Notes on Maureen Dowd’s “Who Do We Think We Are?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-who-do-we-think-we-are.html?_r=0

The first line that tripped me up was:

in this century we have had only three brief moments when a majority of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things were going: the month W. took office, right after the 9/11 attacks and the month we invaded Iraq.

I unconsciously rewrote the line, replacing satisfied with dis satisfied. Take a moment, and work the sentence in your mind, like this

  • the majority of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going, in the month George W. took office
  • the majority of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going, right after the 9/11 attacks
  • the majority of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going, the month we invaded Iraq

I don’t think Maureen worked this out well enough for us: does it say that Americans were most satisfied with America, when things were the worst, since it was prefaced by  “chronic disillusionment” i.e. dystopia fits our disillusionment, therefore we are happy(?)

I think it demonstrates something more subtle – that the majority of Americans are happiest when we have black-and-white leaders, who rule by decisive, overt force (as opposed to ruling by secret-directive drone assassination), when we are pissed of, and can see the enemy clearly, and when we take off the gloves and kick the world’s ass.  The reality is Team America – not ecumenicism, world-mindedness, and peace politics.

And it belies another underlying truth: that liberal America lives inside a well-walled fantasy world, where Obama brought change for the good, where Occupy Wall Street changed Wall Street, and Egypt was liberated from oppression.  Didn’t happen – except in the digital media world.

Which connects, in my mind, to another tract she follows in the article:

Young people are more optimistic than their rueful elders, especially those in the technology world. They are the anti-Cheneys, competitive but not triumphalist. They think of themselves as global citizens, not interested in exalting America above all other countries.

This isn’t a “good thing” (we really do want it broken down in the George W. fashion: good v bad). It’s a collective hallucination, perpetrated in the device-world. Worse than Orwell could have imagined (he only had big bulky TVs to base his dystopia on.  These small, sleek brain-control devices are much closer in size to bacteria!), the world-within-the-world of device-logic, device-communication, device-policiticism, has made those would would Act for Change, not act at all; rather, key-punch, key-enter, their virtual activism. In the end, nothing gets done, really, and nothing is wrong, virtually.

I also love the Walter Percy quote:

Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.

While she heaps this anti-awareness entirely upon the millennials (which misses her age-group by just a finger-breadth?), it is probably the same old “me-generation” started back in the 70’s by Eric Fromm. We all believed Mr. Rogers when he told us we could be whatever we wanted to be, and the implicit cognate idea: everything you do should be about your own becoming.

Lastly, I want to jab Nathaniel Philbrick, who, speaking of our Founding Fathers/Mothers, writes:

They weren’t better than us back then; they were trying to figure things out and justify their behavior, kind of like we are now

I think Patrick may be one of those millennials, who constructs excuse-houses of cards.  My response: they were better than us; they were more thoughtful, more educated, and more ethical, by a degree which is simply unrecognizable to us, in our modern highly mis-educated unintelligence. Benjamin Franklin was an amazing person – not just really cool,but by deed, word, and legacy, an amazing person – who strove only to be better and more accountable, and, who actually did the work! We don’t have leaders like that, nor did Egypt – which is why these new age revolutions fail, but our crazily idealistic one did. Same goes for Thomas Jefferson: despite the modern critique, fostered probably just to make us not look so bad, is that we was secretly married to a Black woman, and had children by her, but did not acknowledge it publicly.  Seems to me more like he lived his beliefs, only they weren’t beliefs –  they were his feelings – in the only practical way possible in a time where his wife would probably have been killed publicly, despite any valiant efforts on the part of Tom.  My point, however, is that he was a kind of genius, and a seer, far beyond anyone we know of today, save possibly Noam, the Wise, or Ralph, the True.  But even those guys don’t seem to be able to make a real revolution happen.  No, there is something else in the recipe for Patriot that we can put a finger on.

 

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