The Last Waltz

Mark Steyn on “the sepulchral Habsburgian twilight of a dimming power enjoying its last waltz:”

If you’re not looking at the world through Mia Farrow’s blue-tinted glasses, if you’re in Beijing or Moscow, Ankara or Canberra, it’s the shadow that everyone sees, very clearly — the sepulchral Habsburgian twilight of a dimming power enjoying its last waltz. Like Vienna exactly a century ago, America retains a certain creative energy, if you’re willing to put Jay-Z up there with Franz Lehár. It is at the forefront of therapeutic culture: If Freud had thought to stick his couch on a TV set, he might have made as much dough as Oprah, or at least Dr. Phil. As Vienna sat on an underground “river of sex” (as William Boyd calls it in his recent novel Waiting for Sunrise), so in America the river is overground and its Niagara-like roar the unceasing background din of daily life: A New York mayoral candidate twitpics his penis. A putative successor to San Diego’s grope-fiend mayor is caught masturbating in a city-hall men’s room. Miley Cyrus in her scanties “twerks” — or is twerked upon (I’m not sure I can reliably say which) — live on TV. Yawn. Next . . .

No one could be further from the octogenarian Franz Josef than our young emperor, but even hip courtiers draw the line at lèse majesté, and so rodeo clowns who disrespect the sovereign are banned for life. On the distant horizon, the contours of the post-American world begin to rise, but the preoccupations of our ruling class grow ever more myopic. One of the world’s richest women flies all the way to Switzerland in order to confuse a Zurich boutique selling $38,000 handbags with an Alabama lunch counter 60 years ago, to the consternation of the poor shopgirl who knows nothing of America’s peculiar parochial obsessions, has never heard of Trayvon Martin, and lives in a city where pretty much the only black women around are the more fashion-conscious African dictators’ consorts in town to visit their safe-deposit boxes. But, as at the Hofbau, the ancient social rituals of our own court permit no diversion from the program: If it’s Tuesday, it must be racism.

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I’m in the process of reading Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit, Zev Chafets’ brilliant 1990 book, recently reissued in Kindle format, after it was plugged by Rush Limbaugh, himself the subject of a Chafets biography. Chafets’ look at the Motown Meltdown reads like it could have been written yesterday, and with racialist recriminations festering on every page from his interviewees, it’s a reminder that for the left, never mind Tuesday — as long as the day ends with “Y,” it’s always racism, until the orchestra can no longer paid, and the music ceases to be audible.

As with Detroit’s bankruptcy, that day may be coming sooner than we think for America as a whole.

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