This moment in “Field of Dreams” was how I started off my baseball and culture presentation this week. Ironically, the speech has always irritated me, because of its stagey blocking, and because it is a speech that sounds like a speech, and is essentially right out of the book the film was based on. In the novel, “Shoeless Joe,”,the “Terrence Mann” character played by James Earl Jones was real life (and then, still living) recluse author J.D. Salinger. I dislike the speech, but the scene always moves me, for a personal reason.
As Terrance Mann stands, giving his speech, the ghostly players of the past silently assemble behind him in Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner, of course) magic corn field. One of the players behind him has been identified in the film as Smokey Joe Wood, a 30 game winner with the World Champion 1912 Boston Red Sox. Just a few years before the film was made, I had been in the Fenway Park grandstands as Smoky Joe, feeble, in his mid-nineties and in a wheel chair shortly before his death, barely threw out—more like dropped—the first pitch at a Red Sox Old Timer’s game, to a standing ovation. And here he was, in that corn field, but young and vital again.
Gets me every time….
1. Ethics query: is it ethical to perform “Piggies”? I just caught an old concert clip in which George Harrison and Eric Clapton performed the obnoxious pseudo-Marxist ditty “Piggies” (from the White Album) to thunderous applause.
[Notice of correction: I originally wrote that “Piggies” was a Lennon composition. All these years I assumed it was, heavy-handed and juvenile politics that it was. I am stunned that the song was George Harrison’s doing; I thought better of him.]
This was well after the Manson murders: I had never heard anyone perform the song in decades. Admittedly, it is just moral luck that a madman seized upon the White Album Beatles songs as his inspiration to mastermind the slaughters of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and her house guests, as well as supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night. However, “Piggies” was the one song referenced directly in both murders. It is not inconceivable that if the White Album had omitted that song—no great loss, either–at least the LaBianca murders might not have taken place. I know I can’t hear the song without picturing carnage, and it seems to me singing the song is like a celebration of Manson’s work. I wouldn’t ban it; I don’t believe in banning anything. I just think it’s bad taste to play it or perform it.
Is that inconsistent with my objection to “canceling” “Dixie,” “My Mammy,” “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Oh Susanna!” and other songs that are redolent of the Old South? I would argue that those songs have the virtue of being great tunes and important cultural touchpoints…in other words, works of musical art that justify themselves. “Piggies,” in contrast, is musical junk, like about 20% of the White Album filler.
2. I missed Trader Joe’s pathetic grovel, prompted by the New York Times. Two weeks ago, some “woke” political correctness bully posted a Change.org petition accusing the grocery chain Trader Joe’s of romanticizing imperialism, fetishizing native cultures, and casually misappropriating cultures. You see, the store tweaks its own brand by labeling Chinese frozen dishes with “Trader Ming’s”, putting “Trader Joe San” on its Japanese dishes, and ‘Trader Giotto,” on it’s cannolis.
Nobody normal is offended by these little gags, or finds them offensive. Demanding this kind of lock-step with extreme “diversity” cant is one more example of the Left’s increasingly totalitarian tilt. And indeed, nobody cares about what the labels on Trader Joe’s products say; the petition was a flop.
Then the New York Times decided over the weekend that bringing Trader Joe’s to its metaphorical knees was its solemn duty to the George Floyd Freakout, and put the batty petition’s complaint on its front page.
This will clearly be costly, so someone will suffer. Hey, but if that unsafe “Trader Ming’s” monicker is sent to hell, its worth it.
As Jonah Gottschalk correctly points out at The Federalist, “the incident serves as an excellent case study for a new form of journalistic malpractice’:
By writing about petitions, journalists can claim to be simply reporting on a widespread groundswell of outrage, even when their position is only held by a tiny fraction of people, concentrated in Twitter activist circles.
Weak, lazy, appeasers in corporate board rooms then enable and encourage the practice by immediately apologizing, thus weakening our rights while empowering social dictators. This might stop when the public sends the clear message that it will punish groveling companies rather than political incorrect ones.
I’m considering a petition…
3. Again, let us say a silent prayer of thanks to The FIRE, or better yet, a check. After Princeton professor Jonathan Katz publicly criticized faculty demands for preferential treatment of nonwhite scholars, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber condemned the remarks and threatened to investigate the classics professor.
Then the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education galloped to the rescue, denouncing the administration for this “ominous” statement. It wrote, “the mere threat of an investigation can create a chilling effect that’s at odds with the free exchange of ideas.” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff insisted that university presidents should defend student and faculty free speech rights “loudly, clearly, and early,”while Eisgruber had done the opposite.
So Eisgruber, who obviously blows with whatever winds are prevalent at the moment—maybe Trader Joe’s will hire him—-backed down.
In an op-ed in The Daily Princetonian this week, Eisgruber waa suddenly in favor of free expression and academic freedom. “Katz’s freedom to say what he did” under Princeton policies, “can be answered but not censored or sanctioned,” the president affirmed:
In the days since I objected to Katz’s comments about the Black Justice League, several people have written to me to say that other portions of his essay contain important arguments worth considering. I agree. …
We need to build a public space where disagreement does not automatically paint someone as an enemy. That type of space, so crucial to learning and research, is harder to maintain today than it has ever been. Modern communication tools make it all too easy to attack when we should be engaging and to shout when we should be listening. Rigorous, respectful debate is not a barrier to change — it will make our ideas stronger and their impact more lasting.
Right, except his initial reaction is signature significance. If he believed his latest statement, he wouldn’t have made his initial one. FIRE pointedly wondered why it was so hard to reach the right and ethical conclusion…
Free speech is a founding principle of higher education, eloquently enshrined in Princeton’s own regulations with such forceful statements as, “[I]t is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive[.]” …
As Princeton tries to fix its reputation as a university where ideas can be challenged, debated — and, yes, encouraged — FIRE reminds university leaders that taking a strong stand for free speech should not be controversial for college presidents. In fact, it’s their duty. Taking this duty seriously, by promoting a culture of free expression and clearly rejecting expectations of censorship, better equips community members to engage and critique opinions they disagree with, to the long-term betterment of the institution.
Bingo. But as The FIRE knows better than anyone, most of our institutions of higher education don’t believe that, and aren’t teaching it to their students either.
Item #3 pointer and facts: College Fix