THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2017
Rosenberg gets it right: It's making us dumber, Alyssa Rosenberg says.
Actually, she says it's making us "stupider," a term we tend to avoid. She refers to the latest angry debate—the debate about John Kelly's comments regarding the Civil War.
It's hard to believe we could get any dumber, but Rosenberg clearly is right, at least on the big picture level. We've seen dumbness in the past day which would fry the soul.
On the level of details, Rosenberg disagrees with Jonathan Chait's claim that Ken Burns voiced the same view of the Civil War in his 1990 PBS film as Kelly did last week. We don't have a view about that.
(Our main complaint about Burns would be this—he almost seems to glorify the dying which happens in war.)
Yesterday, we linked to Chait's post to highlight his claim about the way we humans tend to react to members of the two eternally warring tribes—Theirs and Ours. But was Chait right about Burns' view?
We don't know if he was right. Rosenberg says he wasn't.
All that said, the debate about Kelly's remarks is making us very much dumber. But then, at times of maximum tribal dispute, dumbness is almost the goal.
It strikes us as monumentally dumb to be arguing, 150 years later, about whether Robert E. Lee was, or wasn't, "an honorable person." Inevitably, today's stiff-necked editorial in the New York Times strikes us as the dumbest, least insightful approach to this matter which we've seen so far, not counting Don Lemon's discussions.
When we call the editorial stiff-necked and dumb, we mean it largely seems to exist to express moral superiority over Those People, The Others, the bad people found Over There. It would be depressing, and pointless, to try to list the various dumbnesses found in the piece. But people like those who wrote that piece are people who long for war.
(Sacred Homer, quoting Nestor, the seasoned charioteer:
"Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people...")
Just a guess! Two hundred years in the future, if there is such a time, people will look back at us and marvel at our own moral squalor. They will revile the men and women of the Times editorial board in precisely the way that self-impressed gang reviews the American past.
The editors are too dumb to understand what we mean. They're too dumb to imagine examples of advanced future moral belief, or to imagine the way they'll be reviled by some of the people who hold such beliefs.
You can pretty much trust us, though: If their great-great-great grand children exist, they will look back at these loudmouth prigs with a sense of incomprehension and embarrassment. Their unfeeling descendants may even revile the editors in the same way the editors revile their own ancestors. The lack of wisdom, feeling and sense may turn out to run in the genes.
Do prigs give birth to other prigs? We've never seen a study!
For extra credit only: Were the Confederates trying to "destroy" the United States, as the fiery editors write? Or were they trying to leave it?
Granted, their cause was morally bad. But were they trying to "destroy" the United States?
Are the secessionists in Catalonia trying to "destroy" Spain? Why not? Also, are they committing "treason," a capital offense?
What makes people seek the most dramatic, inflammatory ways to present a situation? Is it simply the ancient love of war, the secret desire to murder The Others? Or might it be an inbred desire for the greatest subhuman joy—the glorious joy of knowing that We, the very good people Over Here, are morally superior to the hideous Others?
Is it possible to cite Ta-Nehisi Coates without committing an instant logical howler? Just to be clear, the howler belongs to the glorious editors, not to Brother Coates.