How is the country bettered? “The rule of law!” comes the response — and I quite agree. Yet there are other considerations, such as — family breakup. (Conservatives have always said that children ought to have fathers, etc.)

There must be a better way.

Earlier this week, I was thinking of my friend Tom Paton, a professional golfer and a philosopher. He loves the purity of golf: If you ground your club in a hazard, it’s a two-stroke penalty. It doesn’t matter whether you meant to do it. It doesn’t matter whether a rattlesnake bit your hand. It doesn’t matter what color you are or what sex you are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good or bad person. If you ground your club in a hazard, it’s a two-stroke penalty. Period.

Should that apply to other areas of life? If you’re illegal, you’re illegal — period? Should all those who exceed the speed limit be stopped? And so on.

These are indeed questions for philosophers, and I’m just doing impromptus here …

•  President Trump is, among other things, a name-caller. It’s part of his stock-in-trade: “Sloppy Steve,” “Sneaky Dianne,” “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” “low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” etc. This is not something a president should do; it’s not something a grade-schooler should do.

Where are the social conservatives? Where are the people to say this is wrong? Where are the people who think that the president should set an example, and a good one?

It’s perfectly possible to praise Trump for his judicial nominations, his deregulation, and his move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — and to say that the name-calling stinks.

Yet conservatives are reluctant, in my experience. It’s as though the slightest criticism is verboten, even dangerous. No quarter must be given (to the Enemy). The pull of the tribe is overpoweringly strong.

So the people who once shrieked when Obama put his feet on the desk in the Oval Office now look the other way …

•  In the ’90s, we had a word: “Clintonian.” I thought of it a couple of days ago, and I’ll tell you why. I was reading this news article, which says, “Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.”

Clintonian.

(Billy J. was the type to say, “I was never in the hotel alone with her” — because, you see, there were also bellhops and clerks and maids and other guests and …)

•  In Shanxi Province, there was a church called “Golden Lampstand.” It was a “mega-church,” attended by more than 50,000 worshipers. The church cost $3 million to build, and that money was contributed by the worshipers — in one of the poorest regions in China.

The government has now blown the place up. I mean, they dynamited the church. I will quote the New York Times (specifically, an excellent report by Russell Goldman): “Under President Xi Jinping, the government has destroyed churches or removed their steeples and crosses as part of a campaign that reflects the Communist Party’s longstanding fear that Christianity, viewed as a Western philosophy, is a threat to the party’s authority.”

The party is right, isn’t it? Anyway, what that church represented will long outlive the party …

•  On Martin Luther King Day, I thought of something. When I was preparing my history of the Nobel Peace Prize, I read that Henry Kissinger was the oldest living laureate. I further realized that if Martin Luther King were still alive — Kissinger would still be the oldest living laureate.

Kissinger was older than King — by six years. Kissinger was born in 1923, King in 1929. Kissinger is still a public figure. King seems so distant. He was 39 when murdered.

Time can mess with one’s mind, you know?

P.S. I believe that King and Kissinger are the only non-physicians routinely referred to as “Dr.”

•  Fox News tweeted out the following: “Former President @BarackObama resurfaced on Friday and took a shot at Fox News viewers, saying they’re ‘living on a different planet’ than people who consume mainstream media.” Did he say that? Kind of crappy.

I looked at the story. Obama said, “One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts. If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you are listening to NPR.”

Along with many other conservatives, I have said this for many, many years. People live on different media planets. They consume different news, making debate problematic. Each side says to the other, “Where are you getting that?”

•  According to reports — both on Fox and on NPR, I bet! — Mitt Romney will run for the Senate in Utah, as veteran Republican Orrin Hatch is retiring.

Romney was governor of Massachusetts, of course. And I was thinking of something related: men who have tried to serve in the Senate from two different states. Off the top of my head, I thought of Bill Brock, Bob Smith, and our own beloved JLB, i.e., James L. Buckley.

How about men who have served as governor and as senator from two different states? Dunno. Michael Barone could tell you instantly.

•  Regular readers may remember that the writer John U. Bacon — great name, by the way — is a high-school classmate of mine. And his latest book is on my reading list: The Great Halifax Explosion. This was the disaster that occurred in Canada on December 6, 1917. John’s subtitle is “A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism.”

Check it out.

•  I have done another Jaywalking podcast, here. This is essentially an audio version of Impromptus, with music and some other “supplements” thrown in. See if it floats your boat (or blows your skirt up) (or revs your motor). And if you’d like to write me about it, or anything else, try jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

•  Not long ago in New York, it was 7 degrees. Some people cackled, “Global warming, ha!” Exactly a week later, it was 60 degrees — and different people cackled, “Ha!” You know, I’m sick of this ping-pong, concerning the weather. When will it end?

•  Yesterday, I passed a restaurant in New York, and I thought, “If the Trump reelection campaign wanted to host an Hispanic-outreach event, with the secretary of defense as the featured speaker, this would be the perfect place”: Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina.

•  One by one they go — our heroes in the Cold War. Last June, General Edward Rowny, age 100, attended the funeral of his fellow Cold Warrior and Polish American, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Now General Rowny, too, is gone.

He commanded troops in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was an arms-control negotiator under four presidents. When Carter signed SALT II, Rowny retired from the Army, so that he could speak against the treaty. Reagan brought him back to serve as chief negotiator in the START talks, making him an ambassador. After swearing him in, Reagan asked, “Do I now address you as ‘Ambassador’ or ‘General’?” Rowny answered, “Sir, it took me 20 years to become a general, and only 20 minutes to become an ambassador.” Reagan saluted and said, “Yes, sir, General.”

Rowny’s hero was Paderewski, the great Polish pianist and statesman. Paderewski died in New York during World War II. FDR ordered that his remains be kept at Arlington Cemetery until Poland was free. Those remains finally traveled to Poland in 1992 — an act in which Rowny had a significant hand.

What a man, Ed Rowny. Glad he was around.

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