The Whiffenpoof Song

by Mike Tully

The choir assembled when Hell stormed the Lord’s Day on December 7th, 1941.  It reconvenes every annual remembrance of that first gathering.  Every year the choir grows.  Those who join these days are gray, bent, proud and too frequently forgotten.  But their voices, when mingled with those more ancient, reach the stars.  We raise our glasses to the ones who didn’t make it through on this day, and they silently return our toast.  Silently, that is, but for the echoes of an anthem of the Greatest Generation.

From the tables down at Mory’s, to the place where Louie dwells,
To the dear old Temple bar we love so well.

I hear it on this day, that strange echoing Kipling parody that Dad would break into three Cuba Libres after sunset.  The song had the same resonance as his war stories, his matter of fact admission that caves were sealed on his orders, trapping Japanese combatants in a grave of dwindling oxygen.  Dad said he never pointed a weapon and killed during the war.  He merely gave orders and men died.  The only weapon he brought home was a sword taken from the battlefield that hangs in our library.  He never brought firearms home.  My Dad, who hunted with weapons for sustenance in his childhood and carried weapons in the Pacific Theater, would not have them in the house.

Sang the whiffenpoofs assembled with their glasses raised on high
And the magic of their singing casts its spell.

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The End of Identity Politics?

A current meme circulating among commentators on both the right and left holds that the presidential election signaled the end of identity politics. Liberal author Mark Lillanov wrote in the New York Times on November 18th, “One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.” He later added, “National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality.”

Writing in the same publication the same weekend, conservative columnist Ross Douthat argued that what liberalism really needs is more of that ol’ time religion:   “(I)t may not be enough for today’s liberalism, confronting both a right-wing nationalism and its own internal contradictions, to deal with identity politics’ political weaknesses by becoming more populist and less politically correct. Both of these would be desirable changes, but they would leave many human needs unmet. For those, a deeper vision than mere liberalism is still required — something like “for God and home and country,” as reactionary as that phrase may sound.” (For others the same needs could be met by good ol’ fashioned “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll,” as Woodstockian as that phrase may sound!)

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The Future Bleaching of America?

Somewhere in heaven, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln threw up in his top hat. “I can’t believe it,” said Abe, wiping off his beard. “My Party nominated and my country elected a white supremacist. My God!”

God, who happened to be nearby, looked over. “What can I say?” God told Abe. “A plague is a plague.”

Is Abe right about Donald Trump being a white supremacist? The possibility cannot be ruled out, given the prominence of figures in his campaign. The Breitbart website is commonly referred to as an “alt-right” website, and “alt-right” is basically the politically correct term for white supremacist.

But, does it matter? Years ago I conducted a workplace investigation into alleged racial harassment. When I interviewed the accused, he told me, “I swear to God, I’m not a racist.” My reply: I don’t care. Go ahead and be a racist if that’s what you are. Just don’t act like one in the workplace. I take the same approach with the nation’s new employee:   Go ahead and be a white supremacist, if that’s what you are — just don’t govern like one.

How will we know whether Trump will govern as a white supremacist? The answer may come fairly quickly, as he lays out his immigration policy. It won’t be in provisions to deport most undocumented immigrants, or to build a wall along the Mexican border. Neither mass deportations nor the wall will ever happen. That rhetoric will not become reality. The litmus test for whether, and to what extent, Trump is influenced by white supremacist ideology will be his proposal for future immigration.

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