Friday, December 18, 2009


Why are we miserable? Why do we despair? Is it the endless grinding recession? The interminable wars? Health care anxiety? Partisan gridlock?

Nawww. According to Peggy Noonan, it's ... Adam Lambert!

... Sure, Americans are worried about long-term debt and endless deficits. We're worried about taxes and the burden we're bequeathing to our children, and their children.

But we are concerned about other things, too, and there are often signs in various polls that those things may dwarf economic concerns. Americans are worried about the core and character of the American nation, and about our culture.

... It was a broadcast network, it was prime time, it was the American Music Awards featuring singers your 11-year-old wants to see, and your 8-year-old. And Mr. Lambert came on and -- again, in front of your children, in the living room, in the middle of your peaceful evening -- uncorked an act in which he, in the words of various news reports the next day, performed "faux oral sex" featuring "S&M play," "bondage gear," "same-sex makeouts" and "walking a man and woman around the stage on a leash."

... Mr. Lambert's act left viewers feeling not just offended but assaulted....

I don't mean to make too much of it. In the great scheme of things a creepy musical act doesn't matter much. But increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted....

Yeah, maybe some people felt that way -- for about a day or two. But this is an incident most of America has forgotten, an incident that, by a long shot, isn't even the #1 celebrity sex story of the end of 2009, much less the #1 zeitgeist story. (Peg, I guess, wouldn't write a column about America's discomfort/fascination with the actual cheating involving actual sex of Tiger Woods -- Tiger, after all, is a rich straight guy, greatly respected by rich Republicans; you can't expect a multimillionaire golf pro to restrain his animal spirits any more than you can expect restraint on the part of the Wall Street tycoons who admire him, now can you? And besides, straight sex isn't icky.)

Peg's lead-in for all this is poll data:

The news came in numbers and the numbers were fairly grim, all the grimmer for being unsurprising. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported this week that more than half of Americans, 55%, think America is on the wrong track, with only 33% saying it is going in the right direction. A stunning 66% say they're not confident that their children's lives will be better than their own (27% are).

Um, Peg? Check the numbers (PDF) -- the "wrong track" number was in the 60s and 70s for most of 2007 and 2008. The only sex scandal involved then was George W. Bush's screwing of New Orleans, Terri Schiavo's husband, and an America that thought it should be able to trust a president not to send fellow Americans to die overseas for a lie.

The sad thing about Peggy's scolding-nun-with-a-pinch-of-Andy-Rooney schtick is that it's just so dated:

I'd like to see a poll on this. Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago? Do we talk more about sensitivity and treat others less sensitively? Do you think standards of public behavior are rising or falling? Is there something called the American Character, and do you think it has, the past half-century, improved or degenerated? If the latter, what are the implications of this? Do you sense, as you look around you, that each year we have less or more of the glue that holds a great nation together? Is there less courtesy in America now than when you were a child, or more? Bonus question: Is "Excuse me" a request or a command?

Peggy? Nobody cares. Most of your fellow right-wingers don't care, if they ever did -- the top right-wing leaders certainly don't.

Want to know why?

Because fat cats like Dick Armey have figured out how to get the rabble to rally around corporate interests without having to use the smokescreen of saying "Democrats hate Jesus!" and "Democrats hate traditional values!" Yeah, gay marriage still riles up the rubes, and the tea party movement touches on abortion, but teabaggism is primarily about "Socialism!!!!1!1!!!" The teabag leaders don't need Christian rightists anymore to get Bubba to go to the polls and vote GOP. They've cut out the middleman.

Poor you, Peggy. All those speeches you wrote? They were just a smokescreen. And you're still trying to cling to the smoke.

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