We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I guess it should go without saying that, since why would I post an unedifying article? But this review of five books by TNR's Paul Berman is a tour de force, and an excellent example of why I have never abandoned TNR: they always have smart people, even if you don't always agree with them.
"France's domestic achievements were genuine, even if the achievements never did penetrate into the suburban housing projects. And from this angle, too, from the perspective of France's domestic peace, the America of George Bush seemed a little worrisome. In America, Christianity had not been pushed out of political life. On the contrary, Christianity in America seemed to have gone insane, with the evangelical sects as principal evidence. Nor was the welfare state looking too healthy in America. The welfare state was shrinking. Nor was capital punishment at an end, in its American version. America seemed poised to execute Mumia Abu-Jumal, who was regarded in France as a famous black leader--a martyr awaiting his martyrdom.
Now, this particular view of American conditions might have looked a little different if the French had kept in mind the peculiarities of American history. In the United States, evangelical sects have always been insane. ("Various forms of religious madness are quite common in the United States," Tocqueville wisely observed.) Even so, Christianity in America has by and large served as democracy's foundation, and not its enemy--which was another of Tocqueville's points. Nor has capital punishment ever played the kind of political role in America that it used to play in France. ("North America," Tocqueville went on to say, "is, I believe, the only region on earth where not a single citizen has been deprived of his life for a political offense for the past fifty years.") As for the welfare state, the French critics had a point, though perhaps it could be argued that jobs, too, have a virtue, and not just jobless benefits.
In any case, instead of looking at these matters from the vantage point of American history, the French observers tended to adopt the vantage point of French history and concluded that America was retreating into the Middle Ages, even if America had never been in the Middle Ages. And since Bush in his vigor and naïveté seemed to be in a missionary mood, the danger arose, or seemed to arise, that America's clericalism, its state violence, and its anti-proletarian biases might, like McDonald's, end up spreading to the European continent, and France's achievements might get undone, and the miserable French past might turn out to be the miserable future."
Read entire. It is a damn good piece of writing, even if you are sick of thinking about France.
quite early to be reading about the French and their mediocre attempts at good governing. I agree that the writing is good but it is still too early to read multisyllabic words. How's the winged migration?