George Will: Thankful for the 'berserk'

George Will: Thankful for the 'berserk'

George Will

While giving thanks, save some for this: The dilapidation of the nation's life, although painful for Americans to behold and embarrassing when others behold it, has illustrated this year what novelist Philip Roth called the "indigenous American berserk."

After visiting Japan, Donald Trump praised as "well meaning" his aides who ordered the Navy to move a warship "out of sight" lest the president see its offensive name: USS John S. McCain. Touring Mount Vernon, Trump was judgmental when informed by his guide that George Washington had owned much real estate. The former resident of Trump Tower, according to three sources, wondered why Washington had not put his name on his Virginia home and other stuff: "If he was smart, he would've put his name on it." And: "You've got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you." Celebrating the wonders of his protectionism, Trump tweeted: "I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America." It opened in 2013.

The -- definite article -- Republican value, which is loyalty to the maximum leader, was exemplified by South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, who explained that Trump's hush-money payment to his porn-star friend was in the service of family values: "I honestly think this president loves his family, and I think it has much to do with trying not to have public discussions about something that is for him a private matter."

By overturning licensing requirements, Texas decriminalized children's lemonade stands. California's government, which in 2017 increased gas taxes -- the nation's second-highest -- in 2019 demanded an investigation of high gas prices. Progressives like high minimum wages. New York City's progressive Book Culture stores blamed increased payroll costs for their financial distress after the city increased the minimum wage.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was tickled pink, so he ordered several bridges and buildings to be lit in pink to celebrate "our progressive values" as expressed in legislation permitting abortions up to the moment of birth. NPR reiterated its language guidelines regarding abortion that discourage the term "unborn" because it "implies that there is a baby inside a pregnant woman." Seeking exotic new things to put inside customers, KFC tested a new delicacy: a sandwich of breaded chicken with a layer of Cheetos.

To make Williams College a "more welcoming, supportive and safe community for minoritized (sic) students," the student newspaper endorsed, for blacks and other minorities, "affinity housing," aka segregated dorms. When Williams' student government refused to recognize a pro-Israel student group, one student explained that although Jews had experienced horrible "conditions" during the Holocaust, Palestinians today are "experiencing worse."

Elsewhere in higher education, the Alabama football fan who in 2011 poisoned several venerated oak trees at Auburn University, finally explained why: "I just don't like Auburn." Wary Lotharios at the University of New Orleans wondered whether valentines might violate the sexual-harassment policy (since updated) that forbade "suggestive" communications. A federal judge ruled in favor of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College student Polly Olsen a year and a half after she was prevented from distributing valentines with messages such as "Jesus loves you!" and "You are never alone!" A security officer said someone might find her messages offensive.

The NBA, careful to not give offense to Beijing regarding Hong Kong, continued "moving away" from referring to team owners as owners. Slaves, you see, were owned. The New York Yankees, whose industry effectively banned black players until 1947, and who waited eight years after that to hire one, stopped playing Kate Smith's recording of "God Bless America" because long ago she had sung some racially insensitive songs, including one sung by Paul Robeson, a black civil rights radical.

The city council of Berkeley, of course, voted that manholes shall now be called maintenance holes. Speaking during her brief attempt to become commander in chief, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand twice voiced opposition to "tactile" nuclear weapons. James Madison said the federal government's powers are "few and defined." New Jersey's and Virginia's senators said the government should address the problem of wind-blown beach umbrellas.

There was, however, better news this year about government. Examining 15,000 handwritten notes in the archives of former Supreme Court justices, an academic found a limerick written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist during oral arguments concerning a New York regulation -- similar to one the court had disapproved when Alabama adopted it to "discourage immorality" -- that reduced welfare payments to mothers who took in lodgers:

There was a young girl from Cape Cod,

Who thought little babies came from God.

But it wasn't the Almighty

Who lifted her nighty

It was Roger the lodger, by God!

George Will writes for the Washington Post.



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