Saturday, August 19, 2006

What the Macaca?

Incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen pretty much strikes me as your typical hairspray-oriented (10-year countdown to comb-over) social conservative. But at least he comes up with original (if somewhat mystifying) insults. Good Language Log roundups on just wtf he was talking about here and here. Interesting to check out Wikipedia on this phrase; It looks like the Wiki entry for the term as a slur was started on August 16. I clicked the "Newer Edit" arrow a few times to see how the entry evolved over the course of the past several days.

BTW, note to Chris Anderson: Macaca / long tail connection!

Meanwhile, his opponent Jim Webb is a pretty interesting guy. He was one of the people profiled in the excellent book The Nightingale's Song, about five graduates of the Naval Academy whose careers took them through the Vietnam War and on into careers in Washington. (The others were John McCain, Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter, and Oliver North.) Here's a 1995 Booknotes interview with author Robert Timberg. Timberg excerpt from that interview: Jim Webb was a platoon leader, a rifle platoon commander and he was also a company commander. He won the Navy Cross, which is the nation's second highest award for battlefield gallantry after the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Marine Corps very rarely awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to anybody that survives the experience. He won two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, several Purple Hearts. Webb is one of the toughest people I've ever met and remains so to this day. And yet -- and Webb was a superb Marine, but in one -- and this sort of in some ways lays a base line for what a lot of Vietnam veterans brought home with them and that -- during one two-month period, he had 56 of his men either killed or wounded. It was this grisly alchemy of war. It just turned his men into statistics. And Webb has -- he has never forgotten his men. He has never forgotten their names. He is perhaps a man who has been closer to his men than any officer -- you know, years later -- to this day --than anybody I know.

(Note: The Booknotes site seems to be having some problems today. Here's the Google cache, if you can't get the original.)


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