Impromptus

Lennonisms, &c.

Sean Lennon at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2014 (Danny Moloshok / Reuters)
On John, Sean, ‘warmongers,’ the ‘radios,’ English, a photo, and more

The Lennons came into my life, unexpectedly, and in different ways. What in the world am I talking about? I will explain. On Wednesday, I saw an extraordinary tweet written by Sean Ono Lennon — son of John and Yoko. He wrote,

Those who want to see everything through a lens of race and class, judging individuals based on immutable characteristics, pretend to be fighting the very thing they are enacting. And none of us wish to speak up because we have been bullied into silence. Anyway how was your day?

Holy smokes. I guess I am now a Lennonist. (I have never been much of a Marxist, not quite cottoning to the humor of those very talented brothers.)

Yesterday morning, Ben Shapiro circulated this article, from the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Music. The title of the article: “Why it might be time to finally replace ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ with a new national anthem.”

The writer quotes an activist and journalist named Kevin Powell, who suggests that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be replaced by “Imagine,” the John Lennon song. Powell called it “the most beautiful, unifying, all-people, all-backgrounds-together kind of song you could have.”

I of course thought of William F. Buckley Jr. and a classic column of his, written in 1990. Enjoy it here. And I will quote a sentence: “Now I do not know the melody of ‘Imagine,’ but I have the lyrics in front of me, and what it amounts to is a kind of Bible, as written by the sorcerer’s apprentice.”

• My whole life, I have heard one cry from the Left: “racist,” of course, but now I am thinking of “warmonger.” Ronald Reagan was called a “warmonger” every single day. When he ran for president in 1980, I was a junior in high school, and some of the kids referred to him as “Ronald Ray-Gun.”

(Three years later, his missile-defense initiative would be derided as “Star Wars.”)

John Bolton is an old Reaganite, and indeed Goldwaterite. On Election Day 1964, when he was 15, he got permission to be absent from school, in order to pass out leaflets for Goldwater.

One of the candidate’s concepts was “peace through strength.” Goldwater didn’t make it, but Reagan did, carrying that concept to the White House.

I am going down Memory Lane because of a statement from the Republican National Committee. On Twitter, the RNC denounced Bolton as a “warmonger.” This has always been the denunciation of the Left. Now it is the denunciation of the GOP, officially.

A young colleague of mine, Jimmy Quinn, forwarded me an article about Eliot Engel in Jacobin. Engel is a veteran Democratic congressman from New York who has just been defeated in a primary; Jacobin is a leftist magazine. The magazine called Engel “a longtime and steadfast warmonger.”

Thus do Left and Right come together, using the same language. On Twitter, I decried this new reality in our politics, and a writer for The American Conservative magazine commented, “it’s like the only good thing going on.”

That is where we are.

I further think of what Patrick J. Buchanan told Tim Alberta, in Politico, at the beginning of the Trump presidency. (Buchanan, remember, ran for president a couple of times himself.) “The ideas made it,” said PJB, “but I didn’t.”

The ideas made it indeed.

• Diamond & Silk, the Trumpite media duo, appeared at the president’s recent rally in Tulsa. “Donald Trump is not a racist,” they said, “he’s a realist. The only color he sees is green — and he wants you to have some of it.”

I thought of what Larry Holmes said about Don King. Holmes, you remember, was heavyweight champion, and King was a promoter (and con man) (and friend of Trump’s). Said Holmes of King: “He looks black, lives white, and thinks green.”

• Take a look at this offering from RFE/RL — “Now that’s higher education.” Yup. The story concerns a Pakistani college student whose classes have been forced online — whose haven’t? — and who must climb mountains to get an Internet connection.

Ain’t no mountain high enough;
Ain’t no valley low enough;
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from gettin’ to you, babe.

“RFE/RL” is a combo of “Radio Free Europe” and “Radio Liberty.” As readers may know, I value this organization highly, as do so many around the world. I wrote about it two years ago, here. I also value the other “radios”: including Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. They are jewels in the American crown, doing a ton of good for not very much dough.

Until the other day, Jamie Fly headed RFE/RL; Libby Liu headed RFA; and Alberto Fernandez headed MBN. (He is a Cuban American who became an Arabist.) I admire them all highly. And suddenly they are all gone, in what seems a great Bannonite brooming.

Nervous times.

One more story, please, from RFE/RL — which says that Russian schools are getting a new surveillance system called, honest to goodness, “Orwell.” Read about it here.

• My friend and colleague David French wrote a piece that explains important things. Published in Time magazine, it’s titled “Bolton’s Book Won’t Make a Difference in Trumpland.”

David notes that the president’s supporters “hold tight to him in spite of the fact that he routinely engages in behavior that they’d condemn in any other politician.” David continues,

Gallons and gallons of ink have been spilled explaining this phenomenon, and all the popular theories have some merit. Yes, he fights the media and the Democrats, and GOP base voters will tell you that they long for a “fighter.” Yes, there’s a transactional element to some of his support. So long as he nominates good judges and grants his base the political victories they want, he gets a pass on his personal behavior. But to this day, I think journalists gloss over a separate, important reality — his voters simply don’t believe many of the facts about Trump’s conduct.

That is so true. I have witnessed it in my own, personal experience, over and over (as has David).

Think back to the impeachment trial in the Senate. Lamar Alexander said, in essence, We don’t need any more evidence or any more testimony. Everyone knows the president is guilty of what he’s been charged with. We just don’t think it merits removal from office. Some of my colleagues said, Yes, yes — well put.

But the thing is, they knew he was guilty. Millions upon millions did not — because they never heard or read anything that told them so. On the contrary. It was “hoax” this, “Deep State” that.

Again, David French has written an important and gratifying piece.

• A tweet from Richard Samuelson:

@jaynordlinger A little language. NY Times in the 1619 libel speaks of “The abolishment of slavery,” as opposed to “the abolition of slavery.” I correct my students. Has the linguistic convention changed?

My answer:

Two good English words. I myself prefer “abolition.” But I love the bigness of our language, its protean nature. We are “spoiled for choice,” as the Brits say. We are showered with options. It’s really a pleasure to express oneself in this language.

Two days later, someone circulated a cartoon. It shows Noah in his ark (apparently). A penguin is labeled “Latin.” A rabbit is labeled “French.” An elephant is labeled “German.” A lobster is labeled “Greek.” An octopus is labeled “Norse.”

Standing apart from this menagerie is a strange-looking animal, combining elements of the other animals: a trunk, a claw, etc. Noah points at it and says, “What the hell is this?” The strange, hybrid animal is labeled “English.”

That’s one of the things I so love about our language (and about America, by the way).

• The New York Times obituarized Shirley Siegel, “Leading New York Civil Rights Lawyer,” who died at 101. Allow me to excerpt:

After graduating fourth in a class of 125 from Yale Law School in 1941 — her classmates included a future president, Gerald R. Ford; a future Supreme Court justice, Potter Stewart; and the future founding director of the Peace Corps, R. Sargent Shriver — 40 law firms rejected her job application, despite an unsolicited endorsement from Arthur L. Corbin, a Yale professor.

“Anyone who employs her in legal work will have reason to be thankful to us,” Professor Corbin wrote. “And she needs help to get a starting job, first because she is a girl, and second because she is Jewish. There is no reason for the slightest hesitation on either ground.”

I love that. (Never mind the dangling participle in the first paragraph, or first sentence.)

• In the Associated Press, the headline read, “Plastic keeps virus, not love away from Spain nursing home.” Will you get a load of the photo? (Here.) Snapped by Emilio Morenatti, it’s an all-timer.

See you, my friends.

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

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