With Bush gone, we worried that massive swaths of the entertainment industry would be mining a dry well. How would Jon Stewart open his bits? Where would Bill Maher drill? And then what of our keenest sleuth into the contemporary rot, what of Frank Rich? Luckily or otherwise, as the ship teeters on the edge of a wide and unknown abyss, at least the Frank Richs of the world have material.
A well-put, highly thoughtful, extremely well-written piece, though perhaps not eye-opening, appears in the Times today. Read it. Rich begins by mistakingly dating an ancient American affliction as having emerged only recently, that malaise Gore Vidal famously calls The United States of Amnesia. Says Rich:
We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.
Yes, we are shocked by the foreseeable. And yet, perhaps this is because the predicted so often fails to materialize. Like a nasty storm fretted about for days that never materializes, we’ve become too accostomed to being warned of the worst while experiencing not so much. Or to use another analogy, its like the kids that are warned, endless warned, of the tyranny and danger of drugs, yet that first joint, nothing. Second joint, nothing. Third joint…what was I saying? Ah, yes, Frank Rich…
The wolf is indeed at the door, or so we are told. And when for years we were told by the more prescient analysts that the housing collapse was imminent, it never was, until it was. And then this spreading. We are either fucked, or not, but what do we do? Rich quotes the Manhattan Institute’s conservative Nicole Gelinas as predicting, “huge neighborhoods that will become ghettos” in Nevada, Arizone, Florida. Elsewhere, dire predictions of a vanishing middle class, a massive, under-insured service class, extremely poor enclaves mushrooming at the periphory of cities, walled-off sections of the land heavily secured by the rich. How can this be?
How will the be? If pretty much every piece of news available is to be believed, extreme and radical action will be taken, or not, otherwise we will be screwed, or not. And America doesn’t do nuance, as we learned from John Kerry.
And so. Here we are.