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Don’t credit me entirely for this sterling character of mine. Lennie helped me shape it.
Lennie Guyes was a year older than I, and, even though neither of us was a teenager yet, we were old enough to love the nearby University of North Carolina football team, and to hate that of Duke University. Suddenly, Duke won the bid to go play Oregon State in the Rose Bowl (actually, Duke didn’t go anywhere; that was the year, 1942, when, because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they moved the Rose Bowl from Pasadena to Duke Stadium in Durham, N.C.).
“I’m going to root for Oregon State,” I threatened. “No you’re not,” explained Lennie. “During the regular season we cheer for Carolina to beat Duke. But if Duke beats Carolina and everybody else and goes to the Rose Bowl, all of us in this state get behind Duke and cheer for Duke, because that’s the right thing to do.”
Are you aware that quite a few Confederate soldiers fled to Cuba after the South surrendered, in hopes of starting a 19th-century “Taiwan” in the Caribbean to continue to fight for the Confederacy? They were too early to be helped by Lennie, but I was right on time. There’s something called civilization that restrains us from shouting out to attractive women what we’d like to do to them, and there’s something called fear that restrains us from telling the boss what we think of him. And there’s something called character that, for instance, makes UNC-lovers root for Duke in the Rose Bowl even if it hurts. At least, it used to!
One of the most unattractive features of the left during the presidency of George W. Bush was their poorly concealed “cheering” for all of Bush’s efforts to fail, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the economy. And now I’m hearing poorly concealed proclamations from otherwise admirable conservative commentators urging one and all to root for American failure as a means of defeating the Obama agenda, the Obama crowd and Obama himself.
I’m second to no one in my desire to rid America of this president and this congressional leadership and this whole wretched crowd in control. But hoping for national failure? Jimmy Carter told us of the “lust in his heart” for women other than his wife. He never told us how well he overcame that lust, but he made the point – possibly his only good one – that certain demons are to be resisted.
I understand the momentary warmth in the conservative heart brought on by, for instance, a 300-point plunge in the Dow; or the failure to plug an oil leak; or Washington’s weak and damaging failure to handle a flotilla gone bad; or, God forbid, an American-life-threatening setback in Afghanistan. Without drinking, smoking, ingesting or injecting anything you get a nice momentary thrill at the thought of arrogant smiles being erased from the faces of President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Timothy Geithner, Nancy and Harry and others. Shame on you, however, if that gestalt is not instantly replaced by thoughts of lost American troops; more investor panic; more jobs lost; further erosion of confidence in America worldwide; the emboldening of those who hate us; more weakening of the dollar and, quite possibly, even your own financial ruination!
A lesson from Britain buttresses the lesson of Lennie. The most surprising election in the history of the democratic world was not Truman beating Dewey in 1948 or Scott Brown beating Martha Coakley in Massachusetts in 2010. It has to be Winston Churchill, the rescuer of the Free World and the leader who saved civilization, being thrown out of power as prime minister shortly after victory in World War II. The British people, who never emitted an audible anti-Churchill peep during the fight against Hitler, kept their political passions in check until the war was won. You can be sure they didn’t start rejecting Churchill only after he’d led them to victory. They simply showed proper discipline and, yes, character in delaying any action on those feelings until the proper time.
Got it? Cheer for Duke in the Rose Bowl, and then try to beat the hell out of them next fall. Follow Churchill loyally without letting the enemy suspect a ripple of disunity, and then throw him out after the war.
The pre-jet four-engine passenger plane had a starboard engine explode and catch fire. The pilot radioed his need to attempt a crash-landing, and the airport scrambled to prepare.
After landing, the passengers slid down evacuation chutes into the protective foam. Suzy Straight-Teeth of the five-o’clock news was right there with her camera crew, and she stuck her microphone into the face of a gentleman still sitting in the foam.
“Were you afraid when you heard the explosion?” she asked. “No,” he answered. Certain he didn’t understand the question, she signaled her cameraman for a retake and again asked, “Were you afraid when you heard the explosion?” “No, I was not,” came the gentleman’s reply.
“How could you not be afraid when you heard the explosion?” queried the incredulous Suzy.
“Because,” said he, “That was on the other side of the plane.”