Ed Driscoll

Ashamed of Patriotism

“History shows that great and dominant societies can survive a great number of awful things without succumbing to collapse, but that they rarely outlast the gradual disintegration of national self-confidence,” Charles Cooke writes at NRO:

With this in mind, consider the words of one Michael Shulan, who “really believes” that “the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.” Mr. Shulan, who is the creative director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, also expressed his distaste at what he called the “rah-rah America” instinct.

The news that a New York City–based “creative director” is disheartened by muscular American self-assuredness will presumably not come as a hefty surprise to many. Nevertheless, I might venture that if one’s sole job is to memorialize for the nation the revolting attack that unrepentant barbarians perpetrated on the United States on September 11 of 2001, one’s calculations as to what level of patriotism is and isn’t seemly should change a touch.

And yet they haven’t. In Elizabeth Greenspan’s new book about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, Battle for Ground Zero, the author relates a disquieting incident in which Shulan huffily objects to a photograph of three ash-covered firefighters raising an American flag amid the mangled remains of the World Trade Center. Per Greenspan’s account, Shulan’s displeasure was mollified only after he and his colleagues reached a “compromise” and a couple of other photographs of the flag were added to the museum’s collection. “Shulan didn’t like three photographs more than he liked one, but he went along with it,” Greenspan reports.

The job of a curator is to curate, and nobody would expect Mr. Shulan to remain quiet if he had legitimate artistic differences. But the interesting question here is why Mr. Shulan — or anyone, for that matter — would find distasteful or “simplistic” the inclusion of photographs of American firefighters responding to mass murder in an exhibition that venerates the very same.

Read the whole thing. As I wrote in May in a post on the cultural dissipation of Britain’s leftwing elites, Monty Python had it wrong in this classic sketch. It isn’t the tenants that need to believe, lest the building falls down, it’s the management. If they don’t believe, neither will those who send them their rent checks, with disastrous results:

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Oswald Spengler, call your office.