High-Speed Flights of Fancy

As Victor Davis Hanson writes in his latest essay, “When the liberal mind cannot cope with the concrete ramifications of its own ideology, it seeks a sort of tokenism” — or outright escapism:


I have a hard time timing car trips to Los Angeles because a large section of the 99 state “freeway,” north of Kingsburg, is still (after a half-century) two lanes, potholed, and crammed with traffic. But the rub is that the traffic is of a strange sort, one characterized by an inordinate number of drivers with loose brush, tools, appliances — almost anything — not secured in flat-bed pickups or piled too high in pickups and trailers. The debris commonly flies out on the road, causes an accident, and shuts down California’s main interior north-south lateral for several hours.

What is the common theme here?

When the liberal mind cannot cope with the concrete ramifications of its own ideology, it seeks a sort of tokenism. Unable to ensure that trees are not defaced? An ancient highway is not upgraded? Presto, zoom ahead to space-age high-speed rail, as if the conditions that created sprayed trees and mattresses lying among the pot-holes will not easily migrate to high-speed rail. That is, within 10 years I have no doubt that the Fresno-Corcoran (“rail to nowhere”) link will be periodically closed due to stripped copper wire conduit, mattresses thrown over the fence onto the tracks, and the general inability of the state to service the system due to the sort of daily vandalism seen at our local campgrounds.

If one third of the nation’s welfare population resides in California, and if seven million of the last ten million Californians added to the state population are now on Medicaid, and if Californians, as it is estimated, send approximately $10 billion a year in remittances to Mexico and Latin America, then something has to give. And the remedy for that something that gives is either teaching youth not to spray paint pine trees, or hiring unemployed ex-gang-bangers to pressure wash the graffiti off pine trees — or moving to a kinder, gentler Santa Cruz or Newport, feeling good on the beach, watching the sunset each evening, and cursing those evil conservatives who want to poison the 3-inch delta smelt and keep foie gras legal in California.

The Role of the Scapegoat

When society cannot fathom that 16 youths were shot and another six killed last weekend in Chicago, it seeks symbolic relief. As I followed stories of the mayhem in the inner city of Chicago, I noted periodic news about the case of Trayvon Martin and the national outrage at George Zimmerman, who in a world of liberal jurisprudence has nonetheless mostly been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. But because the Congressional Black Caucus cannot fathom what to do about the epidemic of black-on-black murder and even Rahm Emanuel was not successful after calling in Louis Farrakhan to keep the peace  (and neither wishes to make even a rough connection between the violence and Great Society paternalism, the destruction of the black family, and a generation of youths raised without fathers on state assistance), they must seek a token — or rather, in anthropological terms, a scapegoat, some symbolic target to beat when crops fail and pestilence arrives. What is the alternative — lectures about flash-mobbing and sermons about the waste of buying $300 Lebron James signature sneakers?

The angrier we can become about Trayvon Martin, and the more our furor at George Zimmerman, the more we can square the circle of dealing with the Chicago killings (one murder occurred this week just three blocks from the Obama Chicago mansion. [I doubt Barack Obama will be returning to his home after his tenure ends in Washington]). If California has no clue what to do about its schools being reduced to near last in math and English test scores, its epidemic of uninsured drivers, its nearly 40% drop-out rates of Hispanic males in Central Valley high schools, and its 50%-plus rates of remediation of incoming freshmen in the state college system, then its needs a token solution. So it deals with the very real long-term consequences of illegal immigration by pushing for the Dream Act.

But tokenism is not the only reaction when postmodern liberal dreaming ends up in concrete premodern catastrophe. Escapism is a related response. I don’t think Dream Act supporters in Santa Monica or Atherton wish to live in, or visit much, Parlier or Orange Cove. When CSU presidents retire from Central Valley campuses, they usually frown and head to Palm Springs or Monterey. Doctrinaire liberalism is predicated on the notion of escapism, that one has the means and know-how to ensure that children do not go to the schools whose curriculum and policies follow your own utopian thinking. Or that you make sure your “wind and solar and millions of green jobs” windmills are obstructing someone else’s view. Or that the first high-speed rail link connects Fresno with Charles Manson’s prison in Corcoran rather than cutting a wide swath through Bay Area suburbs.


I’m sure the following links are entirely unrelated to the topic that VDH describes above:


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