Category: Correspondence

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A Mississippi Homecoming

Chauvinistic Southerners like me are hard to please. We don’t like it when visitors pop in and out and say that the South has changed so much that it looks like everywhere else; but we don’t like it when folks come calling and say that nothing important has changed, either. In a recent article in...

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Graveyard Vigil

Probably the most moving event of my year in Poland so far was my visit to the Powazki Cemetery on the evening of All Saints. It is an old cemetery, with nothing like it that I know of in America. Indeed, the most similar I can recall is found in Maple Grove, the old cemetery...

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The Unseen Caravaggio

I went to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a rainy Tuesday morning, hoping to avoid the crowds that gather at big name art events these days. The streets were fairly empty, and I could feel the temperature drop along the line of fountains as I passed—a cozy moment before moving...

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Save the Children

Suddenly, we may receive a son—a six-year-old, our first child—and we may get him in weeks. My small worries grow immense. Some background on one of them: My husband and I have what has been called a “mixed marriage” (sort of a hot dish, like franks and beans). He is firmly Catholic; I, by upbringing,...

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A Cultural Evening in Grenada

During the four-and-one-half years of Cuban hegemony in Grenada, I often had cause to cross a country road from my house on the Pointe Salines peninsula to the Headquarters of the DGI (Directorio General de Intelegencia) to complain about the noise. Would they please turn down the altavoz or speaker system beaming Castro’s speeches at...

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Closing the Campus Frontier

The recent drop in the price of oil has been welcome indeed to most Americans, for it portends a boost of epic proportions for the economy. However, the blessings of cheap petroleum do not fall evenly across the land. In Texas and Oklahoma, as in other oil-producing states, the drop from $40 to $15 a...

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The Federal Government and Federal Express

Why do agencies of the U.S. government make such heavy use of Federal Express? No, that’s not a riddle. It’s a serious question. I have been dealing with a number of Federal bureaucrats—never mind why—and it seems that almost invariably they communicate by Federal Express. Next day service, too, not the cheaper 48-hour rate. Has...

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Will They Still Love Us Tomorrow?

L. and M. and their two blond preschool sons have escaped, after years of stealthy planning and saving and months of waiting. Not the gaunt East European urchins we expect, they step off the plane as if from the pages of Family Circle, self-conscious in our applause, the little boys in Velcro sneakers, M. movie-star...

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Letter From the Lower Right Poetic Gems

Alas, for the South! Her books have grown fewer— She never was much given to literature.” . . . Thus, South Carolina’s J. Gordon Coogler—“the last bard of Dixie, at least in the legitimate line,” as H.L. Mencken put it in his scathing essay “Sahara of the Bozart.” Mencken’s essay has by now introduced several...

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Dan Rather’s Troubled Land

If it did nothing else, the farm depression of the mid-80’s has demonstrated that our current agricultural leadership is simply not quick enough to deal with all the monkey wrenches in a politician’s tool box. This is not surprising, since farm people are used to waiting and adjusting to growing seasons, to slower things, while...

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Price Supports & Poetic Justice

Next winter it’s Phoenix or Honolulu for me, courtesy of the Writers’ Set-Aside payment I’ll be getting from my Uncle Sam. The program—a brilliant idea, if you ask me—started with farmers, of course, getting paid to let certain fields lie fallow or to give up certain crops for a time because the market couldn’t support...

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Death of a Communist

Look elsewhere for amusement this month. This is not a lighthearted letter. It is a reflection on the life of a man who was once a friend of mine, a man whose life and work demonstrate that meaning well is not enough. Al and I were graduate students at Columbia in the 60’s. For a...

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Snow Job

Around here, folks are awfully worried. It’s strange, though—we’re not worried about what the nightly news says we’re worried about. Contrary to (seemingly) popular opinion, we don’t spend every waking moment in a nuclear catatonia. Our children—at least the children I know—don’t have nightmares of “the fire next time.” They don’t even think about nuclear...

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A Manly Celibate

What the late Axel Springer (1912-1985) was to the world of newspaper publishing, legal scholar Jacques Ellul is to Protestants, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is to writers, the vigorous Père Raymond-Lèopold Bruckberger is to the world of contemporary Roman Catholic intellectuals—a man whose many gifts would make him a sought-after celebrity if his deepest convictions were...

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Dr. Bob’s Unusual University

Bob Jones University. Isn’t that the segregationist place down in South Carolina someplace? Well, yes and no; or, rather, no and yes. BJU is in Greenville, South Carolina. And it did lose its tax exemption not long ago because its administration—which means the Reverend Dr. Bob Jones Jr., son of the founder—forbids interracial dating on...

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The Bismarck Bypass

In their own quiet way, arts activities are as vigorous in the Midwest as anywhere else, a fact that few seem to realize—including Midwesterners. A year ago I was privileged to escort an emigre lecturer around my state for a week. At one evening’s talk he impetuously introduced me as “not one of your long-haired...

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The Captain and His Cause

Our town was recently graced by a visit and lecture from one of the nation’s foremost philosophers. Captain Kangaroo came to this outpost on the Tundra, only a hundred miles or so southeast of Lake Wobegon, to speak at the Town Hall Forum series put on by the local ecclesiastical emporium. We knew in advance...

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Unto the Least of These …

A few years ago Oral Roberts made national headlines when he confessed to having seen a 900-foot-tall Jesus in the heavens urging the faithful to donate to the “City of Faith,” as he called the medical school he was building at his university. Those who believed him, his “partners,” were asked to send monthly donations...

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Potomac Fever

In November, National Review carried an appreciative piece on the very appreciable William J. Bennett, Secretary of Education. NR‘s Washington inside-dopester, John McLaughlin, concluded that “with a bit of grooming, up-front experience, and continued exposure to Potomac fever [Bennett] may have the making of a politician.” “There are,” he added, “worse corruptions.” Oh? Name one....

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Letter From the Heartland

Some of us come later in life than others to . . . well, to adulthood. I was nearly in my 30’s before I had even an inkling of the realities of civic responsibility or how to be a friend or why I should fasten my seat belt or how to keep my temper. I...

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Birthday Thoughts

Some folks in these parts—maybe in yours, too—were dismayed when the Congress awhile back whooped through a national holiday on Martin Luther King’s birthday. That one of Dr. King’s close associates was in all likelihood a card-carrying Commie had just been documented in a book by David Garrow (who somehow contrived to view that fact...

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Whose Voice Counts?

“I am teaching you to use a tool more deadly than a pistol.” This is the message beginning journalism students hear from an instructor who spoke last year at a conference on “Our Enemies’ Use of the Media,” sponsored by Accuracy in Media. In a world of Goliaths, count Accuracy in Media as one of...

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Things We Ought Not to Have Done

In the capital city of a state more conservative than many, in its midsized newspaper more conservative than not, runs a weekly feature called “Single File,” of presumed interest to, yes, area singles (people, not cheese slices). This week’s article, “first in a series,” was “Sex and Love Intermingle in the 80’s.” Titillated by the...

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The Ever-Receding Worker’s Paradise

This month the Communist Party of the Soviet Union will adopt another Party program. Released as a draft in October 1985, this program constitutes a definitive statement of where the party is and where it is-headed on its path to the worker’s paradise. The Soviet Communist Party has had only three previous programs—in 1961, 1919,...

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Odds and Ends From Here and There

The last couple of years have been busy ones, here in the South. Mississippi finally ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the vote. At Billy Bob’s, in Fort Worth, Merle Haggard stood all 5,095 customers to drinks. And in Hardwick, Georgia, Daniel Sargent, 27, a one-legged and legally blind diabetic armed...

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The Modesty of a New Yorker

I may be the only person in America—I am certainly the only one in New England—who did not mourn the recent passing of E.B. White. Of course, I don’t mean to say I celebrated his death. On the contrary, I was horrified by the New York Times‘ obituary, which began with the brutal, if unassailable,...

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Going First Class From Karakorum to Moscow

In August-September 1985, I traveled as a faculty lecturer with a group of Rice University alumni on a journey from Mongolia to Moscow by way of Siberia. The trip began in the village of Khujirt near Genghis-Khan’s capital of Karakorum. From there we went northwest to the God-forsaken Ulan-Ude and the capital of Eastern Siberia,...

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Letter From Minnesota

American and British negotiators of the Treaty of Paris, attempting to set the northwestern boundary of the new United States, agreed on a line following Rainy River “to the Lake of the Woods, thence through said lake to the most northwestern part thereof.” Another 60 years would pass before an accurate map, astronomical calculations, and...

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Letter From the Southwest

Giving, helping, caring—these are words frequently mentioned in the writings and orations of most religious and social philosophers. Giving and helping and caring are concepts that touch something deep in the breast of civilized mankind and call forth the kind of responses that distinguish him from the baser animals: compassion, kindness, generosity, concern for the...

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Science and Religion

I gather that the Texas Board of Education has done something commendable, but I don’t know exactly what because the Washington Post (my source) was too busy deploring it to describe it. I assume it was something great because it reduced the Post to stammering incoherence. “Unbelievable” was only the beginning; “worse than silly ....

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Letter From the Heartland

You can tell Midwesterners from other folks by the way they poke public fun at the Midwest. Iowa recently held a contest to find a state license-plate slogan, and the entry generating the most attention was “Iowa: Gateway to Nebraska.” North Dakota has erected a series of billboards along its highways, among them “Stay in...

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Food for Thought

One of the dumber remarks of the 1984 Presidential campaign—a campaign notable for its dumb remarks—came from Joe Frank Harris, governor of Georgia. Asked if he approved of Geraldine Ferraro, he replied: “Yes. I asked her if she had eaten grits and liked them, and she said, ‘Yes’—and she passed the test.” He should have...

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Letter From Washington

We Americans are optimists. As peo­ple of goodwill and great intentions, we find it difficult to comprehend a system of government or a political philosophy that has no place for de­cency or compassion. From time to time, however, some­thing happens that makes us face the facts of international life. Solzhenitsyn writes The Gulag Archipelago. Korean...

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Letter From the Lower Right

To begin with, an anniversary: Sep­tember 20th of this year marked a decade since the death of Alabama Representative Ray Burgess. The Honarable Ray, described at the time of his death by the New York Times as “a volatile segregationist and sometimes [sic] lay preacher,” had a habit of bringing his pistol onto the floor...

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Tell About the South

Why a monthly letter from the South in a national (indeed, international) publication like this one? A good question that deserves a thoughtful answer. When Thoreau heard about the construction of a telegraph from Maine to Texas, it’s said, he asked whether Maine and Texas had anything to say to one another. He meant, of...

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To the Pretoria Station

Governments, Lenin once wrote, never fall unless they are first pushed. Whatever his faults, the old Bolshevik must have known something about how to get rid of unwanted regimes. In the Revolution of 1917, it was the Imperial German government that helped to push over what was left of the Russian state by dispatching Lenin...

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Letter From College

The much-ballyhooed young conservative movement of the early 1980’s may soon come to an inglorious and grinding halt. While the early 80’s were marked by a certain gusto on the part of conservatives fighting to overthrow entrenched liberals, the middle 80’s are a time of unwarranted complacency. One can almost hear cries of “Reagan is...

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Did You Ever . . . ?

The past few years have not been good ones for Southern comedians (some of our politicians aside). First we lost the Reverend Grady Nutt, whose gentle Baptist humor was one of the high spots of the syndicated television program Hee Haw. Southern Baptist preachers drink a lot of iced tea in the line of duty:...

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The Big Guns Sound Off

The Health Sciences auditorium at Emory University was the scene last April of a two-day discussion, presided over by two former chief executives of the United States: Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford. Invitations for the event came from the Carter Center of Emory University (not actually to be built until 1986), and sponsors included...

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Letter From the Lower Right

Taxing Matters In a North Carolina newspaper not long ago-a North Carolina newspaper – I  actually read  an  editorial urging Tar Heel legislators to raise the state tax on cigarettes. What is the world coming to? The state’s present tax, I gather, is the lowest in the nation. You would think North Carolinians would join...

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Letter From South Africa

I spent March 1985 in South Africa as a guest of several South African universities. I lectured to academic audiences, traveled in the rural areas of Transvaal and the Cape Province, spent a day in Soweto, visited the Crossroads slum in Cape Town and the Black township of Alexandra in Johannesburg. I talked to Black ser vants and Black leaders,...

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Letter From Central America

World attention focused on Managua several months ago, as leaders of the Socialist world, led by Fidel Castro, converged on Nicaragua for the most stupendous Marxist levee since Ethiopia’s $100 million bash for Colonel Mengistu. Meanwhile, thousands of Nicaraguan campesinos, dubbed “contras” by their enemies, continued to risk their lives in a voluntary, patriotic, and...

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Letter From Budapest

Observation of intellectual life in Hungary today provides a fascinating picture of a nation living in two worlds and, in certain ways, profiting by both. “East” and “West” become suddenly realities, cultural as well as political. Soviet occupation has compelled the intellectuals to study Marxist writings, in fields where their Western colleagues, even the leftist...

Letter from Canada: Legislating Oppression
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Letter from Canada: Legislating Oppression

The appointment of a Parliamentary Task Force on Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society was the latest in a series of attempts to persuade Canadians that their country must be­ come a miniature United Nations in order to substantiate a political theory. The theorist is Pierre Elliott Trudeau; his theory is that “nations belong...