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Works and Days

The Art of Appreciating America from Abroad

June 13th, 2011 - 5:37 am

6. Go to Europe and see the left-wing desired future for America: dense urban apartment living by design rather than by necessity; one smart car; no backyard or third bedroom; dependence on mass transit; political graffiti everywhere demanding more union benefits or social entitlements; entourages of horn-blaring, police-escorted technocrats racing through the streets on the hour; gated inherited homes of an aristocratic technocracy on the Mediterranean coast, Rhine, Danube, etc., exempt from much socialist and environmental law; $10 a gallon gas; sky-high power bills; racial segregation coupled with elite praise of illegal immigration and diversity; and unexamined groupthink on green issues, entitlements, and the culpability of the U.S. Drink it all in and you have the liberal agenda for an America to be.

7. America is judged in terms of what politicians say, the media reports, the entertainment industry blares out, or what economic gurus assert, rather than in terms of what those are saying or doing who pump oil, produce food, build homes, or engineer plants, roads, and bridges. The former in the news are our planers and trimmers; the forgotten latter are elemental builders. But to understand America, consult the last groups as often as you should ignore the first. While one talks and whines, the other simply keeps things running and works to make things better.

8. Do not listen to most of what is written or reported about America from abroad; instead look at global fashion, dress, travel, and immigration, and then see who is copying or emulating whom. America is as damned overseas as it is the favorite destination of Chinese students, the Oaxacan impoverished, Middle Eastern shopkeepers, and Russian doctors. The more Europe critiques the U.S., the more it finds safety in our military; Mexico hates America as much as it likes our $30 billion in remittances. Take away America, and even a socialist Strauss-Kahn has nowhere to visit his daughter or find a golden parachute. And why not? The suburban ranch 3/2 house of the middle class American, with its many appurtenances, is a mini-estate in Europe, a mansion in the Middle East, and a castle in Africa or most of Asia.

9. The contemporary university increasingly sounds like 19th-century carriage makers damning new auto companies. Surely academics know that tuition cannot any longer climb higher each year than inflation, that the number of administrators cannot any more match the number of teachers on campus, that faculty cannot deserve lifelong tenured appointments or by fiat should teach only four classes a year. Surely academics know that their subsidized esoteric research is mostly irrelevant — and increasingly recognized as such by the public. No one believes in a disinterested campus; everyone accepts that the university is one of the most politically illiberal and prejudiced institutions in America. Case in point: academics tend to patronize and favor African-Americans on campus; academics tend to despise as a group conservatives; but academics tend to hate without rhyme or reason conservative African-Americans, whose race goes from being a plus to a far larger minus — his independence and autonomy now earning him far greater hatred than his party-line platitudes once did useful condescension.

10. Reduce much of what Barack Obama says, advocates, and tries to implement and you find a particular kind of despised but uniquely American species in his cross-hairs: upper-middle class, making $200-800,000 a year, employed as a professional or small business person, living in the suburbs or small town America, children in non-Ivy League private and public colleges, a nice house, perhaps a vacation home, boat, 2-3 nice cars, residing outside the east and west coasts without an aristocratic pedigree, for whom food stamps are as much an anathema as is Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol.

Massive debt, ObamaCare, vast expansions in federal spending, new regulations, affirmative action, open borders, and environmental legislation are all targeted at this profile. He neither generates the cheap sympathy accorded to the distant poor nor wins the envy and admiration of the tasteful idle old money or the new mega-rich. When I see him plugging away on his vacation on a Sierra Nevada highway — a club cab new Chevy V-8 truck pulling a sleek powerboat or fancy trailer with two jet-skies — I think of a doomed wooly mammoth soon to go down amid the ropes, nets, and missiles from a vast array of gleeful hunters.

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