WASHINGTON — I was watching Fox's coverage of the Aretha Franklin funeral last week and enjoying the celebration. I thought Stevie Wonder was particularly good and very moving. He is a marvelous singer, but for my money he is an even greater pianist. He really trips his fingers across the keys with gorgeous effect. At any rate, the ceremony was a fitting tribute to a woman who for decades entertained us all.
Alas, the ceremony was also marred. On Sunday, I read in the Washington Post that the officiating pastor, Charles H. Ellis III, has been accused of "groping" one of the ceremony entertainers onstage. Yes, he is alleged to have done it right in front of not only Franklin's adoring thousands but also scores of dignitaries, including Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Bill Clinton. That is right, Bill Clinton was there, and he was later accused of fixing his eyes on the entertainer's bottom. That story was carried on the Drudge Report, which I guess is where you would expect it. But back to Ellis.
Apparently the woman whom the Rev. Ellis touched is named Ariana Grande, and she had just performed the Aretha Franklin hit from years gone by "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." In congratulating her, Ellis, according to the Post, "wrapped his hand around her, high above her waist in an act that many are calling a groping." Now, I am no expert in such maneuvers. I am certainly not as practiced as Clinton — he of the wandering eye — but I would not think Ellis' embrace constituted "groping," not when he touched her "high about her waist," and in front of thousands.
However, Ellis' wrongdoing went beyond the mere tactile. There is more. The Post reported that he felt he had to apologize to "the singer, an army of her outraged fans and the Hispanic community." I can understand his apology to the singer and her army of outraged fans, but why the Hispanic community? Ms. Grande is not Hispanic. She is famously Italian-American. The Post never explained the discrepancy. Nor did it explain why Ellis, "a much older man," was more at fault for where he put his errant hands than someone else, say, a much younger man.
Actually, there is a lot more in this news story that could be explained, but let me settle on this simple point: Some Americans have become much too touchy. I am not referring to where they put their hands but to where they put their sources of irritation. Ellis was presiding over a funeral. It is unthinkable that he would touch a singer indecently in public. Or that he would knowingly offend any community, Hispanic or otherwise. Or that he, a man of some 60 years, has to follow a protocol for touching people that other Americans do not have to follow.
Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary magazine, made the observation decades ago that some Americans have become too touchy. It is as though they are eager for a chance to be irritated. This is the cause of the Washington Post story.
Ellis appears in public to soothe people in their grief and suddenly an avalanche of opprobrium comes down upon him because he is accused of offensive and indecent behavior, indecent and offensive behavior that is also unthinkable. It is unthinkable that Ellis would commit the acts that he is accused of. He had no reason to apologize.
It is an example of political correctness that is out of control. One of the reasons why Donald Trump won the presidency is that political correctness is seen as a bully club to harass ordinary Americans. It is used to shut down free speech. One does not even have to say anything that is in questionable taste or do anything that is in questionable taste to be charged with misbehavior. The other day in the Washington Post, Ellis apologized for indiscretions that he could not have possibly committed. Now who is going to apologize to him?
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author, most recently, of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.