Evanston RoundTable, May 6, 2020
It’s always been my curse to see the other person’s point of view. I hate it. So apparently did Truman. So many economists were advising Truman with the disclaimer “on the other hand” he finally grumped, “Give me a one-handed economist.” That’s what I think: take a stand already.
Take the new Woody Allen autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing.” It’s as hilarious and sharp as you would expect, at least the first 10 pages, which is as far as I got before driving out to Northbrook to deliver the book to my brother, for whom it was intended. He’s a big Woody Allen fan. Me—I’m conflicted.
You may have heard the allegations leveled against Mr. Allen starting in 1992. He has repeatedly denied them. But a state’s attorney in Connecticut, after a nine-month investigation, said he had “probable cause” to prosecute Mr. Allen on charges that he sexually molested his adopted daughter, but “had decided to spare her the trauma of a court appearance.” On the other hand, the New York State Department of Social Services investigated the case for 14 months and concluded that “there was no credible evidence of abuse and that the allegation was unfounded.”
A lot of actors will no longer work with Mr. Allen. Rightly or wrongly, his reputation has been poisoned. Should I (or anyone) be supporting Mr. Allen by buying his book and in effect subsidizing his career? The actress Cherry Jones, who has worked with the director, said, “There are those who are comfortable in their certainty. I am not. I don’t know the truth … When we condemn by instinct our democracy is on a slippery slope.”
My father, in these situations, used to quote the Depression-era comedian Jack Pearl, who said: “Vast you dere, Charley?” I wasn’t there. I don’t know.
The same can be said about the allegations of sexual abuse recently leveled against Joe Biden. He denies them. Whom to believe? Not sure.
Another contemporary artist, Bob Dylan, recently released a 17-minute song called “Murder Most Foul,” ostensibly about the Kennedy assassination. It took me several tries to get through the whole thing; the first time I stopped after about 30 seconds because I was laughing so hard at the lyrics: “He said, ‘Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?’ ‘Of course we do, we know who you are.’ Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car.”
Or how about this one, near the end: “Love Field is where his plane touched down, But it never did get back up off the ground.”
Noel Coward or Cole Porter this is not.
While Dylan is in better voice than usual—that is, better than his usual croak—the song goes on and on over essentially a single chord with no melody: not the most enticing music. As you can tell, I’m not in love. But hey, he is a Noble laureate and I’m not. So I’m conflicted.
And then there’s you-know-who in the White House. If you had a magic wand and could end the pandemic now but know that would lead to his re-election, would you?
Terrible to say, but I’m conflicted.