The Corner

Impromptus

Slices of Life

Sheep grazing at Avington Park Golf Course in Avington, England, on May 1, 2020. Workers were furloughed after the outbreak of COVID-19, so sheep were used to maintain the grass. (Peter Cziborra / Reuters)

Impromptus today has a variety of items, as is the column’s writ. But it begins with a matter I regard as very important. In my view, there are two lies on the American right that must be uprooted, if we are to be healthy again: the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen; and the lie that the violence at the Capitol on January 6 was committed by left-wing groups, rather than Trump loyalists.

When I say “be healthy again,” I’m not talking about winning elections. I’m not talking about popularity. Hell, the GOP has about half the country now. I’m talking about something more like moral health, or integrity.

GOP official after GOP official is saying that January 6 was a “false-flag operation,” carried out by Antifa et al. This is delusional. It is also very widely believed, among the Republican faithful. And what about the lie that the 2020 election was stolen? Josh Mandel is the first Republican out of the gates in Ohio, running for the Senate seat that Rob Portman is vacating. Yesterday, Mandel said, “I think, when we look back on this election, we’ll see in large part that it was stolen from President Trump.”

I wonder whether fidelity to this lie will be the price of winning a Republican nomination, in the coming years.

Also in Impromptus I have notes on defamation suits, Poland, the Super Bowl, George Shultz, etc.

From the mailbag, I would like to publish two letters, one responding to a column last week. A longtime reader and correspondent writes,

Jay,

My background is a complicated one: My dad is from rural North Dakota, and my mother is from semi-rural Alaska (her family was part of an FDR colony program and moved to Alaska in the ’30s). I come from a background of people who farmed, fished, mined, ran small businesses, and worked hard. One grandmother had a degree from Berkeley, another was a postmaster in a town of 50 people and ran a store.

Me, I grew up with parents who ran a family farm, sold real estate, and homeschooled my siblings and me. When times were good, we owned a small plane, and when times were not so good, we raised and butchered chickens to sell. At 13, I would drive tractors most of the summer to help.

I have received scorn from “city kids” who thought I was a hick and also from “country kids” who thought I was too uppity because I devoured books and liked learning. A college friend said that, when he met me, he thought I was some sort of hick until I started talking about quantum theory.

Having gotten both ends of the stick, I can understand populist upset at scorn from “elites.” At the same time, I’ve seen people who are discouraged from learning or bettering themselves because “it was good enough for your folks, so it’s good enough for you.”

I do what I enjoy. Sometimes that’s starting a compost pile in the backyard or replacing the transmission on the 20-year-old vehicles I choose to drive. Other times it might be that hunting safari in Africa with my siblings and father (I guess that is old-school elite?) or visiting the Getty in L.A.

Of all the writing in the world, I think the writing I’m most drawn to is the autobiographical. Talk about “write what you know.”

The other week, I had an article about golf, to which I’ve returned, after a long lay-off, in this time of pandemic. (Last year was a boom year for golf — the biggest year since 1997, when Tiger Woods won the Masters for the first time.) I received a note from Jerry Horton.

In 2017, I wrote about Jerry and Judy Horton’s Down Home Ranch, in Texas. It is a place where disabled adults can live and work alongside the “abled.” I wrote about the ranch in two parts, here and here.

Anyway, Jerry’s note:

Jay,

My dad was a union carpenter, so as a kid it was feast or famine. More of the latter. Pal Wes and I would grind our bikes up Alum Rock Avenue a couple of miles — it was steep — and then fly back down.

About halfway there we’d stop and sneak up to the clubhouse at San Jose Country Club to partake of something that existed only there (we thought): a fountain with cold, chilled water! One day, some guy comes to us — damn, busted! — and asks, “Do you guys know how to caddy?” You bet we did, lying, of course.

So we learned golf and on Mondays could play all we wanted for free.

I quit in grad school and didn’t play for 30 years. We’d hired a local guy to build the first resident homes at Down Home Ranch and he asked me to play with his church buddies. “What church?” It was the Family Worship Center and I told J.P. that I knew what he was up to: “You Baptists just want to get a simple Catholic boy like me out on a golf course and get me saved — but I don’t wanna get saved.”

He laughed me off and I took up the game again.

Judy is a devotee of St. Benedict so I learn a lot about the old recluse and how he pushed his brothers in the pursuit of virtue, especially humility. When I leave for a round of golf I remind my bride that I’m off to get another dose of that difficult virtue.

Ha, amen.

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