Friday, June 06, 2014


I probably shouldn't give David Brooks a hard time when he's defending the deal to release Bowe Bergdahl. Brooks sees it as the kind of thing we need to do to sustain national solidarity:
Americans don't have a common ancestry. Therefore, we have to work hard to build national solidarity. We go in for more overt displays of patriotism than in most other countries....

We need to do this because national solidarity is essential to the health of the country....

National solidarity is especially important for the national defense....

Soldiers in combat not only protect their buddies, they show amazing devotion to anyone in the uniform, without asking about state or ethnicity....

We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind....

So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl....

It doesn't matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn't matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.
Brooks addresses the objections of the angry right-wing mob that's been howling non-stop about Bergdahl for the past week, but he never actually acknowledges the existence of that mob. That means he doesn't acknowledge the damage that mob has done to American solidarity.

Brooks describes an America that doesn't really exist anymore:
This feeling of solidarity means that we do pull together and not apart in times of crisis, like after the attacks on 9/11. Despite all our polarization, we do accept the election results, even when the other party wins. People in New York do uncomplainingly send tax dollars to help people in New Mexico. We are able to assimilate waves of immigration.
But conservatives started trying to pull us apart almost immediately after 9/11. Recall that less than a week after the attacks, Andrew Sullivan was writing the following, to cheers on the right:
The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.
By 2002, with midterms approaching, the Bush White House began pounding the drums for a war with Iraq -- in part, I've always believed, because, yes, the vast majority of the public did rally around the war in Afghanistan, which meant it wasn't a sufficiently divisive wedge issue, despite the pro-war side's hope that peaceniks could be scapegoated. The Iraq War as a wedge issue led to GOP victories in 2002 and got Bush reelected in 2004.

Do we accept election results? Well, plenty of liberals have grumbled for years about 2000, with reason -- but much of the right continues to deny the legitimacy of Barak Obama's two electoral victories. This feeling is behind the right's war against ACORN and the New Black Panthers. It's behind birtherism. It's the excuse for the voter ID push. It's part of the right's rage at the IRS. (Headline at Glenn Beck's Blaze last year: "Did the IRS Sway the Election for Obama?")

Plenty of Americans resent the use of their tax dollars for the benefit of "others." (I'll remind you that the right unites around slogans such as "Taxation is theft" and "government is the problem.") Plenty of Americans resent immigrants. We don't live in a united country; there's anger on the left, but there's unrelenting and unquenchable rage on the right. There's a permanent sense on the right that some Americans simply aren't Americans, and that, after elections in which Democrats win, it's necessary to "take our country back."

Brooks never acknowledges this, which means he never acknowledges why the recovery of Bowe Bergdahl is the subject of howling rage. It's his allies. On Fox, on talk radio, in the halls of Congress, they divide America every hour of every day.


Brooks backs what the Obama administration did, but he does take a swipe at the president:
Most of all, the Obama administration can be faulted for not at least trying to use the language of communal solidarity to explain this decision. Apparently, we have become such a hyperindividualized culture that it is impossible to even develop an extended argument on how individual cases fit into the larger fabric of the common good.
Obama didn't "use the language of communal solidarity"? Here's part of what the president said about Sergeant Bergdahl in the Rose Garden on May 31:
... He wasn't forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn't forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind....

... we ... made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home. That's who we are as Americans. It's a profound obligation within our military, and today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep.

I am mindful, though, that there are many troops who remain missing in the past. That's why we're never going to forget; we're never going to give up our search for servicemembers who remain unaccounted for. We also remain deeply committed to securing the release of American citizens who are unjustly detained abroad and deserve to be reunited with their families, just like the Bergdahls soon will be.

Bob and Jani, today families across America share in the joy that I know you feel. As a parent, I can't imagine the hardship that you guys have gone through. As President, I know that I speak for all Americans when I say we cannot wait for the moment when you are reunited and your son, Bowe, is back in your arms.
There's no reference to the common good here? Really?


Victor said...

You're made me realize something when you wrote that Afghanistan wasn't sufficiently divisive enough.

W (or, more likely Cheney) learned at least ONE lesson from the older Bush:
Don't win your popular war too early, or the next election cycle, the people will have forgotten your victory, and focus on something else.

And so, to be a 2-term War Preznit, with Afghanistan in the mop-up phase, we had to get into a longer war and another occupation!
And our War Preznit was reelected - or, elected for the first time.
I'm lookin' at you, OH and NM!

Unknown said...

One of the most incisive comments on the Bergdahl event I heard was by a senior naval officer who said that when a sailor was off the ship, no matter if he fell, was pushed, or jumped, they turned the ship around to go get him.

aimai said...

I really felt sick to my stomach after reading that Brooks column. It was so utterly meretricious that you could just see the insincerity oozing from it.

1) worship of the military and goodies supplied to the military are not features of our society that distinguish us from other, more traditional nation states. They are a problem that militarized, jingoistic, states of all kinds (from plural and ethnically riven to ethnically unified) all have. The adoration of the military man along with attacks on those who have "failed" to live up to military ideals or who have otherwise exemplified our failures as a conquering nation are two sides of the same toxic coin.

2) As you say, Steve, the evil phone calls are coming from inside the house. New Yorkers and Blue Staters have shown themselves willing to pay for Red Staters-hell we even offered to pay for a Medicaid expansion!--but Red Staters have consistently and overtly attempted to use tax policy to punish the Blue States. Most recently the Sandy relief money was held up by the Red States at the same time that those Senators were going hat in hand to the government for emergency relief money for their own regions.

3) As for the side swipe at the President that was just beyond words disgusting. The accusation that the President did something wrong by having Bergdahl's parents at the ceremony marking his return is just jaw dropping in its crude partisanship.

Bulworth said...

This is pretty typical of Brooks, writes an often or mostly compelling essay and then throws in some in muck at the end that either undermines much of what he spent the article saying.

And apparently Obama can't have grateful parents over to the WH for a celebration.

Jules said...

The only way Brooks is addressing an America that ever existed is if we accept the neocon definition of America - White, male, Christian, heterosexual.

For example, he mentions people pulling together after 9/11.

Sure, if you overlook the part of America that was threatened, assaulted and killed because other parts of America are evil bigots.

And it has never been the case that some parts of America didn't begrudge the use of Their Tax Dollars (TM) to benefit those parts of America they didn't like. The bitching about food stamps and Head Start benefiting the n*ggers didn't start yesterday, or last decade. It was part of the debate about whether those programs should exist at all.

And even within the military, his incredible devotion to anyone in uniform only works if you ignore things like the high levels of sexual harassment and assault of women in uniform.

There's nothing new about these people or the shit they spread. In some cases they just have bigger megaphones, in others, it is harder to get away with what they do.

oc democrat said...

I am 62, and I don't think anything else in my lifetime has DISGUSTED me as much as the current BULLSHIT going on regarding Bo's release. Until these Unpatriotic BIGOTS learn to LOVE my Country more than they HATE MY President, the America I have lived my whole life in is Doomed.

America ALWAYS tries to bring home it's soldiers. Today, some sick "Americans" forget this part of our history that separates America from many of our enemies, and to which these "AMERICANS" now say only POWs they approve of should be returned.

These complainers aren't Americans:
They are HATERS who represent the WORSE of what America is supposed to stand for" ONE country, under God", whover the president is!

I wrote this earlier in the week, and it is NOW more disgusting than before!

Anonymous said...

Every speech Obama has ever made is 95% or more about the need for common purpose and the ethics of pursuing the common good, starting from the 2004 DNC keynote and including both inaugural addresses. It's kind of his thing. Of all the ideas to try to beat up Obama with, it's about the least likely.

Philo Vaihinger said...

I can barely stand this right wing patriotic shit.

America has not needed to be defended since the Revolution and no war has put our homeland in danger since 1812, a war of our choosing.

Our freedom has never been at risk, and nobody was ever going to conquer the world.


As soon as Americans stop indulging in this patriotic boilerplate America can stop being the globocop and finally have peace.