Heroes & Villains, Pt. XVI


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I woke up to the sounds of an oompah band marching through the main street in Gstaad. Is there a nicer sound to wake up to high in the Alps? I don't think so. It was a lovely day, the Swiss burghers dressed up in their finest lederhosen, the mountains glistening in the sun, the air fresh and clean, a few American tourists asking what's the occasion. Nothing special, just the day the cows are brought down from their pasture up high. The Swiss haven't fought for 700 years?of armed neutrality, that is?and an oompah band, I guess, makes up for the lack of martial spirit.


For any of you who are not familiar, the closest thing in America to an oompah band is a fife and drums one, which also makes me feel awfully good. The best, of course, is a military band, a good old John Philip Sousa type, whose descendant, incidentally, I know very well (Mrs. Edward Ulmann, of New York, Southampton and more clubs than Clinton has told lies).


I grew up hearing nothing but military marches. Our boys were off to fight Mussolini's legions when I was four. I actually said goodbye to my father and five uncles in Larissa station, women crying, children playing with officers' ceremonial swords, people cheering as the trains left, the boys waving confidently, flags flying, the military bands playing those wonderful marches that egg on young men to fight for glory. We now know that "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" may not be kosher after all, but once you've seen and heard it at age four, it's very hard not to shit on people like Clinton who not only ran away, but now claim they would fight?for Israel.


We then heard the bands as the dispatches of victories came in?first the church bells, then the bands, Koritsa, Tepeleni, Pindos...names I will never forget. When the bands stopped playing, we knew it was bad news. Then we suddenly heard them again, but this time they were German ones, the wonderfully dressed Wehrmacht troopers marching in perfect step up to the Acropolis, where they raised the swastika and brought down the Greek white cross on a blue background. Four long years later, the Brits came in playing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," and I will leave it up to you for the rest. All I know is the moment I hear a band, any band, playing anything with a drum roll, I get goose pimples, think back to how valiantly we Greeks beat the Italians and resisted the Germans. Having signaled to the enemy that they were out of ammo after two weeks of very savage fighting, my uncle, the champion hurdler, was accorded the greatest battlefield honor by the German Major Trosbach, that of having an honor guard salute him and his men as they walked out of their dugouts with their weapons and standards and heads held high. Can I ever forget the courage of the Greeks, or the graciousness of the victorious Germans? Don't you believe it.


But back to Gstaad. Goose pimples aside, that same afternoon, after tennis, I heard another sound, that of violins, in a concert by the Yehudi Menuhin school. I cannot describe the beauty of the setting on the veranda of the Palace Hotel, the mountains in the background, the pine trees and greenery, the Swiss dressed in black tie, the waiters lined up in their yellow jackets, and all the time Mozart, Beethoven and Vivaldi echoing in the valley below. Alas, next week it's all over. I'm coming back to the Big Bagel, hot Bagel they tell me, for the first time in August since I was 14, when I had caught a terrible case of poison ivy and had to stay in the city covered with calamine lotion for two weeks. "That's what you get for running around with a gardener's daughter," was what the old man told me, but before my mother had a chance to scream at him, he smiled and said he was only kidding. Probably he was not, but those were different days.


And speaking of different times, do you remember a novel by Agatha Christie by the unfortunate title Ten Little Niggers? Well, it was published in 1939, and it referred to a traditional nursery rhyme in which 10 little boys die one by one. When the novel was published in America in 1940 the title was changed to Ten Little Indians. There was no racism involved. The story, a classic Christie murder mystery, is set in a hotel on an island off Devon. Ten guests are murdered one after the other in a macabre echo of the nursery rhyme. "Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine." It ends with the line, "And then there were none."


Now, the reason I bring this up is that a woman who has devoted her life to helping others?she is an English nurse who was honored by the Queen and after 40 years of service became chair of the Royal College of Nursing's governing council?had to resign for innocently quoting the title of the Christie novel after waiting for members of her committee to return from a coffee break. She used the expression in relation to the failure of some members to return to the meeting. But some took umbrage. Inappropriate and offensive were the kindest critiques thrown at her. After Pat Botrill apologized to those present, and wrote to the RCN's black general secretary reiterating that there was absolutely no malice behind her words, she was forced to resign anyway, the p.c. police giving no inch, however unintentional the remarks.


About the N word there can be no argument (and that coming from somebody as proud to be politically incorrect as myself is saying something), but when someone is simply alluding to the Agatha Christie mystery and it costs her her lifetime job, all it means is the end of free speech and of liberty. While scum like Dershowitz and the rest of the lefty losers are busy screaming about Bush curtailing our freedoms while he looks for terrorists, our greatest freedom, our free speech, has effectively been silenced by the p.c. gestapo. Where are liberty-loving people now that we need you? Some newspapers in England have written that it may have been clumsy of Pat Bottrill, but being forced to resign after 40 years of selfless and blameless service to her profession was an outrage. A novel is a novel, and a saying is a saying, and if one wants to go even further, why is a scumbag thug like Puff Shithole, or whatever name he goes under now, allowed to use the N word, but quoting it from a novel is not? Are we not supposed to read Gone with the Wind because of that word?


As I write, it emerges that the head of the RCN, the woman Pat Bottrill apologized to immediately, is an American, one Beverly Malone, an African-American. Better yet, she was president of the powerful American Nurses Association before she became an adviser?guess to whom, dear readers??to none other than the draft-dodging liar Bill Clinton. Isn't life grand. The biggest shit to ever soil the Oval Office was behind the bitch who has just forced a real hero to resign in shame for quoting Agatha Christie.


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