July 25, 2006

The rise of a liberal aristocracy and the fall of America

Future historians seeking to discover why America so easily surrendered its democratic traditions and constitutional government in 2001 will find plenty to study in the rise of a liberal aristocracy that became increasingly disinterested in such values. Like all aristocracies, it existed primarily to protect itself, had an impermeable faith in its own virtue, and held in contempt those who did not share its values or accept its hegemony.

For many years, 20th century liberalism was saved from becoming an aristocracy because of the dominance of such constituencies as labor, recent immigrants, and ethnic minorities. By the 1960s, however, these constituencies - thanks in part to successful liberal policies - had advanced socially and economically to the point that they no longer functioned as a massive reminder of what liberalism was meant to be about.

With the end of the Great Society, liberal Democrats began a steady retreat from liberalism climaxing in the Clinton's administration's systematic dismantling of liberal programs and paradigms.

The two greatest victims of this retreat were social democracy and civil liberties. It was not that the new liberal aristocrats actually opposed either; it just didn't matter much to them. Liberalism was no longer a matter of masses yearning to breathe free, but of boomers yearning for an SUV.

While there were still repeated expressions of faith in a declining number of icons such as diversity, abortion, and the environment, the fact was that the liberal elite had become far more characterized by its capacity for self-defense than by its concern for others. After all, although seldom mentioned, the stereotypical boomer or yuppie was, in fact, were liberals. So were the rising elites of entertainment and journalism.

Most striking among these elites was the disappearing concern for those at the bottom. Liberal city councils went after the homeless and engaged in other forms of socio-economic cleansing; the Clinton administration attacked welfare in a manner once limited to the Republican right; prison populations soared without a murmur from the liberals; Democrats supported without question a cruel and unconstitutional war on drugs; the liberal media aristocrats prided themselves in faux realpolitik and patronizing prescriptions for the masses. And if you went to church or carried a gun you were a fool or worse.

The trend produced remarkable betrayals of liberal values. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus backed the war on drugs; the leaders of NOW repeatedly defended a serial sexual predator in the White House. And liberal academia provided all purpose justification through the magic of postmodern rationalization.

Meanwhile, for all the talk of diversity, the percentage of blacks in colleges actually peaked in the late 1970s. The gap between the percentage of young whites and blacks in college likewise actually grew over the past thirty years. And meanwhile, the prison population - disproportionately minority - soared from under 400,000 in 1970 to about two million today.

Through it all, the liberal aristocracy was the dog that didn't bark. Just as Sherlock Holmes' creature failed to warn of an intruder, so America's liberal leadership failed repeatedly to warn of infringements of civil liberties, of unconstitutional acts and legislation, or to rise to the defense of people beyond its own class.

When the liberal aristocracy backed the war on drugs, happily sacrificed national and local sovereignty to multinational corporations, yawned as the Clintons disassembled their own purported cause and became incensed when Ralph Nader dared to stand up for it, it was clear that this atrophied elite would not handle a real crisis.

And now it has happened - and only one liberal Democrat in the Senate opposes vast new police powers and hardly a liberal voice on TV or the op ed pages speaks for sanity. The irony is that the public will not reward the liberal aristocracy for its cowardice but will listen even more devotedly to those before whom the liberals have cowered. In the end, the liberal elite will not only have betrayed its own constituency, it won't even have saved itself.


July 07, 2006

An apology to younger Americans

In observance of the approaching 66th anniversary of my arrival on this planet I would like to apologize to you on behalf of my generation. Even members of Confederacy had the grace to secede from the union; my generation has remained within like a deadly virus, subverting it, shaming it, screwing it, stealing from it, and finally strangling it. It will likely be known as the worst generation - the one that brought the First American Republic down - unmatched in the damage it has done to the Constitution, the environment, and a two century struggle to create a society democratic and decent in its politics, economics, and social concourse.

To be sure, when we were young we were, as we said then, somethin' else. We launched the civil rights, women's, gay, and environmental movements, not to mention creating some memorable music before descending into disco. Soon other things started to go downhill rapidly. We became not only the generation that invented the phrase, 'never trust anyone over thirty,' we proved it.

My lawyer assures me that my personal liability in all this is limited to a few missteps including energy inefficiency, chronic ineffectiveness, owning a minivan, and occasionally listening to Don Imus. But he agrees that a public apology would be helpful in the event of a war crimes tribunal or in determining reparations owed by my heirs to future generations.

Besides, it is unlikely that any of my cohorts will apologize as it is against their principles to do so absent pending court action or especially poor media. And as my attorney notes, there are plenty of things worthy of contrition, such as the New York Times' publishing Tom Friedman, which do not actually constitute a criminal offense.

For purposes of public remorse, incidentally, I define my generation as consisting of anyone who reached 40 after Watergate and who was at least 40 on September 11, 2001. I choose these dates because the resignation of Nixon was about the last good thing to happen to America and September 11 ended most hope that anything good would happen soon again.

And so, on behalf of all my fellow members of America's crummiest generation, I make this humble confession, begging forgiveness from those who follow:

I apologize for Bhopal and Three Mile Island and, in advance, for all the biological, chemical or nuclear disasters that will occur thanks to economic rapaciousness and without the slightest help from a terrorist.

I am truly sorry for Martha Stewart, the Washington Post, Howard Stern, the Brookings Institution, and Bill O'Reilly,

I regret any lasting infirmities - such as the loss of the republic - that occurred unnoticed while the country's elite was sedated by "Morning Edition," C-SPAN, Jim Lehrer, and Ted Koppel.

I am profoundly embarrassed by the way we destroyed the public school system of our country.

I regret that we got the Muslim world so mad at us and that we couldn't come up with any better solution than to get it madder.

I am sorry about all the extra hurricanes, tornados, and heat waves that have occurred while we continued to debate whether there was anything called global warming.

I apologize for any inconvenience, such as prison time, that may have occurred as a result of criminalizing the use of marijuana while keeping legal the far more dangerous drugs we enjoyed such as vodka and Marlboros.

I also regret that the war on drugs helped lay the groundwork for the end of constitutional government and proved more deadly to young black urban males than serving in Vietnam was to their fathers.

I am sorry that the so many leading graduates of our leading universities seem mainly to have learned an arrogance that gives theory invulnerability to fact.

I apologize for those scientists who thought coming up with new ways to destroy humanity was a good use of their time.

I am sorry about increasing crowding on the roads, at events, and while getting services, but overpopulation was one subject we just didn't want to talk about.

I regret that we helped to redefine 'cool' from being an inner state of grace and rebellion to being an outward display of consumption and compliance.

I would like to say how sad I am about your increased likelihood of getting skin cancer because of the environmental changes we created in the atmosphere.

I am really sorry that we inflicted upon you the likes of George Bush and Bill Clinton.

I apologize for the Council on Foreign Relations and the ten percent of its members who pretend to be objective journalists. And I apologize for any other 'objective journalists' moonlighting for the CIA.

My deepest apologies for paying more attention to our Humvees on the Tigris and Euphrates than to our levees on the Mississippi.

I really feel remorse for having replaced movie plots with multiple explosions, and for using sexual attractiveness as a substitute for all other forms of talent.

I apologize for the Harvard Business School and the Yale Law School and all the deplorable effluvia from the same, including the transformation of the Organization Man into a sex symbol.

I apologize for managerial revolutions, mission statements, synergy, cutting edges, proactive and world class entrepreneurs, strategic planning, bottom lines, and exit interviews.

I am truly sorry we could make no greater contribution to philosophy than the justification of greed in the guise of free market economics, the sanctification of imperialism in the name of nation building, and the notion that it takes only 12 steps to solve all your problems.

I apologize for the damage we have done to the English language including the use of nouns as verbs, abstractions as replacement for facts, the pointless compoundingofwords, and placing CapiTaLs wherever we feel like it.

I regret our having passed more new laws in the past three decades than during the first two hundred years of the American nation.

I regret that you are now regarded as a potential terrorist, addict, or sexual predator more often than you are considered a valued citizen.

I am truly sorry for what we have done to childhood, including over-scheduling it, replacing Kermit with Barney, teaching children excessive fear and absurd competitiveness, diagnosing them into drug dependency, and punishing them for drawing 'inappropriate' pictures in the margins of their textbooks.

And now that we've gotten all that out of the way, it is time to move on and put it all behind us. After all, while we may have created this mess, it is your task to clean it up. Of course, if you need any advice, don't hesitate to ask.