»  National Review Online

September 19th, 2003

  The Age of No Consequences

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Just about exactly as I am writing this, up in Westchester County, north of New York City, Kathy Boudin, aged 60, is being released from prison after 22 years. Back in 1981, she helped the Black Liberation Army, an extreme-Left terrorist group, rob a Brinks truck. A security guard was killed in the robbery. When the getaway vehicle was stopped at a police roadblock soon after, Ms. Boudin in the passenger seat, her companions gunned down two policemen. For her participation in this robbery and these three murders, Ms. Boudin was sentenced in May, 1984 to serve 20 years to life.

At the time of the robbery, Ms. Boudin had been a fugitive for several years, since her known involvement in a 1970 terrorist bomb-making operation in New York City. She occupied herself in jail by getting a master's degree in adult education, assisting other inmates to get degrees, and ministering to inmates with AIDS (a fashionable venereal disease).

A "red diaper baby" — her father was a lefty lawyer whose client list included, amongst others, Paul Robeson, Daniel Ellsberg and the communist government of Cuba — Ms. Boudin has enjoyed the energetic support of the Left establishment. See, for example, the website here. She has also had the support of her son, who was an infant at the time of her arrest, and is now a star student at Yale, recently awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford, England. (Like Bill Clinton!) No wonder there are so many lefties in the U.S.A. — just look at how they nourish and promote each other!

Ms. Boudin won't be working the produce aisle at Safeway like your average parolee. She has a very nice desk job lined up at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City, "developing programs for HIV-positive women." What her salary will be, and why women suffering from less chic diseases — multiple sclerosis, say, or cancer of the spine — are not to be favored with the attentions of this saintly woman and her "programs," I have not been able to discover.

In related news (I'll explain the relationship in just a minute), New York State requires that in order to graduate high school, students must pass a math exam. Sixty-three percent of those who took the exam this year failed it. They were allowed to graduate anyway.

In more related news, the Democrats are polling well in the temporarily-suspended California gubernatorial race. That's "Democrats," as in: "the party that has run state finances into the ground, bringing on the worse state fiscal crisis in U.S. history." Supposing the election goes ahead next month, the probability is that this time next year, the Governor of California will be a Democrat.

Also in California, it has been ruled that persons who cross our borders into this country without permission, and take up employment illegally, are to be given driver licenses and free tuition in the public colleges of the Golden State. Probably there is a campaign under way somewhere in the country — it is so hard to keep up with these things — to permit illegal immigrants to run for office. Once Ruth Bader Ginsburg has figured out the right way to parse Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, we shall probably have our first illegal immigrant President … if we don't elect Kathy Boudin first.

Meanwhile, across the sea, Yasser Arafat, who has been running an exceptionally vicious terrorist operation of his own for 30 years, has been threatened with expulsion or death by the democratically-elected government of Israel, the nation against which most of his terrorism has been directed. When not planning the slaughter of innocents, Arafat has occupied himself by shoveling large sums of money, most of it donated by Western taxpayers via "aid" and the U.N., into private Swiss bank accounts. The declaration by the Israeli government that he might be brought to account for his monstrous career of robbery and murder has naturally outraged respectable opinion everywhere. The U.N. moved to censure Israel, but the motion was vetoed by the U.S.

Let us take a break from the news for a minute or two. Here's a sonnet for you. It was written by an Englishman, George Meredith, about 150 years ago.

Lucifer in Starlight
On a starr'd night Prince Lucifer uprose.
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screen'd,
Where sinners hugg'd their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he lean'd,
Now his huge bulk o'er Afric's sands careen'd,
Now the black planet shadow'd Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that prick'd his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reach'd a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he look'd, and sank.
Around the ancient track march'd, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

It's a lovely poem. Look at the imagery: "the rolling ball in cloud part screen'd" — a hundred years before anyone knew what our planet actually looks like from space! Some people will argue with you about what actually constitutes "the army of unalterable law." I've always supposed the poet is referring to the angels — the whole thing harks back to Paradise Lost, obviously. The argument is that this last line may just refer to the stars themselves, fixed and unalterable as they were thought to be.

Well, you can make up your own mind. I only want to remark, in connection with those news items I started out with, that, so far as we Americans of 2003 are concerned, Meredith's last line might as well be written in Assyrian cuneiform for all the sense it makes to us. "Unalterable law," indeed!

There used to be a fashion for tagging whatever times we were living through with some characterizing appellation like "the Atomic Age" or "the Information Age." We seem to have got out of this habit; but I sometimes amuse myself by thinking up suitable epithets along those lines. Reading the newspapers recently, I have decided that I am currently living in the Age of No Consequences.