Thursday, January 24, 2013

Letter to Momma, re David Brooks

Dear Mom,

Thanks for the link on David Brooks!

I cannot be precisely sure what you mean by your quick attached note: “I’m just sayin’.” I mean, I get the phrase in general—like “I’m just sayin’ that someone else out there agrees with me”—as a simple for instance. But both Jonathan Bernstein and Jonathan Chait operate from the assumption that pretty much everything that David Brooks writes is either stupid or crazy or disingenuous or all three; they only quibble over whether such nonsense defines his character (Chait’s point of view) or his job (Bernstein’s point of view). I happen to think that Chait is more correct on this point than Bernstein, although it is very nearly a distinction without a difference.

The problem, in a nutshell, with David Brooks and his ilk is that he puts on the appearance of reasonableness, but this is a very thin patina covering over the madness that is today’s Republican Party. Whether he knows that his chiding of Obama for not “coming to the center” (when in fact Obama is a deeply centrist—or even center-right!—President) is pure bullshit, or is just a clever ruse as part of the role of “House Conservative” at the Gray Lady, is immaterial. Pure and simple, he serves as a polite apologist for the ugliest elements of power, and neither the article you link nor the one on which it is based would disagree with that sentiment.

Now, I know that I’m decidedly un-DavidBrooksian, and I’m not simply referring to my political views. I know that I crew cut half my head when I was sixteen while leaving the other mop-top long, much to your general consternation (a view I would probably share if one of my eleven year-old children tried today; I have gotten a touch more conservative, at least in certain ways, as I've grown older). I know that I pepper my conversation with far too much foul language, writing such impolite disquisitions during college to garner the somehow less than subtle nickname “Billy ‘Pigfucker’ Rubin” in a nod to a moniker I once applied to a philosophical foil. I know that my rhetoric tends toward what one might call “destructive”—or what dad used to describe with glee as my “vitriolic prose”—although in my defense, I note that have worked and worked and worked toward keeping my verbal TNT reserved for only the most outrageous and cynical actions/statements/personalities and whatnot. Whether I have succeeded at that I leave you and others to judge, though I keep in mind Paul Fussell’s immortal words of advice, “contempt for the contemptible”. Words by which to live! (Plus, there's just so much crap out there for which utter contempt is the only reasonable response.
And note: in my blog incarnation, I’m incredibly well behaved.)

All of which is to say that, though I know David is the son you may have wished for, you are, now and forever more, stuck with your sometimes rude and nearly constantly foul-tongued son.

But know this as well: I care about those people whom power ignores—or worse (to hear the squawks of outrage from the Neanderthals who found Obama’s Second Inaugural references to Selma and Stonewall objectionable), actively vilifies. I will always be on their side. (Well, almost always. That’s a longer discussion.) David? Not so much. Never forget that key difference between the Nice Jewish Boy and the Boy Who’s Jewish And Nice Underneath It All.

Your loving son, (and seriously, I rilly do love you!),
With a wink,


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