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  • Important Reading

    Posted by David Foster on November 7th, 2006 (All posts by )

    Beryl Wajsman describes a discussion with a reporter who asked him if he was against peace. Then she asked him if he was a Jew.

    I snapped back “I’m a Canadian. And a democrat. I don’t define myself by religion. Are you a Catholic?” I demanded to know what possible reason she had for this question, and why I am so often asked my religion only by Francophone reporters. Defensively, she replied it was for “context”. I asked what “context”? Her answer was symptomatic of the social sickness that has made so many fey and feckless and too many so intolerant. She said that the “peace” marchers had groups such as the Canadian Islamic Congress participating and sponsoring. I asked “So what?” We were there as free citizens. That was our title. That was our tie.

    But she persisted. It was as if she could not understand that people can act out of individual initiative and character without the benediction of any group. Her face exhibited a recoil of bitter resentment bordering on rage. It was as if I had mouthed a blasphemy so heinous as to make me an enemy of the people.

    The attitude that Beryl encountered–the failure to understand that people can act out of individual initiative and character without the benediction of any group–is not, of course, limited to Canada. There are strong forces in the U.S. that tend toward the definition of people as members of groups and not as individuals. (One example here)

    In America, the political organization that represents this blinkered focus on group identity is the Democratic Party. Indeed, the Democratic Party has for decades focused not only on the defintion of people as exclusively members of groups, but on the broadening and deepening of the fault lines between these groups.

    And that’s one important reason why I did not vote for any Democratic candidates in today’s election.


    17 Responses to “Important Reading”

    1. Ginny Says:

      Yes – I believe that is why many of us turned right. And then we found how empowering individualism can be. Emerson may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was right more often than Marx. And the average working man would feel a lot better about himself after reading “Self-Reliance” than being instructed by “sympathetic” Marxist academics.

    2. Quentin Says:

      What a shame she didn’t name the reporter. It would be useful to read the reporter’s version.

    3. jimbino Says:

      “Beryl Wajsman describes a discussion with a reporter who asked him if he was against peace. Then she asked him if he was a Jew.”

      Here is an example of 100% bad grammar that interferes with understanding the intent of the writer. God invented the subjunctive mood for situations like this. The writer, David Foster, probably meant to say one of the following:

      Beryl Wajsman describes a discussion with a reporter who asked him if he were against peace. Then she asked him if he were a Jew.


      Beryl Wajsman describes a discussion with a reporter who asked him if he had been against peace. Then she asked him if he had been a Jew.

      Is there anyone out there who agrees with me that certain people ought to have their typing fingers broken, at least if they are native English speakers who ought to know better?

    4. LotharBot Says:

      The writer’s intent is not particularly obscured by the grammar. The particular tense of the verb “to be” is irrelevant; the point is that the reporter assumed opposition to a particular cause must be due to group identity rather than individual initiative.

      (Furthermore, your correct grammar in no way obscures your trolling grammar naziism.)

    5. David Foster Says:

      jimbino…I think 99.5% of readers would know exactly what those two sentences mean. Are you a 75-year-old former English teacher, or what?

    6. Ginny Says:

      Is it just me or does jimbino add ambiguity or at least convey something Foster didn’t mean. The question probably wasn’t whether the speaker “had been” a Jew but rather “was” one, nor was the question if he “had been” for peace but rather, wasn’t he demonstrating that he wasn’t for what he obviously should be for – at that very moment. Indeed, not only was he not for peace but was also unwilling to say when he had stopped beating his wife.

    7. David Foster Says:

      BTW…there are apparently some conservatives and libertarians who are thinking about sitting this one out, or even voting Democratic, because they think “gridlock” will reduce the budget deficit.

      Anyone whose primary concern is the economy should read this from Nancy Pelosi…I’d say items #1 and #4 make it pretty clear that she regard profit as automatically a bad thing, and hence that she has no appreciation for the market economy.

      A Democrat-controlled Congress could do great harm to the economy.

    8. Mr. Grammar Says:

      This is nutty! Having denounced group think, group act, group speak, the post then goes on to denoucne The Entire Democratic Party…and badmouthing, always sure to follow those right of center, then launch into an attack on Nancy…but let us not for a moment mention the moral misfits and croosk who have wrecked the GOP for the voters.

      If you don’t like being called by this or that labvel (Jew,Muslim etc) then don’t in turn call 50% of the nation names!
      Don’t you get it (youtnred the the
      Right)? the voters don’t like what the right stands for,has done to the nation . Learn and improve.

    9. Tatyana Says:

      And your name is Mr.Grammar?

    10. Jonathan Says:

      It’s certainly not Mr. Spelling.

    11. David Foster Says:

      Categorizing people by their political beliefs is not, of course, the same as categorizing them by their ethnic backgrounds, however much Mr Grammar may consider it to be.

    12. GFK Says:

      I read this when Glenn Reynolds linked to it. I’m not suprised by the jew comment because that question came up a number of times when I counterprotested with a group at the San francisco peace march in 03. It was the first time I’d ever heard anything remotely anti-semetic and it suprised me because at first I didn’t realize that some of those protesting with me were jewish.

      What really did bother me when reading the post, however, was the realization that there are a whole bunch of French people just to the north of us. Anybody else bothered by this?

    13. adams Says:

      I agree this just sad. I posted my thoughts at my blog Anglosphere Union Now!

    14. steve Says:

      “And that’s one important reason why I did not vote for any Democratic candidates in today’s election.”

      How’s that going for you so far?

    15. Jim Miller Says:

      And not just in Canada. I had a curious email discussion a year or so ago with an editorial writer for the Seattle Times, in which I felt compelled to tell him that I was not Jewish — because I thought that he would otherwise dismiss my arguments.

      (For what it is worth, the writer combines America First attitudes with a suspicion of government regulation — and is often very good on the latter.)

    16. jason Says:

      pot, this is the kettle. you’re black. give me an effing break.
      blinkered focus? democrats only? yes. deepening fault lines?–as in anyone who doesn’t follow the party agenda or disagrees is a traitor (or a nazi sympathizer in david’s world). let’s be honest–that problem applies to both parties. i’m not buying the “it’s different when conservatives do it, or ‘not the same'” as david says. how very convenient. you’re not voting for democrats because you’re a party mouthpiece and will accept anything that a republican does—this is a problem most democrats and republicans have.

    17. Jonathan Says:

      There are several reasons why I’m not voting for Democrats. One, their Party leadership, which sets the legislative agenda, isn’t serious about national defense and is ideologically socialistic and opposed to free trade. Two, they have a history of supporting judges who behave like unelected legislators. And three, the Party leadership is corrupt and cynical to an even greater degree than is the Republican leadership. I don’t like the Republicans either, but I vote for them because I think the Democrats are worse.