The Corner


Views of America

Standing on a balcony and ‘flight testing’ some confetti ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York City, December 29, 2020 (Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

As National Review readers will not have to be told, Big White Ghetto is an amazing book. It is Kevin D. Williamson’s latest. I’ve written about the book today, here. Kevin’s subtitle? “Dead Broke, Stone-Cold Stupid, and High on Rage in the Dank Woolly Wilds of the ‘Real America.’”

Allow me to paste the last bit of my piece:

In some circles, Kevin is known as a tough nut, casting a cold eye on America’s problems, especially its social pathologies. He does not talk in the fuzzy, euphemistic, deflective language of politicians and political types.

A cold eye, yes, or a clear one, I would say — but not a cold heart. The dirty little secret, I think, is an open secret: He writes from love. Otherwise, he would not bother to visit forlorn pockets of our country, engage with the people there, and write about it all.

Mark Helprin loves Dante and his comedy, and he says that a line from the comedy explains every book that he (Mark) has ever written: “Amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare.” “Love moved me, and made me speak.” So it is, I’d bet my bottom dollar, with my friend Kevin Williamson.

Time for some mail? I’d like to publish three pieces of mail, one of which cites Kevin. I’ll save it for last.

First, a reader responds to something I had in a post like week. In that post, I wrote,

Back in the days of the War on Crime, we had an expression: “scared straight.” There was a famous documentary using those words as its title (1978). Perhaps the recent violence will scare some Americans straight. I especially think of young people who have been seduced by illiberal politics. The young are always vulnerable to such things.

Our reader writes,

Perhaps, but I suspect not. If you were at all inclined this way, yesterday [January 6] probably thrilled you. Yes, violence can be repellent. But violence can also be intoxicating.

Good, good point.

A while back, I had an essay on “conservative” and its meaning: “‘Conservative’: A Term Up for Grabs.” A reader and friend writes,

Jay! Thank you! I discovered that I am a Popeye conservative, by which I mean: “I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam!”

Ha, me too, Judy.

Last week, I published an Impromptus column — “Bubblicious, &c.“ — that touched on an old theme: grievance against cities. A reader responds with his typical wisdom and eloquence:

The kind of anti-city, anti-theater sentiment you mention in your most recent makes me sad. I’m a country boy. I love quail hunting, fishing, a good cup of Scotch around a fire after all the hunters come in from the stands when it gets dark. I grew up helping out on one grandfather’s ranch and on the other grandfather’s farm. My wife probably owns more cowboy boots than tennis shoes. I love being able to see so many stars, so far away from the light pollution of even small towns.

But I also love the city. I can get a couple hot dogs or a slice in Brooklyn at 2 in the morning if I want to. There’s always a bar or dance club open if you know where to look. I can pay less than 40 bucks and literally ride the trains 24/7 for a week if I want to. I can go see names of men I knew in stone at two enormous holes in Manhattan. And I’m sorry, but my favorite bands don’t often get to small towns in rural states.

Why is it suddenly verboten to love both? I don’t get it. Kevin Williamson has articulated a few times recently what I’ve been noting with alarm the last few years: All of a sudden, if you’re to the right of Noam Chomsky, it’s like it’s mandatory to hate urban areas and people. I don’t get it — and we better get over it quickly.

Not just the U.S. but the entire world is urbanizing extremely rapidly. People in cities deserve good conservative governance just like people elsewhere. And dammit, our major cities are how the rest of the world sees us. People in France or Namibia or Peru don’t think of America and envision tiny farm towns. They think of NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami . . . and we lose out on speaking to those citizens of the world if we cede all of those to the Left.

We better get our act together on this. Cities are too important to piss away out of some weird urge to do culture-warrior LARP.

Thank you to all.


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