The first time I met Boris Johnson was in Washington, DC last year. He was shorter than I’d imagined, though he assured me that he’s “immensely physically strong”. Concerned that this sort of detail might not impress my editor – American journalism is a serious business – I requested a follow-up interview the next day. “Hi Madeleine, sorry to have missed you,” he replied. “Have been flat out. Let’s catch up in London. All best, Boris.”
Well, that was September. It’s now July and – as Prime Minister – Boris has promised the country that he’ll be working “flat out” to deliver Brexit by Hallowe’en. I do hope he pulls it off. Aside from a disunited Kingdom and the possibly-impending reign of Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexit story is starting to resemble Bleak House. Interesting concept. A few colourful scenes. One or two compelling characters. But all of it completely lost amid 350 pages on Victorian furniture.
There are only two acceptable topics of conversation for a Manhattan office elevator. First, the weather, though this can be unnerving as Gwendolyn rightly observes in The Importance of Being Earnest (“Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I feel quite certain they mean something else.”) Second is the condition of the building.
Recently a heatwave struck the East Coast, causing more than 150 million Americans to suffer and sweat profusely. At the same time, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, tweeted that four non-white Congresswomen ought to “go back” to where they came from. As the television screen in the elevator flashed news headlines – TRUMP RAMPS UP RACIAL DIVISIONS AHEAD OF 2020 – everyone from floors one through 18 gibbered about hydration and sunscreen.
Nevertheless, we persist. A hundred or so writer-types recently attended my colleague Kevin D Williamson’s book launch party. Kevin began writing The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics in 2015, but it only became marketable in 2018 after he was fired from The Atlantic at the behest of a Twitter mob and some of the magazine’s younger, politically correct staff.
To Orange County – and for work! There the sunbaked sands and ocean breezes make for beautiful, happy people. I was sitting in the Ritz, breathing in the sea air, admiring the sparkling Pacific, a plate of chicken and waffles to feast on and a copy of that day’s Wall Street Journal open at my article. I glanced down at my phone, whereupon Twitter alerted me that some people whom I have never met loathe me for my expressed view that men ought not to compete against women in sports.
While I’m on this subject, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal held hearings recently on whether or not female beauticians unlawfully discriminated against a man (who sometimes “identifies” as a woman) by declining to attend to his genitalia. “Canada’s Ball-Waxing Horror Show is Peak Transgender Activism,” the copy editor titled my piece. How’s that for clickbait?
Next to Los Angeles, where I stayed at a cute motel on Sunset Boulevard and scooted around on one of those contraptions the rest of the world finds obnoxious. I had the task of conducting a thorough report on human trafficking. Prostitution is illegal in California, though generally the girls are considered by law enforcement to be victims. (They’re really after the pimps – who can serve more than 30 years if they’re caught.)
One night I went out with the LAPD and spoke to some of the girls as they were being stopped for soliciting. Their stories were heartbreaking. I asked one – an 18-year-old who had been selling sex since she was 13 – how the work made her feel. “Nasty,” she told me. “Just nasty.”
Thank God for organisations like Gems Uncovered, a faith-based charity in downtown LA. The director, a Christian mum of four, helps the girls get off the streets, teaches them about “the person not the product” and turns “victims into survivors”. I met two absolute gems, Tangey and Mariah, both of whom were trafficked in their teens but are now doing well.
A lovely thing happened when I got back to New York. I was organising my notes when a reader – who knew nothing of my trip – emailed to say that he was praying for me that day because it was the feast of my namesake. St Mary Magdalene is not only the patron saint of those who struggle with sexual temptation, but also the first person to encounter the risen Christ.
Madeleine Kearns is a William F Buckley Jr Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review