Yesterday I was in Newton, Massachusetts, to speak to Christians and Jews United for Israel. At the end of the speech I was presented with a shofar, although, after all the yakking, my embouchure was too tuckered to make much noise with it. I'm happy to report that it made it back to New Hampshire in better shape than the didgeridoo did from Perth.
It was, obviously, a somewhat somber gathering, held in the wake of the worst slaughter of Jews in American history - at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. If your grip on scripture is a little wobbly, that name is from Proverbs. In the King James version:
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom... She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
As I said to the audience in Newton, we live in a time when man can find wisdom - almost the entirety of human knowledge - on a pocket-sized device he carries around with him all day. In theory, the tree of life should be spreading its branches broad and embracing over ever more of humanity. Instead, in the Age of Digital Wisdom, too many retreat into dark corners sealed off from any wider enlightenment.
In a world of hermetically sealed ideological ghettos, it is a melancholy fact that Islam, the secular polytechnic left and the subterranean skinhead right all meet at what Laura Rosen Cohen calls Jew-Hate Junction. Granted that, it was still disturbing to see American Jews rationalize mass murder by a fellow American on the following grounds:
And a word to my fellow American Jews: This president makes this possible. Here. Where you live. I hope the embassy move over there, where you don't live was worth it.
So the "root cause" was "the embassy move". That's Julia Ioffe of GQ magazine. I was asked a question about it in Newton yesterday, and replied that this kind of thinking reminded me of a passage by Anthony Hope - one I quoted in my introduction to The Mark Steyn Club's serialization of The Prisoner of Zenda, from a more obscure fancy of his on earlier events in Ruritania:
It does make you appreciate how fiercely delineated is the author's fictional landscape: Hope knew its history, its rulers and its laws long before the events of The Prisoner of Zenda took place. From Chapter One, page one of The Heart of Princess Osra â€“ Strelsau, the capital city of Ruritania, in the 1730s:
"'Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!' The impatient cry was heard through all the narrow gloomy street, where the old richly-carved house-fronts bowed to meet one another and left for the eye's comfort only a bare glimpse of blue. It was, men said, the oldest street in Strelsau, even as the sign of the "Silver Ship" was the oldest sign known to exist in the city. For when Aaron Lazarus the Jew came there, seventy years before, he had been the tenth man in unbroken line that took up the business; and now Stephen Nados, his apprentice and successor, was the eleventh. Old Lazarus had made a great business of it, and had spent his savings in buying up the better part of the street; but since Jews then might hold no property in Strelsau, he had taken all the deeds in the name of Stephen Nados; and when he came to die, being unable to carry his houses or his money with him, having no kindred, and caring not a straw for any man or woman alive save Stephen, he bade Stephen let the deeds be, and, with a last curse against the Christians (of whom Stephen was one, and a devout one), he kissed the young man, and turned his face to the wall and died. Therefore Stephen was a rich man, and had no need to carry on the business, though it never entered his mind to do anything else...'
That's pretty darn good. There's not another single reference to Ruritanian Jewry in any of Hope's writing, but he's thorough enough in the conception of his fairytale kingdom even to know what the medieval anti-Semitic property restrictions were in this corner of Mitteleuropa.
As I've written before and as I told the CJUI audience, for centuries the rap against the Jews was that they were sinister rootless cosmopolitan types unbound by allegiance to whichever polity they happened to be residing in. So, after the Second World War, the ones who were left became a more or less conventional nation state, and now they're hated for that.
Yet the old anti-Semitic property restraints remain: Israel is, in effect, subject to a geopolitical version of the same conditions endured by Lazarus the Jew in Anthony Hope's Strelsau. The Zionist Entity is for the moment permitted to remain in business but, like Aaron Lazarus, it's not entitled to the enforceable property rights of every other nation state - including the right to have its foreign diplomats located in its capital city. By insisting that the "Palestinian question" is never resolved, the world also ensures that Israel's sovereignty is never really settled: it, too, is conditional, and, to judge from commentary like that of GQ correspondents, it's increasingly seen that way by the west's elites; the Jew is tolerated as a current leaseholder but, as in Anthony Hope's Ruritania, he can never truly own the land. A seven-decade nation state is merely the latest iteration of the Wandering Jew, a rootless transient.
This Tweetable lunacy entirely obliterates the artful distinction the left professes to maintain between "anti-Zionism" and "anti-Semitism". It is striking to see #NeverTrump American Jews embrace it by blaming Saturday's mass murder on, of all preposterous things, the embassy move.
~So much "news" seems to be written in instantly evaporating ink, and fades even as you read it. Even before it was supplanted by Saturday's slaughter, the big story of - gosh, was it only last midweek? Thursday? - had a faintly artificial quality about it. The best summation of Cesar Sayoc, the man who held America in thrall for forty-eight hours - the world's greatest serial non-bomber, not the Unabomber but the Unbomber, came from Stacy McCain:
The ultimate 'Florida Man' â€” a Filipino-American who pretended to be a Seminole, worked as a male stripper for a fake Chippendales company, used steroids, suffered from mental illness, hated his mother and terrorized the country by sending fake bombs through the mail.
Indeed. His whole persona has the faintly over-ripe unreality of many tabloid stories - as if, in a saner world, if only Mr Sayoc had been able to pitch it to a publisher or movie studio, they'd have prevailed upon him to dial it back a notch and keep it within the realm of credibility.
This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian's journey. All scripture study leads to Islam.
Her shaven head is now covered, and she has changed her name to Shuhada' Davitt: Nothing Compares To Ululating the adhan.
Some years ago I posited among the celebrity class an Islamic equivalent of what I called "Richard Gere Buddhism". There will be more of this.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline starting with our twentieth-anniversary observances for The National Post: on Friday I found myself envying David Frum's fatwa, and on Saturday I declined to toss my shirt in the Maoist washer with the red flag. Our weekend movie date saluted a Transylvanian count, a Dark Lord of the Sith and a Knight Bachelor - Christopher Lee. My Sunday song selection offered a little pre-Halloween spookiness with "Witchcraft". And our big presentation was the latest in our series of nightly audio adventures Tales for Our Time - Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. You can hear me read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.
For readers in Pennsylvania and western New York, the legendary Dennis Miller and the not so legendary me will be on stage together for the first time. You can pre-book tickets for Reading, for Syracuse, for Wilkes-Barre and for Rochester. And at all four shows there's a special opportunity to meet Dennis and me immediately after the show.
Oh, and you don't have to be a Pennsylvanian or New Yorker. We're hopeful that there'll be a little extra traffic on the QEW southbound and a few United Empire Loyalist skiffs slipping silently through the Thousand Islands and across the St Lawrence. Ontario Steyn Club member Mark Pergunas has already booked passage:
We've booked great seats in Syracuse through Ticketmaster and can't wait! Close enough to the stage that we may not even require oxygen packs.
Bonus! We plan on travelling across the border in the guise of either Boer mining engineers a la Greenmantle or intinerant Canuck marijuana wholesalers. Either way, we'll make sure we mention Mark's name at the Alexandria Bay N.Y. U.S Customs and Border Protection post.
Glad you got good seats, Mark. We'll make a point of singling you out for some cringe-making audience participation.
Catch you on the telly this evening with Tucker live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific, and with a special edition of The Mark Steyn Show later this week. For those who prefer me in non-visual formats, also this evening, for Mark Steyn Club members, we'll be continuing our latest Tale for Our Time - Kafka's Metamorphosis. If you'd like to get in on my performances of Kafka and Wells, Kipling, Conrad, Gogol, Conan Doyle, Scott Fitzgerald and more, all you have to do is join The Mark Steyn Club. I was delighted to meet several Massachusetts members of our growing Club yesterday, and I hope to meet many more at the shows with Dennis and on the next Steyn cruise. For more info, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership.