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March 7, 2011 - February 28, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

American Exceptionalism:
What the Elites Take Exception to.

Our "special relationship" with those who hate us.
And yeah, sorry, even the ones we love who hate us.

GET BIGGER. It's a slippery subject and I'm not surprised that your answers were all over the map, ranging from black pessimism to deranged fantasy (Trump?) to "I have no idea."

But the headline of the discussion is surely this: Given the worldwide obsession with America, what's most shocking is how little even our closest allies know about us. Almost as shocking is how willing we are, in our weak moments, to credit their criticisms as valid, as if they were based on something other than resentment, jealousy, and cultural blindspots a mile wide.

The real source of the abiding strength and resiliency of our nation is a hidden thing, not because it is a small secret squirrelled away in some recondite corner of history, but because it is too big for the most sophisticated, and therefore most specialized and myopic, perspectives to perceive.

I'm not making a subtle argument here. We're just plain bigger, more various, more elemental, basic, deep, and natively passionate and decent than all our naysayers, foreign and domestic, can comprehend.

Not a subtle argument but a huge one to frame. It can be posed in micro and macro terms, and it can be demonstrated anecdotally, statistically, and historically. My qualifications for posing it? I've been obsessed with the "Big Picture" all my life. The most important thing I've learned about the Big Picture is how few people are capable of seeing it. All our education and acculturation is designed to cut the Big Picture down to size, to reduce bigness to significant subsets about which useful generalizations can be made. In this way, we are induced to employ our own knowledge and intelligence against the possibility of clear perception. And, of course, every observer brings to bear his own selective blindness as a filter meant to distinguish between what is good and bad, important and unimportant, relevant and dismissible. What the observer fails to understand is that each of his judgments about these distinctions is also a judgment on the size and scope of his own mind.

I'm going to cite some examples. But I won't be giving you links. Look them up for yourselves. That's part of the challenge of thinking out of your own personal box and striving for the bigger perspective.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that our closest ally, the United Kingdom, would have a better take on who we are than any other nation on earth. The past few years, however, have shown that their view of us is clownishly wrong, far more a reflection of their own national neuroses than the superior intelligence our own intelligentsia routinely ascribes to them. What they choose to admire in us is only that part of our culture for which they can claim at least partial credit -- the snobbish mentality of the American northeast, whose mounting atheism and apocalyptic vision of western civilization is every bit as parochial as their own.

Trivial vignettes. The popular asshole comedian Russell Brand wears a Che Guevara tee shirt to an awards ceremony. Why? He's still fighting the Brit class war and hasn't bothered to inform himself that Che Guevara was a murdering thug. Simon Pegg -- the talented creative force behind "Shaun of the Dead" -- has a new movie designed to ridicule American protestant Christianity, about which he knows absolutely nothing, personally or geographically. The atheism that is killing the U.K. has to be projected somehow onto an American population as if our belief is sicker than a dead, increasingly nihilistic monarchy which has never been able to assimilate the "wogs" it depends on more and more to do all the heavy labor. Problem? The movie misses. It's just not accurate about who the non-Anglophile American Christians might be. Ricky Gervais of "Office" fame feels compelled to do a comedy about the "lies" all religion represents. Funny? No. "Top Gear's" asshole muckraker host invades New Orleans to piss on the American response to Hurricane Katrina and manages simultaneously to feign outrage about the government's neglect of Katrina victims and despise, finally, the poor black victims he so superiorly champions. One of the very best Brit TV series, "Wire in the Blood," is consistently intelligent, literate, and complex until it does a special "movie-length episode" set in the American southwest, at which point it turns into an avalanche of dumb stereotypes about American hicks. The Brit version of "Law & Order" is obsessed with homosexual rights and yet oddly revelatory in its dramatization of the open persistence of racial prejudice in an institutional fashion that is simply not tolerated here. Fact is, they're still sniping at one another about being Irish, Welsh, Scottish, English, Cornish, and Manx -- and panicking about the dangers lurking in the segregated muslim sharia ghettoes they've created for themselves. What chance could they possibly have to understand the far more successful American detente among a hundred different nationalities and all the world's races, with the lone exception of Australian aborigines?

Why focus on the Brits? Because the pipelines of the "special relationship" between our two nations in the broader cultural sense connect the U.K. with our two coasts, which reciprocate fawningly to the detriment of the rest of us. (Meryl Streep libelling Margaret Thatcher as a senile bitch? Please). The British Oscars, called BAFTA awards, are now indistinguishable from our own academy awards. Same movies, actors, and directors honored, for the same genuflections to political correctness. But we still look up to them -- those accents, don't you know. And on the east coast, there remains an incestuous, insufferable kinship between the New York Times and the Times of London and between the Ivy League and Oxford and Cambridge. What all the smartest people are thinking; you know, the ones who really count. Meaning the same intelligentsia who are still trying to steer the American ship of state toward the same rocky shoals that have long since turned the U.K. into a sunken disaster of a nation that has lost not only its youngsters but its cultural luminaries and its own legacy of law and civilization. Without learning thing one about the American genius for assimilating immigrants and combining their native strengths with the American traditions of freedom, upward mobility, and social equality as a fact, not a Hyde Park polemic.

And we're supposed to look up to them on the subject of national healthcare? Why?

Frankly, the Brits are the class of Europe, with the sole exception of Italy, who are too disorganized to express their affection for us in a way we can accept as a major vote of confidence. (Although we should.)

Point is, nobody knows us in our immense, effulgent glory. Our own media who presume to do it for us are every bit as parochial as the Brits -- who have a better bead on us than any other nation on earth. (No. Don't mention Canada. The bitter, weak, younger brother. Nothing more.)

Bigger point. All of you don't have a full comprehension of us either. You have blindspots, geographical prejudices, causes,  ignorant assumptions, flat dismissals that are based on nothing you can really prove. America is bigger than you too, bigger than all of us. Every negative generalization you make, or I make, is wrong at some level.

Closing thought. We are the people who came here looking for something better. The ones whose common trait by inheritance is a questing spirit, a refusal to submit, surrender, or settle for less than we might accomplish with our hands and minds and unremitting effort. We found it.

When you decide to give up, it's not a sign that America is done. It's a sign that you are done. Which means you have some work to do before you pass judgment on your fellow citizens.

Taking exception to things American is both our birthright and our obligation. But it's also an affirmation of American exceptionalism. Until you deny what is so evidently, obviously, blatantly unique in the history of human civilization. At which point, you're not worth much more than Russell Brand in his Che Guevara tee-shirt.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Deja Vu

Everything repeats, but why this vicious little bitch?

TOLD YOU I'D BE BACK. One advantage of being older than most is that sometimes you can recognize a stretch of track you've had to run before. The question of who Obama is has finally been answered, and the news is not good. He's Jimmy Carter.

A small man with a big phony smile, textbook smarts, and not an ounce of common sense to ameliorate his arrogant presumption about being better than the nation he's supposed to lead. The result is depressingly the same. Economic stagflation, an entirely avoidable energy crisis, chaos in the middle east, catastrophic foreign policy weakness across the board, and a growing sense in the nation that America is both rudderless and in decline.

Those who are old enough to remember the bitter little cracker who occupied the White House from 1976 to 1980 also remember that the pundits started asking whether anyone could be a successful president, whether the job was just too big to be manageable. Of course, these kinds of doubts belong almost exclusively to liberals, progressives, Democrats. Because they think the president's job is to run everything. Carter certainly tried. He even personally micro-managed the schedule of the White House tennis court. Obama doesn't care about tennis, but I can't wait for his March Madness brackets...

The good news is that all this talk about American decline is tied pretty directly to what has transpired since Obama took office, which is to say that a weak, naive, self-absorbed president tends to sap the national spirit in a significant way. The antidote is simple: a good president. Which arrived promptly in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan.

The bad news is that so far, there's no Ronald Reagan on the horizon. Why conservatives are as depressed as everybody else this time around. We have a blizzard of candidates. But sadly they're all weak sisters in one way or another. It's the only issue of importance in the nation. Until November 2012, we're just taking our lumps, the inevitable fallout of a truly wretched president who is as indecisive and ignorant of his responsibilities as he is supremely confident of his superiority to the people, the democratic process, and the complexities of the globe.

So it's time to remember a few verities and engage in some rigorous analysis.

Verities. America is not in decline relative to the rest of the world. Yes, the world itself may be having to take a step back and re-assess its course, but Europe is in far worse shape than we are by every measure, China is dangerously over-extended (remember when Japan was going to own the world...?), Russia remains a gangster economy, the Middle East is a pitifully violent and incompetent disaster, and South America is lapsing into its old comedy shtick of banana republics and overdressed military dictators. America has a bad head cold. Everybody else is stricken with a life-threatening flu.

We still have the largest, most innovative and resilient economy in the world, the greatest military the world has ever seen, and a population that still -- despite all the malicious intentions of the progressives who would divide us into hostile, spiteful factions -- regards itself as American first and hyphenated second. No other country of such mixed racial, ethnic, and religious makeup can say that. Not one.

What distinguished Reagan was his optimism, even, especially, in the worst of times. That's the litmus test a conservative candidate must pass if we are to retire Obama and return to our national greatness. The mission is not to dream lesser dreams and make do with less. It's to remember the vision of a shining city on a hill and plot the most direct path to its attainment.

We have a lot of work to do.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Still Here

PNEUMONIA. I'll be posting again soon. Had a bad patch there. Couldn't breathe and couldn't sleep because I couldn't breathe.

So I've been sleeping a lot since. And breathing too. It puts things in perspective. I refuse to die before this assault on our country has been turned back. The thing that quelled my panic about not being able to draw a breath.

I thought, okay, you just get sick enough and then you die, but that's when Raebert crawled into my lap, lay on his back, and wrapped a paw gently around my neck. Not allowed to die.

So here I am. And thank all of you who expressed your concern. But Raebert weighs more than all the comments. A hundred pounds more.

I'll post tomorrow. Okay?

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