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Black Friday, White Christmas

Thanksgiving is over, even if the leftovers are likely to last another week or so, and the Christmas season has now officially begun. We take a back seat to no one in our gratitude for the birth of Jesus Christ, but this strikes us as a bit too much Christmastime.
The celebration of our Savior’s birth begins ominously enough with something called Black Friday. This now-familiar phrase is meant to have a positive connotation, as it refers to the black ink that retailers are hoping to use to write down the profits made from the first day of the Christmas shopping season, but it has an undeniably sinister sound about it that that more accurately conveys what the event has become. By now it is an annual tradition for the Drudge Report to scream out headlines about the mayhem in America’s shopping malls, with harrowing tales of maniacal shoppers assaulting one another in the store aisles and riots breaking out over the bargains being offered, and it seems a most inapt way to honor the arrival of the Prince of Peace. It’s far more frightening than anything that occurs on Halloween, which is about the time when the big retail chains start running television commercials with a Christmas theme to promote their Black Friday sales, and it winds up causing a full two months of holiday cheer that is simply too much to bear.
We wish all those stores plenty of black ink today, and dread the drop in the stock market that will surely occur if the figures prove bleak, even if the Federal Reserve announces that the quantitative easing will continue into the next millennium, but we’d rather that people approached Christmas with a more relaxed and reverential attitude. For at least the next two weeks or so we intend to go about our business as usual, and remained focus on such seculars matters as the great lump of coal in the national stocking that is Obamacare, and only then turn our attention to the spiritual issues that are supposed to inform the season. Any more than that would test the faith of even the most pious Christian, especially if he spends the time punching out other shoppers in pursuit of the latest gizmos at some green-and-red-bedecked shopping center.
Our week of Thanksgiving has been spent far from our prairie home in the Philadelphia area, where our parents remain endearingly Okie even after a couple of decades in the big bad city, and except for an opulent evening at the astonishingly fancy-schmantzy Green Room of the Hotel DuPont in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, it’s been a happily low-key week of reminiscing and family togetherness and genuine thankfulness. We highly recommend it to anyone as a good way to spend a holiday, especially a holiday that celebrates the impoverished birth of a man who once chased the money-changers from His father’s temple.

— Bud Norman

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Happy Thanksgiving

We’ll have none of our usual gloom and doom today, but rather pause to give thanks for all that has gone right in spite of our political class.
Among other things we are thankful for our loyal readers, but for heaven’s sakes take a break and have some turkey with your family and friends.

— Bud Norman

The View from Back East

The fortune cookie that accompanied our meal at a P.F. Chang’s franchise somewhere in the endless sprawl of the Philadelphia metropolitan area told us that “A visit to a strange place will bring you renewed perspective.” The faux-Chinese proverb provided by the faux-Chinese restaurant elicited a slight chuckle, given that the joint was eerily identical to the P.F. Chang’s franchise on the far east side of Wichita, right down to the overly-friendly waiter and the over-priced appetizers, but in truth our rare travel beyond the prairie has offered a few fresh insights.
Modern technology and corporate capitalism have done much to obliterate the regional differences that have long strained the union of the states, but there’s still no mistaking that we’re not in Kansas anymore. The television shows and the offerings at the local movie theaters are the same as back home, and although the local news anchors and anchorettes are different they all have the same handsome and pretty and self-serious look about them and the same bright graphics over their shoulders and the same tales of crime and tax increases to report. We’ve passed countless malls with the same impermanent architecture and the same stores as that we pass by on our drives back home, and although the convenience store market is dominated by something called Wawa rather than the QuikTrip stores that dominate the prairie they have the same gargantuan sodas and high-calorie fast foods and sterile atmosphere. There’s a lot more of everything, though, and occasional other reminders half a continent continues to make a difference in the daily life of an American.
These differences are especially apparent in the quadrennial election results, when the states in the northeast light up in blue and the prairie states turn red, and our perusal of the local press provides plenty of other reminder that folks are far more liberal in this part of the country. The Philadelphia Inquirer is obliged to cover the politics of not only Pennsylvania but also Delaware and New Jersey and the rest of the itty-bitty states that are crammed together around here, and little of it makes sense to someone more accustomed to Kansas politics. Gun-grabbing, Muslim-loving, Obama-embracing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is considered a Republican by the prevailing local standards, and his commonsensical insistence on balanced budgets and non-punitive tax rates even makes him a relatively radical right-winger in the view of the east coast press, and it is amusing to read the speculation that he might win over enough honest-to-God Republicans in the heartland to win his party’s nomination for president. Such crazy talk is unaccountable to the Kansas kind of Republican, but after just a few days back east it begins to make some sort of sense.
The first thing a denizen of the prairie notices after arriving at Philadelphia’s intimidatingly immense airport is the city’s downright claustrophobic population, which can’t help but inculcate the collectivist mindset that is at the root of liberalism. The vast space of the prairie provides room for the rugged individualism that underlies the conservative philosophy, but getting so many millions of people to live together in such a constrained area apparently requires a degree of regulation that only liberals are willing to contemplate. Class differences are also more conspicuous and no doubt more infuriating here, where the poverty is more glaringly oppressive and the wealth more gleamingly opulent, so the enforced egalitarianism of the liberal program has an understandable appeal. Even as it becomes more apparent that it will lead to everyone but the politically connected becoming equally poor and stupid, we expect that a good many northeasterners will be satisfied with the result.
Still, there’s much to be said for this strange part of the country. Prairie folk will also notice that there’s an immense amount of history here, with elegant homes and businesses that were already old when J.R. Meade established the mud-walled trading post that was the very first edifice of what would become Wichita, Kansas, and we can’t help enjoying that irony that everything in our far more old-fashioned hometown is relatively new compared to what we find in this more up-to-date metropolis. The Philly cheese steak sandwiches at a distinctively local little eatery called Romano’s cannot be duplicated elsewhere, even if no one in this seems to know how to cook a proper chicken fried steak, and there are other only-in-Philadelphia touches that have somehow survived the relentless homogenization of modern America. Most of the folks we’ve encountered have been friendly enough, as well, and the modern technology allowed us to watch the Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad extend their thus-far unbeaten season on the internet, even in a place where most people would likely wonder what the hell a Wheatshocker is.
With a return to federalism and a bit of tolerance by both city and country folk, there’s a chance the union might somehow survive that red and blue electoral map.

— Bud Norman

A Bad Deal

The front page of Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer was mostly devoted to the big deal that the Obama administration has struck with the mad mullahs of Iran regarding that country’s nuclear weapons program. We get back east often enough to be aware of the paper’s leftward inclinations, and expected that the coverage would laud the deal as peace in our time and a welcome break from the tiresome chore of writing help but concede that the deal sounds awfully fishy.
The agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry will ease the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy and weakened its government’s hold on a restive population in exchange for a six month suspensions of some but not all of its uranium enrichment programs. Just the mention of Kerry’s name would suffice to arouse the suspicions of an inland observer, but even in the big cities on the east coast it did not go unnoticed that the sanctions are a major concession and that a temporary halt to small parts of the nuclear program are not. While it was duly noted that the Kerry had somehow managed to get his negotiating partners on the United Nations Security to go along with it, including the French surrender monkeys who had originally balked at the idea, it was also mentioned that Israel and all of the Sunni Arab nations within missile range of the Shiite Persians in Iran are far less enthusiastic about the arrangement.
The deal is so bad that it has brought Israel and Saudi Arabia into an alliance, which takes some doing, and The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it might even be bad enough to bring Republicans and Democrats together to nix the deal in the Senate. If that were to happen it would be an embarrassment to the Obama administration and further weaken its already diminished political clout, which the eastern press seems to regard as a concern rather than a silver lining around the dark cloud of the deal, but if Iran’s government were to exploit the chance to rebuild its economy and strengthen its firm grip on the country while delaying its nuclear ambitions for a mere six months that would also prove harmful to Obama’s reputation. A nuclear strike on Tel Aviv or Riyadh would be an even bigger catastrophe than Obamacare, which also takes some doing, so perhaps the eastern press is just trying to sound the warnings that they regret having left un-sounded when health care reform was being discussed and could have been averted.

— Bud Norman

The Unfriendly Skies

This is being written in an affluent suburban community somewhere within the endless of sprawl of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, rather than at our usual humble heartland location, and this radical change of venue was accomplished through the miracle of modern aviation. Air travel is one of our least favorite modern miracles, and we don’t recommend it to anyone, but sometimes it cannot be avoided.
Our aversion to flying is partly a simple old-fashioned phobia – we are strictly terra firma people, and as the old joke goes the firma the ground the less terra we feel – but modernity has also done much to make the experience ever more unpleasant. There are all the annoyances of that have been diligently added by the Transportation Safety Administration, of course, but also a number of indignities resulting from the democratization of airline travel.
At this late date there is no use complaining about the politically correct but logically indefensible policies of the TSA, but the right to do is included in the high cost of a ticket and we will therefore avail ourselves of the opportunity. Just before the security checkpoint we noticed a large display of items that are not allowed on board an airliner, which ranged from a hand grenade to a normal-sized can of shaving cream, and although the prohibition on hand grenades seemed sensible enough we could not fathom what threat our container of Barbasol Beardbuster might pose to our fellow passengers. Nor could we see any reason why we should be required to remove our shoes before being allowed on the plane, as they are ordinary footwear of little destructive force. We recall that several years ago somebody had weaponized a pair of sneakers he wore onto a plane, quite ineffectively as it turned out, but we also recall from the grainy press photos that he was conspicuously deranged-looking and of one of the more terrorism-inclined ethnicities, so we see no reason that TSA agents shouldn’t be allowed some discretion in deciding whose sneakers warrant further investigation.
The passenger arbitrarily singled out for more intensive scrutiny was a petite 50-something woman who looked to be of Native American ancestry, so she could hardly be accused of being a damn foreigner, and there was nothing about her demeanor that aroused our suspicions. She endured the groping and fondling and untoward wand-wavings of the TSA agents with the same resigned stoicism that her fellow passengers displayed when partly disrobing at the checkpoint, and although this is the pragmatic response to such nonsense we hope that the traveling public will eventually grow more restive. Not on our flight, of course, as that would cause insufferable delays, but at some point when we are happily ensconced at home.
Those TSA agents have become more efficient in harassing the people they are charged to protect, at least, and in short course we were on board the plane and heading towards Denver. Even the most casual students of American geography will immediately note that the quickest route from Wichita, Kansas, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, does not go through Denver, Colorado, but such detours are the burden of flyers from mid-sized cities with few direct flights to anywhere. The itinerary required a long hike through the immense Denver airport to another boarding gate some 50 or 60 miles away, or so it seemed, and took us through what looked to be an upscale shopping mall teeming with downscale customers. Our idealized notions of airline travel were formed back when George Jones and Tammy Wynette were proudly singing “We’re Not the Jet Set” as proof of their proletarian bona fides, but these days the jet set apparently includes even George’s and Tammy’s most beer-bellied and under-dressed fans. Everyone was talking on cell phones and hauling the latest in wheeled luggage, with that very self-important look that people have when engaging in such formerly elite behaviors, but clearly the glamour has gone from air travel. The inside of our plane to Philadelphia could have easily been mistaken for a Greyhound bus to Tucumcari, New Mexico, during the Dust Bowl, and we think we might have even spotted a carry-on goat or two, so it should not be surprising that airplane have largely disappeared from popular song ever since Merle Haggard sang “Silver Wings” all those years ago.
Having taken the precaution of staying up very late prior to our early morning departure from Wichita, which was made all the earlier by the irrational demands of the TSA, we managed to snooze through most of the flying. After an even longer hike through the even larger Philadelphia airport we were greeted by our Okie parents who have somehow turned into big-city Pennsylvanians. We have since commenced a week of family reunion and thanksgiving, and expect it will be well worth the trouble. It might even yield a few interesting posts on this strange and vexing part of the world, but if not we’ll try to think of something else to say.

— Bud Norman

Another Weird Wichita Story

In addition to its aviation, agriculture, and assorted other industries, our hometown of Wichita, Kansas, is also a leading supplier of newspaper filler. Forgive our civic pride, but we can’t help boasting that our humble prairie metropolis is perhaps the nation’s leading provider, at least on a per capita basis, of those intriguingly weird stories of little significance that editors cannot resist running.
It might be a couple caught copulating in a garbage dumpster, or a morbidly obese man affixed to his toilet seat, or a long-lost brother and sister who had unknowingly been dating one another, but it’s always something with that certain wackiness required to warrant a Wichita dateline. The latest local incident to make the national news concerned an airplane that landed at the wrong airport. This is not so uncommon as to be noteworthy, our air-going friends surprisingly assure us, but in this case it was a very large airplane that landed at a very small airport with a runway too short for a take-off.
What to do with a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter cargo plane stuck on a too-short runway is an interesting question, as is how it got there in the first place, and when you add in the fact that it happened in Wichita the national media were bound to bite on the story. They never did explain how the plane happened to land at Jabara Airport, a small facility named after a local Korean War hero fighter jock that accomodates the frequent small plane traffic into Wichita, rather than McConnell Air Force Base, the massive military facility which is accustomed to large plane traffic and is located near the city’s last remaining Boeing faciility where the cargo of aircraft was intended to be stored, but they did leave the mistaken impression that a city deep in the heart of flyover country didn’t have another runway large enough to accommodate such a hefty aircraft. In fact the plane could have easily taken off from the Mid-Continent Airport that handles the city’s numerous airlines, and the confused pilot apparently thought he had landed at one of the several aircraft plant runways in the plane-building “Air Capital of the World,” but such details might diminish the humorous appeal to bigger city readers.
There seems to have been less interest in what they wound up doing with that grounded plane, although it also makes for a good tale. They turned the plane around with a powerful tow-truck borrowed from one of the local aircraft companies, lightened the plane by leaving just enough fuel to reach the original intended destination about eight miles away, revved the engines to their maximum capacity, and with some ace pilots flown in from back east they somehow got the plane off the ground on a runway approximately half the length of the 12,000 feet recommended by the owner’s manual. Local law enforcement blocked the busy streets for miles around the airport, for fear that the jet engines’ blast would blow enough debris to create a traffic hazard, but a large crowd of local aviation enthusiasts somehow got close enough to cheer the remarkable take-off. Wichita bears no blame for the plane’s unfortunate situation, but it does appreciate a nice bit of aviation derring-do.
The story is not so important as the Obamacare debacle or the Senate’s “nuclear option” or any of the other pendng scandals, all of which are fairly analogous except for the eventual successful take-off, but we can’t resist that Wichita dateline.

— Bud Norman

Questioning Camelot

Our favorite gag by the late Johnny Carson always followed his occasional failed monologue jokes about Abraham Lincoln., when he would exaggeratedly grimace at the audience’s silence and then turn to Ed McMahon to say “Too soon.”
The old show-biz admonition to allow a considerate pause between tragedy and comedy is very much on our mind as we approach Friday’s 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. A half-century is still too soon to be jocular about something so tragic as a presidential assassination, but neither are we inclined to join in the incessant hagiography that has become a cottage industry since Kennedy’s death.
It is altogether fitting and proper that the coverage of the anniversary should be respectful, but it should also be true. Most of the media can be expected to take full advantage of the opportunity to trot out all of the left’s most cherished myths about St. Kennedy of Camelot, which will be presented anew to the gullible generations too young to recall the reality of his presidency and too incurious to have learned about it, and there will be the usual efforts to cast the light of this revisionist history on current events. A more truthful account, as usual, would be more useful.
Kennedy will be recalled as a charismatic exemplar of modern liberalism, a sort of paler ‘60s prototype of President Barack Obama without all the computer glitches, but many of his policies would be anathema to today’s Democrats. Perhaps Kennedy’s brightest idea was a massive tax cut, which not only drastically lowered rates for businesses but also dropped the now-hated top 1 percent’s rates from the confiscatory 91 percent that had last through the allegedly right-wing Eisenhower administration to a still-exorbitant 70 percent, and it set off such an economic boom in the ensuing decade that the country could afford hippies. Some of his policies reflected the traditional Democratic enthusiasm for busy-body big government, but on the whole the bootlegger’s son seemed to have a natural affinity for capitalism.
The peaceniks in the Democratic party should also be reminded by that Kennedy ran as a stauncher cold warrior than the world champion commie-baiter Richard Nixon, and cultivated a very masculine image based largely on his war exploits. He vowed at his inaugural to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” which is hard to imagine Obama ever uttering, and was true enough to the words to incur the wrath of at least one Castro-loving left-winger with Marine marksmanship training. After failing to pay any price or bear any burden during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attack in Cuba, and an unimpressive summit in Vienna, Kennedy made less of an impression on the Soviet leadership, leading to the Berlin Wall crisis and the Cuban missile crisis and a widespread uneasiness that the world was about to go up in a nuclear mushroom cloud, but the response was least more muscular than the modern Democrats would be comfortable with.
There’s no way of proving or disproving the left’s holy writ that Kennedy would not have further involved America in the Vietnam War, which is the basis of all the more creative conspiracy theories regarding his assassination, but there is cause for doubt. It should be noted that Kennedy did increase the number of military advisors in the country, that President Lyndon Johnson further escalated the war with combat troops on the advice of the same “best and brightest” advisors that Kennedy had chosen, and with the same “pay any price, bear any burden” rhetoric of his predecessor, and that Kennedy had been sufficiently interested in Vietnam’s civil war to tacitly green-light a coup that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. Kennedy’s father had seen his own presidential ambitions devastated by a defeatist isolationism prior to World War II, and his brief years in office suggest he had learned well not to pass on a war that might prove popular. Liberals are still entitled to their Gnostic faith that no Castro-loving left-winger would have ever shot Kennedy, we suppose, but the enduring theory that the Great Society and the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act and the rest of the Johnson administration was a right-wing conspiracy strikes us as highly implausible.
Kennedy wasn’t so liberal as Johnson, but he wasn’t nearly conservative enough that the right should embrace his legacy. His initial wobbliness on foreign affairs was almost Obamaian, he had the same rhetorical tendency as his Democratic successors to ink of his countrymen as a collective rather than individuals, and of course there was the reckless and dangerous womanizing that liberals were obliged to defend during the Clinton years. Most of the blame for the disastrous social engineering efforts of the ‘60s falls on Johnson, but almost all of it was sold as an idea that the sainted Kennedy had vaguely proposed in one of his bleeding heart speeches. That Kennedy remains such an iconic figure on the left is sufficient reason to question his legacy thoroughly.

— Bud Norman

Manipulating Democracy

America seems to have become inured to scandal, judging by the apparent lack of attention being paid to an allegation that the unemployment statistics released just before the past presidential election were manipulated to benefit the incumbent.
The claim was made in Monday’s New York Post, but except for the perfunctory scoffing by the White House spokesman, a promised probe by the implicated Commerce Department, and yet another investigation by the Republicans in the House of Representatives, it seems to have drawn little attention outside the constantly indignant conservative talk radio shows. Such insouciance is hard to account for, given the potentially history-changing implications of the charge.
The New York Post is a conservative publication by the lax standards of the New York press, and therefore lacks requisite cachet to fuel a media frenzy, but its record of accuracy compares well to its more fashionable competitors. Although the story cites an unnamed source, which is usually sufficient to ignore any scandal involving Democrats, it also documents that name a specific employee involved in the deception who is quoted as saying he acted under orders from higher-ranking bureaucrats. Given that many knowledgeable observers were skeptical of the suddenly and serendipitously rosy unemployment numbers at the time, including the former chief executive officer of General Electric, the story also has a sobering plausibility.
If true, the story warrants far more attention that it has received. Manipulating such crucial data as the unemployment rate calls into question the accuracy of all government reports, with dire consequences for the markets that rely on the information to make that the decisions that drive the economy. Doing so for partisan political reasons also calls into question the results of the election, with dire consequences for democracy and a free society. As the latest in a series of scandals involving a politicized bureaucracy acting on behalf of the one party committed to its continual growth, it could even call into question whether we still have a democracy.
The story seems all the more plausible following revelations of the Internal Revenue Service harassing conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the Department of Justice’s apparent lack of interest in the matter or anything else that might prove embarrassing to the administration, the National Security Agency’s inordinate interest in the phone records of average Americans, the National Park Service’s heavy-handed efforts to exacerbate the inconvenience of a partial government shutdown, and numerous other cases of government gone wild. The notion that only one or two low-level employees are responsible for a deceptive jobs report is not plausible, and even if it were the notion that they expected to get away it is still scandalous.

— Bud Norman

A Gettysburg No-Show

Seven score and ten years ago President Abraham Lincoln gave one of the greatest speeches in history, and the anniversary of his short address at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will be rightly honored today with a memorial at the same hallowed location. Conspicuously absent from the roster of speakers is the current president, and there has been much speculation about why.
Many of the speculators assume there is some noble and brilliant reason, of course. A CNN report on President Barack Obama’s no-show at the event — which appeared under the non-committal headline “Snub, or Smart?” — notes that the White House spokesman offered no explanation for the snub and then goes off in search of academics to explain why it’s smart. The best they could come up with was Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, who helpfully explained that “By not going, President Obama lets that speech stand on his own. If he went, it would all be about him.”
With all due respect to Professor Richardson, humility and an aversion to attention seem unlikely explanations for anything Obama might do. Obama has never been uncomfortable with the favorable comparisons to the Great Emancipator that his more fevered supporters used to make back in headier times, having launched his first presidential campaign in Lincoln’s adoptive hometown in Illinois and taken his oaths of office with Lincoln’s well-used Bible, and he has rarely missed an opportunity to give a speech. He notably declined an invitation to speak an anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but that would have meant traveling all the way to Germany just to give a speech about great Ronald Reagan was, which would have been too onerous a burden to bear, while Gettysburg is only a few million dollars of travel time away and would have afforded Obama plenty of opportunities to speak about himself. The opportunity to be at the center of something other than the Obamacare debacle for a news cycle must have been especially tempting, and it is therefore hard to explain why he might have passed it up.
More cynical minds than Professor Richardson’s, such as ours, are left to speculate that Obama concluded the event would not be all about him, and that the world would little note nor long remember he said he there. Those gushing claims of Lincolnian greatness look more and more ridiculous with each passing day, and were ridiculous to begin to with, so we can’t help suspecting that somewhere deep in his hubristic psyche Obama has a hard-earned insecurity that the juxtaposition of himself and Lincoln would not make a good photo-op.
In Obama’s stead the audience at the memorial observance will hear remarks by the newly-fledged and little-known Secretary of the Interior, but it is unlikely that she will be able to top Lincoln’s efforts at the site. This is well enough, as the country should reflect on Lincoln’s inspiring exhortation to “be here dedicated to to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Such reflection won’t serve Obama’s purposes, and perhaps that’s why he won’t be there.

— Bud Norman

Looking N-Word

The professional football contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos was what most interested us about the past weekend’s sporting scene, but all the chatter seemed to be about what has come to be known as the “N-word.”
This seemingly ineradicable racial slur is the source of recurring controversies, which are by no means confined to the sports world, but the latest brouhahas have all originated with athletes. Perhaps the word is more frequently employed by people in that occupation, or perhaps their inordinate prominence in society makes their use of it all the more valuable as a teaching tool by those who still hope to eradicate it, but in any case the sports conversation has lately turned “N-word.”
It started when a massively muscle-bound lineman on the Miami Dolphins was accused of bullying another massively muscle-bound lineman on the team, which is the sort of thing we don’t remember hearing about back in the manly era when Vince Lombardi was prowling the sidelines of National Football League games, and the offending behavior inevitably included a text-message that used the slur. Felonious threats of physical injury were allegedly made in the message, but even with the current craze for condemning bullying the slur got most of the attention. The offense was seemingly compounded by the fact that the message was sent by a massively muscle-bound white player to a massively muscle-bound player of mixed race, who was rather precisely referred to in the text-massage as a half-an-N-word, but the ensuing avalanche of stories somehow complicated what seemed a clear-cut case of boorishness. Teammates of all skin hues rushed to the accused player’s defense, saying that threats and physical intimidation were necessary to toughen up to the new employee, who had somehow reached the professional ranks despite the disadvantages of being raised by educated parents and matriculating at Stanford University, and that the language used was standard locker room fare. One dark-skinned player further explained that the accused player was an “honorary” “n-word” by virtue of his massively muscle-bound machismo and therefore entitled to use of the slur.
The notion that the word is acceptable when used by someone of a darker skin color is now commonplace. A professional basketball player who used the slur in a “tweet” was recently fined $25,000 for the offense, a sizeable amount even to someone drawing professional basketball player’s salary, and he offered the same justification. The resultant controversy prompted two well-known dark-hued sports broadcasters to admit that they use the slur routinely, with neither offering any apology for the habit, and one indignantly implied that criticism of the practice is an effort by lighter-skinned people to dictate the behavior of their darker brethren. Both agree that lighter-skinned people should not be permitted use of the word, but for reasons having to do with linguistic empowerment or something it should be widely used by the darker-skinned.
Although we have no desire to dictate the behavior of anyone, beyond the obvious rules against rape and robbery and murder and such that the requirements of a civilized society, but it does seem a sign of strange times that the stigma against racial slurs is regarded as racist and racial equality is to be achieved by having different rules of social etiquette for different races. We would prefer that the word fall into disuse for the same old-fashioned reasons that we were taught to avoid it, because it is rude and vulgar, but that seems unlikely now that rudeness and vulgarity are celebrated as authentic self-expression and righteous rebellion against rules that vanished decades ago. The great appeal of racial slurs is that they’re only words left with any shock value, and the easiest way to gain all-important attention is to shout them with a carefully posed defiance at a gullible media.

— Bud Norman