Wednesday, March 07, 2007

No apologies for the long time off. I've been busy, and this is, after all, my diary, and I've been no better at keeping the online version than any of the others I have tried in the past. Plus, I've been waiting for Claremont to make my latest book review available online for an entry about my recent publications. When that happens, I will pass along the word. Plus, I'm still trying to track down that family information to tell my little story.

No apologies; lots of excuses. Sigh.

This book might cause some controversy. Note that the first chapter is available for preview. It might be good to read along with First Into Nagasaki, which sounds fascinating.

Something about which to think. Here is a new one for me: this article is too practical. John Fonte's idea about civic conservatism is a pretty radical one among American conservatives, and it needs more explaining as a theory, and should not be defined by specific, present-minded, and ultimately ephemeral policy prescriptions. But that is a common problem among conservatives today. It is astounding how modern conservatives refuse to recognize any direct intellectual heritage to Americans before 1945--except for some important nodding at the founding generation. After the founders they almost universally go straight to the Cold War, leaning, I think, on George Nash's work to explain it all.

The idea of civic conservatism, which in some way incorporates nationalism and Americanism, would be a very useful one for tracking American conservatism from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton to John Quincy Adams to Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses Grant to Theodore Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower and so on. I wish someone would do that. Maybe Stephen and me should give it a shot. Stephen?

Two more links. First, for everyone who complains about cities and suburbs and the demise of this and the growth of that, James Lileks makes clear that it is all so much more complicated and so much simpler. A sample:

Are we to believe the suburbs are different? I've been listening to the spoiled children of Levittown all my life, yammering about their ticky-tacky houses their fathers busted his butt to buy so they could live in a potato field instead of a crumble-down cold-water walk-up, and I'm tired of it. Boring people live everywhere. Interesting people live everywhere. People have reasons for wanting to live in certain places, and if someone wants to live in the city, it's his business. If he wants to live in the burbs, it's his business. I could argue that people who confine themselves to the city are removing themselves from the experience of suburbia, which is actually more germaine to understanding America's future than experiencing some of the lousy blocks I drive through daily. But I won't; as I said, I'm the amateur here.
That is just a small taste--read the whole thing.

And for Derek, kind of: Greg Gutfield wrote an article for The American Spectator called "Looking Stupid," the main point of which is that more and more Americans would rather play it safe and look cool than take risks and perhaps look stupid. Here is the money graf for DCAT, because it is something that could have been lifted directly from any number of conversations we've had over the years:

After a few years of blogging, I've hit on one essential truth: there are millions of cowards willing to say things about you online that they'd never say to you in a bar. That's the baseline definition of snark: catty words spewed on a screen but never uttered to a face. Blogging has created a chorus line of cowards -- coin-throwers who would never take the stage or put themselves in the line of fire. The World Wide Web has revealed, sadly, that as a country we're losing the will to fight real wars, preferring instead to be nonproductive wusses, incapable of delivering anything more than a snide aside to the outside world, via the "send" button.
The reason the article is only kind of for Derek is that Gutfield mistakenly makes the blanket assertion about the left being more concerned with looking cool than looking stupid. There is plenty of that sentiment going around, and it need not be too politicized. In fact, I think it's generational more than political.

Gutfield's article struck me this morning because last night I saw something very similar. We were in Lawrence for dinner with a friend, and the weather was nice enough that after the meal we strolled for a while along Massachusetts Avenue, the main street in town. We had the boys with us, and the three year old was eating a piece of fudge and we were feeding the one year old a little ice cream.

I don't think I'm being to biased when I say that they were both looking exceptionally cute--the three year old clearly trying to be neat with the fudge; the one year old doing that walk/stumble and having a blast the whole time. Yet all the college age girls who walked by in groups pretended, badly, that they did not notice. I've noticed this behavior before: they walk by, start to smile, stifle the smile, and then look out of the corner of their eyes at the kids and pretend they are not looking. It is bizarre. At any other age, they are all over those kids. High school girls stop and say, for all to hear, "Awww! They are sooo cute!" Adult women wave and give them a direct smile. Older women tell us how beautiful our children are, and then give us the details about their toddler grandchildren.

College girls would rather pretend they don't care about kids than fawn over the boys. They would rather look cool than risk looking stupid. Which is, of course, stupid.

That sentiment used to make sense to me. It used to be cool to me. I grew out of it. The baby boomers never have, and probably never will. They would all rather look cool--well, "cool" as political leaders look cool--than take great chances and risk looking stupid. History will not treat them well.

We can all feel it. We are standing over the edge of something huge, a great new discovery or a great new cataclysm, and we are flailing for a purchase, for something to hold us back--grasping at pretty cultural vessels like cool that are empty and weightless and will not halt our momentum. But it is coming. History does not stop.

I hope we grow up in time.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Right on. We need to write that.