Sobran Column -- Rocker Rocks New York
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Rocker Rocks New York

December 23, 1999

John Rocker, ace relief pitcher and trash-talker of the Atlanta Braves, has made few friends in New York. Now he has incurred the wrath of the Bigot Squad.

Sports Illustrated quotes him as saying: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are [sic] the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English, Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get into this country?”

He went on: “Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [in] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

The New York Post, not usually an oracle of political correctness, headlined these as “racist remarks,” quoting denunciations of Rocker by spokesmen for Korean, South Asian, Russian Jewish, Puerto Rican, Catholic, and homosexual groups, and for good measure a hairdresser who specializes in purple hair. One columnist accused Rocker of “hate”; another, exemplifying the tolerance that makes New York so endearing, called the Georgia native a “cracker boy.”

Needless to say, this story ended the way all such stories end: with the ritual grovel. Rocker quickly apologized for his “unacceptable” remarks, while protesting that “I am not a racist.”

[Breaker quote: A cracker boy meets 
What he should have said in the first place, of course, was that, as Bill Clinton likes to say, “diversity is our greatest strength.” Not just ethnic diversity, but diversity of behavior: crime, illegitimacy, homosexuality, and purple hair, all of which are bountiful in New York. When you’re crowded into a dirty subway car with such diversity pressing against you, it can make you a mite uneasy. But you mustn’t say so. You must keep repeating the official mantra: “Diversity is our greatest strength.”

The Rocker story is one more reminder that white Americans aren’t even allowed to have their own perspective anymore. We live under the sort of tyranny of propaganda you might expect in wartime, where everyone is expected to adopt a uniform attitude or face charges of disloyalty.

Everyone in the crowded subway car is likewise expected to savor the “diversity” of the experience. But there is to be no diversity of sensation or reaction. Just paste a smile on your face and pretend you enjoy every moment of it. Ignore your gut response and talk like a cheery social scientist who thinks immigration — even the illegal immigration of new hordes of ruthless gangsters — is an unalloyed blessing.

Why shouldn’t a man like Rocker experience the New York streets and subway as he did — feeling surrounded by the alien, the bizarre, the sinister? Even native New Yorkers no longer pretend that Gotham is “Fun City.” Crime has dipped sharply, but nobody speaks of New York as a pinnacle of civilization, as we did when you could go there without fear to enjoy symphonies, museums, and the latest Cole Porter musical.

Last year I watched the old movie Miracle on 34th Street again. The miracle that struck me was not the Santa Claus story: it was the backdrop of a New York City we can barely remember — a city where ordinary people were well-dressed, polite, and civilized. More to the point, it was a city where these qualities were taken for granted, and where any exception would have stood out. We assumed that New York would always be our cultural mecca. What is now commonplace was once inconceivable.

Now that the old standards have vanished, we’re supposed to adopt new standards to make decline appear as “progress.” Obviously Rocker has somehow escaped the mass brainwashing process. He still notices the things you’re not supposed to notice. His much-maligned brain (he is also accused of “knot-headedness”) still operates independently of the Universal Propaganda Network into which all enlightened brains are wired.

It’s no longer permissible even to be provincial. All the provinces seem to have been annexed by a single empire of the mind, with no residue of private space. No room in this world for cracker boys.

Joseph Sobran

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