I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: democracy doesn’t work. Okay, democracy totally works, but it works on the responsible conduct of an informed citizenry. I don’t know if our current citizenry is less informed and responsible than that of, say, 1893, or if I’m just alive and therefore capable of experiencing blinding, indignant anger only now. But what. The fuck. Is wrong with everybody? Maybe it’s because a loose national organization of the proudly ignorant just held a rally to congratulate themselves on being Americans. Maybe it’s because I spent yesterday watching my 45 year-old neighbor get drunk and burn his hand with fireworks, again. Or maybe it’s just because I have the internet. This Friday’s link roundup will propel you into the weekend on a jet of pure, baffled rage. It’s probably best not to think about from whence such a jet would emanate, though. Gross.
The good news is that the strict constitutionalists of the heartland are not alone in their willingness to disregard whichever of their deeply-held principles don’t happen to suit the present argument. A Times poll finds that two thirds of New Yorkers want the Cordoba Islamic Center moved, even though they also recognize that there is no legal basis on which they might do so. And I quote:
“My granddaughter and I were having this conversation and she said stopping them from building is going against the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution,” said Marilyn Fisher, 71, who lives in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. “I absolutely agree with her except in this case.”
You’re lucky we only subject public figures to Close Readings, Marilyn Fisher of Bensonhurst. Also, I would like to come in for some cookies, thank you. The larger question of exactly why so many New Yorkers have strong opinions about an as-yet unconstructed mosque two blocks away from the place where we can’t seem to build another World Trade Center is another question. I suspect the answer rhymes with “blitch from Blalaska blexploiting blenophobia for blublicity.”
Fortunately, the ship of American conservatism is still captained by clearer thinkers. For example, there’s David Brooks, whose “Alternate History” of a better response to the economic crisis is as contradictory as it is cloying. Brooks imagines a December 2008 in which, after his advisors suggest New Deal-style government stimulus programs, the President says no, reminding them that “Americans today have a raging distrust of Washington…Living through a crisis caused by excessive debt, they will viscerally recoil at the prospect of federal debt without end.” Besides making the fundamentally dishonest implication that the economic crisis was caused by federal debt and not the collapse of the finance and real estate industries, Brooks argues that instead of trying to create jobs through federal programs, we should have—are you ready? can you guess it?—cut taxes.
I bet that would have solved the debt problem mentioned in his opening paragraphs. Brooks also has the misfortune of making his anti-government argument on the same day that the Times ran this report on August employment data, in which the economy lost 54,000 jobs because of government spending cuts and the end of the census. These losses offset private-sector gains, suggesting that there is a concrete and demonstrable relationship between government spending and national employment, unlike the thus-far imaginary panacea that is cutting taxes. Chances are they’ll correct it before you read this, but the article also contains the amusingly edited sentence, “Susan Howard, a Leander, Tex., single mother with a master’s degree IN WHAT, said she was laid off from her software-on-demand job in June and since then had been interviewing for jobs that would pay half her previous salary.”
Are you worried about our national competence yet? At least we’re still the most beautiful people on earth, with a powerful military to enforce our will. Oh god. The Army has revised its basic training procedures in order to compensate for an increasing number of recruits who are, in the words of one group of retired generals and admirals, “Too Fat to Fight.” A report of the same name concluded that “Between 1995 and 2008, the proportion of potential recruits who failed their physicals each year because they were overweight rose nearly 70 percent.”
So the bad news is that we’re a nation of fat, stupid, unemployed people. The good news is that we are Restoring America’s Honor. If you somehow haven’t gotten enough vituperation about Glenn Beck’s Saturday rally, Christopher Hitchens wrote this assessment, in which he calls it “vague, moist and undirected—the Waterworld of white self-pity.” Cancer has not mellowed Mr. Hitchens out. Besides deploying sweet burns, Hitchens argues that the rally responded to the two fundamental fears of America’s white majority: that it will be demographically submerged by brown people from across the border and sea, and that it’s moral authority will be challenged by “an alien and largely Third World religion.” With this, Hitchens becomes the first serious commentator to come out and say that the Tea Party is essentially an ethnic nationalist movement.
But judge for yourself. This video is long, but it’s worth it to see what passed for reasoning at the Mall on Saturday. Here is the political movement that pundits say will change the country: