Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Some things that may not be said

Conservative NY Jewish journalist Myron Magnet reminisces

Over the course of a year or two as the 1970s turned into the 1980s, I lost all my friends, for saying what I had recently come to believe. I was teaching at Columbia, and my friends were my English department colleagues, along with some of what used to be called the New York Intellectuals. But I was moving rightward politically, pushed by the reality I saw all around me in emphatically ungentrified Morningside Heights.

Maybe the criminal isn’t a victim, I hazarded at one dinner party. Maybe he’s to blame for his actions, not “society.” Maybe the real victim is, well, the victim. Shocked silence, as if I had flatulated. “That’s racist,” one guest muttered to her plate, tacitly admitting the not-to-be-mentioned truth that criminals were disproportionally minority.

Then conversation resumed on another topic, as if no noxious disturbance had occurred—certainly not one that polite society would acknowledge. In those days, every right-thinking person knew that crime had its “root causes” in poverty and racism

Later, I opined to another friend, a music professor, that rent control was an injustice to the landlord, confiscating what was rightfully his—and this in my friend’s rent-controlled apartment. “Do you want me to be homeless?” he spluttered incredulously. “Do you want to evict me from New York?” However tactless—one doesn’t speak about the Fifth Amendment takings clause in the house of the rent-controlled—I really wasn’t being personal. But alas, so ended another long and cherished friendship.

Later still, at Diana Trilling’s dinner table, I committed yet another of my irrepressible faux pas. Turning to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, then the august daily book reviewer of the then-august New York Times, I asked, in all seriousness, “Don’t you think the whole effort of modernism—in architecture, in literature, in music, in painting—might have been a huge dead end, from which Western culture will painfully have to extricate itself?”

Shocked silence again, though all these decades later, the question still seems inexhaustibly interesting to me. But again, conversation resumed as if I hadn’t spoken and wasn’t there. As soon enough I wasn’t, for the invitations stopped.



Anonymous said...

Liberals are notoriously vicious to those who do not share their firmly held, but incorrect, views.

stinky said...

Modern (a.o.t. classical) liberalism is about feeling haughty and superior, and not at all about a search for the truth. When the two conflict, the result is a foregone conclusion.

Bird of Paradise said...

Liberals are a bunch of nincompoops and poltroons spoiled little snots who behave like spoiled brats when they don't get their way