IF PEGGY NOONAN IS OUR "ANCESTRAL ARBITER," THEN OUR SPECIES IS DOOMED
Because two full columns on the subject in 2006 apparently weren't enough, Peggy Noonan has given us another half a column on the horrors of airport security and why, specifically, it should exempt women of a certain age, who are, apparently, America, as well as Civilization (or something like that):
America is in line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proved innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention....
It reduces the status of that ancestral arbiter and leader of society, the middle-aged woman. In the new fairness, she is treated like everyone, without respect, like the loud ruffian and the vulgar girl on the phone. The middle-aged woman is the one spread-eagled over there in the delicate shell beneath the removed jacket, praying nothing on her body goes beep and makes people look....
"Spread-eagled" -- yeah, it's Abu frickin' Ghraib for you, isn't it, Peggy? And it's particularly horrifying because you're a middle-aged woman; as you put it two years ago, "America has become creepy for women who think of themselves as ladies. It has in fact become assaultive." That was the column in which you promised to walk among us for forty days and, whenever you saw "someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being," march up to that person and say, "You are embarrassing the angels." But you weren't referring to, say, torture -- you were talking about sexually frank daytime TV or having to take your shoes off at the airport. But that only applies to you; as far as you're concerned, they can take the teenager next to you in a back room and do a cavity search, because she's annoying you by talking on a cell phone.
Noonan tells us in the current column that her terminal has a TV tuned to CNN, but no one's watching:
America knows what Samuel Johnson knew. "How small of all that human hearts endure / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure."
Right-wingers love quoting this and attributing it to Samuel Johnson. (It was actually Oliver Goldsmith.) The point of the couplet is that the things governments do don't really have much effect on our happiness.
Er, Peggy, if that's true, why does airport security -- a government program -- drive you up the wall?
We are a nation of Willie Lomans, dragging our rollies through acres of airport, going through life with a suitcase and a slack jaw, trying to get home after a long day of meetings, of moving product.
Hey, Peggy, some of us never fly at all, or fly a couple of times a year. Not everyone is, like you, paid large amounts of money to bop around the country on a media billionaire's dime to find inspiration for gaseous missives. Your frequent travel doesn't make you America -- because of the reasons you do it, it makes you an elitist.
Noonan moves on to Barack Obama -- and tells us (yes, she's on the distribution list for the talking points) that he's not patriotic enough:
... has he ever gotten misty-eyed over ... the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter's Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills?
D-Day excepted, does anyone ever get "misty-eyed" about any of these things? Leaving the anti-Semitism out of the mix, it seems to me that getting "misty-eyed" about Henry Ford would be an American version of the Communist bloc as it was always portrayed during the Cold War, as a nightmare world where people were forced to sing hymns to collective factories and threshing combines.
(And, hey, where did I put my copy of Brave New World?)
Then we move on to Bush. Newsflash -- he's unpopular! Even among people who voted for him! Peggy just found this out. (She didn't know it, even though she is our ancestral arbiter and leader of our society.)
But don't worry, she understand why people, or at least right-wingers, don't like him:
I imagine some of this: a fine and bitter conservative sense that he has never had to stand in his stockinged feet at the airport holding the bin, being harassed. He has never had to live in the world he helped make, the one where grandma's hip replacement is setting off the beeper here and the child is crying there. And of course as a former president, with the entourage and the private jets, he never will.
Yes, your memory does not deceive you -- this is the same woman who told us this just after the 2004 election:
I think Mr. Bush, the better man in terms of character, was also the more normal man. And we like normal. He loves sports and business and politics, and speaks their language. Normal. His wife is important to him, and his kids seem a bit of a mystery to him, and perhaps even to some degree intimidating. Normal. He thinks if bad guys attack New York City and the Pentagon, we go after them and kill them--normal. He thinks marriage is between a man and a woman--normal. He thinks if Baptist preachers in a suburb of Louisville have an after-school plan that has an excellent record of turning kids from juvenile delinquency to thinking about college, those Baptist preachers should be helped and encouraged every way we can, and it has nothing to do with "church and state." Normal. He thinks if there's an old plaque bearing the Ten Commandments on the wall of the courthouse you should leave it alone--it can't hurt, and it might help. Normal.
But now his photograph has been removed from the Book of Normal Men; he is an unperson.
All right, class, let's all gather round and sing our hymn to Henry Ford and his beloved conveyor belts.