This rant has been a long time coming. I promise that we’ll be back to regular programming soon. For now, please consider:
It took two weeks in Mexico, away from the daily grind in the US, to gain full consciousness about how insufferable and hateful American culture has become. Here I was in beautiful Mexico, experiencing daily life in both resorts and cities, eating glorious and healthy food, enjoying the lovely hospitality of the people, participating in a vibrant commercial life, seeing how people delight in the daily task of living, growing, making life better each day. I saw smiles everywhere, experienced courtesy and kindness everywhere, thrilled in the happy project of beautifying life through manners, decency, and love.
Then I decided to check out the US news to prepare for my return. What I found was the opposite of what I experienced in Mexico. In the US, to be disgruntled, angry, and nasty is a way of life. Official culture is mean. It is whiney. It is everywhere infused with bitter ideological hectoring. Fake news, fake issues, fake outrage, and fake solutions, all backed by a dogged desire to see no other point of view but one’s own and to turn everyone against everyone else, as if suspicion, propaganda, and hate were the real objectives of life on earth.
First up comes the fake frenzy over Russia Twitter accounts. We are supposed to believe that they swung the election to Trump and away from Hillary, with the underlying presumption that Hillary had some natural right to win the presidency and therefore something artificial or illicit had to happen to cause Trump’s obviously illegitimate presidency. Further we are supposed to believe the Americans are too stupid and undiscerning to observe that she was a terrible candidate with no plausible theme at all, while meanwhile, despite the details of his program, Trump was the most compelling candidate for president in generations. No, his victory had nothing to do with that. Instead, American voters were mindlessly and robotically following the instructions of Russian bots on Facebook and Twitter.
The attempt by the mainstream press to whip up some kind of Red Scare from the Cold War is manipulative at best, dangerous at worst. What’s more, it’s not working. Not even with every major paper and television program screaming about how the Ruskies are coming does the topic trend on Twitter itself. When was the last time you heard a normal person at the gym or coffee shop buzzing about this whole thing? The number of column inches wasted on this malarky is amazing.
One story I read detailed what it was like to work for a Russian-backed troll farm, cranking out fake news all day, seeking traffic, trying to sway public opinion, and doing it cynically, all for the money. As I read the account, my first thought was that this must be what it is like to be a New York Times reporter. What a grind! Every day you have to post 2,000 words on the Russian meddling story, knowing full well that no one will read it and that it is only a thing at all because some people just can’t come to terms with the fact that the old ruling class lost a presidential election.
Take the Guns!
Next we come to gun control. There was another shooting. This is supposed to be firm proof that government needs to confiscate weapons, guns should not be sold, and that only government should have the firepower to keep the peace. But millions of people see these shootings and plausibly sense that the opposite is true. Gun-free zones have turned students into sitting ducks, vulnerable to the most violent person who manages to gain access to targets.
What we need is protection from maicious people. Gun access provides exactly that. More gun control won’t. What’s more, gun control is going to unleash totalitarian powers by the state to hunt down and confiscate property that is actually daily protecting us in ways that the police state cannot and will not.
But will the mainstream news acknowledge this? Sometimes yes, but mostly not. In the minds of the editors and broadcast journalists, the answer to gun violence is preposterously simple: inflict violence against gun owners. Reading this stuff is infuriating.
Hate Each Other!
Next up are the culture wars in which everyone imagines himself to be suffering at the hands at some group that is not his. There is absolutely no possibility of getting along. What you gain comes at my expense so my job is to play the victim in aggressive ways to shame you into disappearing from public life. The population is sliced and diced according to identity: race, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, class, physical ability, you name it. There is no end to the way we can be divided.
It is through this lens that the #metoo quickly moved from a promising movement to stamp out petty misogyny in the workplace to become a wicked form of revenge porn in which the accused (of anything!) is quickly body bagged and personally and professionally destroyed, without so much as a second look into possible motivations of the accuser and the evidence of the case. In private, many people are horrified at the way this has developed, and also fully aware of the catastrophic implications for women in professional life.
The reign of terror here threatens to cast all women as ticking time bombs in the workplace, gaining advancement through fear, threats, and legal blackmail. For a supposed feminist movement, this is the most self-defeating path imaginable. Those who object, however, are treated to twitter storms of public denunciation and hate, to the point that debate has been chilled and driven to whispers between trusted friends.
Something everyone else knows is that this campaign isn’t really about stopping assault, abuse, and harassment. It is about using “powerful men” in general as a proxy for what these bitter activists really hate, which is the Trump presidency as a symbol of the “patriarchy” in general. In other words, the driving motivation here has nothing to do with facts and truth but everything to do with fanatical ideology – just as with most parts of American culture today.
The Poison Spreads
The corruption of the human spirit here has infused every part of elite American culture. Everyone is protesting something constantly, and you know it from the clothing you wear, your hairstyle, subtle symbols dropped in hand cues, words, and phrases. It’s low-grade warfare nonstop. What used to be confined to college campuses, a lifestyle practiced by the privileged, underemployed, spoiled, and indebted, has become the default mode of being for an entire upper echelon of society that controls all the legacy cultural institutions in America.
The poison is spreading. It affects most movies, most TV shows, most documentaries, most advertising. Not even football serves as a respite from politicization. Where you stand or sit for a song is supposed to say something about your loyalties and therefore your character and personal morality.
Nor is the opposition press somehow better than the mainstream press. They revel in being “un-PC” as an end itself, with nonstop dog whistling about race and gender simply to troll the left, as if that act alone were accomplishing anything other than adding to the division, hatred, and loathing that characterize the American spirit today.
And so, what to read these days by way of news? The only really sensible stuff remaining is on the business pages, where reporters deal with real stuff like profits and losses, products and innovations, trends and trades. Commercial life is all that is left to us – a true sanctuary from the ghastly corruption of nearly all other sectors of American life.
I’ve always thought of myself as a true-blue American, deeply loyal to the great country where freedom found its fullest expression. I could never have imagined becoming an expat. Too much to miss. Too much glory to leave behind. For the first time, I’m not so sure. On the plane coming home, I find myself dreading the conversations, rolling my eyes at the tales of woe from my compatriots, sickened to be browbeaten daily by the parade of piety by the new Victorians from their perches of power.
To heck with it all. Americans have a lot to learn from Mexicans, a country where no one is in charge. That realization that you should not and cannot rule others is the beginning of wisdom. And serenity. Chill, my friends. Be nice. Find and cherish friendship. Work on strengthening your character, improving your manners, minding your own business, and living well and letting others do the same.