Category Archives: Culture

A Low Dishonest Decade

wh-audenAfter reading today’s paper, I thought of the poem below. I disagree with a few of the sentiments Auden expresses.  But it’s such a great poem.  And we managed to survive and prosper anyway.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

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Israel- An Addition

 

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Yesterday, I wrote about the views of our guide Jackie. I wrote that Jackie did not express his opinion about the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. My wife remembers it differently, and I think she is right.

Jackie stressed throughout our tour that the Jews lived in Israel and the West Bank long before the Arabs. Much of the tour was spent visiting excavation sights and ruins that prove the presence of Jews in Israel that pre-dated the Arabs. Thus, the Jews, he believes, have a greater claim to the area than the Palestinians. I don’t know whether he would be for annexing the West Bank and Gaza, but he does believe that the Israelis have the right to do so.

Israel and London

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Portrait Gallery - ShakespeareHouses of Parliament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently returned from an eighteen day trip to Israel and London. I had been to Israel once before and to London many times. In Israel, we had a guide who drove us around the country, and we stayed in relatively luxurious hotels. In London, we stayed with a friend who lives in a section of London called Islington, a once poor neighborhood that is now being “gentrified” with houses selling for a million pounds or more. In London, we got around by bus and the tube (subway). In Israel, I spoke only with our guide, Jackie; and in London with a few friends. Thus, I had a limited exposure to the political views that dominate each country.

In Israel, I didn’t feel that I was in a country under siege. The markets were packed with lots of food and customers. The same was true of the restaurants. I never had the feeling that I was in danger. Rather I felt that I was in a prosperous, safe country where construction and renovation were widespread.

Jackie, our guide, was reticent about talking politics, so it was, at first, difficult to ascertain his views. As I recall, the first indication of his politics came when we visited the sight in Tel Aviv where Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish religious fanatic. Jackie’s reverence for Rabin was obvious as was, we later discovered, his contempt for Bibi Netanyahu and most other right wing politicians now in power.  He talked about Netanyahu’s greed (Bibi was under investigation for accepting gifts from wealthy supporters) as well as his wife’s reputed addiction to expensive clothes and jewelry. All of Jackie’s distaste for politicians was directed at the conservative party in power, none at the more liberal Labor Party.

Although Jackie was on the left side of Israeli politics, he was quite conservative when it came to what he called “the world.” Extremely gregarious, Jackie made friends with all types of Israelis, including Muslims. Still, he had much disdain for “the world’s” intentions towards Israel. When I brought up the boycott of Israeli products made on the West Bank, he angrily noted how hypocritical this was: “Don’t these people know that thousands of Palestinians lose their jobs when Israeli manufacturers close down?” He also had total contempt for the United Nations, especially UNRA, the U.N Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees. UNRA’s job is to move the many Palestinians currently in refugee camps to other countries like Jordan where the population is 70 percent Palestinian, many of whom are living in refugee camps because Jordan refuses to resettle them. Jackie noted that UNRA has not resettled even one refugee and observed that the United States is the main source of financing for UNRA. Unfortunately, I neglected to ask him what he thought about the expanding Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  Jackie was a politically liberal Israeli and a conservative when it came to “the world” versus Israel. He even supported Donald Trump because he believed that Trump would support Israel, as opposed to Barack Obama. Still, Jackie’s views on domestic issues are obviously those of a minority of Israelis since Bibi has been elected Prime Minister four times, matching David Ben-Gurion’s record.

After a few days in London I began to feel less affection for a city I had loved since my first visit in 1965. Maybe I am getting old, but getting around on the tube was an ordeal. Most times, the train was packed full (One nice thing is that young people always offer their seats to the older riders.). Then there’s the endless walks to other trains or to the exit. The passengers often looked tired and shabby as they gazed at their cell phones or listened to music through their headphones.

Walking around the rich West End, I saw lots of large Mercedes parked outside of  fancy shops. The Mercedes are usually accompanied by large, tough looking chauffeur/body guards. Reputedly, the cars and chauffeurs belong to billionaire Russians. Unfortunately, London isn’t an English city anymore. In a city like New York, such things don’t matter perhaps because all Americans are immigrants, but the English are a people, a race; and they and their culture are being eclipsed by foreigners, many of whom refuse to assimilate. Indeed, they often demand that the English live by their rules. For example, British writer Melanie Phillips cites “a poll conducted by the Guardian newspaper [that] 61 percent of British Muslims wanted to be governed by Islamic law, operating on Sharia principles…A clear majority wanted Islamic law introduced into Britain in civil cases relating to their own community…88 percent wanted to see British schools and workplaces accommodating Muslim prayer time as part of their normal working day.”

As I said, we stayed with a friend who lives in Islington, a once poor, now respectable neighborhood. The new residents are often of the intellectual class. Professors and actors set the tone. It seems that Islington residents depend solely on the far left Guardian for their news along with the almost equally left wing BBC. In Islington no one would read a right of center paper like the Daily Telegraph, or any news source owned by Rupert Murdoch, like Sky News television or The Times. This is different from America where right wingers often read or at least know what’s in the New York Times, and left wingers often read the conservative Wall Street Journal and look occasionally at Fox News. In other words, the British are much more balkanized than Americans when it comes to the news. So for example, I found my Islington friends to be unaware of Palestinian rejection of an extremely generous peace proposal devised by Bill Clinton and accepted by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack. Obviously it wasn’t covered much in the Guardian.

Still, there is obviously a diversity of political views in Britain, for the Conservative Party has governed the country for a number of years. And while those on the left despise the late conservative Margaret Thatcher, others revere her. And in Israel, Jackie is obviously in the minority since Netanyahu has been elected prime minister four times, matching David Ben- Gurion’s record.

Politics aside, we had fun visiting friends in London and experiencing the unique nation of Israel.

My Fifties

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Rosa Parks -The Montgomery Bus Boycott

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Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront

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Phil and Jim’s Hoagie and Steak Sandwich Shop, Parkside, PA.

With all the demonstrations and protests around the country, some observers see a return to the 1960s. In the latest edition of Commentary Magazine in an essay subtitled “The sixties, forever with us,” Joseph Epstein says about the era, “It’s a Rorschach Test: say what you think of the 1960s and you reveal a great deal about yourself.”  I thought I would apply a similar test to myself, but I grew up in the 1950s. What, if anything, do my thoughts about the 50s reveal about me?

Much has been written about the 50s. J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, creates an America full of “phonies,” except for young people, like the main character Holden Caulfield, who was authentic and truthful. Salinger’s novel was prophetic: He predicted the culture of wise, honest young and clueless, phony adults–a world view that would become gospel in the succeeding decades. Journalist David Halberstam’s The Fifties saw the decade as another Dark Age in contrast to the colorful and bright decade that followed.

My 50s were not like the decade described by Salinger and Halberstam. Born in 1943, I grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, and was a part of its small Jewish community.  Our house was in the relatively affluent part of town, which was then mostly working class. We lived in a small house with three bedrooms and one bathroom. We owned one car, so my mother had to drive my father to his business (a men’s clothing store) and then pick him up at the end of the day. As I remember, the multi-car family was a rarity in 1950s Chester.

One great thing about our house is that our backyard looked out on a large park . Running through the park was a long, fairly steep, brick road that was terrific for sledding in snowy weather; it was even better when ice was mixed in with the snow. The park was great for sports. Two kids on the block were the sons of the football and basketball coach at the Pennsylvania Military College (PMC), which is now Widener University. The older of the two organized sports for the block. When major league baseball teams began their spring training, we started ours. The same was true of football season. During the winter, we played basketball at a nearby church. I was a fairly good athlete, mostly as a result of what I learned in the park behind my back yard.

I attended Chester High School, which was then half black and half white. During those years, I never saw arguments or fist fights between any white and black students. I did witness (rarely) fights between members of the same race. Whites and blacks got along well; at least it appeared so. The only “segregation” I saw in high school was at the weekly Saturday dances, where I never saw a black student. There were certainly no rules barring blacks from attending; they simply chose not to for some reason. On the other hand, black and white both came to the proms.

My view of the decade is that it was one of peace, prosperity, and security.  Our politics were based on the Depression and World War II. Since our parents had lived through the Depression, they were very careful about money, so they were frugal, wary of investing in stocks, and they also expected the government to manage the economy responsibly. Unlike the generations of the 60s and later whose politics were shaped by the Vietnam War, our generation’s politics were shaped by the lessons learned from the Second World War: Have a strong military and be prepared to intervene in conflicts involving your enemy before they get out of control. Never seek to appease. It’s always better to have a short, small war than a large, long one. Hence, both political parties during the 50s were united when it came to foreign policy: They both believed in a strong defense and taking a hard line towards communist regimes around the world. It was later, during the 60s and the subsequent decades, that the Democratic Party became the party of pacifism and protest, in large part because of the Vietnam War. Thus began the political polarization we still have today.

Blacks were one group who certainly did not enjoy the 50s, for they still endured segregation and white violence, but even then there were signs of hope: the Montgomery Bus Boycott and President Eisenhower’s sending federal troops to enforce the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. These events were the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Bill that officially ended segregation in the 60s. (Eventually, the Civil Rights Movement was influenced by the Black Power movement and that transformed many blacks I knew to be outwardly friendly and apolitical into angry militants. This, like the war, caused the Democrats to move leftward to the point that many appeared to be anti-American, pro-communist.)

My family, like most Jewish families in Chester in the 50s, registered Republican and voted Democratic. They did so because of the Republican machine that controlled Chester and the rest of Delaware County. It was obviously much better to be registered Republican if you wanted the city government to help you get a job or, if you were self-employed, to promote your economic interests.

As I said, in my view President Eisenhower presided over a peaceful, prosperous country. But my family, like most other Jewish families, didn’t think much of him. Why?  What they said was that he “doesn’t do anything.” There was the joke about Eisenhower being “the golf pro at the White House.” But part of the reason, I am sure, was that Eisenhower was a Republican. My family, again like most Jewish families, revered the Democrat Adlai Stevenson. They felt so strongly about Adlai because he was not only a liberal intellectual but also had, they believed, a sense of humor, though I don’t remember him saying anything memorably funny. When Jack Kennedy began to be discussed as a presidential candidate, the Jews in Chester were not happy for two reasons: He was a Catholic, which meant the pope would really be running the country, and Kennedy’s father was a pro-Nazi, anti-semite (unfortunately true). I also remember that my mother liked Barry Goldwater because he was half-Jewish, which had to mean that he was a liberal!

Yes, there were repugnant aspects of the 50s, like the drunken demagogue Joe McCarthy’s self-serving witch hunt for communists in the State Department and the Army. He never presented any evidence to support his accusations. But the Congressional investigations were based on evidence. What did the people I grew up with think of all that? Some far left-wing Jews in Chester objected to any investigation into communist attempts to subvert various American institutions. And they strongly believed that those convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, like Alger Hiss and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were innocent victims. But most of the Jews I knew in Chester either had no opinion about it or believed Hiss and the Rosenbergs were guilty and felt ashamed that the Rosenbergs were Jewish.

Although the 50s have been considered to be a cultural wasteland, I never thought so. We had the Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Eugene Ormandy, an orchestra that was considered one of the finest in the world. I wasn’t much of a jazz fan at the time, but many consider the 50s to be the golden age of jazz.  Miles Davis recorded his classic album Kind of Blue in the 50s. Some of the greatest movies were made during the 50s. I particularly liked those made by Elia Kazan: On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata, A Face in the Crowd, East of Eden, and America America. In the theater, Kazan directed Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

In the 50s I loved rock ‘n’roll and singers like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The 50s saw some of the best and most influential rock musicians: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Etta James, Ruth Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis. I was never an Elvis fan, though I could see why he appealed to girls. Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald were at their peak in the 50s and recorded their best albums then. Sinatra’s classic albums Songs For Swinging Lovers, A Swinging Affair, and Only The Lonely were recorded in the 50s as were Ella’s great Songbooks. Conventional wisdom is that the 60s produced the best rock music. Today I do listen to Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Randy Newman and Eric Clapton, but not much else from that decade. I also like the Blues, and most of the best blues musicians came up in the 50s.

The 50s were to me the best decade to be alive and growing up. The streets of Chester were for the most part safe. Nobody I knew took drugs.  After Korea, there were no wars in the 50s. Yes, there was the threat of nuclear war, but I don’t remember thinking about it much.

A few years ago, a friend’s father showed me a photo of a meeting of the Chester Businessmen’s Association taken in the 1950s.  I recognized most of the men, and I was shocked to realize that I was older than the men in the picture. Here were serious grownups in serious suits and ties with serious expressions on their faces. I thought, what goofballs we have become in the succeeding decades. The romanticization of youth created by Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye persists to this day. Just last night, at a local delicatessen I noticed that most of the men, from their 40s to their late 80s(!), were dressed like kids with the ubiquitous blue jeans and sneakers. To be fair, I was dressed like a kid as well. Some would point to this as a sign of progress because wearing the kind of clothes that only kids used to wear is more comfortable than wearing a suit and tie. Maybe it is, but I see it as evidence of a juvenilization of adulthood; if you look like an adolescent, you think like an adolescent. I think that the disappearance of real grownups is a major reason that our culture has been so trivialized and corrupted since the 50’s.

My best friend, with whom I had political differences, often said to me that my distaste for the 60s is a result of his belief that I didn’t (in his words) “get laid” during the age of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. That is not quite true: I had two close girlfriends during that time, and I met my wife during the horrible, legendary year of 1968 when both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were murdered and a large contingent of anti-war, pro-North Vietnamese protest marchers provoked what the press called “a police riot” around the site of the Democratic National Convention. I will admit that I probably thought that I wasn’t “getting enough,” but what ordinary male in his twenties doesn’t believe that?  Perhaps someone like Mick Jagger thought that he had had enough when he was in his twenties.

Even though I consider the 50s much superior to the 60s and the decades that followed, that doesn’t mean that I was a happy-go-lucky boy. I felt that I was neither good looking enough nor tall enough. I found it very difficult to talk to girls. My family life wasn’t often harmonious. All of that was very upsetting to me; perhaps much of it still is. Despite that, I still consider the 50s a wonderful decade.

So what does my Rorschach Test reveal about me?  Growing up in Chester in the 50s is probably the reason I tend to be conservative in my politics. I consider most of the changes that occurred in the 60s to have been destructive of traditional Western values like discipline, restraint, morality, and patriotism. It also says to me that it is a mistake to blame your problems on the particular time when you were young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The March Without a Theme

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A 60s March.  My photo.

Looking at pictures of the Women’s March protesting President Donald, I noticed that almost all of the protestors I saw were smiling and looked happy; they were clearly having a great time. I remember the civil rights marches of the 60’s led either by the non-violent Martin Luther King and later the ones led by the pro-violence Black Panthers and the ironically named Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led by first Stokely Carmichael, and then H. Rap Brown, who was famous for uttering the immortal words, “Violence is American as apple pie.” The only faces I saw in those marches were stern and angry; nobody smiled, nobody laughed. This was serious.

During the 1960’s, the golden era of demonstrations and protest marches, when I was on the Left, I marched in protests against the Vietnam War in New York in opposition to Lyndon Johnson (Hey, Hey LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?) and in Washington to protest Nixon’s “incursion” into Cambodia. What I remember most about them is that  everyone had a wonderful time.

Yes, during the Washington march, I saw the police dressed in full riot gear and I even had a whiff of tear gas, but despite that, I had fun. I saw the police arrest a few of the more aggressive marchers, but I am sure that those arrested found the experience thoroughly enjoyable.

One reason these marches were so much fun is they were a great way to meet members of the opposite sex. Many of the younger, unattached male marchers fantasized that all left wing women practiced recreational sex . I am sure that some of the demonstrators found what they were looking for. But even if you were unsuccessful in fulfilling that fantasy, the mere thought of it was exciting.

The other reason the demonstrations were so attractive is that they gave ordinary people a sense of pride that they were playing a part in a great historical event. Indeed, many of the marchers dined out on the experience for years and would probably do so for the rest of their lives. They would take any opportunity to tell their protest march stories to relatives, friends, and anyone else willing to listen.  It was not unlike the Woodstock music festival, which was also considered a seminal, historic event in the history of the youth culture, and attendees also regularly reminded others that they had been there. They were thoroughly convinced that the demonstrations and even rock concerts like Woodstock were a major, if not the major reason the war came to an end.

Because the 60s provided many opportunities for self-aggrandizement along with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, the succeeding generations longed for a 60s of their own. I remember a man I used to work with who was married, working, and raising kids during the 60’s, so he didn’t have the time to participate in any of the historic 60’s events. But after his kids were grown and out of the house, he and his wife decided to have a 60s of their own, even though it was, by that time, the 80s. He was bald and gray, but he sported a ponytail grown from the fringe of hair he did have. He took to smoking “grass” every day and  participated in the few demonstrations that occurred during the 80s. And many people who did participate in the events of the 60s longed for yet another 60s in which they could relive their youth before they pegged out.

Some observers believe the 60’s never really ended with our defeat in Vietnam. Those members of the left wing community simply moved on to other causes. Of course, the new causes were embarrassingly trivial when compared to the tragedy of Vietnam. But it didn’t matter; left wing community members need their 60’s like an alcoholic needs his drink.

What I find interesting is that none of the issues that produce movements and protest marches today were considered protest-worthy during the Vietnam War/Black Power era. Betty Friedan published her influential book The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and is considered central to the birth of the modern feminist movement. Yet I don’t remember any of the left wingers I knew during the 60s even mention a women’s movement. In fact, most of the male members of the left wing community I knew could easily be described as male chauvinists. Perhaps they were influenced by their black brothers-in-protest who were unabashed misogynists, a problem that continues today; just listen to almost any rap “song.”

The right to an abortion was another cause. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and made abortion legal everywhere in the country. Obviously some women and their lawyers were working quietly during the 60s to bring the issue to the Supreme Court, and they won. Yet I don’t remember any demonstrations during the 1960’s protesting either side of the issue.

Finally, there is the gay rights movement.The event that is said to have kicked off that movement is The Stonewall raid and riots. This seminal event was a New York City police raid on a gay bar called The Stonewall Inn. What set the raid apart from similar raids is that the bar patrons fought back. The raid took place in 1969.  Again, none of my left wing protester acquaintances cared that gays were denied legal rights. Most of the left could easily be described as homophobic during the 60s decade, and the idea of gay marriage never entered their minds. If someone had brought it up, they would have found it absurd, as most Americans did at the time.

Andrew Sullivan’s book Virtually Normal was the first effort to make a case for gay marriage, and it came out, so to speak, in 1995. Even older gay men like composer Ned Rorem and  writer Quentin Crisp didn’t get the movement for gay marriage. Rorem said he was against both heterosexual and homosexual marriage. Crisp couldn’t understand why gays wanted to be like straights and enter into an arrangement that Crisp thought to be boring when compared to the exciting gay life of promiscuous and anonymous sex. He also despised the word “gay” as the politically correct term for homosexuals. Why destroy a perfectly good word, he said, that used to mean, according to Webster’s,”happily excited, merry, keenly alive and exuberant”? Hardly anyone would use the word gay in that way today. Crisp preferred “queer,” which today is considered a slur.

Winston Churchill once described a dessert he was served as not “having a theme.” The Million Women’s march was like Churchill’s pudding: it didn’t have a coherent theme, which could not be said about the marches and protests that came before, regardless of whether one approved or disapproved of them. This time they were protesting the victory of one person, Donald Trump, in the presidential election only one day after he took office and before he had done anything. It is difficult to imagine how the media and Democrats would have reacted if right wingers had marched to protest Obama’s election. After all, he also defeated a woman, the same woman that Obama defeated, and prevented her from becoming the first of her sex to occupy the Oval Office. And Obama had a close relationship with a racist, anti-semitic preacher, which many believed to be a major scandal and indicative of a serious flaw in his character. But nobody organized a protest against Obama’s victory.

So, some of those protesting Trump’s victory were deeply disappointed that a woman, probably any woman, would not occupy the White House this time. Some were there because they were offended by Trump’s reputed habit of molesting women. They seem to have forgotten that that bar had been lowered years ago by the revelations of similar behavior by Democrats Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton. They forgot, for example, that a perfectly credible business woman named Juanita Broderick accused Clinton of having raped her. Broderick told her story to an NBC reporter and was never heard from again. As far as I know, she didn’t make a penny by exploiting her experience. She never appeared on television again, gave no interviews to other reporters, and wrote no book. Yet, no one in today’s left wing community cares about that. There’s also the charge made by another credible woman that, in the White House, Jack Kennedy ordered her to perform fellatio on one of his cronies while he watched. After those revelations, Trump’s sexual antics don’t seem so shocking to Republican and Independent voters.

Others last Saturday marched to protest what Trump might decide to do about abortion, illegal immigrants, Vladimir Putin, gay rights, race relations, Obamacare, education, the environment, Supreme Court nominations, whatever. And some of the paranoid, conspiracy-minded members of the community imagined that Trump would turn the country into an Orwellian, totalitarian state. I have probably missed a few grievances about Trump, but you get the idea.

It has been claimed that the Million Woman’s March was the largest in American history. I don’t know, but I do know that it was certainly the most incoherent. It had no theme. It was just a party.

 

 

Jackie

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I know that most of the movie critics loved the movie Jackie. I hated it.

First there is Natalie Portman’s impression of Jackie Kennedy. The first time I heard the real Jackie speak was in 1960. The iconic reporter and TV personality Edward R. Murrow interviewed Jack and Jackie at their home on the popular show Person to Person. When Jackie started to speak, I thought, she must must be kidding, nobody speaks like that. I would describe her manner of speaking as a breathy whisper of words spoken in a child-like manner. Really, her voice and the way she spoke are almost indescribable, at least for me.

I thought:  Was this supposed to be sexy, seductive, classy or what?  Was Jackie the embodiment of Scott Fitzgerald’s character Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby whose voice the narrator describes as “low and thrilling”?  Was it “the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.”  Did it “compel me forward breathlessly as I listened” because it was “glowing and singing”?  Was it “full of money”?  Maybe…  In any case, Natalie Portman’s imitation of Jackie’s speech is pretty good in that it is almost as annoying as the real Jackie’s.

The  actor who portrays JFK does resemble him, except that he is at least a head shorter. In one scene, he is shown next to Peter Skarsgaard, who plays Robert Kennedy. Skarsgaard towers over him; in reality Bobby was shorter than his brother. But because the movie concentrates on Jackie’s life in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s assassination, the JFK actor has a very small speaking part, and I don’t think he attempted to do JFK’s distinctive voice and speech. Peter Skarsgaard looks nothing like the real Bobby Kennedy and also doesn’t imitate his voice and speech. Thus Portman is the only one who impersonates the person she’s playing. That in itself makes Jackie hard to believe.

Portman speaks in a whisper, and for some reason, so does almost everyone else. Loud, portentous music is played during much of the dialogue. My hearing isn’t good, but I cannot believe that anyone could understand very much of the dialogue in Jackie.

The movie depicts Jackie Kennedy’s effort to promote what she wanted her husband’s legacy to be. Therefore, the movie doesn’t acknowledge any of the then top secret details we now know about Kennedy’s life: his many serious illnesses, his extremely dangerous and irresponsible act of having sex multiple times in the White House with Mafia boss Sam Giancana’s mistress, his affair with the mentally unstable Marilyn Monroe as well as his liaisons with many other women from White House secretaries to former debutante friends of his wife.

Also now known is that Ted Sorenson wrote Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage. We also know that Kennedy  employed mafia members to assassinate Fidel Castro; all that and more. In one scene, the reporter meant to represent Theodore White, who was the first reporter to interview Jackie after the assassination, urges her to promote Kennedy as  the “great man” White believed him to be.

So the movie’s purpose is to show how Jackie and Theodore White successfully placed Jack Kennedy in the pantheon of the great historical figures, rather than to show the real Kennedy, an extremely attractive and charming man, who in addition to being seriously ill and an irresponsible philanderer, made dumb decisions that brought us to the brink of nuclear war.  Not mentioned is how Kennedy’s indecisiveness made a fiasco of the Bay of Pigs invasion, which led to his fatuous and unsuccessful attempt to charm Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, which, as I said before, brought us frighteningly close to nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. That series of unfortunate events produced our disastrous Vietnam involvement.  The war created the 1960’s culture of protests, young authoritarians, drugs, the black power movement, and race riots. As Zorba the Greek said, “the whole catastrophe.”

Kennedy’s decisions and murder also gave birth to the nutty conspiracy theory obsession we now live with as well as the trivialization and destruction of most of our education system–from the elementary schools to the universities.

The movie does not debunk the myth of “Camelot,” the fib made up by Jackie that the first couple used to play the music from the Broadway show Camelot each evening before bed, the purpose of which was to equate the few Kennedy years with some golden era of heroism, idealism, and cultural superiority.

And in addition to throwing a bouquet to Jack Kennedy, Jackie is boring and repetitious.

It also engages in voyeuristic sensationalism by re-enacting Kennedy’s murder, blood and brain tissue prominently included. It’s not as if we haven’t seen the real thing many times before.

Jackie once again tells us all the things about JFK that we already knew while ignoring all the sordid and unpleasant things we now know as well. The only thing that might surprise some viewers is that Jackie smoked when she was out of the public eye. Not very interesting.

If you want a true portrait of Kennedy, read the entertaining but sobering book President Kennedy by former New York Times reporter and author, Richard Reeves. Although I cannot say which party he supports, I can say from hearing him speak in person and from reading some of his works, that Reeves is definitely a liberal. Reportedly, Jackie Kennedy many years after the assassination gave her daughter Caroline, by then a grown woman, a copy of Reeves’s book and said, “If you want to know what your father was really like, read this book.” I can only speculate about the reason Jackie did this (if she really did it), but I believe she felt guilty and embarrassed about the monster she and the then deceased Teddy White had created and wanted to correct the historical record herself in a way she felt comfortable with – through her daughter, and perhaps after her death.  In any case, we haven’t heard a word from Caroline.

So the Kennedy myth lives on; it is indestructible.

 

 

The White Woman Who Would Be Black

Then there’s the story of the white woman who tried to “pass” for black. Was it to get a job with the NAACP, which she apparently has or had? Here’s a white woman with two biological white parents who has been pretending for years that she’s black.

Of course, we’ve been told that to suggest that there might be an advantage nowadays to being black is racist. Light skinned blacks have been “passing” for a long time. Phillip Roth even wrote a book about such a man who was based on a real writer, whose name I can’t recall right now.

The truth is that there are substantial advantages to being black. College admissions and other preferences are one obvious perk. They may be in the service of “diversity”, but they are still an advantage.  Or as George Will recently noted, some people enjoy being  putative victims, which is assumed to be a part of the black identity.

Would white criminals be ever considered victims of police brutality and the cause of mass demonstrations and disruption the way blacks have been in the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore and the rest?

If this woman wanted to be a real victim, she might have tried to pass for Asian. Then she would’ve run into quotas used against her for school admissions and other opportunities.  A recent law suit against Harvard for discriminating against Asians is illustrative of anti-Asian bias. The problem, it seems, is that there are just too many academically talented Asians who would completely dominate the elite educational system if scholastic talent were the only admissions requirement. Again, it’s diversity – not racism; all for a good cause. Forget about the Asian student who is passed over in favor of a “minority” whose test scores are over a hundred points lower than the Asian.

Then again, maybe this woman just likes and admires black people and wants to be one of them. As Jerry Seinfeld once noted:  Is it racist to like another’s race?

 

Welcome to the New Age Army

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Among all the questions that need to be answered, but probably never will be given the nature of the Obama administration and its media groupies, is whether or not the Army properly screens its volunteer wannabe soldiers.

Call me out-of-it but shouldn’t the home schooling, the hippy-dippy parents (again with the pony tail), the interest in Eastern religions (not to mention the ballet lessons) have raised a few red flags at Bergdahl’s local Army recruiting office?  Does the Army understand that not everyone is cut out to be a soldier?

What I fear is that to Obama and to those who run the New Age army in a way that satisfies the feminist, gay, LGBT and multiculti industries, a “sensitive soul” like Bergdahl was (and is) just the kind of guy they were looking for.

It’s Over!

The other night, I watched about 15 minutes of a tribute to the great comedian Don Rickles. I turned it off when Rickles came out using a walker and with a frightened, bewildered look in his eyes. This was definitely not the Don Rickles I remember, but I give him credit for having the guts to appear on television in such an alarming state of decrepitude.

No, it wasn’t Rickles that I found so annoying. Rather, it was the many preening “celebrities” the camera kept dwelling on. Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese were present which was tolerable because they actually knew and worked with Rickles, but unless I missed the connection, what the f–k does Johnny Depp have to do with Don Rickles?

 It was kind of like those usually absurd “American Masters” documentaries where someone like Billy Crystal is called upon to hold forth on anyone  from Mark Twain to  Pete Seeger. It’s like the “clergyperson” who’s paid to eulogize a person he or she never met.  Embarrassing.

Just as irritating was the constant cutting away to “celebrities” (none of whom I recognized, but then I’m an out of touch old fart), who were all young and good looking, the sole purpose of which, obviously, was to provide eye candy to the viewers. All of these twenty-somethings looked just as bewildered as Rickles, like who the hell are they talking about up there  and why am I here?

Here’s the bottom line:  Don Rickles is an old guy from another era, so why not have more people in the audience who actually enjoyed Rickles in his prime or even know who he is?

Which leads me to a recent Rolling Stones concert in London that was shown on HBO. Like with the Rickles show, the camera kept going to the audience which seemed to be comprised entirely of sexy 20 year olds with their boobs hanging out. Now I love 20 year old boobs as much as the next guy, but do you (HBO and the Stones) really want me to believe that people that young are really your most ardent fans? Where’s the pot-bellied old bald guy (with the requisite pony tail) who actually comes to your concerts and listens to your songs?

As Don Rickles would say:  Mick, just between me and you: It’s over!Image

 

So, Why Did Asians Vote For Obama?


The other day I wrote about the perplexing fact that more than 70% of Asian-Americans voted for Obama. I can understand (somewhat) the mindless century-long Jewish attachment to the Democratic Party (the Democratic Party is the American Jewish religion), but Asians?

I noted that Asians are the prime victims of the liberal Democratic policiy of racial preferences in college and professional school admissions. Quotas are used to keep down the number of Asians as they were used against Jews decades ago.

Yesterday, I came across a New York Times report on a law suit challenging admissions policy for elite New York City high schools:

The complaint, filed with the United States Education Department, seeks to have the policy found in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to change admissions procedures “to something that is nondiscriminatory and fair to all students,” said Damon T. Hewitt, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that filed the complaint.

At issue is the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which is the sole criterion for admission to eight specialized schools that, even in the view of city officials, have been troubled by racial demographics that are out of balance [my emphasis].

Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, a far smaller percentage have scored high enough to receive offers from one of the schools. According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.

“I refuse to believe there are only 19 brilliant African-Americans in the city; it simply cannot be the case,” Mr. Hewitt said. “It is a shameful practice and it must be changed.”

The test-only rule has existed for decades, as have complaints about its effect on minority enrollment. In May 1971, after officials began thinking about adding other criteria for admission, protests from many parents, mostly white, persuaded the State Legislature to enshrine the rule in state law.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a news conference on Thursday that the schools were “designed for the best and the brightest” and that he saw no need to change the admissions policy or state law.

“I think that Stuyvesant and these other schools are as fair as fair can be,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “There’s nothing subjective about this. You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is. That’s been the tradition in these schools since they were founded, and it’s going to continue to be.”

A bill introduced in the Assembly last session sought to give the city power over admissions to the schools. But it was not brought to a vote, said Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver. “We’ll look at the issue and study it,” Mr. Whyland said. “Of course we want to make sure everyone has equal access to all our schools.”

A city Education Department spokeswoman, Deidrea Miller, said the department “has launched several initiatives to improve diversity.” Those include a free test-preparation course aimed at poor students…

One student at Bronx Science spoke the truth which will probably land him in sensitivity training hell:

“African-American and Hispanic parents don’t always seek out extra help for their kids and their kids don’t score as high,” said Manjit Singh, a senior. “But it’s the same test for everyone, so how can it be discriminatory? If you can’t handle the test, you can’t handle the school, and you’re taking up someone else’s spot.”

What a strange idea: “You get the highest score, you get into the school, no matter… your ethnicity…[or] economic background.” Let’s hope Bloomberg doesn’t go wobbly like he has on the police “stop and frisk” policy that has mainly kept New York, since the 90’s, from descending into a state of nature .

The stereotype about Asians is they care deeply about their children’s success, particularly in education. So again: Why are Asians voting for Obama and the Democrats?