Reds Were As Bad as Nazis; Dating Hell
Unlike radical-chicWarren baby, I had seen Communism from up close. In the winter of 1944, redguerrillas tried to take over Athens by force of Stalin arms. My family livedin Kolonaki, the Athenian equivalant of, say, 5th Ave. between 60th and 69thSts. The only thing that stood between the Commies and us was a small policestation, the British embassy guarded by a company of British red berets (paratroopers)and my father's APC (armored personnel carrier), which he had taken off an Italianone year before, when the Duce's troops had thrown in the towel.
To cut along story short, the Commies never made it. Kolonaki, inhabited by 40 of therichest families of Greece, survived. Almost every cop died defending us. Myold man-who, incidentally, died in his bed 10 years ago as I write this-foughtsingle-handedly and extremely bravely in front of our house, running out ofammo just as the red berets came to our rescue. (One young Brit was shot throughthe head and died in our kitchen). I shall never forget the stench of the bodiesaround our house.
Having failedto get the rich, the Commies did the next best thing. They murdered most ofmy father's factory workers-to be employed by a capitalist was a capital offense-killedevery priest and schoolteacher they got their hands on and basically tried todo a Pol Pot on Athenian society. They later kidnapped thousands of childrenand took them into Bulgaria to raise them as good Reds. Everyone I know lostloved ones, but that should not get in the way of radical-chic scum like OliverStone, Bianca Jagger and even old Warren.
I thoughtof old Warren the other day, when the BBC devoted an entire evening to visitingthe graves of 50 million people exterminated by the Russian gulag, in a powerfulthree-hour documentary. Oh! to be able to hold a Jane Fonda type by the neckand force them to watch: monasteries being converted into torture chambers,starved slaves being dropped through holes in the ice on Siberian rivers, thekilling rooms of the Lubyanka, the mindlessly sadistic guards still refusingto apologize, justifying the cruelty as "a tradition since Peter the Great."
Even decadesafter Robert Conquest's The Great Terror-the definitive book on Sovietcrimes along with Le Livre Noir du Communisme-Red crimes against humanityhave the capacity to shock beyond belief. Stalin not only out-murdered Hitler,he retains his Western apologists to this day. Many of the architects of thismonumental evil are still alive, yet nothing has been done to prosecute them.While Gen. Pinochet, the man who saved Chile from a Cuban fate, is illegallyheld by the British socialists, monsters who tortured and murdered millionsare allowed to die in their beds. While every effort is being made in the Westto track down the last Nazi prison guard-including some innocents-their Sovietequivalent is still boasting and reminiscing about Stalin's good old days.
In his BlackBook of Communism, Stephane Courtois, the editor, writes: "The childof a Ukrainian kulak deliberately starved to death by the Stalinist regime isworth no less than a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto starved to death by theNazi regime." The Ukrainian kulaks, by the way, were those who died bythe millions, only to have Walter Duranty of The New York Timesstate time and again that no famine ever took place. His picture is still proudlyexhibited in the building's Pulitzer Hall. What grates, needless to say, isthe fact that the Lillian Hellmans of this world were never made to pay forsupporting such evil. In my not-so-humble opinion, we can no longer insist onthe distinction between Communism and Nazism that sets Hitler's state apartas a singularly horrendous regime to which nothing can compare. Those very featuresof Nazism we find repellent were endemic to Communism from the start. But tryto tell this truth to the academy, to Hollywood or to the media. Because Nazismwas experienced from up close by Europeans, it made it difficult for left-liberalintellectuals to compare it to something that took place far away. But it'sthe truth and nothing but the truth that Communism and Nazism were and are morallyindistinguishable.
So, thenext time someone says something about the Nazis-as everyone always seems todo-you, dear readers, say something about the Commies, and watch the indignationyour remark will arouse. Never mind, you will be striking a note in defenseof the tens of millions who died horrendous deaths in the hands of monstersstill among us. Lillian Hellman and your ilk, I hope you are rotting in hell,and that goes for my old buddy Warren, too.
My Dating Hell I've just returned from London,having accompanied my girlfriend back to Britain, and I'm feeling a little depressed.Alas, after two years in New York she's decided to go home. Not that we weretogether all that time. It was one of those on-again, off-again relationships.It isn't completely over. She's living in my flat in Shepherd's Bush and we'regoing to see where things stand at Christmas, but the sad truth is we're probablynot going to spend the rest of our lives together. With enormous reluctanceI'm going to have to start dating again.
Dating.What an appalling prospect. You won't be surprised to learn that dating isn'tmy strong suit. Part of the problem is that, being a foreigner, I'm not entirelysure what a "date" is. If two men and two women go out to dinner,is that just a group of friends getting together, or a "double date"?If you ask a woman out for a drink does that count as a date, or is it what's referred to as a "non-date date?"
As a generalrule of thumb, if the woman calls me up and cancels a few minutes beforehand,then what we were about to do together would have constituted a "date."I've heard the most ridiculous array of excuses in my time. On one occasiona woman told me she couldn't leave her apartment because her newly acquiredkitten had "abandonment issues."
If you livein New York, an additional problem is that so many people are writing booksabout dating you can never be sure that the person you're with hasn't agreedto go out with you purely for the purposes of conducting research. (Unfortunately, by the time you find out about this it's too late to ask them to expense it.)
Take thecase of my friend Cathy. About three years ago she was invited out for a drinkby someone called Lawrence Larose. Six months later he and another writer publisheda book called The Code: Time-Tested Secrets For Getting What You Want FromWomen Without Marrying Them! One piece of advice offered to young swordsmen,Cathy discovered, was to ask women out on a "non-date drinks date"to assess whether it was worth inviting them out on a proper date.
Needlessto say, Cathy never heard from him again.
Even whenI've managed to get past these initial obstacles, I've always found the experienceof being on a date extremely uncomfortable. The trouble is, being a Brit, I'mvery easily embarrassed.
When I firstmoved here the thing that shocked me the most about New Yorkers was their methodof hailing cabs. I couldn't believe that they would blithely stand in the middleof the road, their hands extended in a Nazi salute, and wait for a cab to pullover. We Brits are far too self-conscious to draw attention to ourselves likethat. Typically, we skulk in doorways until we see a taxi for hire; then, whenit's no more than a few feet away, tiptoe out to the edge of the curb, makesure no one is looking, and shoot the driver a meaningful glance. It's a littlelike placing a bid at Sotheby's. Even though British taxi drivers are as skilledas auctioneers when it comes to spotting fares, they often miss that faint tiltof the head that constitutes a hail. Now you know why we always carry umbrellas.
For us Brits,the trouble with dating is that the very idea of going out with someone solelywith a view to assessing their, ahem, sexual compatability, is exquisitelyembarrassing. On the few occasions when I've been out on dates, I've alwaysmarveled at how unself-conscious American women are about sizing me up. They'veinvariably had a checklist of questions that they shamelessly run through overthe course of the evening. What do I do for a living? What part of town is myapartment in? What kind of car do I drive? Why am I single? It's less like aromantic encounter than an extremely tough job interview. By the time the checkarrives I'm usually surprised they haven't asked for a urine sample.
Not thatthe sight of me squirming away as I hem and haw my way through this interrogationis particularly attractive to them, either. My worst experience so far was atan expensive New York restaurant when my dining companion politely excused herselfto go to the bathroom halfway through the meal and never came back.
In Britain,we go about these things much less straightforwardly. If we take a fancy tosomeone, we're much more likely to ask them to join us, along with a dozenother people, on a trip to the pub. That way we can each pretend it's apurely social outing and be spared the awkwardness of a one-on-one encounter.There's something about being sexually scrutinized by another person, particularlyif they're sitting opposite you, that we find deeply embarrassing. If it's goingto happen, much better that it should take place indirectly, in a large group.
The troubleis, this doesn't work in New York. Trying to communicate to a New Yorker thatyou're interested in them by inviting them to join you and 10 friends on a tripto the Bronx Zoo is a bit like attempting to hail a yellow cab by subtly raising your eyebrows. After four years here, I've just about managed to overcome myself-consciousness about hailing cabs. It looks as though I'll have to mastermy embarrassment about going out on dates.
Arab-Americans vs. Jews Years ago a New York politicalconsultant told me, "No one really cares about the Mideast except Jewsand anti-Semites." The cynicism seems borne out by Hillary Rodham Clinton'ssudden discovery that moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalemis an urgent matter. In Washington, while the electoral map is different, theoutcomes are much the same. Even without the finesse and muscle of the renownedpro-Israel lobbies, the disproportion of impassioned sentiment would carry theday. Israel can count on many thousands of this country's most articulate citizens,whose commitment to the Jewish state's well-being is central to their lives.Opposing them are aging ranks of State Dept. "Arabists"-often WASPintellectuals with a romantic streak and long-standing ties to the Arab worldbut without substantive roots in American political life. Alongside them arethose connected to the oil business. Their arguments, stressing naked economicself-interest, usually came across as void of idealism and sure losers in politicalterms.
But recentsquabbles over the appointment to government posts of two politically connectedArab-Americans suggest a shake-up is under way. Joseph Zogby is a young lawyerwho had been working on contract for the State Dept.'s Bureau of Near EasternAffairs, following two years on the West Bank with an organization he had founded,the Palestine Peace Project. His West Bank efforts earned him the Robert F.Kennedy award from his alma mater, University of Virginia Law School. But becauseZogby had written two articles critical of the Israeli occupation, the ZionistOrganization of America mounted a campaign for his dismissal. The New YorkPost editorial page chimed in, saying Zogby wasn't fit to be hired as a dogcatcher.
Weeks latera new battle flared when House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt tried to nameSalam Al-Marayati, a prominent Arab-American from Los Angeles, to the NationalCommission on Terrorism, a congressional panel. Again the ZOA and other pro-Israelgroups mounted the ramparts, charging Al-Marayati with being soft on terrorism,and anti-American because he had not categorically denounced Hamas and Hezbollah.In both instances, American Jews who worked with the men described them as moderateand principled, committed to peace between Israel and the Arabs.
But bothplainly had the kind of empathy with Palestinian Arabs that is commonplace amongAmerican Jews where Israel is concerned or is the reflexive stance for manyIrish-Americans on issues between Ireland and Great Britain. They may have supportedthe peace process, but were not neutrals and didn't pretend to be.
The Jewishlobbies prevailed, at least in part. Zogby was not dismissed, but after hiscontract expired he moved to a Justice Dept. job with nothing to do with theMideast. Despite protests from American Muslims, Gephardt dropped Al-Marayati's nomination altogether.
Nevertheless,the stirrings of an Arab-American lobby, one based not on ties to the Gulf oilstates or Arabist nostalgia for the old Middle East, but on the political activismof Arab-Americans, may be visible here for the first time. According to theArab-American Institute's Jenny Salan, Arab-Americans now number three million(though considerably less by official census data). More telling than its sizeis their community's recent demographic growth: Immigration alone has increasedthe Arab population in the United States by 45 percent since 1990, and America'snon-Arab Muslim population is expanding rapidly as well. And like other "hyphenatedAmericans" they are not reluctant to deploy all the buzzwords of the regnantmulticulturalism-"inclusion," "diversity," etc., to gainseats at the tables of power. The Jewish lobbies may have prevailed over SalamAl-Marayati, but they are sure to face this kind of issue again and again, andit is hard to imagine the Arabs will lose all the future showdowns.
One mustpoint to a substantial irony here: Virtually all ideological factions of theAmerican Jewish community have (to the chagrin and occasional bafflement ofthose, like myself, who favor immigration reform) been steadfast in their backingof the current high rates of immigration-probably for reasons that have to dowith their own immigrant roots. Now Jews are certain to experience the waningof the preponderance of ethnically based energy and idealism they have beenable to mobilize on Mideast issues.
As the UnitedStates begins more and more to resemble, in the composition of its population,the UN General Assembly, the instincts and reflexes guiding its diplomacy willinevitably evolve as well. Certainly the political consultant's remark abouthow few people really care about the Mideast will soon seem completely obsolete.
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
School for the Post-School Set
New York City History Gets Personal
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
School for the Post-School Set
New York City History Gets Personal