There are too many names to know about and remember in this crowded world, but I hope I can hang on to “Rami Aman” for a while. He has been in the news lately. And he is in custody, in the Gaza Strip. You don’t want to be held in Gaza, if you can possibly help it. Rami Aman is in the hands of Hamas.
He is a peace activist, the leader of a group called “the Gaza Youth Committee.” For five years, the group has had video chats with Israeli counterparts. The participants speak in English. Their chats have gone under the playful name “Skype with Your Enemy.”
You may read about this in the New York Times, here.
On April 6, there was a chat, not on Skype, but on Zoom. More than 200 people took part, more than had ever taken part before.
Palestinians and Israelis talked about all manner of things: What’s life like on the other side? What are you doing in social isolation? What are the possibilities for future peace?
Not everyone was thrilled about this conversation. As the Times reports,
[Rami Aman] came in for vituperative criticism online, and early Thursday morning, a freelance Gaza journalist, Hind Khoudary, posted angry denunciations on Facebook of Mr. Aman and others on the call, tagging three Hamas officials, . . . to ensure it got their attention.
Oh, it did. Hamas promptly arrested Aman and others. Their crime? “Holding a normalization activity.”
I want to make it a point to remember at least Rami Aman’s name — there are other arrestees too, of course — and to remember that there are brave and heroic souls among the Palestinians, as among all peoples.
One more thing: Conservatives like me often mock peace activists. Often, they are mockable. But there are some really good and gutsy ones among them, all over the world. I have met a few. More than a few. Impressive.
• Cordell Hull has been on my mind. Strange, I know. Hull, you recall, was the Tennessean who served as FDR’s secretary of state. He held that position for almost the whole of that long presidency. In 1945, Hull won the Nobel Peace Prize, chiefly for fathering the United Nations, which would succeed the tattered League.
A few weeks ago, David Frum published a remarkable piece called “The Coronavirus Is Demonstrating the Value of Globalization.” The subheading: “We are experiencing a painful introduction to anti-globalism and its consequences.”
David quotes Hull, who, in the summer of 1942, said the following: “Nationalism, run riot between the last war and this war, defeated all attempts to carry out indispensable measures of international economic and political action, encouraged and facilitated the rise of dictators, and drove the world straight toward the present war.”
David then writes,
Hull was 70 when he spoke those words — old by the standards of his time. Some of the younger New Dealers dismissed him as an anachronism. His ideas about free trade, they said, should be consigned to the dead past, not the exciting new future of national planning and state control. The old man was right, though, and the bright young New Dealers were wrong. Hull’s memory of how things had been proved the opposite of reactionary. Adapted to the new conditions of the postwar world, the old ideas delivered even more abundant prosperity and an even more secure peace than they had before.
We need Cordell Hulls for our time.
Hear, hear. As I read David’s piece, I was reminded of Hull’s peace prize, which I wrote about in a 2012 book, Peace, They Say. That’s a history of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I would like to quote a paragraph from the book:
Giving the presentation speeches in 1945 was a new committee chairman, Gunnar Jahn — an economist of the Liberal party, a Resistance leader during the war.
Let me interrupt to say that we’re talking about Norway, in whose hands Alfred Nobel placed the peace prize. (The other prizes were to be handled in Sweden, Nobel’s native country). Okay, let’s continue:
In his speech for Hull, [Jahn] cited and praised the laureate’s fathering of the U.N., of course. But he spoke about much more than that. Hull had evidently not received the Nobel prize for the U.N. alone. Jahn spent some time on Hull’s career-long devotion to lower tariffs and free trade, hailing him as “representative of all that is best in liberalism, a liberalism with a strong social implication.” He also made a point of Hull’s opposition to isolationism in foreign policy.
Names come and go. Cordell Hull’s was a very, very big one, for many years. But now . . . faded out almost entirely. I have enjoyed getting reacquainted with him a bit.
• Let me recommend an interview with David French, late of National Review, published in Reason magazine. It is superb — because of David, of course, but also because of Stephanie Slade, his interviewer, who asks probing questions. The interview is like a Back to Basics, politically speaking. And we have sore need of those basics today, I think.
The Right is splintered, with the word “conservative” all but meaningless. Some people call themselves “common-good conservatives.” David says, “I tend to think that liberty has independent value. . . . I think the protection of liberty is a common good.” So do I.
“Common good” sounds good, doesn’t it? But beware: It usually boils down to “Do it my way. Not yours, mine.” People are always trying to bring others to heel — ever and always, from myriad angles.
Anyway . . .
• People like me talk about “the media.” “The media” this, “the media” that. My recommendation is: Don’t let us get away with it, too much. There are many writers, many talkers, many outlets in these United States. There are even many writers and many talkers within individual outlets. Usually, when we say “the media,” we mean writers and talkers and outlets we don’t like. Almost no one uses “the media” positively.
When one of us says “the media,” you may want to ask, “Whaddayou mean? Did some article or column or ‘cable hit’ tick you off?” (The answer is probably yes.)
• At his press briefing on Tuesday evening, President Trump threatened to walk out. He threatened to leave his own briefing, because he didn’t like a reporter’s questioning. “Keep talking and I’ll leave,” he said.
I was reminded of Harold Pinter. My friend and colleague David Pryce-Jones made Pinter leave his own dinner table one night. And get this: David wasn’t even there. A guest mentioned P-J favorably, and Pinter was so affronted, he left his own table, in a snit.
• I was watching Lucrezia, who gives Italian lessons on YouTube. The particular lesson involved the phrase “Grazie tante,” which means “Thanks a lot,” sarcastically. (Or “Thanks for nothin’.”)
You might say to your older brother or sister, “Hey, would you help me with my homework?” He says, “Nope, I’m playing a video game.” You might say — if you were Italian — “Grazie tante, eh?”
I was reminded of Robert Bork — who was talking about the difference between classroom discipline now and classroom discipline then. When he was in school — high school, I think — he was sent to the principal’s office simply for saying “Thanks a lot” in a sarcastic tone of voice.
I approve. (Of Bob’s being sent to the office, I mean.) (I think he approved too, later.)
• This obit is headed “Bruce Baillie, ‘Essential’ Avant-Garde Filmmaker, Dies at 88.” Interesting life, interestingly written up. The obit ends, “Mr. Baillie lived his Zen.” I’m not sure what that means, but I like it, a lot.
• I also like this TV-news report from Long Island. It tells a story of innovative help in this time of pandemic. A text accompanying the video says, “You’ve probably heard of people making and donating masks because of the shortage during the COVID-19 crisis. But volunteers in the East End are putting together face shields.”
At the end of the video, my glorious nephew Drew appears. (Just sayin’.)
• Speaking of glorious kids, though this one’s much younger: Check out a video, in which a little boy is asked by his father, “Did you kick your brother in the head?” What ensues is just marvelous. Should win some kind of award, for short film or something.
My favorite part, I think, is when the dad says, “So do you say you’re innocent?” The boy, after thinking it over, says, “Half.”
• Here is another video, from a group called “New York City Relief.” This is a group that aids the homeless. Furthermore, there is a project called “Commissions4Covid,” in which Wall Street firms partner with such groups as New York City Relief.
I will quote from a press release: “Financial services professionals are pledging their salaries and trading commissions on Friday, April 17, 2020 to COVID-19 relief organizations.”
Lotta good going on in our country, and throughout the world, as civil society kicks into gear.
• An amazing photo, over an article in the Boston Globe, here. The article’s headline: “Separated by coronavirus, 88-year-old Watertown man uses bucket truck to see wife at nursing home.” The faithful husband commented, “They could have lifted me ten stories, and it would not have bothered me. As long as I got to see her.”
Talk to you soon, everyone. Thanks.
If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to email@example.com.