Author Archives: Tom Piatak

Skin in the Game

I think we’d be better off if more Americans knew more about their own family’s history. Not only would most of us come away with a renewed sense of gratitude for America, we would also be better able to evaluate the claims of today by something other than the standards of today.

Case in point: my paternal great-grandfather, Joseph Piatak, who was born in rural Slovakia in 1868. Three of his eight brothers died in childhood, a common occurrence in their native village, and the Hungarian government helpfully recorded the family’s meager possessions in a detailed census the following year: They lived in a one-room house, they owned no land, and their most prized material possession likely consisted of two cows in a village where agents of absentee, noble Magyar landlords controlled hundreds of cows and much else besides.

Joseph seemingly tried to make a go of it in Slovakia, even after several of his brothers had left for Cleveland. But it appears that the need to bury his 2-year-old daughter was the last straw. Shortly thereafter, he made his way to a train station — probably for the first time in his life — went to Bremen, and boarded a steamship for New York. His wife and young son followed a year later. Ultimately, five of the six Piatak brothers who survived childhood crossed the Atlantic, as did some 400 or so of the roughly 900 people in their village. The Piatak boys were part of one of the largest immigration waves ever, comparable to Ireland, southern Italy, and Norway — other desperately poor places that emptied as many of their people left for America, mostly forever.

Joseph spent the rest of his life doing hard, physical labor amid the smokestacks of Cleveland, where he and his wife Mary had five more children, none of whom died in childhood. Those children grew up very grateful to be Americans, even though many of them, my own grandfather among them, needed to leave school before the eighth grade to help their family earn a living, generally by engaging in the same sort of hard, physical work their father had done since coming to America.

This gratitude at being in America was widespread in the hundreds of thousands of Slovaks who came here. None of my older relatives had any particular interest in the little corner of Europe our family had left, which they knew from their parents as a place of poverty and oppression. Had Joseph stayed in Slovakia, for example, it would have been impossible for him even to attend a high school that taught in his native tongue. The government had closed all Slovak-language high schools in 1875.

So strong was the desire to become Americans and leave Slovakia behind that most Slovak families who came here ultimately decided not to continue passing along the language. Older relatives told me that “we speak American because we live in America.” My grandfather could speak Slovak, though I have no memory of his ever doing so. My Dad knows not a word of it. There was no sense in my family of Slovakia as being our real home, or even a place we could repair to if things got bad here. We were Americans now, for good. We had skin in the game.

Iwo Jima flag raiser Mike Strank was a Slovak immigrant killed in action.

As a group, the Slovaks who had come to America showed their gratitude to their adopted country early on. Matej Kocak, one of only five double Medal of Honor recipients in World War I, was a Slovak immigrant. Killed in action, he lies buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. Slovak immigrant Mike Strank was one of the six Marines who raised the Stars and Stripes on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and was killed in action there. You can find him in Arlington National Cemetery.

My Slovak forebears and their countrymen brought to America a willingness to work very hard, and over time that hard work paid off in membership in the American middle class, a class whose affluence was unimaginable in the villages their families had left. One of the handful of Americans to walk on the moon was the grandson of a Slovak immigrant, and the scientist given principal credit for developing GPS was the son of Slovak immigrants.

It is difficult to know your family’s part in this history and still conclude that America has been an evil place. It is also hard to believe that your family members who came to America with nothing and spent long years doing demanding, even dangerous work owed what they managed to achieve to “white privilege,” especially when your family had been so “privileged” as to have been been serfs for centuries.

Knowing this history also makes it hard to swallow the notion that Americans should pay any attention to those who don’t have skin in the game. When Joseph Piatak filed a petition to become a naturalized American citizen in February 1917, he renounced all allegiance to his former country and pledged “in good faith to become a citizen of the United States and to permanently reside therein.” And so he did, dying in Cleveland 27 years later without ever once returning to Slovakia.

By contrast, some of the loudest voices presuming to tell Americans how we should vote and what we should think don’t have skin in the game. The Atlantic’s editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, who has turned that venerable magazine into a Never Trump propaganda sheet, is a dual citizen of Israel and the United States. He volunteered to serve in the Israeli military, but not the American military. The Atlantic’s David Frum, a fanatical Never Trumper, is a naturalized American citizen, but he remains a citizen of Canada, where his sister serves in the Canadian Senate. Frum has also forthrightly declared that his vote is determined in large measure by a candidate’s stance on yet another foreign country, Israel.

Both men and their fellow scribblers at the Atlantic are also members of a class that, as a whole, has come to view American jobs as exportable, American workers as replaceable, and Americans who support Trump or who cling to their Bibles and guns or who otherwise engage in practices the readers of the Atlantic cannot fathom as objects of disdain or even hatred. Members of this class are confident that, if America goes south, a pleasant new home will be found among people much like themselves in some foreign metropole in which they have connections or even citizenship.

There are of course people who hold dual passports for purely pragmatic reasons, and friendly feelings for the lands your family came from are only natural. But dual citizenship coupled with advocacy of foreign adventurism is the antithesis of the straightforward commitment to America my great-grandfather was wisely asked to make. Americans would do well to remember that both Goldberg and Frum were voluble cheerleaders for the disastrous Iraq War. Goldberg pushed hard the bogus claim that Iraq was a principal sponsor of al-Qaida, and Frum questioned the patriotism of conservatives with the foresight to oppose that war. They remain committed to risking American lives and American treasure in the Mideast morass. Indeed, Frum used what influence he had in the Bush White House to put us on the road to war with Iran. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that one of the reasons they hate Donald Trump is because Trump has voiced skepticism of more wars in the Mideast.

“America First” provokes in Goldberg and Frum the same reaction a crucifix does in a vampire. Lectures from dual citizens about what we Americans should do or believe ought to produce the same sort of reaction in us.

The Forgotten Nobel

Donald Trump’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize has led to some humorous overreactions. Many Trump fans are acting as if this cinches reelection, forgetting that Jimmy Carter’s far more substantial peacemaking in the Middle East did nothing to shield him from the Reagan tsunami. On the other end of the Trump spectrum, the Never Trump Atlantic was so horrified at the mere nomination of Trump for a prize that he will never win that it ran an article calling for the abolition of the Nobel Peace Prize.

What this amusing diversion brought to my mind, though, is how much has changed since the last Nobel Peace Prize won by an American president. Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early in his first term, before he had the chance to do much of anything on the international stage. He received the prize, at least in part, because so many saw the election of a man of African descent as President of the United States as an epochal event.

How far away that is from 2020, when the growing elite consensus is that America is so shot through with a pervasive, systematic racism that the country may well be irredeemable. In the real world, Americans put Obama in the White House twice. In the fantastical, Woke world of 2020, we act as if they had elected David Duke instead.

Diana Rigg, RIP

I first saw Diana Rigg starring as Emma Peel opposite Patrick Macnee’s John Steed in “The Avengers,” one of many British cultural imports that flooded these shores in the 1960s. I loved that show and its stars and its distinctive theme song. (The composer, Laurie Johnson, also did the music for “Dr. Strangelove”).

Diana Rigg was a great actress who did many great things on stage and screen, but to me she always was Mrs. Peel.

My ATM password on a long closed bank account was “jsteed.”

I named a kitten a friend rescued and that I kept until a permanent home could be found “Emma,” for Emma Peel.

I named my first Wheaten terrier “Emma,” for Emma Peel.

And the show’s producers came up with that name for Diana Rigg because they had been looking for someone with “man appeal,” or “m. appeal” for short.

Few actresses ever had as much “m. appeal” as Diana Rigg had. I doubt that few ever will. Requiescat in pace.

A NATION NO ONE MAY DEFEND

The New York Times is trying to scare its readers by saying that President Trump is presenting himself as the defender of “white America.”

Of course, for the Times, “white America” should not exist, and no one should defend it, notwithstanding any sentimental notions you might have about the white Americans who wrote the Constitution, or settled the frontier, or invented the airplane and the air conditioner, or stormed Normandy Beach, or landed on the moon, or who just gave you life.

Those folks, for the Times, were all racists, whether they knew it or not, and possessors of that dastardly “white privilege,” and the sooner we forget about them and tear down their statues and subject their descendants to “diversity training” and the like, the better off we’ll all be.

The Problem in Portland

Apparently, the real problem in Portland Saturday night was not that a Trump supporter was murdered for being a Trump supporter. Nor is it that the city was patrolled by a mob poised to assault anyone who challenged the control it had been exercising over parts of the city for months. The real problem is that Trump supporters chose to challenge the mob by entering a city they had every right, as American citizens, to enter, and that some of them shot paintballs at the mob that was already enraged by their very presence.

This is the message of the Democratic Party and the media: if mobs want to run our cities, let them.

AND THE WINNER IS

Thanks to all of you who voted in the recent contest to pick the worst of the Never Trumpers. It was close, but the gold medal goes to David Frum, the silver medal goes to David French, and the bronze medal goes to John Kasich.

Kasich is insufferable, French is an eager turncoat, but the sheer awfulness of Frum is hard for anyone who hasn’t been eagerly pumping poison into the American body politic for decades to match.

Frum burst onto the scene with a low, despicable attack on Pat Buchanan in the American Spectator decades ago, easily the worst piece Bob Tyrrell ever published. To Frum, the gentlemanly Buchanan was a “bully boy,” and the distortions about Pat did not stop there. Unfortunately, Frum’s piece was part of a much larger neocon smear campaign that succeeded in turning enough Republicans away from Buchanan so that the man who has been right on every major issue facing America since the end of the Cold War never became President.

On the eve of our invasion of Iraq, Frum was given a cover article in National Review to impugn the patriotism of the conservatives with the foresight and courage to oppose a war that proved to be a disaster on every level, including Pat Buchanan. Anytime you think of the thousands of Americans killed and maimed in that war, the hundreds of billions we squandered there, and the devastation of Iraq’s ancient Christian community, you should think of David Frum, who did all he could to foist this calamity on the country he was unwisely allowed to emigrate to and to which he has never demonstrated the least amount of loyalty or gratitude.

Frum then did all he could to embroil America into another disastrous Mideast war. As a speechwriter in the Bush White House, Frum helped brand Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil.” Since the dimwitted Bush had more or less formally committed himself to the eradication of evil from the planet, the intended destination of this rhetorical flourish was clear. Fortunately, enough Americans quickly realized that the invasion of Iraq was a horrible mistake that Frum never did succeed in fomenting another Mideast war.

In recent years, Frum’s hatred of Trump and the millions of Americans who support him has driven Frum firmly in the camp of the American left. His mansion in the toniest part of D. C. no doubt sports, or soon will, yard signs for Biden and BLM. Most recently, Frum dismissed criticism of his post mocking Kyle Rittenhouse as an emanation of “Nazi twitter.” Of course, real Nazis in America are virtually non-existent, but that’s how Frum has always regarded Americans to his right, a final reminder of how little he knows about the country he has attached himself to in the same manner a lamprey attaches itself to a salmon.

As the gold medalist, Frum is eligible for one picture of the lovely and charming queen of the Never Trumpers, Jennifer Rubin. Silver medalist David French is eligible for two pictures of Ms. Rubin, and the lucky bronze medalist John Kasich is eligible for three such pictures. Prizes may be claimed by contacting American Remnant.

A Right Lost

An American citizen should have the right to go anywhere in the United States and show support for the President of the United States without having to fear that he will be assaulted.

We all know that this is not in fact true. And that doesn’t bother the New York Times, the Washington Post, many Democratic politicians, or the sanctimonious Never Trumpers, all of whom have long treated visible signs of support for the President as provocations warranting a hostile response.

WHO’S THE WORST ONE?

The Never Trumpers as a group take self-righteousness, sanctimony, and self-regard to levels seldom seen outside of clinical settings. Or Hollywood.

And now they are very busy indeed: speaking at Democratic conventions, writing open letters to the Washington Post denouncing Donald Trump, congratulating each other on their “courage” in joining the rest of the media, the academy, and the oligarchy in excoriating their former party and those deplorables who still vote for it.

All of which raises the question: who is the worst of the lot? I’ll leave that weighty matter to the readers of American Remnant. Just name your choice in the comments section of the website or at American Remnant’s Facebook page. The results will be tabulated and gold, silver, and bronze medalists will be announced.

Here are the nominees:

John Kasich

Jonah Goldberg

David Frum

David French

Charles Sykes

Max Boot

(William Kristol’s public persona is certainly obnoxious enough to warrant nomination, but the obscurity into which he has fallen precludes it).

The gold medalist will, upon request, receive the prize of one picture of the lovely and charming queen of the Never Trumpers, Jennifer Rubin. The silver medalist will be eligible for two different pictures of Ms. Rubin. And the lucky bronze medalist will be eligible for three such pictures.

Let the voting commence!

THE CANDIDATE OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

White privilege is an ingenious concept. It allows non-white Americans to dismiss white Americans as the undeserving possessors of an inherited privilege, a privilege unaltered by the circumstances of an individual’s life and indeed unalterable. Thus do billionaires like Lebron James and Oprah Winfrey lecture those raised in the hollows of West Virginia on the need to set aside their “privilege. “

The Democratic Party is heavily invested in the concept. The party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is a white male, but no one, including Joe Biden, thinks that white males are the future of the Democratic Party.

That future belongs instead to Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Stanford economics professor and a medical researcher. In other words, a daughter of privilege. But Harris’s privileged background is not a political liability, because Harris isn’t white. And no one, including Harris, thinks that she would be the presumptive vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party if she were.

Such are the ways of white privilege in America 2020.

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