Impromptus

Ugly thoughts in a beautiful land, &c.

A sunset over Lake Michigan, near the village of Empire, in Leelanau County, Mich. (csterken / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
On racism, the Constitution, Geraldo Rivera, Charles Krauthammer, music, baseball, and more

As you may know, some publications have decided to capitalize “black,” in reference to black people and black culture. (I feel something of a need to throw quotation marks around those last two words: “black culture.”) (Of course, some “black people” can be lighter than some “white people.” America is really screwy like that.)

This is a fashion that comes and goes: the capitalization of “black.” It has come again, and I look forward to its going.

Furthermore, some publications have chosen to capitalize “white” as well. What, pray tell, is “white culture”? Jello salads and frisbee?

I was going to write a nice essay about “black,” “white,” and capital letters, but Daniel J. Hannan beat me to it, splendidly. As I said in a previous Impromptus, “Foreigners, taking jobs away from Americans!” Maybe I should propose a wall, to keep gifted British writers out?

In any case, I would like to issue a few words on this Black/White stuff. Our national unity has come under attack in various ways recently. The bonds of affection are beyond strained. I hope that, sooner or later, Americans will rediscover the old ideal of E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

And capital letters can be just as pernicious as hyphens.

“Black culture”? Okay. But such culture is part and parcel of American culture. The black-American experience is part and parcel of the American experience. As Thomas Sowell once pointed out to me, the average black family in America has been on these shores longer than the average white family.

• The Washington Post ran a story that caught my eye, in part because it dealt with Leelanau County, Michigan, where I once spent some time. Beautiful part of the world, up in the northwest of Michigan (Lower Peninsula).

A man named Tom Eckerle is a member of the Leelanau County Road Commission. “Well, this whole thing is because of them n*****s in Detroit,” he said. By “this whole thing,” he meant the pandemic and the response to it, chiefly mask-wearing, apparently.

I will quote the Post: “The commission chairman, Bob Joyce, immediately rebuked his colleague, but Eckerle, who is White, continued his diatribe.”

Eckerle later spoke to Interlochen Public Radio, saying, “I don’t regret calling it a n*****.” (The word “it” is interesting.) “A n***** is a n***** is a n*****. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

You have seen that the Post said, “Eckerle, who is White” — I think that’s right. I think the capital letter is fitting. Eckerle is White, someone who is conscious of himself as a member of a racial group, set against other racial groups.

How many such people are there? Too many, whatever the number.

• Honestly, I have been aware of more racist incidents in the last five years or so than I was in the previous — 20? Maybe I’m forgetting. Or maybe this relates to the proliferation of media, and the advent of smartphones. Still, it seems clear that racists have come out of the woodwork.

I hope they crawl back in, at some point.

• You have read about President Trump’s executive orders, no doubt. I was struck by a tweet from Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin. I admired him tremendously, when he served in that office.

Walker tweeted,

Congress can’t get it done, so the @POTUS does. This is the sort of thing that will get @realDonaldTrump re-elected in 2020. Voters are tired of the crap in Washington. They want leaders who get things done.

One of the things that always separated lefties from conservatives is that we conservatives respected process. The rule of law. Constitutionalism. The Left was all hot to trot for results. We wanted results, too, of course — but the process was the main thing.

That seemed to go, so quickly. The pull of the tribe is much, much stronger than the attraction of principle.

• In recent years, a lesson has been impressed on me: Our system has all sorts of formal restraints. Written restraints. But self-restraint is necessary, too — self-restraint on the part of our elected officials. We are not completely on constitutional auto-pilot. We need honorable people in office.

Maybe that’s why we call them “Honorable”! Maybe the honorific expresses a hope.

“Art is what you can get away with,” said Andy Warhol. (I learned this from Roger Kimball.) In government, people ask, “What can we get away with?” That’s a bad question. The answer, of course, is, “A lot.”

• Speaking on Meet the Press, Peter Navarro, the president’s aide, said, “The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government.” Huh.

• Navarro also called Trump “the hardest-working president in history.” Since 2016, I’ve noticed something: Trump’s staff and his supporters adopt his way of speaking. It’s not enough for Trump to be a “hard-working president”; he has to be “the hardest-working president in history.” You know what I mean?

It’s not enough for Trump to have a large inaugural crowd. That crowd has to be the largest such crowd in history. You know?

• Republicans want a candidate who talks rough and tough. They certainly have one in Donald Trump. “He’s following the radical-Left agenda,” said Trump of Joe Biden. “Take away your guns, destroy our Second Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God.”

Whoa, mama. Strong enough for you?

In a tweet, the president said that his opponent would “Abolish the American Way of Life. No one will be SAFE in Joe Biden’s America!”

Obviously, this revs up “the base” like no one’s business. But will it be helpful to Trump’s cause overall?

• I’ve known Geraldo Rivera for a long time. I mean, I’ve never met him personally, but he’s been on television my whole life. I have never known him as a Republican ideologue, commissar, or enforcer. But check out this tweet from him:

There are reasons to vote against @realDonaldTrump. If he loses though, I’ll blame Republican traitors.

“Traitors.” In America, we can vote independently, and we can vote our conscience. An American does not have to pledge loyalty to a party or to a man. And if he votes the way he sees fit, he is not a “traitor.”

This is Communist talk, not American talk. What a bewildering time we live in — and an un-American time, to a degree.

• Have a look at this headline in Reason magazine: “A high school sophomore tried to sell Mexican street corn so he could buy clothes for school. The government says he owes $1,415 in permit fees.” The story is here. Its subheading is the following: “‘I just wanted to help out my community and family,’ said Miguel Lozano.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of thing that makes my Hayekian blood boil.

• In Belarus, the dictator Lukashenko has won the latest presidential election with 80 percent of the vote or so. Do you remember Charles Krauthammer’s “Tirana Index”? Tirana is the capital of Albania, as you know. The dictator Hoxha used to rack up big numbers: like in the high 90s. Krauthammer said, in essence, “The higher your percentage of the vote, the more tyrannical you are.”

Papa Doc (Haiti) and Saddam Hussein (Iraq) were known to get 100 percent. That’s winning, y’all. (I write about this in a book, Children of Monsters.)

• It’s obnoxious to talk of one’s books, but — John Hume figures in my Peace, They Say, as why wouldn’t he? He won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the book is a history of that prize. Hume won in 1998, for the Good Friday Agreement: the accord that (knock on wood) seems to have ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland, once and for all.

Hume won with another Northern Irishman, David Trimble. A fitting award, in my view. John Hume died last week. For his obit in the New York Times, go here. And I would like to give you a little swatch of Peace, They Say:

Hume was a Catholic and nationalist — but a reform-minded, democratic, and peaceable nationalist. The description usually applied to him was “moderate nationalist.” He was the leader of the SDLP, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Urging work for peace instead of the old enmity and strife, he would tell schoolchildren, “We must spill our sweat together, not our blood.” Trimble, a Protestant, was the leader of the UUP, the Ulster Unionist Party. He had no tolerance of extremists and killers, wherever they came from, but he was ready to deal when a deal was to be had. Both Hume and Trimble were despised by extremists: seen as compromised, because compromising.

• A dose of music? Here’s a post at The New Criterion. The opening reads,

In the music world, presenting organizations are doing what they can to satisfy their customers, and to keep themselves afloat. Those are good and lofty goals. To this end — or these ends — the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is offering “Summer Evenings,” online.

At the end, I have a sentence or two about arts philanthropy:

Of course, the whole world is rocked. The arts may seem the least of our concerns. Still, this little corner of the world is important.

• Are you glad baseball is back? Even in strange, altered form? One of the great things about this sport is that it’s chockfull of amazing facts and stats. I noted the following in an obit of Horace Clarke (“Standout in a Dismal Yankee Era”):

A pesky switch-hitter, Clarke broke up three potential no-hitters during the 1970 season, all in the ninth inning, with singles off Jim Rooker, Sonny Siebert and the knuckleballer Joe Niekro — and all, remarkably, within one month.

Thanks for joining me today, my friends, and I’ll see you soon.

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

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