THE WORST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE SENTENCE EVER WRITTEN, FROM DAVID BROOKS
Today's David Brooks column is about Rick Santorum. It includes the following sentence, which gobsmacked me with its sheer awfulness:
America is creative because of its moral materialism -- when social values and economic ambitions get down in the mosh pit and dance.
Wow. That's like one of those horrible accidents you have when you stumble and injure yourself in two separate places -- say, twisting your ankle while cracking your head on a low shelf. You just can't quite tell what the hell happened to you, but you know it's painful.
I'll just ignore the image of social values and economic ambitions getting sweaty and shirtless in the pit and move on to the first assertion. "America is creative because of its moral materialism"? Really? Were morals behind the development of the iPhone? The Model T Ford? The Bo Diddley riff? The collateralized debt obligation? And, of course, Bo, Henry, and Steve are all dead now, so it is in any way correct to say that "America is creative" at all? Is there really all that much creativity left in this country -- at least of the economically ambitious kind -- that doesn't involve the devising of financial instruments?
Apart from this, Brooks uses the column to remind us of the differences between his own paternalistic, patronizing, faux-humane conservatism and Santorum's paternalistic, patronizing, faux-humane conservatism. Silly Rick, says Brooks -- he thinks capitalism will function better if we suppress sex among gays and unmarried straight people! Hey, those are my friends! (Well, Brooks doesn't actually include that last bit, but it's implied.) If you'd never read Brooks, you might think he was going to reject moral scolding altogether. But then there he is, a few paragraphs later, giving us his version: capitalism will function better, he says, if we build infrastructure projects ... not because we need the roads and bridges, but because infrastructure-building "allows more people to practice the habits of industry"! The smell of road tar is good for your soul, lazy peasant!
I confess that, after reading Brooks, I still find it hard to tell precisely how Santorum's thesis differs from his own. Which one of them thinks we need a simplified tax code because "social trust is the precondition for a healthy society"? Oh, yeah, that's Brooks. Which one thinks Head Start instruction for children should include lessons on manners? Santorum. It reminds me of the way my eyes glaze over whenever I try to read an explanation of the exquisitely subtle differences in the judicial philosophies of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. What the hell's the difference? On the big stuff, they're going to screw us the same way.