August 16, 2010

The Mayor and the Mosque

In the mid-1990s, Judge Richard Posner admitted that he hadn't thought much of Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. But, then, he changed his mind:
"The book was written before Michael Milken was convicted and Clark Clifford indicted; before investment bankers and securities brokers were dragged, crying, in handcuffs from their offices on charges of criminal fraud that often turned out to be unsubstantiated; before courthouses became scenes of violence; before the Tawana Brawley fraud; before the trials of the police who beat up Rodney King; before the Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal in the first of those trials; before the trial of the rioters; before the indictment of O.J. Simpson. American legal justice today seems often to be found at a bizarre intersection of race, money, and violence, an intersection nowhere better depicted than in The Bonfire of the Vanities even thought the book was written before the intersection had come into view."

Twenty-three years later, Bonfire is the gift that keeps giving. When I read august commentators assert:
"Of course the Mayor of New York couldn't possibly interfere in a religious construction project. That's unthinkable. That would be a violation of Church and State!" 

I open up my copy of Bonfire to Chapter 27, which is about, mutatis mutandis, the Mayor of New York, a religious group, and whether or not a downtown building would receive landmark status.

The Episcopal bishop of New York, who is black, wants the mayor to keep the Landmarks Commission from landmarking a church in a neighborhood with no Episcopalians left, which would keep the Episcopalian Diocese from having it torn down and replaced with an office tower. The Mayor immediately agrees and has a phone call placed to the Landmarks Commissioner:
"Mort? ... You know St. Timothy's Church? ... Right. Exactly ... Mort -- LAY OFF!"

The Mayor then asks the Bishop for a little quid pro quo: serve on a special blue-ribbon commission to investigate crime in New York. But as a Rising Black Leader, the bishop can't afford to be associated with the Jewish Mayor, so he demurs. The mayor politely ushers the bishop out, then calls Mort again:
"Mort? You know that church, St. Timothy's? ... Right ... LANDMARK THE SON OF A BITCH!"

46 comments:

Fred said...

The last few Wolfe novels were all great, but I don't know if he can top Bonfire of the Vanities. I wouldn't put anything past Wolfe, but he hit that one out of the park. No book since has nailed New York like that one.

Steve Sailer said...

There may not be a Great American Novel, but it's the Great New York Novel.

OhioStater said...

My favorite "Bonfire" dialogue is the scene at a fancy lunch that ends with one of the guys getting carried out on a stretcher and maybe dying later.

In the scene, one of the characters says "they want to make Dubai look like Manhattan", but "it costs a fortune to cool a skyscraper in a desert", but "they are sitting on all the oil in the world".

Wolfe wrote that a good 20 years before the most recent Dubai building boom.

Mr. Anon said...

"OhioStater said...

In the scene, one of the characters says "they want to make Dubai look like Manhattan", but "it costs a fortune to cool a skyscraper in a desert", but "they are sitting on all the oil in the world"."

And now Bloomberg wants to make Manhattan look like Dubai.

VG said...

"Bonfire" was his best. "Man in full" was good except for the last 100 pages or so. "Charlotte Simmons" was weak. I've been waiting for ages for his latest one. Looks like I'll have to wait some more.

Anonymous said...

Wolfe is a perceptive man, but he is an awfully irritating and aesthetically displeasing writer.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

"Man In Full" failed to capture the Atlanta milieu like BOV apparently did with New York. I recall one very glaring geographic error and got the feeling Wolfe has never met anybody like the characters in the novel. The whole conversion-to-Stoicism was just stupid and contrived. Protestant Christianity is the BIGGEST cultural force in the South and nobody so much as picks up a Bible.

Howevah,

Wolfe sure nailed Atlanta's CRE bubble. Ben Carter is getting to relive his very own Wolfeian tale. Everyone should click on that link to see this monument to Atlanta ostentation and white delusion. (Really now, WHO did Carter think was going to shop there?)

Construction stopped on "Streets of Buckhead" three years ago.

James Kabala said...

We'll really know Wolfe is a prophet when they start playing college basketball games in quarters.

Wandrin said...

What absoultely staggers me is calling it "Cordoba House." It couldn't get more blatant.

(Bonfire was a truly great book in terms of nailing a time and place, Dickens style.)

Anonymous said...

The Bonfire of the Vanities is one of the four or five books that made the biggest impression on me. I read it on vacation in the Yucatan. I was dazzled.

Like everyone of my generation I had read Wolfe's essays. I thought of him as an essayist - so did he. Just before the book came out he had published a number of articles about what he did versus what a real novelist did. He counted himself as belonging to the lower ranking art of non-fiction. He wondered if he was up to engaging in the real work of being a novelist.

He had me convinced. I accepted his judgement that he probably couldn't write fiction. In retrospect this seems crazy.

Albertosaurus

AllanF said...

So what Wolfe is telling us is no need to worry about One World Govt, the UN will collapse like the Tower of Babble before, taking the USA down with it?

Not sure if I should be happy or sad.

Jack Aubrey said...

We should let them build their mosque - and then cut off Muslim immigration entirely.

And I really need to read "Bonfire."

dearieme said...

"There may not be a Great American Novel": there are three -
Huck Finn
Tom Sawyer
The Wizard of Oz.

Truth said...

"And now Bloomberg wants to make Manhattan look like Dubai."

Could that possibly have been Mr. Anon coming up with the pithy, yet subtly sophisticated Bon Mot of the post (so far)?

I have to apologize to you, Grasshopper, I guess you do read my posts.

Anonymous said...

Steve, your last link is phenomenal. You should make it more prominent. Wolfe must have heard of that through the grapevine before the suit was filed because the match is just too close!

jody said...

the whole thing is so F'ing dumb it's unbelievable. muslims don't have a right to build a mosque anywhere they want. they have a right to build a mosque. that's it. that's the end of their rights on the mattter. the right to build a mosque. they're allowed to build one. they're not allowed to build one anywhere they want.

it's hard to believe people are missing this, something which is so glaring, so obvious. how can they F'ing miss this distinction here?

ah, because it's islam. jewish lawyers have spent 30 years making it EXTREMELY obvious that there is a CRITICAL distinction for christians. jewish lawyers have made it OVERWHELMINGLY clear that christians ARE NOT WELCOME to erect overt displays of christianity just anywhere they want. and i mean, LOL, that's kind of understating it, isn't? as if the christians were going around spray painting government property with crosses and crucifixes and "Merry Christmas" graffiti. LOL. some jewish lawyers have made it illegal for christians to erect displays RIGHT OUTSIDE OF CHURCHES THAT ARE 100, 200, maybe 300 YEARS OLD.

it might offend...somebody.

so a cross, crucifix, christmas tree, or even the simple expression "Merry Christmas", which are all totally harmless, MIGHT offend somebody, so they have to be made illegal in many circumstances.

BUT, contructing that mosque in new york city, which is being built for the SPECIFIC purpose to offend, to gloat, to show domination, to declare conquest, and which HAS offended THOUSANDS of people, that religious display MUST be protected by the constitution.

the direct attack on european americans continues.

jody said...

i mean they have made it illegal to have silent christian prayers in school. in some places, even for athletes or coaches to have silent, personal christian prayers IN THEIR HEADS before a sporting event. DO NOT BOW YOUR HEAD AND PRAY, CHRISTIAN. ILLEGAL.

meanwhile muslims can get out of school work, just 'cause, well, they're muslim. don't want to come in to school for a few days, don't want to do art class or music class? MUSLIM! i'm exempt!

now some football players are getting out of football practice because "I can't drink water right now coach, I'm fasting". hey no problem, you don't have to practice hard, take it easy my muslim friends, no need to do any of these drills.

wonder how long until co-workers at every office in america get to take 5 breaks per day to pray, and have their own muslims-only rest room facilities, and their own HR department and special vacation rules and everything?

how much more blantant can the different treatment be? and somehow, historians ranking the presidents miss GW bush, the moron, the idiot, ramming this down our throats every chance he got about the religion of peace. easily, one of the worst presidents in the history of the united states.

Dahlia said...

"There may not be a Great American Novel, but it's the Great New York Novel."

I believe it to be the former. While it awes us because of the societal and political perceptiveness, BOV also taught a young Dahlia better than anything else how power and wealth and/or an entitlement complex corrupts the soul. I particularly remember this with Sherman McCoy justifying to himself his infidelity.

**** My favorite part in BOV was the business Wolfe gave to his married Jewish attorney character, Kramer, at the very end of the book. I can't recall an author humiliating a character so surprisingly and hilariously; I didn't see it coming and it was delicious.

Anonymous said...

There is another aspect to the proposed mosque that I haven't heard mentioned.

If there is another Islamic attack - and it's almost certain there will be one - then all those frustrated New Yorkers who after 9/11 had had no focus for their vengeance, will now have one. Every Muslim in that building will be a hostage to the good behavior by Islam.

A dirty bomb in say Brooklyn or the Bronx and the angry mobs will now know where to strike back. The police and emergency services might try to stop it or they might not. It could get real messy.

I'm sure the NY Police are preparing contingency plans even now. But probably so are some civilian hot heads.

Doesn't a provocation like this mosque come under the "fighting words" or "yelling fire in a theater" exceptions to free speech?

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

anyone familiar with Bloomberg had a good laugh when he went on about the sanctity of private property and the constitution-

- he ignores and/or is trying to destroy the 2nd amendment
- he has spent a considerable amount of energy and influence using eminent domain to turn over acres and acres of land taken from private land owners and turned over to his ethnic insider friends.

Every day I think I can't hate the guy more, he pulls stuff like this..

travis said...

Protestant Christianity is the BIGGEST cultural force in the South and nobody so much as picks up a Bible.

Anti-Gnostic, you're right about the importance of the Bible in the South, but A Man in Full isn't set in the South -- it's set in ATLANTA!

However, in I am Charlotte Simmons, Wolfe did give off this zinger about the religion of a respectable Southerner:

"...And she (Laurie) was religious -- New River Baptist Church, the Better Sort of Baptists, the in-town Baptists, as opposed to the foot-washing Baptist out in the countryside, even though the Better Sort also baptized people in full immersion in the New River at East when the river was still ice-cold. Laurie had convictions!"

Truth said...

"Doesn't a provocation like this mosque come under the "fighting words" or "yelling fire in a theater" exceptions to free speech?"

No, Melvin Belli, I'm afraid it doesn't.

Whiskey said...

Bonfire of the Vanities is dated.

Why?

Because the social structure, the immutable power of media, money, and race-hustlers is eroding. Bloomberg is a lame duck billionaire who bought a third term, and is rapidly radicalizing most of NYC. Nationally 70% oppose the Ground Zero Victory Mosque, which Hamas and NutJob support.

Politics are no longer about White Guilt (the race card is void, says ... Comedy Central and John Stewart), but rather "Whose Side Are You On?"

The Mosque is a disaster because it is provocative weakness begging for more mass casualty attacks. You might even say I've blogged on it.

But no, its not the 1980's or 1990's anymore. We lurch from hyper-crisis to hyper-crisis, at the very edge of our marginal capability. I mean, has anyone actually THOUGHT about what a couple of nukes would do to America and the World, delivered by AQ/Taliban/Pakistan's ISI or Iran, and deniable?

tommy said...

Every day I think I can't hate the guy more, he pulls stuff like this..

Lol. Maybe he's just a Jewish optimist.

Anonymous said...

"I mean, has anyone actually THOUGHT about what a couple of nukes would do to America and the World, delivered by AQ/Taliban/Pakistan's ISI or Iran, and deniable?"

No, Whiskey, I'm sure that no one has actually ever THOUGHT about any such thing, especially you and that blog of yours which no one reads.

Why, it's a topic that never comes up. It never comes up so often that we tend to forget how Neo-Con tools such as yourself have spent the past decade banging on and on about this very topic trying to scare us all into supporting doing something even more stupid than anything that the Bush the Lesser administration ever did.

headache said...

Jody,
well sed. The thing is that Christianity, especially the cross, really offends Jews. This is what St. Paul sed: The cross is a scandal for Jews. They hate Christians more than they hate Muslims. Unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Lots of things in the last 18 months have left me with my mouth hanging open, but the arrogance and the sheer lack of understanding of the American mind and spirit that both Bloomberg and Obama have demonstrated with their mosque responses have left my lower lip on my shoetops.

I believe that Barrack Obama doesn't feel like an American, doesn't know what the rest of us even mean when we say we are American. Emotionally, he's a man without a country, a man who doesn't understand us, no matter our politics, at all. I suppose that should come as no surprise to us. As a candidate he saw himself the world's messiah, not simply as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

Bloomberg? No surprise given his background. Koch's response would have been very different.

Where's Rudy? I know his company is doing security work for a South American country, Brazil, I think. Maybe he's out of the country.

I'd love to hear him on this subject.

Wandrin said...

"I mean, has anyone actually THOUGHT about what a couple of nukes would do to America and the World, delivered by AQ/Taliban/Pakistan's ISI or Iran, and deniable?"

Nukes on LA, Washington DC, New York, and i'm afraid to say, London, would save the world from neocon sociopaths. Bit of a shame for the 95% innocent victims however. Hopefully there's a better way.

Archie Bunker said...

I say any building site within the borders of the United States is inappropriate.I thought that the 9/11 attacks affected us all as U.S. citizens. Weren't we all Lower Manhattanites on that day?

Anonymous said...

"The Mosque" isn't a mosque per se, it's a cultural center like the YMHA, YMCAs etc. The people behind the mosque have consulted with the Rabbi who runs the Jewish cultural center on, i believe, 23rd st. They've also consulted with a 9/11 surviors group, trinity church etc.

Sufis are behind the cultural center. Sufis have been terrorized by the same Islamic lunatics who attacked the US for years. In fact, they are currently getting a lot of abuse in parts of Pakistan by the progeny of Islamic radicals once openly funded and encouraged by US policy.

So, the Sufis are getting killed by the Islamic radicals we're fighting, including ones the US used to support. And to express our anger at the radicals we prevent the Sufis from building a cultural center too near the strip joints, bars and porns stores adjacent to the WTC site.

Wolfe couldn't write better irony.

Oh, favorite part of Bonfire, when the Bonds trading protagonist tries to explain his job to his daughter. Classic.

Wilson said...

I got into an email exchange with a local newspaper columnist over the Ground Zero Mosque. I pointed out that if Muslims won't respect American sensitivities that we should reduce Muslim immigration, at which point he got irate, claiming that Americans have no right to determine immigration policy based on how certain groups might behave after arriving here.

This merely points to the inconsistency of the elite as relates to immigration and human behavior. They believe:

1) That American cultural and political choices, tolerance or intolerance, can shape our nation for the better or worse.

2) That whether immigrant groups choose to be tolerant or intolerant, however, is neither here nor there. That immigrant political and cultural choices don't effect us.

3) ...except when they affect us for the better.

4) That different ethnic/religious/racial groups are merely interchangeable widgets, not affecting our culture, politics, or economics for better or worse.

5) Unless, of course, those ethnic groups are not European and Christian, at which point they can only affect us for the better.


Personally I believe that the whole purpose of representative democracy is to shape your country's future. Immigration affects that future, so the right to admit or reject immigrants based on their culture, ethnicity, religion or even race is perfectly acceptable as a means of doing so.

Anonymous said...

"Sufis are behind the cultural center. Sufis have been terrorized by the same Islamic lunatics who attacked the US for years. In fact, they are currently getting a lot of abuse in parts of Pakistan by the progeny of Islamic radicals once openly funded and encouraged by US policy."

It's not just Sufis but also Shia and Ahmadiyya that are persecuted in Pakistan. All three vary in moderation. Ahmadiyya are more peaceful than Sufis actually. Sufis are not liberal Muslims if that is what you are implying. The reason why orthodox Sunni and Shia have problems with them is not because of their lax view of Islam but because some of their practices and teachings are considered to be shirk.

David said...

Haven't Muslims already made their mark on Lower Manhattan? Clearly not enough of one. It's never enough, until we're dead or slaves.

Why not nuke Mecca and then finance the construction of a Unitarian Church on the ruins? After all, the Unitarians are peaceful and non-denominational.

Jack Aubrey said...

Sufis are behind the cultural center. Sufis have been terrorized by the same Islamic lunatics who attacked the US for years...So, the Sufis are getting killed by the Islamic radicals we're fighting, including ones the US used to support. And to express our anger at the radicals we prevent the Sufis from building a cultural center...

OK, so Anglicans decide to build a cathedral next to Auschwitz. Anglicans are good, peace-loving, liberal Christians. Most Anglicans live in countries that opposed the Nazis. Hundreds of thousands of Anglicans from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States died fighting the Nazis or their allies.

So, should they build it or not? Would it be insensitive to build an Anglican cathedral next to a site where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered because they were Jewish? Would Jews approve, since Anglicans mostly weren't Nazis?

I'm going to answer "no" to all three, as probably would most people.

If Sufis are so damn sensitive and tolerant the first thing they should understand is that building a mosque three buildings down from Ground Zero is a smack in the face to all Americans. It shows why people are getting increasingly fed up with Islam.

Anonymous said...

Jack, poor analogy for a number of reasons, but i'll play. Frankly, i couldn't care less if the Anglicans wanted to build a church next to Auschwitz. I would find any outcry odd if Auschwitz were located in a densely populated city and surrounded by other houses of worship, bars, porn stores, strip clubs and various fast food joints.

Oh to Anonymous: I wasn't implying Sufi were liberal, conservative or anything else. I was stating a fact, they have nothing to do with 9/11 and they've been terrorized by Al Qaeda including the progeny of US policy in Afghanistan.


Hankest.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

I have to apologize to you, Grasshopper, I guess you do read my posts."

I occasionally read graffitti when I pass by it on the street. That's all your posts are. Thoughtless and stupid acts of vandalism, of no redeeming value.

Go water your car, idiot.

Viva Zapata said...

It may seem strange that many prominent liberal Jews support the Mosque on the 9/11 site, especially in a city that is known as the bastion of Jewish power around the world. Why would Jews want a mosque built on a site where Muslim fanatics murdered 1000s of people? And let us also recall that NY Jews weren't exactly happy about the Christian cruficix(and the long shadow it cast) erected just outside Auschwitz in in the 80s. So, why support a mosque on Ground Zero?

To figure out the logic behind this, we need to first understand that most American Jews still fear and distrust the white Christian community more than anything. Within the borders of America, Muslims are still small potatoes whereas white Christians still wield formidable--or potentially formidable--power; consider some of the passion at Tea Parties. Even so, why should Jews worry? White Christians are pro-Israel, pro-Jewish, and ultra-carerful not to be 'antisemitic'. If anything, they wave the Israeli flag and praise the Jewish people and culture 24/7.

But there is a problem. Jews are the new elites of the US, and their social philosophy and values rub many white Christians and 'racists' the wrong way. Jews feel anxious about grumblings among white conservatives, and this anxiety stirs up old fears and even paranoia. At one time, Germany had been one of the less anti-Jewish nations in Europe, at least compared with Russia, Poland, France, etc. But in the 20th century, Germans committed the greatest crime against the Jews. Many Jews still believe that within every white Christian there beats the heart of a crypto-Nazi.

And America still has a lot of white Christians. Though white Christians, out of sympathy or fear, only praise Jews while angrily denouncing Muslims both here and abroad as murderous and dangerous radicals, this doesn't necessarily make the Jew sleep any easier. The Jew remembers how his kind had once been accused and 'scapegoated' as radicals, subversives, and terrorists and persecuted, exiled, rounded up, and even killed in large numbers. So, even though most white American rage and hatred is directed at Muslims--the enemies of Jews--, Jews fear that this anti-Muslim rage may one day spill over or morph into anti-Jewish hatred. Jews remember the late 40s and 50s, after WWII, when the white American rage that had been directed at the 'Japs' and Nazis was channeled toward targeting and opposing communists and leftist radicals, among whom Jews were prominent.

What Jews fear most of all is neither Islam nor Christianity per se but the power of the united and impassioned gentile majority which may gain the power and the will to bring down Jewish power. Today in America, that power is still White and Christian.So, Jewish support for the Mosque has nothing to do with religious freedom or Jewish good-will toward Muslims and all that. It's really about serving Jewish power and Jewish interets. Jews are simply afraid that white rage and 'paranoia' about Muslims may turn into or be directed at Jews in the future--and why not, since Jews are the elites of America and hellbent on pushing legislation and policies that are bound to damage and weaken the white majority?

Truth said...

"Go water your car, idiot."

Dude, what the hell is up with you, water and cars?

You must have had a really terrifying experience at the car wash when you were little.

Bone Fire said...

Viva Zapata:

I will also add that the 1985-1995 populist persecution of alternative religions also fits in with your theory about Jews.

At the end of the Cold War there was a mass outbreak of religious freethinking amount the American public, especially youth. Neo-paganism, Eastern religions, and the like. Most of this ended up as the neutered New Age movement - but the Jews feared it nevertheless. (The occult revival in Weimar Germany was a minor factor in Nazism.) Thus began the Satanic Panic; in the early days many of its ringleaders were liberals and/or Jews.

These same liberals and/or Jews are now quick to deny their earlier involvement in what is now an almost exclusively Fundamentalist Christian affair. Perhaps the Jewish brain trust, in 1992 or so, decided that the paunchy old Fundies were the greater threat than the "Satanist" punks and their skateboards.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

"Go water your car, idiot."

Dude, what the hell is up with you, water and cars?"

Have you got your water powered car to run yet? Made a fortune yet? Your the one who brought it up and believes all that crap, dimwit. Live with it.

CuChulainn said...

I read somewhere about a mayor in Italy walking a pig on a proposed mosque site and Muslim leaders being outraged that the site could no longer be used for building a mosque. Seems like an easy solution to me. No laws (yet!) against walking a pig. Of course our freedom as American citizens to do so, is less important than their freedom as foreigners to pour salt in a deep wound they created by destroying the WTC.

Truth said...

"Your the one who brought it up and believes all that crap, dimwit."

You're an angry young man, Grasshopper; are you sure you aren't black?

Anonymous said...

I will also add that the 1985-1995 populist persecution of alternative religions also fits in with your theory about Jews.

At the end of the Cold War there was a mass outbreak of religious freethinking amount the American public, especially youth. Neo-paganism, Eastern religions, and the like. Most of this ended up as the neutered New Age movement - but the Jews feared it nevertheless. (The occult revival in Weimar Germany was a minor factor in Nazism.) Thus began the Satanic Panic; in the early days many of its ringleaders were liberals and/or Jews.

The ringleaders of the anti-Satanist panic were liberals and Jews? Have any links?

Svigor said...

[Pig-walking] Seems like an easy solution to me.

Good thinking. Say hello to Laeg for me.

ATBOTL said...

"The ringleaders of the anti-Satanist panic were liberals and Jews? Have any links?"

Don't bet on it. Maybe he'll give you a link to his own blog.

Anonymous said...

It could be NY Jews supported the idea of a Mosque on Ground Zero to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment. They pretended to do one thing--serve the cause of religious freedom and tolerance--while accomplishing something else--provoking anti-Islamic and pro-Zionist furor among Americans. So, it is a win-win for the Jews. They take credit for tolerance but also win support for Israel & against Muslims. How tricky and devious these people can be.