This is my end of year list of top ten outrages about modern society, the national scene and the world at large. Some of these things have been on the list for decades, while others only make it every other year or so. They are in no particular order and comments are, as always, welcome.
1. The plight of the Palestinian refugees has been the focus of international concern since 1948, and the fact that after 55 years many of these people continue to languish in squalid refugee camps is an outrage in and of itself. However, this outrage concerns the 700,000 or so Jewish refugees who were driven from their ancestral homes in Arab nations. Where is their right of return? Hardly anyone laments the near complete eradication of the once large and thriving Jewish communities of Cairo, Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Tehran. There are some 200 Jews left in Cairo and they keep a very low profile. The Jews of Baghdad suffered through murderous pogroms by pro-Nazi mobs dring the Second World War and what can only be described as relentless persecution that Heydrich would have been proud of in the years since, including mass public hangings to celebrate the dubious glory of the Baathist rise to power. Few Jews remain in this city that a thousand years earlier had been an island of tolerance. This historic tragedy that has left the Islamic world a more impoverished place has been ignored by the U.N. and practically every human rights organmization that I have ever heard of. It is an outrage that I howl at the world.
2. It has come to my attention that only two nations on the face of the Earth are ever condemned for policing and protecting their borders and securing their frontiers. They are, of course, the United States and Israel. Isreal is condemned as a racist state practicing Apartheid for bulding a security wall to keep out suicide bombers and America is condemned by the Vatican and Mexico City for cracking down on illegal immigration by milllions of desperate, ill-educated people from Mexico and elsewhere in the Third World. When was the last time you heard Mexico being criticized by the Pope or America Watch for jailing and expelling Guatemalan economic refugees? Who makes any effort to condemn China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba for shooting or imprisoning anyone with the sense to try to scram from their worker’s paradises? Japan is hardly ever given so much as mild reprimand for keeping Korean and Filipino immigrants out and keeping Dai Nippon a pure, homoginized nation of native-born Japanese. Most of the world’s nations live behind fortified frontiers and restrict immigration, if they allow any at all, to a manageable trickle. Only the U.S.A. and Israel get any bad publicity for it, two nations that have accepted and absorbed more immigrants than any others in this last century.
3. I am tired and outraged by the constant refrain of supercilious Democrats on the home front and Franco-German Saddamophiles in Europe about the issue of not finding conclusive evidence of WMDs in Iraq. When are these wise and wonderful people going to open their eyes and start noticing the presence of the 200 or more mass grave sites that have been discovered in that charnal house country. It is also true that the Allied armies in 1945 found little evidence that Hitler was devoting much in the way of resources to atomic research, but they did find Belsen, Dachau and Buchenwald. The WMD stuff, for all its pre-war significance, is at the end of the day a phony issue. It matters little if Saddam had stock piles of Sarin and Anthrax when the war started, or whether they are buried under the sand somewhere or hidden in Syria or if they did not in fact exist. The point is that Saddam would have been able to manufacture them on a massive scale just as soon as the sanctions came to an end. All you need is the the scientific and industrial infrastructure, which Iraq has along with 20 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. And Saddam’s enablers in Paris, Berlin and Moscow would not have allowed the sanctions to go on forever. What is evident for the world to see is that Iraq was a house of horrors, where summary executions and torture of the innocent were everyday events. Any honest critic of the war has to at least recognize that thousands more, perhaps hundreds of thousands, would be dead today or languishing in Saddam’s dungeons if the liberation had not been accomplished. The 23 million people of Iraq, most of them anyway, join the nearly one billion others who owe what freedom and security thay possess to the liberating armies of the United States and the U.K. Sadly, many of these people in Europe and the Far East seem to possess very short historical memories.
4. Have you ever noticed that the people who profess to be most concerned with education are often the very same people who passionately oppose any kind of educational reform? The National Teachers Union, a bulwark of the Democratic Party establishment, fights tooth and nail against vouchers for poor urban kids and stands head and shoulders against any type of merit pay for teachers. And just try to get the educational bureaucracy reduced, starting with the vaunted Department of Education in Washington. What do you mean we don’t need three administrators for every teacher! Are you some kind of a reactionary?
5. I have not heard of a single university or college in the United States, with the possible exception of Bob Jones University, that does not publicly claim to seek diversity in the student body and the free exchange of ideas on campus. Why does all diversity in the student body have to be based on race and gender, the two most insignificant social factors about any human being. If true diversity was actually desired, and I am forced to conclude that it is not, affirmative action would be based on economic background and the educational background of the parents. Families with parents who never attended college are the least likely to see their own children attend a university and are the least likely to be recruited by universities and colleges, unless their children happen to possess an ability to play football or basketball well. The vast majority of minority students on campus today are from middle class families with college-educated parents or are there on an athletic scholarships. The absence of lower middle class kids from the American academic scene is an outrage that has been too long ignored. I am a passionate proponent of affirmative action as long as it is a color blind system, recruiting poor white kids from the Midwest rust belts and Appalachia as well as gifted African-American kids from urban ghettos. Upper middle class and wealthy families don’t need affirmative action and add little to any campus diversity.
6. In American politics it has become almost a rule that politicians who cry the loudest for reform and claim to be the straightest talkers are the ones with the least idea on how to reform anything and the most adept double-talkers. In the last decade alone I have endured the Little Gin’ral Ross Perot, John McCain on the Straight Talk Express and our own Howard Dean, who has since repudiated any reform ideas that he once had. None of these candidates ever gave a straight answer to any hard question about real reform in the areas of tax policy, health care, energy, immigration or the military, and all three avoided as much as possible any one-on-one tough interviews. Larry King does not count. The next time a trendy politician stands up and calls himself a straight talker, I want to hear some real straight talk about the issues that count. If they can’t come across, I will choose an old fashioned mealy-mouthed waffler with a standard stump speech every time. Thank you, George W. Bush.
7. It seems to have become a Litmus Test for anyone running for national office to denounce the public display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of obeisance to the enormous power of political correctness. Watching the other eight Democrats pounce on Howard Dean for his ill-timed remark about pickup trucks with Confederate flags made me cringe as did John McCain’s recent pious apology for not condemning the Confederate banner flying over the Columbia State House during the 2000 South Carolina Primary. What courage!! The Confederate battle flag, which is not the Confederate national flag by the way, has unquestionably been used in the past as a racist symbol, but so has the American flag, the Christian Cross and Muslim Crescent. More than 900,000 men fought under that flag and a quarter of them died for it. Fewer than eight percent of them ever owned a single slave and their ranks included American Indians, Latinos, Cajuns and even a small number of African Americans. Examining the letters and diaries of the men who wore gray, it is evident that hardly any of the common soldiers of the CSA thought of themselves as fighting for the institution of slavery. Most of them saw their country being invaded and rallied to the state colors to defend their families and homes from people they had little in common with. Their loyalties were regional rather than national and their cause was a genuine fight for what they perceived, whether rightly or wrongly, to be a struggle for liberty. The man who most embodied that cause, Robert Edward Lee, hated slavery and secession and emancipated what slaves his family owned without compulsion. When I see a Confederate banner on public display, my thoughts turn to Cemetery Ridge and the Merrimac, not of Ku Klux Klan rallies in 1950s and 60s. While I have not actually attended a Klan rally, since they do not usually serve refreshments and there is a woeful lack of witty repartee, I expect that a U.S. flag and Christian symbols are prominently on display. The political correctness attacks on our history will not stop with the Confederate battle flag, and the next target may well be the public display of the U.S. national flag or the founding fathers of our politically incorrect republic. Slavery was legal in all thirteen states at the end of the American Revolution, and it existed as a protected institution under the American flag until December 1865, when the 14th Amendment was ratified. Twelve American Presidents from Washington to Grant were slave owners. Loss of my history to ignoramuses with a grudge against a past they little understand outrages me every bit as much as it would outrage those 900,000 who wore gray and butternut from 1861 to 1865.
8. Where has all the imagination gone in Hollywood? Do you know how long it has been since I have seen a great science fiction film that deals with ideas and humanity instead of mere special effects courtesy of CGI. Will Hollywood ever again produce a high concept film such as METROPOLIS, THINGS TO COME, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, DR. STRANGELOVE, PLANET OF THE APES, 2001, SOYLENT GREEN, 1984, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and other great speculative films that pushed the envelope and provided nourishment for cerebral film goers. If audiences are satisfied with mere special effects of the MATRIX variety, and it appears that they are, they might as well just play a video game. Movies should challenge the mind and exercize the imagination just like a good book and not merely exist to shock and awe our senses. Of course, they no longer do so and I am a voice in the Wilderness. It all coincides with the demise of the downtown movie house, which is another outrage for another day.
9. It is hard to believe that it has been thirty years since the the first oil crisis rocked the country as the OPEC Cartel tripled the price of petroleum in world markets and boycotted sales to the U.S. to protest American support for Israel during the October War. Since that time the U.S. has reduced its dependence on nuclear power, halted most domestic oil exploration to protect the environment and cut back dramitically on most of the land-based mass transit in America. In short, we are more than ever relying on foreign sources of oil to keep our economy and society moving and afloat. Republican as well as Democratic administrations are guilty of putting us in this precariously vulnerable situation. It is an outrage that the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation does not have regular passenger rail service between all cities of more than 100,000 in population, and if air traffic is ever again suspended as it was on 9/11, this country will come to a screeching halt because of it. A handful of shoulder-launched missiles outside a few of the major airports will be all it takes, and that could happen tomorrow. This country is running out of time and pushing its luck like a Vegas roulette player. The solutions will not get any cheaper with the passage of time. The fact that this is not even an issue in Campaign 2004 is an outrage.
10. I recognize all the benefits of a free market economy and make my living from it, but if the price to pay is more TV infomercials, then I may need to take a second look at Socialism. As a late night person all my life, I grew up watching reruns of classic television shows from the 50s and 60s and B-movies in the early hours of the morning. No more. The airwaves are instead crowded with the insidious banter of the infomercial, selling some hideous exercize machine for the body-beautiful types who are asleep anyway or handy roast oven with fat drainer that no one with an ounce of decency should be without. I know it is a world gone mad, but it is driving me to the edge of madness. Must we be selling things to each other in an orgy of consumerism 24 hours a day. And what sort of nincompoop would watch a half-hour commercial anyway?
And with that I wish you all a Merry Christmas and my Best Wishes for a successful and prosperous 2004.