‘A Land Of Jerking Knees’
After reading a Washington Post story making fun of Donald Trump’s penchant for fast food, Terry Teachout despairs for his country:
Note the transition from “some people” to “us.” As in: Not our kind, dearie. After which come the sneers. I’m no fan of Donald Trump—that’s putting it very, very mildly—but I also know that of such sneers are revolutions made.
This “news” story is, in its minor but nonetheless revealing way, illustrative of the condition that now increasingly prevails in American society, which is that those who disagree no longer have anything to say to each other. Fact-based argument has been replaced by reflexive contempt. Nor should this be in any way surprising. In a totally polarized political environment, persuasion is no longer possible: we believe what we believe, and nothing matters but class and power. We are well on the way to becoming a land of jerking knees.
Never before have I felt so strongly that Americans are talking past instead of to one another. It is, I fear, our future and our fate—which is why I have come to believe that I will live to see Red and Blue America negotiate a “soft disunion.” No, there won’t be a second civil war. I can’t imagine the citizens of Blue America waging a shooting war over much of anything, least of all continued union with people whom they disdain. (Red America is a different story.) But the gap that separates the two Americas has grown so deep and wide that I find it increasingly difficult to imagine their caring to function as a single nation for very much longer. If I’m right, then I expect that they will ultimately find a more or less polite way to stop doing so.
Read the whole thing. I know just what he means, and so do you. But what form will this “soft disunion” take, if we have one? It’s hard for me to imagine how that would actually work. But it’s true that a people who hate each other won’t stay together forever (though the long, slow, agonizing death of Belgium is a counterargument to this thesis). The constitutional crisis will be precipitated when one of the states refuses to follow a lawful order by President Trump (California) or President Clinton (Texas).
Pay attention to what Teachout says about sneering at Trump’s fast-food habit. It’s a mouse-that-roared kind of thing. Though I don’t share Trump’s food habits, I don’t see them as morally culpable. But food habits are big class markers in this culture, and Trump supporters aren’t wrong to see sneering at Trump’s Filet-o-fish passion as a proxy for sneering at them.
As I wrote earlier, the editorial board of The New York Times, in its lead editorial today, smears the blood of the Orlando dead on Republicans and (implicitly) on all others who oppose certain laws favored by LGBT advocates. I don’t think they’re being cynical. They really believe this. They think I, and people like me, are indirectly responsible for a radical Muslim rageaholic and closet case mass-murdering gay people. If the left really believes that, then they aren’t going to stop until they’ve crushed us, because we’re not just wrong, but evil.
Would you want to share a country with such “evil” people, unless you could render them as dhimmis? Conversely, would you want to share a country with people — especially powerful people in media, politics, industry, and academia — who think you are evil because you believe in and practice orthodox Christianity?
I don’t, and I’m a RINO squish with Blue State tastes but Red State religion. I have no problem sharing a country with people who think I am wrong, but should be tolerated. I strive to grant them the same courtesy. But increasingly, that is not the country I live in. I don’t know what to do about that, and am not interested in thinking about what could be done about it.
But some people, somewhere, are thinking about it. And sooner or later, we are going to hear from them.
It is said that America is a nation built on an idea, not a tribe. If that is true, then it follows that an idea can be falsified. The game we’re playing now is for very high stakes.