Deplorables, Chekhov and you: For our money, Beverly Young Nelson performed a great service yesterday with her discussion of Roy Moore.
No presentation compels another person's belief, but a person would need a substantial motive to believe that Nelson was inventing her account of the sexual assault against her person conducted so long ago. Especially since this presentation was delivered on camera, it constitutes a strong "seconding" of Leigh Corfman's original claim against Moore.
We'll be discussing these matters more tomorrow. For today, we invite you to consider this point:
Nelson said that she and her husband both voted for Donald J. Trump. According to one unfortunate but now-famous assessment, this means the chances are even that Young is one of the "deplorables" whose terrible traits were so exhaustively listed on that unfortunate day.
Is Nelson a deplorable? How about her husband? We'll suggest that you watch her presentation again, this time asking yourself if you're listening to one of the inhuman figures described in that famous assessment.
Why did Nelson vote for Trump? We'd love to see such questions asked and answered on our own flawless tribe's various "cable news" programs.
There are 63 million people who voted for Candidate Trump. In theory, it could be instructive to see them explain why they did.
Instead, we tend to invent tribal novels about Those People, filling them with the ugly motives we prefer to imagine. Go ahead! Watch Nelson's presentation again and ask yourself if she is one of the "deplorables" we all heard described that day.
Why did people vote for Trump? We've often said that there are surely a wide range of explanations and reasons. Our liberal tribe widely prefers to think much uglier thoughts.
Once again, with this in mind, we'll recommend Chekhov's brilliant story, The Lady with the Lapdog. We'll do so for the reasons described below. Beyond that, we'll invite you to ponder Louis C. K., one of our tribally good decent people, as we do so.
(Important permission slip: Professor West lavishly praises Chekhov's brilliance, so it's tribally appropriate for you to read him. Also, Nabokov "considers it one of the greatest short stories ever written," according to the leading authority on the beautiful story. Nabokov wrote Lolita, so his views, like those of West, are tribally acceptable. You're licensed to read the tale!)
What makes Chekhov's story so morally brilliant? Chekhov's main character is Gurov, a deeply unhappily married man and a long-time "womanizer."
From the deep unhappiness of his marriage, he has long pursued insincere affairs with younger women—people he privately dismisses as "the lesser breed."
In short, Gurov is a terribly unattractive figure. Then, one day, it happens:
The appearance on the front of a new arrival—a lady with a lapdog—became the topic of general conversation.That's the story's opening sentence. We're using the translation of Professor Magarshack, who we think gets it just about right.
The young lady who arrives at the shore is also unhappily married. She and Gurov conduct an affair, then return to their winter homes, which are so far apart in Russia that even Omar Sharif couldn't conceivably walk the distance in the winter snows.
Gurov believes that he has conducted another meaningless, loveless affair, but his feelings begin to tell him something different. Eventually, he somewhat recklessly seeks out the lady, Anna Sergeyevna. In their renewed experience, he makes a surprising discovery:
It was only now, when his hair was beginning to turn gray, that he had fallen in love properly, in good earnest—for the first time in his life.The miracle of the story is this—Chekhov is able to show the deep humanity of a deeply unattractive figure, perhaps of a genuine deplorable. We'll even reveal this:
Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.In the case of Gurov, we see the appearance of the full humanity which was somehow present in a deeply cynical figure. That said, Russian mores provide no way for the pair to escape their loveless marriages. As the story ends, they are wracking their brains, trying to decide what to do.
But along the way, in a very few pages, Chekhov has worked a miracle of moral exposition. We think of this story when we think of the ludicrous, horrific conduct recently attributed to people like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C. K., whose moral greatness our liberal critics knew they must never undermine or dispute.
Why would anyone want to behave in the manner attributed to Weinstein and C.K.? We compliment Angelina Chapin for presenting a humane discussion of that important question in this recent report at Slate. We're not big on punishment here. We hope they move beyond this.
Louie and Harvey were two of Ours. So were the many colleagues and critics who covered for their disordered behavior down through all those long and horrifically ludicrous, deeply unfortunate years.
By way of contrast, Nelson was one of the deplorables, as was Corfman, another Trump voter, before her. Our suggestion:
Watch Nelson's presentation again. See if you have possibly gained a new, less inhumane view.
Also, treat yourself; read Chekhov's beautiful tale. Magarshack's translation is found in the Penguin Classics edition. Professor West and Nabokov have said it's OK to go there.