- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

English import

“As [historian Hugh] Trevor-Roper points out with ill-concealed glee, tartan and kilt, those universal badges of Scottishness, are about as authentic as Disneyland. Until the 18th century, no one north of the Tweed had ever seen a kilt; nor did the clans, as legend has it, distinguish themselves by the pattern of their tartans, until they were taught to do so by an enterprising clothing manufacturer. …

“Sad to say, the kilt was invented by an Englishman, Thomas Rawlinson, who came to Scotland in the 1720s to manage an ironworks in the Highlands. Rawlinson observed that while the actual native costume of the Highlanders - the long belted cloak called the plaid - might have been suitable for rambling over hills and bogs, it was ‘a cumbrous, inconvenient habit’ for men working at a furnace. …

“This symbol of Highland tradition, as Trevor-Roper notes, was ‘bestowed … on the Highlanders, not in order to preserve their traditional way of life, but to ease its transformation: to bring them off the heath and into the factory.’ As with so many of the tales Trevor-Roper has to tell, the truth may not be as romantic as the legend, but its irony makes it no less compelling.”

-Adam Kirsch, writing on “Hugh Trevor-Roper’s ‘The Invention of Scotland,’” in the July 23 issue of the New York Sun

Not on the right

“The conversation about race that Barack Obama says America needs is already in full swing - and it is a conversation among blacks. Its spark was a speech that TV star Bill Cosby gave at the NAACP in 2004. In books and articles, on talk shows and in town meetings, at barbecues and barber shops, African-Americans have been arguing over his words ever since. Their impassioned discussion is the most hopeful development in race relations in years. …

“Black conservatives have said such things for years, only to be unthinkingly ostracized as race traitors for breaking with orthodoxy. But no one could dismiss the lovable Cosby: African-Americans are proud of his success and admire his munificence to black charities. …

“Nor could anyone dismiss National Public Radio’s respected Juan Williams when he emphatically endorsed Cosby’s views in a 2006 book, ‘Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America - and What We Can Do About It.’”

-Myron Magnet, writing on “The Great African-American Awakening,” in the summer issue of City Journal

Post-modern decency

“These ‘Pure Fashion divas,’ as Wendy Shalit calls them, are among the countercultural heroines she champions in ‘Girls Gone Mild,’ her second book. Thick skin is a prerequisite for this rising generation of activists - girls engaged in what Shalit calls a ‘postmodern battle for decency.’ In a culture that seems ‘to have lost the ability to say that some toys, clothing, songs, or programs are simply inappropriate for children,’ Shalit’s Girls are taking matters into their own hands.

“That’s partly because they can’t always count on the adults around them to uphold decent standards, Shalit explains. Baby boomer parents who fought for sexual freedom assume their children will make the most of it. According to surveys from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, adults were more likely than teenagers themselves to think teens are embarrassed to admit being virgins.”

-Jennifer A. Marshall, writing on “Ladies, Please,” in the July 28 issue of the Weekly Standard

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