George Will, his own worst enemy…..Will is a reluctant liberal’s (I’m only one because ‘conservative’ is the only other viable option. Moderate schmoderate) dream. I viscerally disagree with just about everything he says (the baseball stuff renders me immediately blind and illiterate, so it doesn’t count) but it’s usually so simultaneously persuasive and so fundamentally amoral, it forces me to think about why he’s so dangerously wrong. I read him faithfully because he’s a great intellectuo-gut check (I debated him briefly once and he graciously held his tongue after I made a pithy riposte that I know he could have countered. Wouldn’t have been right, but he could have silenced me, poised, prepared and confident debater that he is, if he weren’t such a gentleman). Ann “the hobglobin of small minds” Coulter you can dismiss without argument since she so rarely makes any, so busy striking poses as she is. But Will….he makes you better and he makes you work for it, a rare commodity in today’s “discourse.”

His latest column is the perfect example. In it, he calmly rips apart liberals’ attacks on school’s/team’s ethnic mascots such that the litigants’ own mothers would disown them.
His latest is a seemingly well trodden take down of lefty attacks on ethnic sports team names and mascots, in this case, Chief Illiniwek of the U of I. After I finished the piece though, I sat there wondering why I had such a bad after taste in my mouth. Then it hit me. His arguments proved the opposite point: it’s not that liberals are right in arguing that team names like the Redskins et al are ipso facto offensive. It’s that the argument itself is progress. America needed to know that:

This story of progress, as progressives understand that, began during halftime of a football game in 1926, when an undergraduate studying Indian culture performed a dance dressed as a chief. Since then, a student has always served as Chief Illiniwek, who has become the symbol of the university that serves a state named after the Illini confederation of about a half-dozen tribes that were virtually annihilated in the 1760s by rival tribes.

In 1930, the student then portraying Chief Illiniwek traveled to South Dakota to receive authentic raiment from the Oglala Sioux. In 1967 and 1982, representatives of the Sioux, who had not yet discovered that they were supposed to feel abused, came to the Champaign-Urbana campus to augment the outfits Chief Illiniwek wears at football and basketball games.

If true, knowing this makes a world of difference, doesn’t it, in deciding how to feel about how we use shorthand for cultural events? Makes a world of difference, no? And if the liberals were too busy nitpicking to trace the history, hat’s off to the team effort of setting this particular record straight.

Three cheers for George Will, right? … anybody? Mrs. Will….?

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Debra Dickerson, a Washington Monthly editorial advisory board member, is the author most recently of The End of Blackness.