NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A week ago, I had a column in which I asked, “What is manliness?” This is a question that recurs, I said, especially on the right. People are always trying to out-macho one another. They flex their muscles, especially at the keyboard.
Eons ago, there was a Saturday Night Live skit — a game show: “Quién es más macho?” Who is more macho? Politics on the right can seem like an endless round of that game.
Early in the Trump administration, an adviser to the president, Sebastian Gorka, said, “The alpha males are back.” And last year, Trump himself said:
“I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
Several days ago, Gorka had a column headed “General Mattis Has Betrayed the Marines and America.” Its subheading was “Yes, Mattis is wrong. But more than that, he is a moral coward.” The author wrote, “I’m not a Marine, but I know the Marines.” And “Jim Mattis is no Marine.”
For his part, the president retweeted these views enthusiastically, adding, “Mattis was our Country’s most overrated General. He talked a lot, but never ‘brought home the bacon.’ He was terrible!”
An hour before, Trump jotted another tweet, which went like this:
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
The president was spreading a conspiracy theory, learned from the TV network he cited — OANN — and, specifically, its correspondent Kristian Rouz, who is a veteran Russian propagandist. To read a story about this, go here.
When I was coming of age, the Kremlin engaged in propaganda, and our Left amplified it. The Kremlin is still at it, of course, but it is now our Right that does the amplifying, which, for me, is a really weird switcheroo.
Think of the line that President Trump pushed about foreign interference in our 2016 election: Ukraine, not Russia.
Writing on Twitter myself, I said, “Do Americans want a president who thinks and talks like this? Somewhere north of 40 percent do.” I also wondered whether a fall campaign was even necessary. “Is there anyone who doesn’t have his mind made up?”
There probably is. In fact, there must be — some people think about politics barely at all, which could be good for one’s mental health.
Anyway, one of my antagonists, with “MAGA” in his bio, wrote, “It may be that just about everyone you know is more effete than 90 percent of America.” And that got me to thinking about my old friend Bill Buckley.
Throughout his career, he was called “effete,” by the seething, resentful Left and the seething, resentful Right. He was also called “cosmopolitan,” “elitist,” and much, much worse. But I can tell you, from close acquaintance with the man: He was not effete. Rather, he was civilized, and decent, and upright — a real man, I would say.
I recommend a 2006 book by the great Harvard scholar Harvey Mansfield, Manliness.
• Can I give you an example of a real woman? Feby Dela Peña is not a celebrity, but I’m so glad I know about her, courtesy of the Associated Press and Aya Batrawy.
The first two paragraphs of Batrawy’s report:
Feby Dela Peña saw her fellow Filipinos standing in line outside her building in Dubai, waiting for free food. And she was stricken — what if her family, too, had lost their income amid the COVID-19 outbreak? How would she have fed her three children?
Dela Peña is unemployed. “We’re poor, to be honest,” she said. “But it’s not a reason for me not to help, you know?”
Two more paragraphs:
So the next day, she pulled out the money that was supposed to feed her family of five for a month. When their 11 housemates got wind of her plan — like most migrant workers in Dubai, the family lives in a shared apartment — those who could chipped in as well.
She was able to buy about 500 dirhams, or $136, worth of groceries, including 30 frozen chickens and sacks of rice. And she began to cook.
One striking thing about this report is the photo above it: showing Feby Dela Peña outdoors, sitting at a table, wearing a mask, with a sign saying Free!!! Food for Everyone.
Again, what a woman, what a woman.
• I think a lot of Tony Dungy, too. He coached in the NFL for many years. Recently, he was asked about Drew Brees, who caught hell for his position on kneeling during the national anthem. Brees is a famous quarterback, and he is against kneeling, strongly.
In the midst of this hell, he apologized for his position, as is common these days (and maybe all days).
On a talk show, Dungy was asked about the matter. He carries a good deal of moral authority, you might say, as he is the first black coach ever to win a Super Bowl. And he is a prince of a human being, from all we know about him.
Dungy said he disagreed with Brees but would not “downgrade” him. (Wonderful word.) “He can’t be afraid to say that” — i.e., to state his opinion — “and we can’t be afraid to say, ‘Okay, Drew, I don’t agree with you, but let’s talk about this.’”
(To read a news account, go here.)
When I saw Dungy’s remarks, I had a bitter thought: I’m not sure America deserves someone so noble and sane as Tony Dungy, in this nasty age of ours . . .
• A paragraph by Jonathan V. Last — in this column — provoked a thought in me. The paragraph:
So yes, the man who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck is the problem. But so are the officers who stood there and did nothing about it. And so are the officers at HQ who pushed out a story they should have known was untrue. And so was the medical examiner who came up with a ridiculous cover-story in order to alibi the cops.
My thought: I’m for all the reforms necessary, all the reforms that are wise and promising. But, in the end, is there any substitute for character? Individual character?
• I like something Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, said. I’m pretty sure I’ve never written that sentence. I probably won’t again. In any case, de Blasio was reacting to the cry to “defund the police.” He said, “I do not believe it’s a good idea to reduce the budget of the agency that’s here to keep us safe.”
• It looks like we will have our first QAnon member of Congress — at least our first openly QAnon one. The Republican senatorial nominee in Oregon, a Q-er, will almost certainly not win. But apparently a GOP House candidate in Georgia will. Check it out.
Mainstream City, baby.
• A few days ago, a friend and I were speculating, “What would have happened in the NBA, if the 2019–20 season had been allowed to play out properly? Would LeBron and the Lakers have crested, to win the championship?” LeBron had a real opportunity in 2019–20. It may not come back.
In recent days, I read the obituary of Kurt Thomas — “Trailblazing Champion Gymnast,” said the headline in the New York Times. Here was the Times’s subheading: “The first American to win a world championship in men’s gymnastics, he captured many medals but missed out on his best chance to take Olympic gold.”
That was in 1980, in Moscow, when the U.S. boycotted the Games.
I supported that boycott. (I was in tenth grade.) I remember seeing Nixon on television, supporting President Carter’s decision. After the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan, said the ex-president, “you can’t just go over there and high-jump with them.”
I’ll never forget Nixon’s wording — wonderful.
Still, I feel for the individuals — individuals such as Kurt Thomas. An agony, for them.
• Care for some music? I have a blogpost about a new rag, composed by Scott Wheeler. (Thinking of Joplin, a colleague of mine said, “What is it about Scotts and rags?”)
• On Twitter, I wrote, “If I were clever, I’d make a parody video, using Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It.’ Trump would sing, ‘Tweet it. Just tweet it. . . .’” A tweeter responded, “One imagines you’d also choose a song from this century.”
• A little language? A friend of mine from India used a phrase in an e-mail the other day: “a tearing hurry.” “There’s no tearing hurry,” she said.
Had never heard it, and like it a lot.
• A reader sent me an obit from the Desert Sun, in Palm Springs, Calif., thinking I would like it. He was surely right.
The American Bar Association regrets to announce the passing of Thomas Edwin Dupar Sr. on June 4, 2020. After four marriages that ended in divorce and four bankruptcies, he kept many ABA members gainfully employed. . . .
Asked how he remembered his various anniversary dates, Tom slyly stated, “Married them all on the same day!” . . .
His last words to the attending nurses’ staff were, “Why is this taking so damn long?”
Thanks for joining me, my friends, and have a good weekend.
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