1. For some strange reason AMC and the Sundance movie channel alternate showing multiple episodes of “The Rifleman” every Saturday morning. Like most of the old TV Westerns, but even more than the rest, the Chuck Connors half-hour drama about a single-father rancher who doubled as part-time lawman was about ethics, despite the fact that Chuck as Lucas McCain killed over almost tw0-hundred men over the course of the show. In one of today’s episodes, young Mark, Rifleman Jr., played by the excellent child star Johnny Crawford, fought off some bullies who were abusing a young Chinese boy who was dressed in his native clothes and wearing long hair. As the boy’s father thanked Lucas and Mark, the Rifelman pointed out that the boy would be tormented as long as he wore his hair “like that.” “His hair is worn in the manner accepted in my country,” the father replied.
“Yes, but you’re not living in China, you’re living in the United States,” Chuck said, wrinkling his brow.
That message was not a controversial one in 1880, or in 1960, but it would be today. Still, The Rifleman was right. There is cultural pressure on immigrants to accept and adapt to U.S. culture and values, and that is for the benefit of everyone involved. Mark made it clear that he would keep fighting for the right of the young Chinese boy to wear his hair as he chose and Chuck endorsed that, because it’s another American core value. Still, being an American citizen should mean more than just an address. Our culture used to send that message powerfully and regularly, in TV dramas and elsewhere. Now it sends the opposite message most of the time. That’s a tragic change, and the results are becoming apparent.
2. Now THIS is an uncivil tweet: The degree to which the unhinging of the Trump-hating left has reached frightening proportions was illustrated last week by a tweetstorm meltdown by onetime MSNBC star Keith Olbermann, who is still anchoring a public affairs commentary show somewhere, I think. It reached its apotheosis with this masterpiece or reason, nuance, and civility:
Olbermann finally took down the tweet, but the rest remained:
I don’t think Olbermann is significantly more addled by blind rage at Trump’s election than a large number of prominent journalists, editors, academics, professionals and others, or more emotional in his hate. He just has less restraint than most in giving vent to it, that’s all.
3. I am genuinely puzzled about the breathless reporting that Special Counsel Mueller has obtained an unsent draft of a letter in which President Trump detailed reasons for firing James Comey. What possible probative value does any draft letter have? It shouldn’t have any at all. We have all been taught to shelve letters written in haste or emotion for 24 hours or more before we send them, haven’t we? Why is that? It is because an unsent letter merely represents how we feel, or what we want to say, at a particular time. When we sign and send a letter, that means that we stand by what’s in it, and that our positions or emotions are official and on the record.
I have drafted letters quitting jobs that I stayed in for years afterwards. I once drafted a love letter to a woman I never had any contact with again. Drafts are by definition expressions that you know you may want to alter, abandon or reject upon review. What was the first draft of “To Kill A Mockingbird” represented Atticus Finch as a racist. The first version of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” relegated Big Daddy to a small role. “Moby-Dick” started out to be just another of Herman Melville’s nautical adventure stories.
One of the most famous letters ever written was the open letter from New York Sun editors in 1897 to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who had asked,
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
I’m sure you know what they said in the published reply.
But I bet you didn’t know that the original draft of that tender and inspiring letter said,
We’re sorry to be the ones to enlighten you, Virginia, but your little friends are dead right. Idealism is a joke, life is hell, and when we die, which is usually in pain, bitterness, poverty and alone, we become worm-food. That’s it. Your parents probably have told you otherwise, but they are doing you no favors..No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, and President McKinley is a big, fat, big-business-loving liar who, if we are lucky, will be assassinated. Not that it will help much. The way things are going, you’ll probably see your country involved in a stupid, ugly, pointless World War and die of influenza before you’re 30. All of your kids, too.
No Santa Claus is the least of your problems.
Thanks for writing, and for reading the Sun!
Of course, if there was such a draft, the Sun had the sense to destroy it. The point is, they didn’t use the letter. That means it’s irrelevant.
That a draft letter is all the news media can find now to breath life into the Russia narrative shows how desperate it is.