Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2001/ 29 Tishrei, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

A touch of class -- The first time I listened to Rush Limbaugh was in 1998. While I had heard of him, I had never heard him because of what I heard about him. Venturing into the AM radio band, I assumed a black helicopter type awaited - the Howard Stern of survivalists.

But as I listened, the vitriol about him became puzzling. He plays clips, offers news stories and lets others' own words expose the folly of their reasoning as he sprinkles in humor and succinct analysis for fine entertainment. He boasts of doing so with "one-half of my brain tied behind my back" just to make it fair to the liberals.

Amidst the digs at environmentalists ("In a Yugo," set to Elvis's "In the Ghetto") and feminists ("NAGs"- National Association of Gals), Limbaugh touts personal responsibility and accountability. Whiners and the Americans with Disabilities Act always send him reeling.

The guy is happy. He loves what he does, his callers and that staff - the Cookies, the Snerdleys, the HRs, and others in the merry band along for the ride each day with a man who says his talent is "on loan from G-d."

Last week Mr. Limbaugh revealed that he is almost completely deaf, having lost his hearing at a rapid clip over the past 3 months. A man whose livelihood depends on sound bites and callers cannot hear. But he was cheerful, determined to keep working and thankful for such a "small problem" compared to the attack victims.

Mr. Limbaugh has long been a class act, but he buried the needle on grace under pressure on this one. Even the medium chosen, the announcement was made to his 20 million listeners, not at a press conference, spoke volumes. He has been handed a permanent injustice, but copes with it as if it were a bout with the flu. Yes, I'm deaf, he said, and yes, we're trying everything, and we'll deal with it. Class.

Class is a nebulous thing. You know it when you see it. My mother ingrained it into me by refusing to be seen in public in curlers. Despite those 1950s times being pre-ConAir and filled with magnetic rollers, pink brush snap-on curlers, bobby pins, and few bouffant hair dryers, my mother never let a non-family member cast an eye upon her in curlers. It was a small rule that sent a big message about propriety.

She never wore white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. She never failed to RSVP. She sent a gift even when she couldn't attend or afford it. She was mortified if we walked out of a room while someone was speaking. Her tiny rules of the bon ton gave her Grace Kelly class in appearance, manner and speech.

The past five decades have witnessed decline in the quiet elegance that enveloped my childhood. Class emerges only as a beacon in the storm of coarseness. Mr. Limbaugh made me think, "Ah, there it is." And in juxtaposition with seedy acts of terror, grace finds it way through the rubble of rudeness. Class has surfaced since September 11 and it knows no political lines.

Mayor Giuliani's popularity stems from his grace under pressure. Whatever ugly battles he may have had with mistresses, wives and Gracie Mansion before, he has found the dignity of public service and takes his position in the Grace Kelly ranks. Returning a $10 million gift from judgmental Arab prince Alwaleed Bin Talal was positively classy.

When Mr. Bush stood with rescue workers at Ground Zero, he showed resolve, and there was a resounding "Ahhh! There is it!" Mr. Bush exhibited the class that all great leaders from Lincoln to Churchill have shown, all while using a bullhorn.

Mr. Gore shows it in his support of Mr. Bush. Mr. Gore's supporters show it as they admit that Mr. Bush is the better man for the job the presidency has become. Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Daschle exhibit it in their cooperation with Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush returned it when he hugged them following his speech to Congress. Strident Sen. Charles Schumer from New York has shown such class in his support that he seems charming.

Class feels so lovely, especially after the Clinton era of pink curlers, flowered house dresses and terry-cloth scuffs at the grocery store. Clinton language was crude, the tenor was sharp and the issues were seedy. Those days are not quite gone. Mrs. Clinton's behavior at the President's speech to Congress was churlish. Her applause was pained as her eyes rolled. Her obvious exasperation reflected the Hee Haw Clinton years.

But class is peeking through. Laura Bush exudes it with her genuine tears and words of comfort from Kahil Gibran. And those brave passengers of Flight 93 who fought back - what class. Those firefighters. The military dropping food to the enemy.

We had just slipped into the sloppiness of curlers. September 11 saw class make a comeback. Mr. Limbaugh's grace under pressure was but one example that class lives. Let's hope it survives.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
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03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
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12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
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09/29/00: The capacity for truth
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09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
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08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
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01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
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09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
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08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
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07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
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06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings