Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Identity politics with David Brooks: The wolves are in the henhouse

National Geographic lightweight house via Daily Mail.
David Brooks's hot take on the Trump-Putin summit ("The Murder-Suicide of the West", taking off from Jonah Goldberg's new title but adding the murder part for added drama, apparently)  was that it was like when C.S. Lewis's mother died, not that he was there, it was in 1908, but he's read about it, and it's pretty sad, she had cancer and the kid was only ten, and they shipped him off to a boarding school with a psychotic headmaster afterwards, so that it may not sound exactly like the Trump-Putin summit to you, but the thing is Trump has broken up with Europe, and Europe is our mother, as Americans, the source of democracy, universities, good manners, luxury hotels, and public parks! Trump is taking our Mom away! He's stuck her in an assisted-living facility and he's dating that trampy little Russia!

I'm barely kidding:
When C.S. Lewis was a boy, his mother died. “With my mother’s death,” he wrote, “all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life....” It may seem melodramatic, but that passage comes to mind when I think of the death of America’s relationship with Europe, and Donald Trump’s betrayal Monday of the democratic values.... Europe is America’s mother continent. Our foundational institutions were inherited from Europe. Our democracy is Greek and British. Our universities are German. The etiquette book George Washington read to improve himself was translated from French... The luxury hotel is a European palace turned into a commercial enterprise. Frederick Law Olmsted visited England in 1850, marveled at the gardens of the aristocracy, came back to America and turned what he saw into great public parks... Then as a mature nation, we became our parent’s partner.
Well, I made up the assisted-living facility.

But then it turns out it wasn't even Trump's fault. It's the liberals who did it, starting out by referring to Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Mozart as dead white males, and ultimately, under Obama, pivoting, which I think means Obama noticed that the Pacific Ocean and its farther shores from New Zealand and Japan to Malaysia and Indonesia had real places with people in them, and culture, parks, luxury hotels, the whole lot, and before you knew it we'd completely lost track with Europe. Also George W. Bush who got pissed off with Europe for some reason during the Iraq War, proving that both sides do it, except for the UK, I guess, which did whatever W wanted.

And Europe itself is to blame, come to think of it, with its post-nationalist top-down technocratic administration (it's fun to realize that Brooks was in Brussels working for the Wall Street Journal at the same time as young Boris Johnson was covering it for The Telegraph, and may have gotten all his clich├ęs about the sclerotic European Union from the famously mendacious stories Boris wrote about the horrors of EU regulation, not that Brooks would have been comfortable in the kind of upper class bars Boris would have spent most of his working day in—I doubt they knew each other).

Piss off, Mom, you filthy socialist, in fact, I've changed my mind! Not really,  Brooks doesn't even notice what he did, but gets back to the lament:
His embrace of Putin Monday was a victory dance on the Euro-American tomb.... We’ve lost the bonds that might enable us to fight them together. Worse, the wolves are not only in the henhouse; they are in the Executive Mansion.
It's foxes that move into henhouses, you know. I don't know about executive mansions. Hope the wolves don't eat Jared! At least not before he testifies.

What is really intriguing here is the spectacle of David Brooks practicing some of that identity politics. We are America because we come from approximately three countries. Britain, Germany, and France. With a bit of Italy and Greece but that was a very long time ago. If you call attention to the fact that our culture heroes are all dead white males, you will destroy us. Do not look at Asia and Africa as treacherous Obama did. Even Russia worries him a bit, maybe just because it has Putin in it, but I think he may be wondering if it's really in Europe? And he keeps taxing us with tribalism.

Oh, also I learned that Jonah Goldberg occupies the Asness Chair of Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute. I wonder what you apply it to.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

No comments: