Impromptus

Life under corona, &c.

At a safety-equipment store in Brooklyn, N.Y., March 26, 2020 (Stephen Yang / Reuters)
New ways of living, presidential orders, a curious machismo, and more

We are all staying in now, in this time of “self-isolation.” But that’s not true, is it? Not all of us are staying in. There are medical workers, grocery clerks, policemen — many others. Bless all those who don’t have the luxury of staying in. Who are “out there,” keeping the world afloat, so to speak.

That is a trite statement, maybe, but this is possibly a time for such statements.

• A friend made a point to me: The Iraq War touched relatively few Americans, in concrete ways. Same with the Afghan War. But the current crisis, a medical one (with countless ramifications)? It touches everyone — every single citizen.

Another trite statement, but . . .

• People are having to make adjustments, sometimes radical adjustments. I thought of a song lyric: “We’ll find a new way of living.” (I also thought of, “Suffer it to be so now.”) (Not from a song, at least not originally.)

• You know how, nine months after a blackout or something like that, there are babies? More than usual? I bet a lot of books — a lot of manuscripts — will emerge out of this time of self-isolation. (Maybe babies too, not sure.)

• Last week, I said, “Can you imagine this time — this general quarantine — in pre-Internet days?” Someone responded, “Yeah, and we wouldn’t even be able to listen to baseball on the radio.”

Good point.

• Who do you think woulda won the NCAA basketball tournament? Or the NBA Finals? Or the Stanley Cup? Your teams, right? (Right.)

• My friend Dale Brott, the chairman of National Review, Inc., said, “Many people use sports as a conversational lubricant. Now that’s gone, which is huge.” So true. We still have the weather (though many are indoors). And, of course, the virus. “How are you coping?”

Hang on, let me ask: Do we still have conversation? Probably not as much, right? (Depends on the individual and his circumstances, I realize.)

• President Trump said he wanted to reopen America, so to speak, by Easter. “Easter’s a very special day for me,” he told Fox. (Who knew?) “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full? You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.”

According to this vision, our nationwide self-isolation may be interpreted as a kind of Lenten sacrifice.

• The president tweeted, “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”

In my view — I’m old-fashioned, mind you — U.S. presidents should not talk to Americans that way. If Obama or Hillary or some other Dem did this, we conservatives would go ape, and rightly.

America, by its nature, does not, or should not, tolerate Mussolini/Perón acts.

• You want to hear some honest-to-goodness populist talk? Well, check out this report out of Rio de Janeiro, concerning Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president:

On Thursday, Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, that he feels Brazilians’ natural immunity will protect the nation.

“The Brazilian needs to be studied. He doesn’t catch anything. You see a guy jumping into sewage, diving in, right? Nothing happens to him. . . .”

Hmmm.

• More populist talk: President Trump tweeted, “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”

Over the years, I have written about the phrase “real people.” When I was growing up, I heard it out of the mouths of white liberals. They tended to mean blacks, Hispanics, and poor whites (maybe). Anyone considered disadvantaged.

I grew allergic to the phrase “real people.” As a young adult, I realized that all people are real, whether you like them or not. That includes stockbrokers and baronesses. Everyone has human problems, human pleasures — human ups and downs.

You know who talked me out of this “real people” business — that whole populist attitude — more than anybody else? Bill Buckley.

When Trump & Co. say “real people,” I don’t think they mean what the lefties in my hometown meant. In either case, not a fan, of the phrase or concept.

(I do like the expression “Get real.” I think it started in the ’70s.)

• There is such a thing as coronavirus machismo. I know that’s a weird phrase. I mean a proud, devil-may-care attitude toward the problem. Consider an article in the New York Times, “Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too.” I will quote from it:

After Marybeth Davis Baggett, a professor, wrote an open letter asking the university’s board of trustees to close the campus, Mr. Falwell mocked her on Twitter as “the ‘Baggett’ lady.”

Jeff Brittain, a Liberty parent, wrote on Twitter: “I’m as right wing as they get, bud. But as a parent of three of your students, I think this is crazy, irresponsible and seems like a money grab.” Mr. Falwell replied, calling him a “dummy.”

“Mr. Falwell” would be Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University. See what I mean about machismo?

Someone pointed out on Twitter that President Falwell seems to have adopted the name-calling style of President Trump: “the ‘Baggett’ lady.”

One more thing: That parent felt the need to preface his criticism with, “I’m as right wing as they get, buddy.” Fascinating — the occasion for an essay, but I’m skipping along . . .

• Last week, Kevin Williamson wrote a column headed “The Prius Party and the F-150 Party.” Marvelous column, of course. A Toyota Prius is supposed to be the vehicle of a lefty; a Ford F-150 (a pickup) is supposed to be the vehicle of a righty.

Kevin’s point, or one of them, is that a product should not necessarily serve as a political totem. A product has merit in itself (or not).

By the way, the first vehicle I ever owned was an F-150 — an old one, in the late 1980s. I didn’t own it, exactly. It was made available for my use by my dad. Thank heaven, and thank him, because it did me a world of good.

I’ll share with you what I said to Kevin, after I read his column. One of the things I disliked about the Left, when I was coming of age, was their politicization of everything: food, music, clothes. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a car or truck is . . . just a car or truck.

A few years ago, some of my fellow righties were “dunking on” avocado toast, which was supposed to be the food-choice of lefties. I thought — or maybe even said — “You know? If you like avocado toast, great, and if you don’t, also great. Does everything have to be freighted with political significance?”

Apart from everything else, the politicization of everything is just so boring.

• Álvaro Vargas Llosa, the libertarian, or classical-liberal, intellectual and writer, tweeted out a photo on the occasion of his father’s 84th birthday. His father is Mario Vargas Llosa, the great novelist and all-around writer. The photo shows father and son, together.

I made several comments, the last of which was, “The Vargas Llosas have so much HAIR.” Álvaro responded, “Thanks, Jay. Just imagine how much hair we’ll have by the time the quarantine ends (assuming, of course, it will end at some point).”

Frankly, I’m getting pretty shaggy my own bad self (though not as splendidly as the Vargas Llosas).

• Something in a tweet by Meghan McCain struck a chord in me. She wrote, “So many people commenting they hope pregnancy ‘softens me’ makes me beyond depressed for how we view strong, tough, empowered women. Also, I’m 35, I am who I am and I like it that way.”

Over the years, I’ve received plenty of criticism. Some of it has been good (I guess). But, frankly, most of it has boiled down to this: “Be like me. Write about what I would write about. Write about it in the way I would. Don’t be like you, be like me.”

Well, nuts to that. Vive la différence, and all that jazz.

• The headline read, “Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, Civil Rights Leader and King Aide, Dies at 98.” I will quote from the obit:

Mr. Lowery often recalled the day a police officer jabbed him in the stomach with a nightstick, when he was about 11 years old. Using a racial epithet, the officer said, “Don’t you see a white man coming in the door?”

The sh** people go through. The obit continues,

Mr. Lowery said he ran home to get his father’s gun, but his father took it away and spanked him. When his father complained to the police chief, the chief said there was nothing he could do, explaining, “If I fired him, I’d hire another one that’d do the same damn thing.”

The incident “planted a seed in me,” Mr. Lowery told Emerge magazine in 1998. “It’s a wonder it didn’t make me hate.”

• Care for a little music? The American composer Charles Wuorinen has died at 81. I published a post about him at The New Criterion, here.

• A little language? I had to put a question to Nike the other day — I did so via “chat,” on the Internet. Their end of the conversation began, “Hi! Team Nike here. What are we getting after today?”

I kind of liked it. How about you?

• More music, to end on? Krzysztof Penderecki, the Polish composer, died yesterday. I will write about him in a separate post. But for now, I want to tell you one thing.

Years ago, I was interviewing Lorin Maazel, the late and great conductor. I said — in just this way — “Who are today’s composers worth listening to?” Immediately, he said, “Penderecki.” Then he paused for a long while — thinking, smiling at me (as though to say, “The names aren’t exactly flooding to mind”) — before mentioning anyone else.

That’s high praise, baby.

See you soon, my friends, and thank you so much for joining me. Bless you.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com

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