I realize that two Goldberg posts in one week probably breaks blogging law (as well as the camel’s back), but Jonah and I share an important and festive holiday tradition. Every year he writes something smug, tendentious, and obtuse for the Fourth of July, and I respond by getting a headache and whining about it. And as you can see, he’s kept his part of the bargain, extruding a piece about Obama’s “patriotism problem” (h/t LGM), in USA Today, and I really ought to get indignant about it, or he’ll begin to think our anniversary isn’t important to me.
But first, the news: In a post at The Corner which Roy flenses to a fare-the-well, Jonah drops this lighted cherrybomb into the toilet bowl of American Letters:
(I’ve been thinking about doing a book on sociobiology and dogs, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on dogs and evolution. And there’s a case to be made that the similarities — or “connections” for want of a better word — between dogs and humans are in many ways greater than those between apes and humans. But that’s a subject for another day).
That bulletin was enough to make life worth losing, but then Jonah went on at a length sufficient to prove — judging by Tehanu’s comment at Alicublog — that headaches are a communicable disease:
Science has all sorts of absolute categories distinguishing between animals and humans. Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates, reptiles vs. mammals, phylum, kingdom, and all of that stuff amount to absolute categories of one kind or another.So humans are vertebrates and animals are…(sorry, my head just exploded)
Fortunately, Roy’s response was enough to keep me from spray-painting the walls of my office with dura matter. Particularly this quote, which I plan to sneak into a glass display case the next time I’m in Cooperstown:
But what about animal rights? Goldberg’s getting there, but he has to talk it through. You know, kind of like a batter has to step out of the box, adjust his gloves, etc. Except in the big leagues, a batter don’t usually wind up in the press box with his bat up his ass
Aw. I feel refweshed.
Anyway, over at America’s Catbox Liner, Jonah is so steamed at all these “reformers” who want to “improve” America, that he slaps his hands over his ears and starts belting out Billy Joel’s 1977 chartbuster, “(I Love You) Just The Way You Are.”
Barack Obama has a patriotism problem that even Monday’sflag-waving trip to Independence, Mo., can’t squelch. And it doesn’t have anything to do with his lapel pin.In part because liberal commentators have such a hard time grasping why patriotism should be an issue at all, and the GOP is so clumsy explaining why it’s important, the debate often gets boiled down to symbols. Like so much else about Obama, his position on the lapel flag changes with the needs of the moment. After 9/11, he wore it. During the debates over the Iraq war, he stopped because he saw the flag as a sign of support for President Bush. (He started wearing it again in May.) “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he added in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and, hopefully, that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”Read that line again:
Go on. I dare ya.
“What I believe will make this country great.”Not to sound too much like a Jewish mother, but some might respond, “What? It’s not great now?”This sense that America is in need of fixing in order to be a great country points to Obama’s real patriotism problem. And it’s not Obama’s alone.
It’s a holiday weekend, I got lots of people to smear!
Definitions of patriotism proliferate, but in the American context patriotism must involve not only devotion to American texts (something that distinguishes our patriotism from European nationalism) but also an abiding belief in the inherent and enduring goodness of the American nation.
Right. So what happens when the Government violates both the letter and the spirit of those “American texts” so egregiously that we find ourselves fighting a pitched battle for the writ of habeas corpus like it’s the frigging 12th century? I think Jonah can rest easy about these reformers and their foolish attempts to improve on perfection; it’s going to be enough of a chore just clawing our way back to some barely respectable status quo ante.
We might need to change this or that policy or law, fix this or that problem, but at the end of the day the patriotic American believes that America is fundamentally good as it is.
No doubt true, but you can’t stop people from dreaming. After all, when you’re living out of a refrigerator box, you’ve got plenty of time for thought experiments.
It’s the “good as it is” part that has vexed many on the left since at least the Progressive era.
Oh, I’m willing to bet that certain Americans — those intimately involved in the cotton harvesting industry, for instance — might have been feeling vexed well before the 1890s.
Marxists and other revolutionaries obviously don’t believe entrepreneurial and religious America is good as it is.
You were right, there were plenty of Marxists and radicals who thought America, at least where the Negro was concerned, had a smidgen of room for improvement. Fortunately, the patriots at your ownmagazine knew better…
From a National Review editorial, 8/24/1957…In some parts of the South, the White community merely intends to prevail on any issue on which there is corporate disagreement between Negro and White. The White community will take whatever measures are necessary to make certain that it has its way.The central question that emerges–and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by meerely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal–is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.
“…for the time being?” Wait a minute…! That admits the possibility of change! What kind of bomb-throwing, Masses-reading Bolshie wasthis Buckley guy anyhow? Well, let’s just forget all that. This stuff was written fifty years ago, it’s ancient history. Let’s focus on issues, speeches, and magazine articles that are relevant to the here and now.
The Nation ran a famous series then called “These United States,”
…in 1922. While some of his colleagues at the National Review are laughably out of touch with the concerns and aspirations of today’s young people, it’s obvious that Jonah has his finger firmly on the pulse of America’s flappers and sheiks.
One correspondent proclaimed that in “backwoods” New York (i.e. outside the Big Apple): “Resistance to change is their most sacred principle.” If that was their attitude to New York, it shouldn’t surprise that they felt even worse about the South. One author explained that Dixie needed nothing less than an invasion of liberal “missionaries“
…or in some cases, the National Guard…
so that the “light of civilization” might finally be glimpsed down there. These authors simply assumed, writes intellectual historian Christopher Lasch, that ” ‘breaking with the past’ was the precondition of cultural and political advance.” Even today, writes Time‘s Joe Klein, “This is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what’s wrong with America than what’s right.”
Say, how’d that last paragraph turn out, anyway? My eyes kind of rolled back in my head at Jonah’s use of the words “intellectual historian.” I just hope he didn’t do anything stupid like…I don’t know…cite Joe Klein as an authority on what liberals think.
Echoes of these attitudes can be found in Obama’s now infamous explanation that “bitter” working-class rural voters won’t embrace him because they “cling” to God, guns and bigotry. But Obama’s sometimes messianic rhetoric…
Two Jonah columns in two days, two references to Obama as “messianic.” I’m beginning to think Goldberg’s various publishers should invest in that anti-plagiarism software which allows college professors to match their students’ writings against term papers for sale on the internet.
But Obama’s sometimes messianic rhetoric about “remaking” America — and the explicitly revolutionary aesthetics of his campaign
I think he means those Obama volunteers in Texas who owned a Che poster.
“I am absolutely certain,” he proclaimed upon clinching the Democratic nomination, “that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” So wait, America never provided care for the sick or good jobs for the jobless until St. Barack arrived? That doesn’t sound like the country most Americans think of when they wave their flags on the Fourth of July.
It sounds like the one most Americans are living in, though, and speaking as one of them, I don’t much like to think about it either. Especially on a holiday.
Obama went on to say that he will “remake” the country.
Actually, he said, “This was the moment, this was the time when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.”
You kind of suck at this whole “Shorter” thing, Jonah. Maybe you should spend less time recycling the word “messiah” and more time boning up on your internet traditions.
Well, what if you don’t want it remade?
Well, if you’re William F. Buckley, you suggest we table any talk of social change until black people evolve enough to be trusted with the franchise. If you’re Jonah Goldberg, you kind of suggest the same thing, but in a snickering, mealy-mouthed way so you can later pose as the victim of a minority-driven show trial. Hey, it worked for Mark Steyn.
And Michelle Obama — who believes America is “downright mean“
Let’s follow that link, shall we?
Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”
Well that’s change, isn’t it? What’s she complaining about? If she wanted improvement, she should have been as precise in her use of the language as Jonah is. Just watch:
…and is proud of America for the first time because of her husband’s success
“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country…not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change,” she said. “I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”
— insists that Barack will make you “work” for change
Let’s click on that link too, just for the hell of it…
“Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual – uninvolved, uninformed.”
So by “work” she means “think,” which to Jonah means “work.”
What if you don’t want to work for Obama’s change? What if you don’t want to be “different”?
‘Cause that’s just an excuse for the jocks to drag you behind the backstop and pants you and bend your glasses and give you a purple nurple.
Liberals might giggle at what to them sounds like paranoia.
Actually, my first reaction to creeping fascism is more of a throaty guffaw.
The notion that what America needs is a redeemer figure to “remake” America from scratch isn’t necessarily unpatriotic.
…although it does taste better than America from concentrate.
But for lots of Americans who like America the way it is, it’s sometimes hard to tell when it isn’t.
And it’s also hard for Jonah to tell when someone’s just being nice to him because they’re afraid of his mother, but that’s kind of sad, and it’s something else I’d rather not think about while waving my flag on the Fourth of July.
A NOTE BEFORE BED: I see the Jed Report already smacked Jonah with a rhetorical sock full of manure, triggering a riposte of incandescent wordsmithing:
You can judge the caliber of the guy from his writing and style yourself (I don’t know anything about him beyond this sophomoric bile). But he says that I’m attacking Reagan because Reagan said “the exact same thing” as Obama. But the two quotes he uses aren’t, you know, exact. Reagan was talking about making America “great again.” In the quote I highlighted, Obama is talking about making America “great,” full stop — as in we can make America great for the first time. They are very different sentiments and Obama’s expressed his more revolutionary sentiment more than once.
So it’s okay to say that America used to be great, but it’s turned into a real pile of shit, hasn’t it? But that’s okay, vote for me and I’ll spritz some Glade Air Freshener around the place. But it’s not okay to say, Let’s come together and make America great, because that implies that America was a shitpile before, which is was, but before that it was great. Then it became a shitpile again. Then it was great. And then…I’ve lost count. I think we’re at shitpile again.
Besides, contrary to this Jed guy, I don’t hang my entire argument on the one quote (which Jed can’t even get right). For example, I note that Obama also said in his nomination-clincher speech that his victory marks the moment when America finally took care of the sick and the jobless — as if America never did these things before (and as if the government and the country are the same thing).
An insight ratified by no less an authority than Yakov Smirnoff, who has frequently declared from the stages of Branson, Missouri: “America…What a country! (PAUSE) Shitty government, though.”
Anyway, I feel like a fool responding to this yutz at all, but it raises a point that I often hear when criticizing messianic rhetoric from Obama and other liberals.
“It’s a little weird that you can’t write about Obama without saying ‘messianic.’ Is it a tick? A previously unknown form of Tourettes?”
But the key difference is that invoking scripture, or similar language, in order to justify shrinking government at home and liberating mankind from collectivism abroad is quite different than invoking government to justify an enormous expansion of the state into people’s lives. Reagan did not believe that government was the instrument of salvation, he believed it was the obstacle to what is best in ourselves and in our nation. Obama’s theology (much like Hillary Clinton’s) is the exact opposite of that. Likewise with this patriotism stuff.
“Which I was just pounding like a kettle drum over at USA Today. You should’a seen the rubes slurp it up. What a country!”Posted by scott on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at 1:35 am.