They’re saying John Rocker is crazy! He’s the young redneck who throws
baseballs for the Atlanta Braves and who, after being peppered with beer
bottles, obscenities and flashlight batteries at Shea Stadium, threw some
verbal heat back at New York City. Get on No. 7 train, he said, and you’re
stuck next to “some kid with purple hair next to some guy with AIDS right
next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time next to some
20-year-old mom with four kids.”

“Rocker gave it back as good as he got, spitting at them when they spat
at him,” explains columnist Peter Collier. “The Bleacher Creatures of Shea
Stadium tossed Coke on his girlfriend and counted the ways in which his
mother had sexual congress with strange men for money. He countered by
heaving fastballs into the chain link fence separating players and fans, and
laughed when they cringed behind it.”

That’s the “good ole boy” in Rocker. Toss Coke on his girl and he’ll let
you know what he thinks about people jabbering in strange tongues all over
Manhattan. “You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear
anybody speaking English. How the hell did they get into this country?” Cut
down his mom and he’ll tell you to get those women drivers from Asia off New
York’s streets.

“Rocker’s words were no sooner broadcast than a choir of post-industrial
Stalinoids were demanding that he be sacked,” says columnist Nicholas von
Hoffman. Sacked or forced into Soviet-style psycho-correction. The
Commissioner of Major League Baseball ordered Rocker to undergo
psychological testing. Approving, the New York Times said the psycho-testing
would give Rocker a “chance to prove he is a rational person.” Or nuts!

Rocker’s best shot, of course, is to come out the other end of his
Chinese re-education camp saying he’s a new man, a big fan of kids with
purple hair. A guy who sees that every dime he’s earned is due to nothing
but the undeserved privileges of ethnicity, nationality, physique and
gender. Toss in that he sees slums as zones of capitalist exploitation and
he’s home free.

For Gale Hammons, associate editor of the Modesto Bee’s opinion pages,
the problem is not what Rocker said. “I worry more,” she writes, “about the
growing perception that only politically correct ideas should reach the
marketplace of ideas, a climate in which people with ‘the wrong opinions’
are pressured to shut up.”

What’s worse is that Rocker wasn’t much off base, if at all. “New York
City subways are so well known for their colorful patrons that you don’t
have to ride the train to recognize the central casting description of
punks, teen mothers, AIDS sufferers and ex-cons that Mr. Rocker listed,”
states a Washington Times editorial. “As far as walking through Times Square
without hearing English spoken, never, since Ellis Island opened more than a
century ago, has the ratio of newcomers to natives in New York City been

Rocker, explains Collier, was “the midnight cowboy of the bullpen who’d
never been far from his home in Macon, Ga., until he signed a major league
contract.” It’s the kind of life, I’d guess, not unlike that described by
Florence King in “Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady,” a “rearing” that
mass produces “good ole boys,” loaded for bear, and “Southern ladies,” a
“perfection of femininity” that’s myopic, insular, gossipy and off its
rocker, women who spent their days hand-wringing over which relative or
neighbor would have the next nervous breakdown. “Granny never owned a
suitcase and looked down on people who did,” writes Ms. King. “In exotic
moods, she fixed her two gourmet specialties, chili and shrimp curry,
omitting the chili powder and the curry powder respectively. Her
explanation: We don’t need any foreigners around here.”

Her “years on the anvil,” King writes, the “hammering and firing” to turn
her into a lady, included several key Southern lessons: Stop reading books
(“Karl Marx,” the family warned, “invented communism in the reading room of
the British Museum”); get married fast (“Keep dating,” cautioned Granny,
“and you will become so sick, so badly crippled, so deformed, so emotionally
warped and mentally defective that you will marry anyone”); and, most
importantly, keep up outward appearances (Says King: “No matter which sex I
went to bed with, I never smoked on the street”).

And so, what’s next? Jesse Jackson is sent to re-hab for calling New York
“Hymietown”? Rocker promises that he’ll start recycling his cans and papers?
Those who deviate from the collective vision are trucked off to
psycho-correction? Granny’s told that it’s a hate crime to omit the spices?

“It is necessary that the individual should come to realize that his own
ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation,”
declared Adolph Hitler in 1933. Six decades later, Hillary Rodham Clinton is
beating the same drum. “We must,” she says, “stop thinking of the individual
and start thinking about what is best for society.” Wrong! What’s best for
society is the freedom and independence of the individual — Granny, Jesse,
Rocker, Florence, the whole nutty and colorful gang.

Ralph R. Reiland, Associate Professor of Economics at Robert Morris
College in Pittsburgh, is co-author of “Mom & Pop vs. the Dreambusters.”
E-mail him

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