September 22, 2005,
On Tuesday night, President Bush paid tribute to Jesse Helms, sending a video to a dinner honoring the senator (former senator, I guess I have to say). Wanted you to note a few things:
"Throughout his long public career, Senator Helms has been a tireless advocate for the people of North Carolina; a stalwart defender of conservative values of limited government and individual liberty; an unwavering champion of those struggling for freedom; and a fearless defender of a culture of life. Senator Helms has always stood up for what he calls 'the Miracle of America' and America is a better place because of his service."
Hear, hear. And have some more:
"When Jesse Helms came to Washington in 1973, conservatives were a minority in our nation's capital and Senator Helms sometimes found himself on the lonely end of 99-1 votes. He stood his ground and over the course of three decades of service in the Senate, the world moved in his direction."
Yup, yup. Just so.
And have one more taste:
"Today, from Central America to Central Europe and beyond, the people remember: In the dark days when the forces of tyranny seemed on the rise, and their friends were few, Jesse Helms took their side."
Amen. Well done, Bush. And those remarks could have been made only by someone who conceives of himself as conservative.
(When I tell lefties that conservatives hordes of them don't grant that Bush is a conservative, they're amazed. Shocked. They think he's Attila the Hun.)
(My crowd says, If only!)
(As long as I'm doing these parenthetical deals: Less-than-regular readers may wish to know that my recent Q&A with Senator Helms can be found here.)
Want a touch of good news? Officials in the Vendée (France) have named a school after Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. There should be a school named after Solzhenitsyn on every block in the Free World; but there is not. Yet the Vendée came through, and many Frenchmen weren't too happy about it: But he insulted our revolution! they say. Yes, indeed, which is key to his greatness.
I should note that the Vendée was famous infamous, to some for its resistance to the revolution.
The Collège Alexandre Soljenitsyne is located in the town of Aizenay. (You may see a website here.) Outside the school is a plaque, which includes what might be thought of as the Solzhenitsyn motto: "Live not by lies."
The opening ceremony for the school took place on September 8. Solzhenitsyn does not now travel from Moscow, but the middle of his three sons, Ignat, was there, representing him and the family. Ignat is a pianist and conductor, the music director of the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra. For an article on the ceremony complete with pictures (including the plaque) please go here.
And listen to part of what Ignat said that day. He began by noting a previous visit by the great man himself:
Standing here, in front of this new school bearing the name of my father (who has a special affection for France), I think back to the words he spoke here, twelve Septembers ago, and, in my turn, reflect upon the lessons of the Vendée. History is woven not solely out of actual events, but also out of myths, and the Vendée has become a universal myth, for she symbolizes resistance to oppression and the uprising of conscience. Its message is still current in our world today, where there rises a new mortal menace, the feral delusion of possessed madmen seeking to drag humanity into yet another form of that "radiant future" into which we were pushed by Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. . . .
A wonderful lineup, isn't it? Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, and Pol Pot.
More Solzhenitsyn (Ignat, that is):
A collège is a cradle of culture, enlightenment, and, most of all, thirst for knowledge. To any school one would wish successes, flourishing, the calm concerted work of dedicated pedagogues and assiduous students. All of this, I (the son of two teachers something that is not widely known) wish you with all my heart. But may the collège that bears the name of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn become something greater, something more profound. May it come to embody my father's call to all, even us citizens of the rich free world, to throw off our habitual cloak of intellectual duplicity, and to live not by lies. . . .
Then Ignat read a special message from his father, written on September 5. (This translation is by Ignat, by the way):
My dear young friends!
Not bad, huh? As I said, a touch of good news.
This is something I've had in my file for many weeks, and I'd like to disgorge it now. At the beginning of August, Peggy Noonan wrote a column about a visit to West Virginia (one of my "home states," and dearly beloved). A particular vignette reminded me of something I had witnessed earlier in my life. Here's Peggy:
"At the store the man behind the counter was friendly, intelligent and missing an eye. He had no artificial eye, no eye patch, just a red space where the eye would be. When I asked his name he said, 'Jack, but my friends call me One Eye.' I nodded at this information and remembered what a friend told me. He works with a local man who was complaining about his lazy brother-in-law who's on welfare. 'He wouldn't take a job in a pie factory!'"
Okay: Years ago, I knew a man who was missing an arm. But some people will hate me for that "but" he was a successful businessman, and he liked to play golf. In time, I began working at a golf course, and one of my co-workers was a very crusty, very salty older man. One morning, I saw the businessman come into the clubhouse. I didn't know that my co-worker knew the man, at all and he greeted him with, "Hello, you one-armed son-of-a-bitch."
And the businessman returned the greeting with something equally sharp (I can't remember it).
I was shocked for about two seconds and then grinned like mad. These two were longtime friends.
What a wonderful moment, for reasons I would be hard put to explain. There was a naturalness that one rarely experiences.
I'd like to tell you about a situation that has come to my attention. It's a little bit personal. William A. Paton was a professor of economics at the University of Michigan. He lived for a very long time from 1889 to 1991. He had a distinguished career, in the course of which he became known as the father of modern accounting. (For a bio of Professor Paton, please go here.) Unsurprisingly, there is a building named after him on the Michigan campus: the Paton Accounting Center. But the university proposes to tear it down.
About a month ago, the local paper, the Ann Arbor News, had a story on this development: here.
So, what's my interest? Well, the late Professor Paton's son is a friend of mine, and so is his son. So are others in their family. The late professor's son is William A. Paton Jr. a distinguished professor of accounting himself. I might also mention that he's a heck of an athlete. He appeared at Wimbledon, and I don't mean to eat strawberries and cream. Paton Jr.'s son Tom is a professional golfer, and all-around whiz.
Last May, Professor Paton wrote a letter to the University of Michigan regents, and received no response. It's a good letter, and I'd like to share it with you after which, I'll make a couple of general remarks.
Now, I know life moves on, and that new things replace old Progress, Progress, Progress. But I've always cringed to see old names wiped off buildings. You know: George Washington Elementary becomes Angela Davis Elementary that sort of thing. And I think we ought to think hard before tearing down a building like the Paton Accounting Center. The University of Michigan may have good reasons. But it seems to me that Professor Paton's letter deserves a response.
Don't you think?
I mean, if you were a regent, and you received such a letter would you throw it in the trash?
If so . . . they may have a job for you!
I liked this story out of India:
An Israeli couple was fined 1,000 rupees after an Indian court found them guilty of obscenity for kissing during their marriage ceremony in a Hindu pilgrim town, newspapers reported Wednesday.
That report is courtesy of Reuters. Talk about strict! Talk about conservative values! Don't go complaining to Dr. Dobson about being stifled, y'all.
And may madcap couples be warned: Respect the local culture (at least outwardly)!
Check out another story that grabbed my attention. (This one, too, is from Reuters.) Indeed, the headline was one of the most amazing I had ever seen: "Miss Thailand didn't expect to have to live there."
Australian beauty Angela MacKay has handed back her Miss Thailand crown just 10 days after winning it, saying her entirely unexpected triumph interfered with her modeling career.
There are a million things to say about this remarkable story, but an obvious one is: Isn't it kind of sad that the Miss Thailands are half something else half Australian, half Dutch, whatever? Why can't a full breed or a thoroughbred, if you like be Miss Thailand? Does this remind you at all of Brown v. Board of Education you know, little black girls wanted to play with white dolls (or so it was alleged)?
Where's the outrage? The Thais are clearly a woefully self-hating bunch.
(N.B., dear readers: I am being facetious. I think.)
Mark Steyn has come up with a perfect comparison, as usual: Kofi Annan vowing to reform the U.N. is as O. J. Simpson vowing to find the "real killers."
A killer comparison, Mark.
(The relevant article in The Spectator is here. Subscription required, I'm pretty sure.)
Care for a little language? Our word for the day is "roister-doister," used by Sam Leith in a Spectator review of a Shakespeare book: "The Shakespeare [the author] gives us is at the centre of his world, but somewhat withdrawn; when he lived among the roaring boys of Shoreditch, a contemporary complained that he always excused himself from going out roister-doistering by claiming to have a headache."
That word just sounds dirty, doesn't it? Roister-doister. I should be doing it now, instead of typing on this laptop.
But I'm almost done . . .
I've been writing a lot about American anti-Americanism and the fashionable worship of the foreign and a reader reminded me of a wonderful lyric by W. S. Gilbert. Our reader writes, "One of the people on the Lord High Executioner's list of expendables is 'The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, / All centuries but this, and every country but his own.'"
Care for a little music criticism? The other day, I sent my NR colleague John Virtes a link to an article about the new Paul McCartney album. John knows more about the Beatles than even the tour guide a group of us had in Liverpool this summer. (That was during the magazine's British Isles cruise. Wish you had been there.)
(By the way, speaking of great lyrics, do you know this one? Imagine a postcard: "The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.")
Anyway, John is encyclopedic about a lot of other things, too. And here is his comment on the McCartney article I sent him:
"Jay, this new album has been getting pretty good notices. But I disagree with reviewers who say that this is McCartney's best work since his debut album or Band on the Run (released in 1973). I happen to think that Flaming Pie, which he released in 1997, is as good as the earlier two."
And that, my friends, you can take to the bank.
Care for some more music criticism, classical division? These were published in the New York Sun: For a review of the opening concert of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, please go here. For a review of the gala opening of the Metropolitan Opera, please go here. And for a review of the Met's Manon, with Renée Fleming in the title role, please go here.
Friends, I've been brutally behind in my mail, and will probably never catch up so please forgive me, if you can. And I'll see you soon.
Oh, and just one more word: Thanks to all who attended our dinner party in L.A., at the home of Cat and Elisabeth Pollon. (Thanks especially to them.) It is so satisfying to receive support, and to meet interesting, appreciative, and, of course, brilliant people!
Again, thank you.