|Ronald Reagan, RIP||Why America is Different|
by Christopher Chantrill
June 12, 2004 at 8:00 pm
WHY WOULD THE New York Times Book Review put out a contract on David Brooks and his latest book of comic sociology, I wondered, after reading its scathing review of On Paradise Drive: How We Live How (And Always Have) in the Future Tense? After all, isnt Brooks supposed to be the liberals favorite conservative? Isnt that why he got the tame conservative spot on the Times Op-ed page? Why then would they commission Michael Kinsley, master of the snarky putdown, to review his latest book?
On Paradise Drive seems to be a fairly innocuous sequel to the Brooks blockbuster Bobos in Paradise. In Bobos, Brooks proposed that bourgeois and bohemian had patched up their century-long quarrel. The fight was over; we were all bourgeois-bohemian now, Brooks assured us. In his new book we are introduced to the rest of middle-class America, Patio Man and Realtor Mom heading home from the mega-stores loaded with loot, he in his huge Yukon XL and she in her top-of-the-line Dodge Grand Caravan. We learn that Americans are regarded world-wide as Cosmic Blondes that float through life on a beam of sunshine even though, of course, your average liberal spends her whole life as a Cosmic Brunette that writes and reads books, worries, condemns and evaluates, judges, discerns and doubts. We learn about Ubermoms that program their kids lives down to the nanosecond starting from the moment of conception. We find out that the Organization Kid that results is so busy in college that she has no time to date or fall in love, so she claims that hooking up makes sense. We learn that almost all glossy enthusiast magazines are devoted to the contempt of people who havent taken the time to master their pathetically small sphere of expertise. We learn that the secret of business success is to find your Fry! A Fry! is one small thing, or a few things, [you] could do better than anyone else in the world. It is the obsession that drives every entrepreneur (and every artist as well) to success.
The funny thing about us is that despite our mega houses, our mega SUVs, our mega malls, all we Americans seem to want to do is work. It is as though someone has hung up a sign over the nation that reads No admission here, except on business.
What is it that drives us, and why have Americans worked, worked, and worked, ever since the first Puritans arrived and decided that Americans were destined to build a city on a hill, the last best hope of mankind? It is hope, Brooks writes, the motivation of a Paradise Spell... the feeling that there is some glorious destiny just ahead.
Whats wrong with that, and why should Michael Kinsley take the trouble to shoot it all down as neither serious sociology nor serious satire? After Reagan Week, the answer is obvious. It is not just David Brooks who likes to invoke John Winthrop and the city on a hill. It is not just Brooks or Lincoln who spoke of America as the last best hope of earth. It is not just Brooks who talks about glorious destiny just ahead.
It was Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan spoke again and again about the United States as a shining city on a hill, and the last, best hope on man on earth. And above all, he insisted again and again that Americas best days lay ahead.
No wonder Michael Kinsley is enraged. If Americans were to keep listening to Ronald Reagan, it would be the end of liberals. For liberals the shining city on the hill is not America, it is liberalism. If it werent for liberals, women wouldnt have the vote. If it werent for liberals, working people still wouldnt be able to organize unions. If it werent for liberals, Jim Crow still would rule in the South. If it werent for liberals the rivers would still seethe with pollution. If it werent for liberals, the coat hanger would still rule the nations back alleys. America is not the last best hope of man on earth, no indeed. The last best hope is liberals.
David Brooks begs to differ. In his America, people are working away, driving their SUVs, buying loads of loot in big-box stores, and even liberals living in their trendy inner-ring suburbs end up filling their tasteful homes with tasteful toys. For America is not a land of helpless victims waiting to be rescued by liberals. It is a nation of proud pioneers that know how to govern themselves.
Ronald Reagan doesnt get so much as a single mention in the index of On Paradise Drive. He ought to file a complaint. He wus robbed.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up
rather than learns... Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism