Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said of William Shakespeare, the 400th anniversary of whose death has just passed, that he was capable of writing tragedies only about individuals, or small groups of individuals, because he lived at a time without ideology. The latter was necessary for killing on a mass scale, Solzhenitsyn said. Two years after Shakespeare died, the Thirty Years” War broke out, which reduced the population of Germany by about a third. The war was ideological.
Solzhenitsyn also said that the dividing line between good and evil ran through every heart. This is not a contradiction: Ideology encourages or makes easier the commission of evil.
The propensity to do good or evil no doubt varies between individuals for inborn reasons; but that propensity follows, or at least can be conceived as following, a normal distribution, a bell-shaped curve. At the extremes of the distribution are saints and monsters, the vast majority of us lying somewhere in between; but the whole distribution can be shifted in the direction of good or evil by circumstances, among which is the prevalent ideology. When the bell-shaped curve shifts in the direction of evil, disproportionate numbers of monsters emerge who do things that, at other times and in other places, they would not do.
“There can be no greater pleasure in life,” Stalin is reputed to have said, “than to choose one’s enemy, inflict a terrible revenge on him, and go quietly to bed.” He might have added, if he really did say this, “secure in the knowledge that one has done good.” Committing evil for goodness” sake must surely rank as an even greater pleasure than Stalin’s: It satisfies the inner sadist and the inner moralist at the same time.
That is why beheading in the Middle East (and recently in the Philippines) is such fun for those who do it. The latest reported outrage is the freezing to death by ISIS of 45 of their fighters who retreated, or ran away, before the advance of Iraqi forces; ISIS is alleged to have put the men into a freezer in a forensic morgue in Mosul and then put the bodies by the roadside as a warning to other would-be cowards. For myself, I was a little surprised that as sophisticated an institution as a forensic morgue was still in existence and still functioning in the Islamic state.
As the only source of this story so far is the Iraqi government news agency, which might not be wholly committed to the truth, we should exercise a degree of skepticism toward it. Atrocities are committed, all right, but stories about atrocities are also sometimes made up for propaganda purposes. If the story is untrue, it suggests that somebody has a sadistic imagination.
I was interested in the commentary by readers left on sites that reported the story. Here is a short selection:
Blow em all to hell. Take no prisoners.
Just kill every one of them and rid them of our world! No place for those kind of suppose to be humans. I cannot imagine how anyone human can be so inhuman.
They should all go in the freezer.
Kill them all save us the trouble.
We must exterminate them all. No other way.
I hope they all die the sick bastards!
This last comment was left by someone who described herself as a professional carer, the caring professions being far from entirely alien to sadism, though it is usually committed (by those so inclined) on a small scale”such as making the cared-for wait longer than necessary”to evade detection by supervisors.
I read this in an American newspaper (it was written by a woman who used to edit my copy for a New York glossy, but I will withhold her name to save her embarrassment and social atrophy): “He’s hosted Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for Thanksgiving, regularly cruises with Justin Bieber on his party yacht….” The mind reels. Is it possible to read such crap without throwing up? How would you, dear reader, like to spend Thanksgiving with Kim and Kanye, or go cruising with Justin? Heaven help us. (I’d rather fail a syphilis test than have a Kardashian as a guest.) I suppose the selfish generation, whose motto is “He who dies with the most toys wins,” could easily spend a holiday with the above mentioned unmentionables, yet the my-cell-phone-is-thinner-than-yours principle leaves something to be desired.
Mind you, the person who has had such august personalities for dinner is a Miami nightclub owner, hardly le gratin of American society. But my ex-editor meant to be nice—she was actually impressed by his name-dropping. Imagine if she had asked him for his favorite guests at an imaginary dinner party. I wonder whom he would have picked? Charlie Sheen? The imaginary dinner party is a bit like Desert Island Discs. I was on it once, and Sue Lawley, the presenter at the time, and I got along just dandy. During a break I asked her about the choices people have made, and she told me that those who picked only classical and rarely listened to the pieces were mostly footballers or music-hall comedians.
Ditto for imaginary dream dinner parties. I once asked an American automobile tycoon (okay, it was Henry Ford II) whom he would have liked to dine with à deux, and he answered, “Paul Valéry.” I was impressed. “How come Paul Valéry? Which poem?” “Poem? What poem? It’s my whorehouse on Rue Paul Valéry in Paris.” Sure enough, he was right. Billy’s was a whorehouse on Rue Paul Valéry, and I had been a client once, but Madame Claude had left Billy a mile behind in the quality of service. Back then, when girls didn’t give it away as often as they do nowadays, whorehouses were good business. But back to dinner parties, imaginary ones.
I suppose I should start with myself. Who, if I could, would I have to dinner? As I’m interested only in history, I suppose they would all have to be people who have played a great part in it. Among the Ancient Greeks I would be over my head, so I’d pick someone who was both a great warrior and womanizer, Alcibiades. He was also the first conservative, putting himself above the state. When the Athenians went after him for midwifing the Sicilian disaster, he defected to Sparta. When he slept with the Spartan queen and had to skedaddle out of town, he went over to the Persians. That’s where the Greeks finally caught up with him, and after his girlfriend covered him with her shawl trying to protect him from their arrows, the killers went back to the mainland and said he was dressed as a woman. Alcibiades was an Athenian aristocrat whose teacher was Socrates, and there’s a wonderful passage where A is riding while old Soc is walking. I remember asking my old dad why it was so and I was told: Patricians rode, plebs walked.
I don’t think I would have Napoleon because the Corsican blamed others when he made mistakes, and although I take no backseat to anyone in my admiration for him, in his period I would choose Prince Talleyrand, the Bishop of Autun, Napo’s foreign minister as well as before and after him. Napoleon once famously called him “a shit in a silk stocking,” but Talleyrand was much more than that. He managed to seduce three generations of the Duchess of Dino—granny, mother, and daughter—as difficult an achievement as it was to survive Napoleon’s rule and still hold sway in Vienna. His illegitimate son, Count de Flahaut, fought with Napoleon in Russia and was the lover of three queens, although two of them were Napo’s sisters. Three was a lucky number for the Talleyrand family.
I just flew back from Philadelphia and boy, are my arms tired of shooing away homeless people. The city of brotherly love has been overrun with broke bruthas asking for some love and it’s so depressing, you tend to forget the incredibly rich history of the place. While we waited for a walking tour to begin a vacuous black man stared at us nonstop as he stuffed potato chips in his face and rode a parked Citibike backwards (they”re called Indego bikes there). His jacket must have been prison-issued because it said “State Property” on the back. Moments later, as we walked toward the sightseeing tour bus, we literally had to step over another black bum who had passed out next to his dinner on the street. The woman running the service pitched us like he wasn”t there. I asked if he was included in the tour and she said, “Oh, we can”t do anything about him.” This was the attitude of the place: The homeless are here to stay, move on. When Ben Franklin said, “Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it is,” he had no idea how shameless 2016 would be.
Back in New York, we are having a homeless zenith thanks to a pothead socialist mayor, but there’s still a sense of order to it all. The beggars keep to certain areas and politely ask you for change before being told by cops to move along. In Philly, the “home-deprived” (as Taleeb Starkes calls them) walk around like they run the place. While walking back from the Liberty Bell, I saw about a dozen drunk losers dancing and sleeping on a street corner like it was a 17th-century jail cell. They had a boom box playing R&B and it created a sort of homeless nightclub where they could all party together, vomit, and urinate. It was striking because we also visited the now-defunct Eastern State Penitentiary, where the whole idea of prison as penitence was created. On the tour, they showed us what prison was like before Eastern State and it was just a room where louts were locked away from society. They got drunk and preyed on one another and nobody cared. It wasn”t about rehabilitation back then. It was about getting them away from us. Then we came up with the idea of fixing criminals. Somewhere along the way, however, the original idea crept back”only, the lout room isn”t locked away from society. It is society. Though this human garbage was about 90% black, there was also plenty of white trash roaming the streets of Philly. When we visited the beautiful Rittenhouse Square (conceived by William Penn himself in the late 17th century) on the way to the MÃ¼tter Museum, there was a white crackhead screaming Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” to employed people on their lunch break. The song can be hard on the ears in context, but when the lyrics are screamed at you without music, all you hear is a red-faced wigger shouting, “Fuck you! I won”t do what you tell me!” at the top of his lungs. Nobody was telling him to do anything.
This is the city where America was created. The Liberty Bell was forged 24 years before Independence. I wondered if seeing the word “liberty” on it got some Americans thinking about the Brits who made the bell and were forging America’s destiny. The Yankees thought, “Fuck you! I won”t do what you tell me,” and created the Declaration of Independence. It’s an incredible story, but liberty has its limits. When we got back to the hotel, the bum we stepped over was still there. I know he wasn”t dead because he had a different hand down his pants. Sorry, but your liberty doesn”t include the freedom to fondle yourself in front of my kids.
I last visited Philly as an unmarried man and was impressed by the way they handled racism. They seemed totally over it the way Southern cities like Charleston, S.C., are. We went to see Andrew W.K. there in 2001 and saw almost as many black hipsters as white ones. Where New York is consumed with racial inequality, the Philly of 15 years ago had apparently agreed to live and let live. This last trip, however, was like listening to Dinosaur Jr.’s You”re Living All Over Me. Being down with the brown now means letting browns do whatever the hell they want even if it’s at your expense.
Whether the establishment likes it or not, and it evidently does not, there is a revolution going on in America.
The old order in this capital city is on the way out, America is crossing a great divide, and there is no going back.
Donald Trump’s triumphant march to the nomination in Cleveland, virtually assured by his five-state sweep Tuesday, confirms it, as does his foreign policy address of Wednesday.
Two minutes into his speech before the Center for the National Interest, Trump declared that the “major and overriding theme” of his administration will be—“America first.” Right down the smokestack!
Gutsy and brazen it was to use that phrase, considering the demonization of the great anti-war movement of 1940-41, which was backed by the young patriots John F. Kennedy and his brother Joe, Gerald Ford and Sargent Shriver, and President Hoover and Alice Roosevelt.
Whether the issue is trade, immigration or foreign policy, says Trump, “we are putting the American people first again.” U.S. policy will be dictated by U.S. national interests.
By what he castigated, and what he promised, Trump is repudiating both the fruits of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, and the legacy of Bush Republicanism and neoconservatism.
When Ronald Reagan went home, says Trump, “our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which ended in one foreign policy disaster after another.”
He lists the results of 15 years of Bush-Obama wars in the Middle East: civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans killed, trillions of dollars lost, a vacuum created that ISIS has filled.
Is he wrong here? How have all of these wars availed us? Where is the “New World Order” of which Bush I rhapsodized at the U.N.?
Can anyone argue that our interventions to overthrow regimes and erect democratic states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen have succeeded and been worth the price we have paid in blood and treasure, and the devastation we have left in our wake?
George W. Bush declared that America’s goal would become “to end tyranny in our world.” An utterly utopian delusion, to which Trump retorts by recalling John Quincy Adams’ views on America: “She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”
To the neocons’ worldwide crusade for democracy, Trump’s retort is that it was always a “dangerous idea” to think “we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming Western democracies.”
We are “overextended,” he declared, “We must rebuild our military.” Our NATO allies have been freeloading for half a century. NAFTA was a lousy deal. In running up $4 trillion in trade surpluses since Bush I, the Chinese have been eating our lunch.
This may be rankest heresy to America’s elites, but Trump outlines a foreign policy past generations would have recognized as common sense: Look out for your own country and your own people first.
Instead of calling President Putin names, Trump says he would talk to the Russians to “end the cycle of hostility,” if he can.
“Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave,” sputtered Sen. Lindsey Graham, who quit the race to avoid a thrashing by the Donald in his home state of South Carolina.
But this writer served in Reagan’s White House, and the Gipper was always seeking a way to get the Russians to negotiate. He leapt at the chance for a summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva and Reykjavik.
“Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war,” says Trump, “unlike other candidates, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.”
Is that not an old and good Republican tradition?
Dwight Eisenhower ended the war in Korea and kept us out of any other. Richard Nixon ended the war in Vietnam, negotiated arms agreements with Moscow, and made an historic journey to open up Mao’s China.
The English writer E.M. Forster infamously said that if he had to betray either his country or a friend, he hoped he would betray the former. He was cheered for it by Oxford swells who had seen their elders slaughtered in the trenches during World War I, and by fellow homosexuals whose proclivities were illegal at the time. This was sometime in the “30s. I remember being appalled upon reading it and saying to myself how typical it was of an effete English poof to denigrate his country.
Well, this is 2016, and I would be doing a Forster if it came down to choosing between the good old USA and a friend. No, I still prefer girls to boys, and still consider myself a patriot, but when the country continuously betrays its citizens, it’s time to call time-out and have a rethink. How can one justify allegiance to Uncle Sam when the President of the United States unequivocally states that he will veto any bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in a U.S. court for any role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Add to that outrage the statement by the U.S. Secretary of State that such a bill would establish a terrible precedent. What in heaven’s name is going on here? Close to 3,000 innocent Americans are murdered by Saudi fanatics who definitely had help from Saudi diplomats inside the United States, yet the top two boys of our government insist the bill’s a no-no. Backing the Saudis over its own citizens is something olive republics in Europe tend to do”Greece, for example, will allow the camel drivers to ignore Greek laws as long as the money flows”but even a Greek prime minister would never side with the sandy types over 3,000 Greek lives.
Yet just the threat by the head camel driver to sell billions in U.S. assets if Congress passes such a bill has Osama, sorry, Obama quacking in his boots and native dress, whatever that may be. We know that the then ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Bandar, and his wife were directly involved. Funds from her bank account were discovered after the fact to have been diverted to the 16 hijackers. How can our elected leaders side with a one-family-controlled kleptocracy that has contributed nothing to society aside from funding mosques and anti-Christian propaganda, a society that stones adulterers and homosexuals to death, and one that has never been held accountable for its crimes against humanity?
But let’s put the Saudi blackmail aside, however ghastly the thought of these savages holding us to ransom is. And let’s think of Nathan Hale. Would the great Nathan, were he alive today, be as regretful that he had only one life to give for this country? Would Hale die for bathroom freedom fighters, as the grotesque Bruce Springsteen called those folks who were born one sex but like to spend time in the other sex’s bathrooms? Brucie baby has chosen not to make his noise in North Carolina, whose state legislature recently tried to preserve the preposterous idea that “single-sex multiple-occupancy bathrooms should be entered based on a person’s biological gender, not what they imagine it to be.”
Better yet, would Hale die happily for the freedom that rapper Rick Ross enjoys while on a visit to the White House? Ross was a guest of President Obama, but during the visit his ankle bracelet started beeping. Obama was discussing keeping kids from crime, when a real criminal’s beeper went off. Ross wears the bracelet because he’s out on bail for kidnapping and pistol-whipping his groundskeeper. Ross is also a songwriter. His lyrics promote Ecstasy and date rape. Oh, yes, and last year he fantasized in a rap song about killing a presidential candidate, a white one. Would Nathan really go happily to the gallows so Ross could be free to publish his stuff? (Maybe if the Brits gave him some LSD).
And how would Nathan Hale deal with Black Lives Matter? In St. Paul, Minn., two high school students punched and body-slammed a teacher who had complained about lenient disciplinary policies that had led to assaults against teachers. Both students were black, all the beaten-up teachers were white. The Obama administration has threatened school districts with lawsuits and funding cuts if the school punishes the perpetrators. Its thinking goes something like this: If more black students are punished, it is because there are more black students. Huh? Better run that by me again.
Never mind. I finally realized why Nathan was so brave. Imagine if he had known what his country would turn into. Sex and violence on TV. Rap music. Bathroom rights. Gay marriage. Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington instead of jail. The Saudis. No wonder Nathan was eager to hang. He’s still thanking God he didn”t live long enough to see what happened to the country he gave his life for.
The hubbub surrounding last week’s announcement that “Underground Railroad” conductor Harriet Tubman would be movin” on up to the obverse of the twenty-dollar bill led me to flash back to how I first entered the world of professional blogging.
In an unlikely turn of events, I became a blogger because of an image of Michelle Obama Photoshopped to look like an ape.
The year was 2009, and conservatives were united as never before thanks to the election of the guy who was certainly, definitely, absolutely going to microchip us, put us in FEMA camps, and usher in the days of the Dark Overlords. One result of that unity, and the angry determination to fight back against Obama and his congressional “supermajority” (which never really came to pass because stupid ol” Ted Kennedy had to go get himself a brain tumor), was a gold rush of sorts in the world of conservative media. From Fox News to the Breitbart empire to small sites run by wannabe Jimmy Olsens, the glut of conservative blog sites was more than matched by a large and eager audience (Facebook’s skyrocketing popularity and the rise of Twitter certainly helped matters).
But I had no interest in being part of that world. I had always written for hard-copy, ink-and-paper “old media,” and I detested the idea of cramming myself into the clown car of conservative bloggers with their follow-the-leader sites that carry insipid titles straight out of the “how to name your right-wing blog for fun and profit” guidebook (just keep combining “free,” “freedom,” “patriot,” and “right” until you find a domain that’s still available from GoDaddy. Add “EndTheFed” if you”re a Ron Paul fan). But one hazy, drunken night in Vegas during the first meet-up of what would become my Republican Party Animals organization brought me into contact with John Romano, at the time Andrew Breitbart’s protÃ©gÃ© at Big Hollywood.
John was a whiz at understanding the blogging world, and he was restless and unhappy at Big Hollywood. He wanted to strike out on his own, and he knew from my track record as one of the few far-right guys to get published in the L.A. Times on racial matters like black-on-white crime that I could be a key element in his vision of a conservative site to rival everything the Breitbart empire had to offer. But I refused. I saw blogging as preaching to the converted, and worse, I saw it as a lot of hard work for little gain. Building a readership from scratch? Screw off”I only write for organs that already have an audience. But John wouldn”t give up. He explained that he was an autodidactic Internet genius with a gift for using backdoor machinations to increase visibility in the Google search engine, thus guaranteeing a large audience soon out of the gate, and he was willing to put his money where his mouth was.
But still I resisted.
And then came “Ape Obama.” A controversy erupted in November 2009 when Google image searches of the president’s wife began displaying crude, racist depictions of her as various types of great ape as the top results. Liberals demanded that Google remove the offending images, but Google refused, admirably explaining that it would be unethical to interfere with or censor search results (remember those days? How things have changed). Romano wanted to prove a point to me, so he took one particularly odious image of the first lady, and he finagled things (don”t ask me how) so that the image on his site came up first in Google image searches of Mrs. Obama.
After a few weeks, he showed me the results in the old Technorati blog rankings (how I miss those). I was stunned. His site began shooting past dozens of older, more established conservative sites. Not because of in-depth or groundbreaking content, but because everyone who was spreading ape Michelle Obama images, and everyone who was outraged that everyone was spreading ape Michelle Obama images, was linking to Romano’s site. Over drinks one night at a local “ladies club,” Romano explained it to me: If you want a lot of hits, do porn. But if you want a lot of hits for a political site, you can be a good journalist all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s the inflammatory racial stuff that ups your numbers. That goes for the left as well as the right. Those standard-issue Salon pieces about how “whites are terrible” and “whites must die” and “kill the whites” probably get more views from conservatives expressing outrage than from leftists who get off on that garbage.
And the trick with the Michelle Obama image, the “get out of jail free” card, was to pretend that you”re only “teaching the controversy.” The Google search-results rumpus had made the cringe-inducing image newsworthy; all you needed to say is that you”re merely reporting the story, and how can you accurately report it without showing the image itself? As Romano wrote in a long-redacted piece, the offensive Michelle Obama image was “a sales gimmick and attention-getter, it’s working.”
I agreed to become editor and chief writer for his site because he”d convinced me he could deliver an audience by hook or crook while I could busy myself writing pieces that had substance. And even though the site is long dead and Romano has apparently reinvented himself as a lovable dad in TV commercials for companies like Liberty Mutual (I only know this because an eagle-eyed Taki’s reader brought it to my attention after I briefly dropped Romano’s name in a previous column), I never forgot those lessons.
So that brings us to Harriet Tubman and the twenty-dollar bill. Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the gun-toting anti-Democrat would bump Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill (a small detail left out by many outraged pundits is that Jackson is not being dropped from the note, just sent on his own personal Trail of Tears to the other side). In response, quite a few (and I mean quite a few) angry forum and comment-section trolls declared their intent to deface the Tubman dubs as soon as they”re released into circulation (which won”t be until sometime after 2020). The ADL is already kvetching up a storm about the defacement plans, and a few enterprising Tubman foes have been circulating a post (unrelated to the Tubman matter) that claims to offer proof, from lawyers natch, that “stamping” U.S. currency is perfectly legal. Oh man, how Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Nancy Pelosi are probably going to regret posing for photos that apparently advocate the stamping of political messages on U.S. bills.
Of course, just as the trolls on the right are planning their Tubman-bill stamp-a-thons, the perpetually outraged SJWs on the left are (guess what) outraged over the notion, and they are (guess what again) calling on the government to change and tighten the laws regarding currency defacement. The truth is, everyone is looking forward to the upcoming plague of Tubman-note vandalization. Every incident in which an ape face is stamped over a Tubman twenty will be another autopilot homepage piece for Salon and the Huffington Post. And of course the Salon and HuffPo writers will be unable to report the story without adding something anti-conservative, anti-Republican, or anti-white, which will lead to hundreds of posts in the conservative and right-wing press expressing outrage at the outrage. Every troll caught in the act of defacing the bills will become a reviled Internet superstar, and plenty of “people of color” will deface the bills themselves in order to sue for emotional pain and suffering after claiming to have received the defaced note as change from a purchase or a withdrawal from an ATM. The government will gleefully rush in to pass new laws tightening the definition of what’s illegal under federal statute 18 USC § 333, and probably a tech firm or two will earn a tidy profit by creating new technology making it impossible to use defaced or slightly altered twenties in vending machines.
And the respectable members of the “legit” media? They”ll have the best time of all, as each new instance of defacement will be another opportunity to call for a “national dialogue on race,” and to encourage “soul-searching” on issues of “intolerance.” These journalists will get a great deal of mileage out of (here we go again) “teaching the controversy.” Once again, as always, we”ll see crude and hateful but essentially victimless acts of anti-minority racism given inflated importance on the national scene, while more serious examples of racial hatred, like black-on-white murders, will remain underreported (or unreported). Another disgruntled black man guns down his former co-workers? Bah, unimportant. Someone drew an ape face on a Tubman twenty? Preempt Wheel of Fortune; we go live in ten, nine, eight…
The much-discussed death of Prince last week brings up an old question: Why do pop stars tend to be rather fey?
Granted, using Prince as an example of any statistical pattern is a dubious enterprise. Prince went through life as a sample size of one. An odd duck who awkwardly combined feminine tastes in clothes with masculine traits such as his love of the electric guitar and a Donald Trump-size sense of confidence in his own musical abilities and (less justified) his own peculiar stylistic tastes, he was almost never the universally respected figure that so much of his postmortem press implies.
Prince was always, though, a tremendous musician, recognized by age 21 as the most broadly gifted American star since Stevie Wonder. And yet he only enjoyed a single year of non-ironic mass adulation, when he briefly succeeded Michael Jackson on the pop throne with his Purple Rain album and movie in 1984. But his my-way-or-the-highway approach to everything left him a bit of a figure of fun.
Rock stars come from the intersection of a Venn diagram of musicians and people who very much want the spotlight.
Male musicians as a whole tend to be fairly representative of their sex, although on average not quite as masculine as, say, football players or truck drivers. My late father-in-law, a classical tuba player, was frequently elected leader of the musicians” local because the other musicians saw him as a big man who would stand up to management in salary negotiations. And compared with the average violinist, he resembled Jack Nicholson playing Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa in that Danny DeVito movie.
Stars, of course, tend to be attention-seeking, which is not an extremely masculine trait.
There’s a modest negative correlation between how much a star needs applause and his masculinity level. Broadway stars are the surest of getting their fix of applause nightly and are likely the gayest on average. Rock stars get tremendous ovations, but first they need to deliver in the loneliness of the studio. Movie stars must be able to perform in isolation, as in Gay Talese’s story about what a movie star told her retired-ballplayer husband after a USO tour introduced her to the pleasures of performing in front of an audience:
“Joe,” said Marilyn Monroe, just back from Korea, “you never heard such cheering.”
“Yes I have,” Joe DiMaggio answered.
Team-sport athletes get their cheers, but they also play half their games on the road in front of hostile audiences, where they must be motivated by the masculine urge to ruin a crowd’s evening.
All this is not to say that rock stars tend to be particularly gay.
The acid test of any profession’s tendency toward male homosexuality was its AIDS death toll during the “80s and early “90s. For example, ballet lost Nureyev, Joffrey, and Ailey. Fashion icons Halston and Perry Ellis died of AIDS.
In contrast, rock lost one big star, Freddie Mercury of Queen. But that Freddie was gay didn”t really come as much of a surprise.
Perhaps more striking in retrospect was how many eyeliner-wearing stars of the glam-rock “70s made it at least close to their biblical three score and ten. David Bowie and Mick Jagger married fashion models. When AIDS came along, Lou Reed stopped calling himself a heroin-addicted homosexual and got straight and got married.
There are modest masculinity patterns among instrumentalists. Guitarists may tend to be more masculine than keyboardists (for example, Elton John and Little Richard on the gay side; but then the super showmen Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Emerson were straight). When Jesse Jackson was running for president in the 1980s, he was asked how he could claim to be heading a “Rainbow Coalition” open to homosexuals when he spent much of his time campaigning in black churches. He answered that lots of black churches have gay organists.
During the peak decade for rock stars, the “70s, a particular facial structure emerged as the Platonic ideal for rock stars: a vaguely Asian look with high cheekbones and a narrow jaw. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is perhaps the canonical example.
Thus when Johnny Depp went out to Hollywood in 1979 it was not with the intention of becoming a movie star”he lacks the square jaw conventionally associated with leading men”but a rock star. His acting career had its ups and downs until he hit upon the happy inspiration of playing his role in Pirates of the Caribbean in the manner of Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.
It’s spring, and so a young Catholic girl’s fancy turns to picking out a confirmation name.
Being kid-free, I was only reminded of this when a friend mentioned his daughter’s struggle to settle on one. We females are fickle enough about Halloween costumes or even wedding gowns (watch Say Yes to the Dress, if you dare), and those are things you only wear once. A name is forever, and yes, all you envious non-Catholics: Being allowed (nay, obligated) to choose an extra name is cool”especially in your teens, when reinvention is a compulsion.
I now wish I”d put more thought into my confirmation name””Veronica””but it sounded pretty, I knew her story from the Bible and the Stations of the Cross, and she was on the cover of my Miniature Stories of the Saints”Book IV, which, OMG, you can still buy.
Being a Vatican II baby meant I otherwise hadn”t been steeped in these sagas. The only saints we learned about in the 1970s were the Canadian Martyrs, and only because of the “Canadian” part. In my childhood, the 17th-century Sainte-Marie among the Hurons site was on (ironically) “the cutting edge of modern museology“: On school trips, you sat in the dark watching a short (although it seemed really long) movie about Jean de BrÃ©beuf converting Indians and getting killed, and then THE PROJECTION SCREEN WALL ROLLED UP”gasps of “Wow!””the sun came in, and you strode outside onto the restored mission grounds!
(Pretty much everyone who grew up within three hours of me who is reading this is going, “Yes!!!“ right now, so PS: “Irv Weinstein.”)
(PPS: They don”t show that particular movie at the Martyrs” Shrine anymore. I presume it’s been deemed “problematic.” BUT you can still see BrÃ©beuf’s smashed-in skull under glass! Wicked!)
Otherwise, the era’s liberal Catholics dismissed the saints as infantile, archaic objects of devotion and, worse, appalling role models for women.
Which never made sense to me. Except for Zita (WTF, seriously?), the female saints in my little 1940s booklets weren”t subservient simps. They scolded popes and slew dragons. Many of their stories read like disemboweled fairy tales: Young ladies”ranging, we”re told, from “beautiful” to “very beautiful””were tortured and killed for refusing to marry King So-and-So and/or denounce their faith.
(The Jesuit author leaves out exactly how St. Lucy’s eyeballs ended up on her attribute plate, or why St. Agatha is holding those pliers…)
Ideal reading pre-confirmation, because the sacrament is meant to steel you to face similar trials. In fact, a confirmed Catholic used to be dubbed a “soldier of Christ“ but, well, you know. And if you”re a Catholic kid of a particular bent, you find yourself mentally playing “what if?” A Catholic website noted, in its bio of no less than future Doctor of the Church Teresa of Avila, that
When she was seven-years-old, she convinced her older brother that they should “go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there.” They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. Some people have used this story as an early example of sanctity, but this author thinks it’s better used as an early example of her ability to stir up trouble.
But when I was my friend’s daughter’s age, I didn”t quite know who the Moors were, and never expected they might one day be living in my neighborhood.
In a recent column Dennis Prager made an acute observation.
“The vast majority of leading conservative writers … have a secular outlook on life. … They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.”
These secular conservatives may think that “America can survive the death of God and religion,” writes Prager, but they are wrong.
And, indeed, the last half-century seems to bear him out.
A people’s religion, their faith, creates their culture, and their culture creates their civilization. And when faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, and the people begin to die.
Is this not the recent history of the West?
Today, no great Western nation has a birthrate that will prevent the extinction of its native-born. By century’s end, other peoples and other cultures will have largely repopulated the Old Continent.
European Man seems destined to end like the 10 lost tribes of Israel—overrun, assimilated and disappeared.
And while the European peoples—Russians, Germans, Brits, Balts—shrink in number, the U.N. estimates that the population of Africa will double in 34 years to well over 2 billion people.
What happened to the West?
As G. K. Chesterton wrote, when men cease to believe in God, they do not then believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
As European elites ceased to believe in Christianity, they began to convert to ideologies, to what Dr. Russell Kirk called “secular religions.”
For a time, these secular religions—Marxism-Leninism, fascism, Nazism—captured the hearts and minds of millions. But almost all were among the gods that failed in the 20th century.
Now Western Man embraces the newer religions: egalitarianism, democratism, capitalism, feminism, One Worldism, environmentalism.
These, too, give meaning to the lives of millions, but these, too, are inadequate substitutes for the faith that created the West.
For they lack what Christianity gave man—a cause not only to live for, and die for, but a moral code to live by, with the promise that, at the end a life so lived, would come eternal life. Islam, too, holds out that promise.
Secularism, however, has nothing on offer to match that hope.
Looking back over the centuries, we see what faith has meant.
When, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the West embraced Christianity as a faith superior to all others, as its founder was the Son of God, the West went on to create modern civilization, and then went out and conquered most of the known world.
The truths America has taught the world, of an inherent human dignity and worth, and inviolable human rights, are traceable to a Christianity that teaches that every person is a child of God.
Today, however, with Christianity virtually dead in Europe and slowly dying in America, Western culture grows debased and decadent, and Western civilization is in visible decline.
Rudyard Kipling prophesied all this in “Recessional”:
“Far-called our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire: Lo, all our pomp of yesterday/Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”
All the Western empires are gone, and the children of once-subject peoples cross the Mediterranean to repopulate the mother countries, whose native-born have begun to age, shrink and die.
Since 1975, only two European nations, Muslim Albania and Iceland have maintained a birthrate sufficient to keep their peoples alive.
The Mediterranean isle of Sicily has long been a lily pad for those who seek to hop between Africa and Europe. Over the millennia its ownership has changed hands between conquering Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Muslim Arabs, the latter of whom ruled Sicily from 831 to 1072 AD. Before Christians reclaimed the island, its Arab rulers burned all churches to the ground and kept the native inhabitants in a state of quasi-slavery and constant persecution.
Historically speaking, it’s understandable that the island’s residents would be a mite touchy about invaders.
As recently as 2006 nearly 98% of the capital city of Palermo’s residents were of Italian descent. But a massive recent influx of (pick one) migrants/refugees/conquerors from Northern Africa”some estimate that 1,000 new arrivals are dumped on this small island of five million every week”has graphically altered Palermo’s demographics to the point where many neighborhoods in the city are fully one-quarter non-Italian.
Muammar Gaddafi warned back in 2010 that if European leaders didn’t aggressively begin repelling African immigrants, Europe would turn “black”:
We don’t know what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans….We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.
Gaddafi is of course dead, but his prophecy becomes more vividly alive every day. It is here in Palermo”which the mayor calls “the Mafia’s doorstep””where African gangs are beginning to challenge La Cosa Nostra for criminal supremacy.
And according to several sources, the Sicilian Mafia has “declared war” on the African infiltrators. And judging from news reports, the government and media are siding with the Africans.
The first shot in this reputed war occurred in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago in broad daylight when a wannabe Italian mobster shot a Gambian refugee in the head.
Poring over several news accounts, I could find no explanation why someone fleeing The Gambia needed to wind up 2,500 miles away in Sicily. But what I was told again and again is that the victim was “an innocent Gambian man.”
In case you didn’t hear me the first time, this man was merely “an innocent Gambian refugee.” He was a hapless “innocent Gambian migrant.” A poor helpless “innocent Gambian man.” He was “innocent,” I tell you. Innocent…even though at least one account depicts him willfully engaging in a violent altercation with the Italian street thug who later allegedly grabbed a gun from a nearby building and came back to shoot the “innocent” combatant through the head.
I find it remarkable that so many news writers”none of whom were at the scene of the shooting”felt the need to shout the African man’s innocence from the rooftops. And every Sicilian official who was quoted expressed contempt for the Italian Mafia but uttered not a negative word about the burgeoning African gang problem.
Either way, the Gambian migrant survived.
After four days in a coma, 21-year-old Yusapha Susso”roundly proclaimed innocent by the press, despite the fact that no one seemed to be alleging that he was guilty of anything”emerged to make the following comments:
This won”t change me. My feelings can never change. I want to stay in Italy. Physically I am feeling better, but I am very emotional. It was a miracle. My parents are Christian and I”m a believer.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando also appears to presume that the Gambian is 100% innocent and that shooter Emanuele Rubino is 100% guilty. He also chides native-born Italians for being on the wrong side of history and bitterly clinging onto their demographically doomed Italian identity:
In the past, when the Mafia was more powerful, it prevented any immigrants from entering the city. Until I was 30 years old, I never saw an African or Asian in Palermo….
Palermo is no longer an Italian town. It is no longer European. You can walk in the city and feel like you”re in Istanbul or Beirut….Palermo is a Middle Eastern town in Europe. It is a mosaic city and we are happy about that….