This installment of Ben Stein’s Diary appeared in The American Spectator’s October issue. To subscribe, please click here.p> WEDNESDAY br> IT’S EARLY AUGUST. Here I am in hot, humid, miserably oppressive Washington, D.C. It is a steam bath. I am on a good mission, though. Thanks to a woman named Ms. Brody at the USO, I am visiting Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland to see and talk to wounded Marines from Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a driver and he’s doing all of the hard part, so I can concentrate on the scenery. I passed the intersection of Connecticut and Kanawha Streets, NW. Years ago, some pals from Columbia and I rented a house there. I had a bedroom with purple walls and used to get very, very high there with the woman who is now my wife. Alas, the house has been torn down, replaced with icky townhouses. Well, ou sont les neiges d’antan? What times we had there. Now I am still in touch with two of my roommates from those days, both doing well. But one of them borrowed my eyeglasses a month or so ago and has not returned them. I wonder why. /p>
Then we drove farther on past the District Line to the gates of the Chevy Chase Club. Immediately, my stomach started to hurt and my head spun. I really had a major resentment towards that club when I was a kid. In those days, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was strictly restricted against Jews. No Jews would even be considered at all under any circumstances for membership. When I drove by it in those days I would feel a surging, crazed fury.
It hurts like mad insanity to be excluded on the basis of a condition of birth. Here the little Stein family was. My father was a successful man with impeccable manners. Both of my parents had gone to major schools. My father had served in the Navy during World War II. But we were too dirty and low to be considered for membership. We might start bringing in our shmatas and trying to go from member to member selling them wholesale. Or we might talk too loud or play pinochle or some damned thing.
Anyway, time has passed. I now think clubs should be free to exclude anyone they want under law. That’s because I think an intrusive government is a lot more dangerous than a racist club. But it still is personally insulting that (as I have been told and maybe I am misinformed) the Chevy Chase Club is still restricted against Jews. It makes me even more furious that the Los Angeles Country Club, less than a mile from my house, is also, de facto, restricted against Jews. They have a silly charade that they don’t discriminate against Jews. They just don’t take anyone in the entertainment business. Gee, I wonder if they would have turned down Ronald Reagan.
Well, enough of that. My life is great and I have very little indeed to complain about.
WE ARRIVED AT THE Bethesda Naval Medical Center, passed the old FDR-designed main tower where my very own father was treated during World War II, and then went to a new building. Three crisply dressed, very fit-looking Marines and a pleasant-looking Ms. Brody greeted me. They immediately introduced me to a young Marine missing both legs below the knee but walking around perfectly well and visiting with his lovely young wife.
He could not have been cheerier or more self-effacing. What a hero.
Then to several wards to see men missing limbs, missing eyes, often with severe, scary-looking machines implanted in them to make their bones grow again. To a man, they were cheerful, optimistic, eager to stay in The Corps. How unbelievably lucky we are to have them on our side, defending us. One star with a prosthetic limb said his only goal was to return to Iraq and help out his buddies. His wife, sitting nearby, looked sad.
There were actually a lot fewer men there than I thought I would find. Is the media making the war seem worse than it is? Hmm, 1,850 killed so far, many in accidents. That’s fewer than in Civil War battles we have never heard of. Each death is a tragedy and a curse. And I wish there were none. But is 1,850 deaths in a war a lot or a little? By historical standards, it’s not a huge number. In the Civil War, over 600,000 died out of a population very roughly one-eighth what ours is now. That would be equal to almost 5 million killed today. A whole Southern generation was essentially halved.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?