Klavan On The Culture

Good News and Bad from the NR Cruise

Back from the National Review cruise to Alaska — or at least, on my way back in Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport. It was a genuinely good time and in many ways not what I expected. The highlight, of course, was when Rob LongJonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson came dancing off the ship in sailor suits and started singing Comden and Green songs (the video’s above). All right, that didn’t really happen, but a man can dream, can’t he?

I was thinking there’d be a lot of gloom and doom and Obama-has-destroyed-the-country and gay-people-are-getting- married-and-it’s-the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it and so on. And there was some of that, but a lot less than I feared. Euro MP Daniel Hannan, whom I’ve always admired, kept braving the frowning faces in the audience here and there to remind people that life is getting better for most people and that, even with Obama dragging us down like an anchor, the U.S. economy continues to grow.

The most convincing negative assessments concerned the terrible damage Obama has done to our security and prestige around the world, and his weakening of our military’s strength and morale. In these areas, the president’s policies really have been bad and dangerous. But, as I pointed out, one of the reasons I remain more or less optimistic about the world after Obama is that — unlike really transformative presidents like FDR and Reagan — Obama has made people’s lives worse on every level, and his policies will have to be dismantled or fixed. I’m not being a round yellow smiley face, believe me. This administration has been a crapfest of the first water and is going to leave an awful mess behind. But again, unlike with FDR and Reagan, I don’t think anyone is going to try to imitate Obama after he’s gone. They’re just going to clean up the wreckage.

One interesting exchange I had with the intelligent and charming Naomi Schaefer Riley was instructive to me. The two of us were on a panel about the culture — which I took to mean the arts — about which I’m currently very bullish. TV is in a golden age. Video gaming has added a new dimension to the visual arts. And the internet is a miracle of entertainment and information. But Naomi, a mother of three young children, spoke darkly of the dangers the internet presents to children, and about the porn and other seductions that can ruin lives. What struck me about this is that both our points of view are true — and will always be true of the culture in general. The culture is us:  beautiful, twisted, uplifting and destructive. But as long as Game of Thrones is on, I think the balance remains positive!

In any case, it’s hard to be too downhearted after sailing through beautiful Alaska on a shipload of brilliant conservatives for a week. I’m not sure when the next NR Cruise is, but if you can afford it, it’s worth going.