? They did it. They really did do it. A court-appointed desegregation administrator has ordered Cleveland, Ohio, high-school basketball teams to include a minimum of "two white players on each of their 12-man basketball squads." The concern of the integration policers was piqued two years ago when, out of 14 public high-school teams, only one student-athlete could be found who had been affected with the nearly fatal (for basketball purposes, anyway) "white man's disease."
When the federal micro-heads get their calculators rejuiced, however, we are sure to see a far stronger edict tossed down from on high. For, while whites make up 35 percent of the public-school population in Cleveland, 2 divided by 12 calculates to but 16.67 percent. Four squad members of the Humanus Caucasius variety must be stirred in gently with the real basket-ballers (by virtue of talent—remember talent?), and two must be starters. Even these numbers would not produce the precisely equitable mix, of course, because the percentages are hard to duplicate on a basketball team having only 12 players, with but five starters. But not impossible. No indeed. Why don't we simply match the percentages exactly by mandating the use of players whose total "white blood" count adds up to the desired 35 percent white, 65 percent black. Very few are 100 percent anything, so we'll have no problem adding 89-percent-white men, with 93-percent-black men and arriving at the proper mix.
Now, one further problem would be the issue of playing time. To have this exact racial concoction sitting on the bench would do little justice. This 35-65 rule will have to apply at every moment for which the ball is in play. Oh yes, and we can't forget scoring, which must not be biased in favor of some certain ethnic group but must also be shared equally. And rebounding, ball-handling, assists, steals, slam-dunks, free throws, personal fouls, and play-calling. To permit anything else would be outright racism. Play Ball!
? And this cheerful news from United Press International: "Young Afghan males are being seized in public theaters and sports stadiums by government agents and sent to the Soviet Union's Muslim republics bordering Afghanistan for military training." The patriotic crusade had even expanded into house-to-house searches for qualified young volunteers. The People's Army is just so anxious to help the citizenry, it can't wait through the time-consuming paperwork of enlistments. But wipe that smirk off your face. America isn't Afghanistan, but…we have Sen. Sam Nunn. And this Georgia cracker can be real trouble, too. He's currently leaning on Ronald the Magnificent to retain the greatest achievement of the Carter administration, draft registration. "If we were to cancel registration," he burps, it would (among other things) "be disillusioning to our young people." Naturally. Just like the slaves who, the day after the Emancipation Proclamation, just didn't know what to do with all that free time. How to deal with Reagan's frequent criticism of draft registration during the campaign? The high-flying Nunn was quick with the advice: "If he goes back on a campaign promise, there is precedent for that."
? But before you jump off the ledge and end it all, consider this Great Progress. Anita Bryant, long the Mother Scold of the Congressman Bauman community, has issued Orange Encyclical #1: "Live and let live." After kicking the valium, sleeping pill, and wine-guzzling habits, and surviving a contemplated suicide, she now admits: "I could see that a lot of people got involved in the crusade who had a personal vendetta about gays. They harbored hatreds." But Anita doesn't hate anybody anymore, and estranged husband Bob Greene is even convinced that Anita went one step further than "nice"—even while they were married. To his charges of adultery, Anita drawls: "I can't say that I'm totally innocent. I guess when there's a real void in your life and your marriage becomes rotten, you fantasize a lot of things." Sounds like lusting in your heart, huh?
? And a sad note. No punch line. Andrei Amalrik, the noted Soviet dissident, is dead. He was but 42 years of age when killed in a head-on collision in Madrid, Spain. He was there to protest the Soviets' obscenities in using procedural gimmicks to prevent an international conference from reviewing the 1975 Helsinki accords dealing with human rights in the Eastern bloc countries. Three other passengers survived the crash, so it is indeed possible that it was an accident. We will never know for certain. Amalrik was, in Leopold Labedz's estimation, "a very special individual." At the young age of 27 he was arrested for "parasitism" and exiled to Siberia. But his resounding spirit triumphed over the elements, and he survived to publish many remarkable essays on Soviet life. What amazed Westerners was that his voice seemed so familiar. Whereas Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and others were heroic Russians, it was uncanny that Amalrik could speak to us as though he understood that life could be different and how it should be different. In his best-known book, Will the Soviet Union Survive to 1984? Amalrik wrote:
The idea of self-government, of equality before the law and of personal freedom—and the responsibility that goes with these—are almost completely incomprehensible to the Russian people. Even in the idea of pragmatic freedom, a Russian tends to see not so much the possibility of securing a good life for himself as the danger that some clever fellow will make good at his expense. To the majority of the people the very word "freedom" is synonymous with "disorder" or the opportunity to indulge with impunity in some kind of antisocial or dangerous activity. As for respecting the rights of an individual as such, the idea simply arouses bewilderment. One can respect strength, authority, even intellect or education, but it is preposterous to the popular mind that the human personality should represent any kind of value.
It was just this sort of fascinating analysis, which cut straight through to arguments that those of us who had never stepped foot on Russian soil could appreciate, that created so much admiration for Amalrik in the West and so much trouble for him at home.
Not only was he continually harassed (finally being exiled to the West in 1976), he was cruelly hurt by a smear campaign in the "Free World" press alleging that Amalrik was a KGB stooge (this ended, for the most part, when he was arrested and impounded in Siberia). Those who made such charges could simply not believe his insight. As the Washington Post's Anatole Sub wrote in early 1970, "Many of the kindest, best-intentioned Western scholars find it incredible that he could have developed—independently—not merely an original mind, but a remarkable grasp of the Western thinking about his country."
Like only a few giants in this wanting century, Andrei Amalrik deserves to be remembered.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.