A Store, a Country, a Song Lyric . . .

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A customer walks in the Meijer parking lot in Southfield, Mich., January 25, 2022. (Emily Elconin / Reuters)

The name on the store in the photo up there is “Meijer.” But a lot of us Michiganders call the store “Meijer’s,” and nothing else. (Once upon a time, the store was known as “Meijer’s Thrifty Acres.” So “Meijer’s” is a shorthand. Plus, Michiganders have a predilection for apostrophe ess. “Where does he work?” “Out to Ford’s.”) Last year, I podcasted with Peter Meijer, the congressman from Grand Rapids, whose great-grandfather founded the store(s). I said, “‘Meijer’ or ‘Meijer’s’?” He said that friends would call him, late at night, to settle a bet on the question. So, the answer? The family is happy for you to say whatever you like.

Anyway, I lead Impromptus today with a story or two concerning Meijer’s. That column is headed “The American experience, &c.” I have notes on entrepreneurship, immigration, Jerry Hall, George C. Marshall, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shohei Ohtani — a slew. Now let’s have some mail.

Earlier in the week, I had a column headed “Before We ‘Move On.’” I spoke of “the frame of our country: its system, its constitution. ‘A nation of laws, not men.’” A reader writes,

When I was in school, and we were studying History or World History, we saw that all great civilizations or empires usually lasted around 300 years. I remember celebrating our Bicentennial and thinking, “Wow, we’re already at 200 years.” It was a sobering thought, even at the age of 15.

I was lucky enough to have a great teacher (WWII vet) for a Civics class my junior year of high school. The only thing we read/studied/discussed that year was the Constitution. It was a great class!

As I aged, I always figured our Constitution was the only thing that could save us from the “300-year curse.” Now I’m not so sure. Seems most people no longer care or know what it says or means.

Hope I’m wrong!

Me too. One thing that has become clear to me is that “paper protections” are not enough. You can have all the constitutions or laws in the world — but without men and women of character in office, we are out of luck. There is such a thing as a liberal-democratic culture, too. I closed that column earlier in the week with Learned Hand, who wrote, “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.”

I also quoted Jim Jordan, the Republican congressman from Ohio (a different cat from Learned Hand). He is one of those people who like to speak of “real America.” Last year, he tweeted, “Real America is done with #COVID19.” More recently, he tweeted, “Real America doesn’t care about the January 6th Committee.” I used to dabble in this “real America” stuff. It was Bill Buckley, more than anyone, who talked me out of it. All of America is real — even the parts you may not like. Hollywood and Provo; Greenwich Village and Tuscaloosa. It’s all real, and it’s all American.

Related to “real America” is “real people.” I had to wrestle with that one, too. When I was young, lefties tended to say “real people.” These days, I hear it more from the Right.

A colleague e-mails me, “In logic, there is a name for this sort of fallacious speech: ‘No true Scotsman . . .’” Ah, yes. For the Wikipedia explanation, go here.

Finally, I am fond of quoting a Lyle Lovett lyric, and have done so in recent articles: “It may be no big deal to you, but it’s a very big deal to me.” You are entitled to regard as important what you regard as important. And if others don’t — well, fine.

A reader writes,

I’m always happy to see a Lyle Lovett quote. You mentioned Mitch Daniels, who is probably not electable as president. Here’s a Lyle lyric for that: “If were the man you wanted, I would not be the man that I am.”

Perfect. Thanks to all readers and correspondents. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.