I wish I had more time for a proper introduction, but I am very, very happy to introduce you to our very first Brit here at America’s Right, Ian Thorpe. Ian is a brilliant writer, has a long history of great work, and because of his accent can make even the menu from your local Chinese take-out restaurant sound positively Shakespearean.
I look forward to his sense of humour (he is English, after all), to his insight on the upcoming G-20 conference, and to what will hopefully be many future contributions to America’s Right.
By Ian R. Thorpe
One of the many negative aspects (are there any good ones?) of the so-called Obama effect is the disproportionate amount of media attention being given to the utterances of every African-American from comedians and gangsta rappers to the usual suspects, the preacher-politicians. Obama overkill is hard enough to bear, but the rest? They’ve been around for years — what makes anybody think they have anything new to say?
The latest of this ilk to come and give we British the benefit of his unique insight on the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is The Rev. Dr. Jesse Jackson (D.Phil, University of Sendusthemoney).
The Rev Dr. was allegedly a mentor of Barack Obama in the early days of The President’s march to world domination. It is clear that Jackson was a major influence, as their oratory styles show a shared penchant for incomprehensibility.
Addressing an audience of politicians and media people at a recent event here, Dr. Jackson told them:
“There are children of light and children of darkness,” he said. “One grows tall and multiplies with fruit, the other is stunted. The stunted one is the inferior one. It was denied the light and photosynthesis.”
Multiplies with fruit? That’s either a copulation thing, or a math problem. Either way, this was serious stuff, absolutely vital for people entering the giant leek growing competitions so popular in coal mining areas. But surely Jesse Jackson had not come to England to talk about growing leeks. We have a little more of a clue as to his real meaning from his next nugget of wisdom:
“Children in the light are driven by hope, children in the dark are driven by fear,” Jackson said, apparently channeling Yoda. “There is global street violence and corporate violence. The wealthy are reprimanded, the poor go to jail.”
Reverend J.J. may as well have been talking about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. He might even have been talking about the unknown knowns, the things we know but don’t know we know. One of the known knowns was that nobody in the audience knew what he was talking about, and it seemed neither did he.
Eventually, the evangelist moved on to the subject of prisons.
“Prison does not work,” he said. “We have made an industry out of locking up our young men. There are a million African Americans and half a million Latinos in prison.”
From there, it was hard to guess where the lecture would go next. His pithy observations sounded more and more like Chance the Gardener in the film Being There, or perhaps even like Forrest Gump, minus the intelligence. Indeed, Jackson’s speech had now come to a fork in its path. One road pointed to the fact that having one-and-a-half million people banged up was a great way of disguising how bad the unemployment had really become. The other was signposted “fiscal stimulus” as the prospect of letting loose a-million-and-a-half thieves and crooks would certainly trigger a surge in demand for cars, televisions, computers, camcorders and small, expensive, portable items when people replaced stuff that had been stolen.
Some left-wing commentators had spoken of Jackson’s delivery being as mesmeric as Obama’s. It is a sad reflection of the failure of British education that journalists no longer know the difference between mesmerising and stupefying. The politicians were just too polite to interrupt.
A senior Conservative Member of Parliament was the first to break. He stopped The Reverend and reminded him that prison had worked in Boston.
“That was in a period when there was Midnight Basketball,” was the riposte.
Midnight Basketball? Is this the answer to all the ills of our inner city communities? With bated breath the live audience and those of us listening on radio awaited the great revelation of how Midnight Basketball might work for the common good. Alas it did not come, the speaker had not finished with prisons.
“In school they got five free meals a week, in prison they get twenty-one. It’s a step up.”
Hang on a minute, wasn’t he just complaining about young men being sent to prison? So is this a suggestion that prison inmates meals be reduced to five a week? Does he want the poor lads to starve?
The second Parliamentarian’s veneer of reserve was broken. Martin Salter, a Labour MP, tried to goad Jackson into condemning violent video games by asking if such pastimes made the situation worse in inner city areas. One could not help but hope for a reply to the effect that, if the boys could play Midnight Basketball, they would have no need to play Grand Theft Auto or shoot at hos. Alas, it was not to be, as Jesse had further to go into the realms of the surreal.
“Freedom is victory over indecency, equality requires investment,” he proclaimed, continuing is current track. “We must fight the disease with values, a lot more psychologists are needed.”
Leaving aside the obvious question, what was he on and can we have some please?, and the less obvious question, has he not read “Running With Scissors?”, the most fascinating issue Rev. Jackson raised was Midnight Basketball. Everybody was mystified by it. Was it something to do with a type of Urban Zen, a raised state of consciousness? Would people one day say of a great teacher, “he quit crime and debauchery to devote his life to Midnight Basketball?”
Alternatively, perhaps it was a reference to an imagined time of peace and plenty when everybody drove a Cadillac and nobody had anything to do but play Midnight Basketball. Or, perhaps, was it a coded reference to a forbidden pleasure in the way that, in England, the term “French Polishing” more often mean a service offered by ladies of negotiable affection than anything to do with antique furniture?
Perhaps Midnight Basketball is simply a phrase that conjures images of The Golden Age that exists in all our minds and always seems to slip from the future into the past without touching the present. The way to evoke such emotions in Englishmen of a certain age is to recall the days we could take our girlfriend to town, see a show, have supper with wine in a good restaurant, be killed in a terrorist incident as we waited for a cab, have a respectable funeral and still have change out of five pounds.
All that, of course, was in a period when we had Midnight Cricket.
Ian Thorpe is a British satirical writer. Before retiring at a rather tender age following a serious illness, he was a consultant specializing in integrated digital networks. His projects involved him in utilities, banking and finance, oil and chemicals and many branches of commerce and government. He had some writing success in the 1970s and 1980s but had to put that aside because consultancy paid better. He has been contributing at America’s Right since March 2009.