Wish I’D Said That! (8-16-14)


Reading Jonah Goldberg is a constant exercise in saying to oneself, “Wish I’d said that!”

Goldberg sends out a roughly weekly “news”letter, called the “Goldberg File,” or the “GFile”, which is really more a stream-of-consciousness set of musings on the issues of the day. The style is easy, breezy, humorous and informal. It’s always a rollicking good read, and frequently makes points as effectively as, or more effectively than, his also excellent, but more cerebral, more mainstream content in National Review Online and elsewhere.

The most recent edition of the GFile arrived in my e-mail in-box today, and was crammed full of wish-I’d-said-that moments.

In this edition, Goldberg explained why he had not yet pronounced himself on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Here are some of those wish-I’d-said-that moments:

  • I have to confess I am very late to the Ferguson story. [Editor’s Note: Me too, and for the same reasons as Jonah’s.] I tend not to follow these kinds of events too closely when they break, because they always seem to go the same way. What am I supposed to say? If the cop did something wrong, he should be punished for it. If he didn’t, he shouldn’t be. [Editor’s Note: Uhhhhh… Yep.]

And, about the subsequent rioting and looting:

  • But even if he did something wrong, rioting is almost never justified. It can be more or less understandable depending on the circumstances, even forgivable I suppose. But never justifiable, never mind permissible. Why should the crime — real or alleged — committed by person X make it okay for person Y to do harm to person(s) Z? No one has ever been able to explain that to me.  [Editor’s Note: A neat summation. Wish I’D said that!]

Some background to add perspective:

  • And I grew up in New York City in the 1970s, when race riots were a thing — though not as much of a thing as they were in the 1960s. And that’s part of the problem. In the 1960s, you could see the point of race riots (though less so in the North where they were quite common). But by the 1970s, liberals had incorporated race riots into their mythology as noble “happenings” even though the romance of rebellion had lost its plausibility. And by the 1980s, tragedy had been fully swamped by farce. It is an axiomatic truth going back to Socrates: Nothing can be wholly noble if Al Sharpton is involved. [Editor’s Note: Wish I’D said that! Oh, I have said that! Whew!] Nonetheless, it was amazing to watch New York liberals act like battered spouses as they tried to explain why blacks are right to loot while at the same time they shouldn’t do it.

Another neat summation (emphasis added):

  • I haven’t followed the details well enough to have an informed opinion on what actually happened. But, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the easy part. I’m wholly with my NR colleagues on this. There should be an honest investigation. If the officer unlawfully shot an unarmed man, he should face the consequences. If he didn’t, there should be no (criminal) consequences. How this is a complicated issue intellectually is a mystery to me. [Editor’s Note: Another neat summation. Wish I’D said that!] How this has become a complicated political problem, sadly, is not.

Finally, a selection from the GFile with which I have a minor quibble and comment:

  • I think this should be an educational data point for those who think any nods towards racial diversity are ideologically suspect. I am as against racial quotas as anyone, but the idea that police forces shouldn’t take into account the racial or ethnic make-up of their communities when it comes to hiring has always struck me as bizarre. A Chinese-American cop will probably have an easier time in Chinatown than a Norwegian-American cop. A bilingual Hispanic cop will have similar advantages in a mostly Spanish-speaking neighborhood. When my dad was a kid in the Bronx, it was not uncommon for a cop to give a teenager a well-intentioned smack as a warning and leave it at that. But forget the smack. Today, in many neighborhoods, if a white cop even talks harshly to a black kid, it might immediately be seen as a racial thing. If a black cop said the exact same things, it might be received differently.

My quibble: Suggesting that the police force should have approximately the same ethnic mix as the neighborhoods it polices cements the idea that skin color is important difference. Skin color is difference, to be sure, but it ought not to be important difference. Aren’t we trying to get away from the idea that a person’s skin color represents anything significant about him?

By contrast, I do see the wisdom of having Chinese-speaking cops patrolling in Chinatowns around the country. However, if a white dude is fluent in Chinese, then he should be perfectly acceptable to the residents of the said Chinatown. It’s stating the perfectly obvious to say that no one — white or black — gives the tiniest hoot about the ethnic make-up of police forces in majority white areas, and that’s a good thing. Isn’t that what we’re trying to get to?

My tiny quibbles aside, Goldberg is, as always, a wonderful read, and his “GFile” is one of the finest publications in circulation today. Go to National Review Online and sign-up for it today! It’s well worth it.

— xPraetorius

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