Vegas, baby. My wife and I are here to speak to the Western Petroleum Marketers Association. These are people who own chains of gas stations and convenience stores all over the western USA. Also present are the men and women who supply fuel pumps, signs, food, immense, glittering gasoline transport trucks—works of art, really. The event is at the Mirage, a wonderful hotel. Last night, I wandered around the exhibit hall for quite some time and found myself in front of a display of Noble Roman’s Pizza. I took two pieces. Rarely if ever have I tasted anything so good.
“Hunger is the best sauce,” as the Latin saying goes, and I was starving. Still, that was amazingly good pizza. I had just flown in, along with my bride of some 44 years, and the last food I had was yummy pistachios that morning after speaking to the pistachio growers in San Diego. Wifey and I had stayed at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego right on the harbor, facing an immense aircraft carrier and many pleasure craft. That was some astonishing view.
Anyway, this morning, the day after the pistachio growers and the aircraft carrier, I had to awaken at 6 a.m., very early for me, make many notes on my speech, then go down to the breakfast with the directors of the Western Petroleum Marketers Association. Their wives were in the room as well. I went up to each person in the room, introduced myself, asked where they were from and how business was, and enjoyed it all thoroughly.
I am a born meeter and greeter. I think I have told you how George Corley Wallace, as a four year old, would meet visitors to his childhood hometown, Clio, Alabama, at the train station. If I have this right, he would come up to them and say, “I’m George Wallace, Junior, and if I can do anything for you while you’re here in Clio, just let me know.” I could easily imagine doing that right now. My son is also amazingly good at that kind of interaction. He learned it from me and at Cardigan Mountain School (one of the finest institutions of learning on this earth)—how to greet men and women politely—and it stayed with him.
I, your humble servant, spoke to about 400 people and had a great time with them. Really, the ordinary citizen, especially the ordinary small town citizen and businessman in this country, is just the salt of the earth. They are outgoing, cheerful, and warm.
The gas station and convenience store businesses are apparently doing not just well in the western U.S. but very well indeed. There are a lot of small businesses in this country that are flourishing. These people have three generations working in the business at once, just as the pistachio farmers do. It’s a great business. Why get out of it?
I wish I had a family business to pass on to my son, but in a way I do. He could help me with research on my books. Maybe I will try to get him to do that. (“Good luck, Pop.”)
Anyway, after the speech, I was breathtakingly tired, so I went back to my room and slept. I made a mistake about the time of the flight and got up way earlier than I needed to. Like a dope, I made my wife pack and we had a long time to vamp before the airplane boarded. I felt extremely tired and I felt very, very stupid.
We sat in some comfy chairs at the United Club at McCarran though and soon I was asleep. Listening to “Idiot Wind,” Bob Dylan’s masterful rant about the horrors of gossip and malice.
It’s extremely apropos for my life right now because just a few days ago, someone was telling me what a bad person I am and how I wasn’t the kind of “choir boy” Republican that I told people I was.
That actually made me laugh. As I have told my beloved Spectator readers over and over again, I make no claim at all to being a good person. A wildly generous person—yes. To the point of suicide. But a good, non-sinful person? Not in the slightest little bit. I am a 24-karat, wretched sinner. I have committed so many sinful acts it is impossible to even keep count for a few days. There is almost no sin I have not committed. But I do claim this little bit of light: I have confessed my sins and asked God for His blessings and forgiveness. And I do believe He will forgive me if I confess and acknowledge Him.
But as to my claiming to be a particularly good person? Never. Not in a million years.
The flight home was uneventful. I slept like a baby.
I think I told you that I recently bought The World at War, the superb documentary about World War II narrated by Laurence Olivier, the man with the best voice on this planet—now gone, of course. (He also was married to Vivien Leigh, probably as good an actor as there has ever been. What a marriage that must have been. Two mad people together, both exploding with talent and ambition.)
Tonight I watched an hour of the documentary about Genocide. It started out with the origins of racist thought and then the origins of the SS, Hitler’s killing machine for Jews and many others. Olivier made it clear that the basis of “thought” for the notion of killing whole populations of those deemed to be below Aryan status was a “neo-Darwinist” concept—i.e., that nature will eventually eliminate a competing, weaker species, so why not give nature a hand? That was Darwin’s precise idea and, as Himmler understood it, along with his boss, Hitler, the people who were parasites on the Herrenvolk were mostly the Jews. So, they had to be killed.
It’s fascinating to me that The World at War says that the Genocide was a neo-Darwinist idea. Now that the neo-Darwinists have a stranglehold on all intellectual activity in the Western world, that kind of statement would be strictly verboten.
The scenes of the murders, the starvation, the tortures of the Jews were just unbearably awful. Be-yond imagining. But, of course, they happened. Some of it—a lot of it—was happening in my lifetime.
The narration by survivors of what went on in the ghettoes and at the crematoria and—God help us—in the gas chambers themselves are simply beyond endurance.
If you want to see what happens when man says that man is God and that science will tell man how to deal with his fellow man, you cannot do better than to watch this documentary. The World at War—available from Amazon.
I am back in Rancho Mirage. I have had a terrible cold and bronchitis now for a few days and I am limping through the day, day by day.
But, I am just reeling from what I have seen on The World at War. I know I am like a broken record about this, but how can we ever even start to thank the men who fought at Bastogne and Monte Cas-sino and Remagen and Zeitlen (where my father-in-law did the heroic acts that earned him the Silver Star)? How can we ever repay the men who died on the Bataan Death March or in Japanese prison camps or on Iwo Jima or the Battles of Vella Lavella or the flyers who flew over Berlin or over the hump in Burma? How can we repay the wives and widows and children?
How can we ever thank them enough?
With every breath we take, there should be prayers on our lips and in our hearts for the men and women who wear the uniform.
Meanwhile, what the heck is happening in Afghanistan? That’s turning out to be a true disaster. Yes, it’s time to get out, but how do we get out? Afghanistan is landlocked. Pakistan is on one side and Iran on the other. The only way out is through the north and I am not sure how much they like us. What a time to be even thinking of cutting the military budget. Are the people at the White House insane? No, I am sure not. They are just trying to do their best as they see it, but they are still way off the beam. This is a dangerous world. It is not time to cut the military budget.
Again, back to that woman who was telling me what a horrible person I am (she gets paid for doing that, by the way)…In the room with me was a “mediator” who was a human miracle. His parents were Holocaust survivors. His mother, as a Jewish child in Poland, had to hide in a closet for five years. His father hid in a forest. Now, he travels the world skiing and doing Ecuadorean river kayaking while not mediating. All thanks to America and to his hero parents and to the heroes who beat the Nazis. Human beings are amazing creatures—capable of the best and the worst. This country mostly has the ones who are capable of the best. Let us thank God. Every breath we take of American air is a miracle.
Speaking of which, here is a perfect Ben Stein hour. I lay down by my fireplace, under my electric blanket, with my heating pad on my stomach. I put Mozart’s Requiem and Laudate Dominum on my CD player. I listened. I smelled the cut grass outside. I heard faintly the sounds of jets flying into Palm Springs International Airport. I slept. I got up and put on the radio. KDGL-FM, “The Eagle” out here in the desert, was playing, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and I thought of Yale in 1970—”bliss it was in that day to be alive but to be young was very heaven”—and I was happy.