"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, March 22, 2008

View from the Heights

I'm sorry, but I just have to laugh: here are two of the pundit class telling us, once again, what it's like in middle America. Andrew Sullivan quoting Peggy Noonan:

Near the end of the speech, Mr. Obama painted an America that didn't summon thoughts of Faulkner but of William Blake. The bankruptcies, the dark satanic mills, the job loss and corporate corruptions. There is of course some truth in his portrait, but why do appeals to the Democratic base have to be so unrelievedly, so unrealistically, bleak?

This connected in my mind to the persistent feeling one has -- the fear one has, actually -- that the Obamas, he and she, may not actually know all that much about America. They are bright, accomplished, decent, they know all about the yuppie experience, the buppie experience, Ivy League ways, networking. But they bring along with all this -- perhaps defensively, to keep their ideological views from being refuted by the evidence of their own lives, or so as not to be embarrassed about how nice fame, success, and power are -- habitual reversions to how tough it is to be in America, and to be black in America, and how everyone since the Reagan days has been dying of nothing to eat, and of exploding untreated diseases. America is always coming to them on crutches.

But most people didn't experience the past 25 years that way. Because it wasn't that way. Do the Obamas know it?

Sullivan elaborates:

The most tired element, and the least refreshing aspect, of his message so far is a resort to left bromides about the grim facts of American life in the last twenty years or so. There are problems, real problems. Inequality, fostered by globalization, has left many Americans treading water at best. But the vitality of the economy, the astonishing creativity of American industry, especially in tech and pharmaceuticals, the miracle of the Internet, the relative cheapness of items like food and clothing that once consumed far more of the average American's expenses - these are also integral to the picture.

I wish my America had been like that for the last 25 years, except that's something of a straw man. It's the past seven to ten years, since "conservative" policies have dominated the country, that things have gone down the toilet.

Has Sullivan noticed how all the big pharmaceuticals companies are multinational? Not to mention the de facto subsidies they're getting from the Bush administration. Or the fact that the Fed is pumping money into Wall Street to keep the whole thing from coming apart. Has he noticed how tech jobs are stampeding out of this country? Has he noticed that we don't create jobs here any more? Has he been in a grocery store lately? I can no longer afford items that used to be a regular part of my larder.

To be fair, there have always been blips in the historical process. There's no telling whether the Bush paradigm will continue -- it certainly will if McCain is elected president, but even if Obama wins, the repairs that need to be made are massive. Sullivan in particular is fond of quoting academic conservatives, but I wonder, seriously, whether he has any real historical awareness. (Noonan seems to have little awareness of anything.) And I'm not really going to credit feel-good bullshit from someone who manages to maintain two homes when I can barely maintain one.

I love it when people who have it made tell me what life is like.

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