Sunday, September 04, 2005


What a Difference a Little Disaster Makes

Four weeks ago to the day, New York Times columnist David Brooks, full of smug rightwing certainty, heralded a new Era of Virtue founded on Traditional Family Values [a registered trademark of the Republican Party], ending with:

You want to know what a society looks like when it is in the middle of moral self-repair? Look around.
Today he's showing signs of being bitch-slapped by reality.
The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled. Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield. No wonder confidence in civic institutions is plummeting. And the key fact to understanding why this is such a huge cultural moment is this: Last week's national humiliation comes at the end of a string of confidence-shaking institutional failures that have cumulatively changed the nation's psyche.
He hasn't quite figured it out, however:
The economy and the moral culture are strong. But there is a loss of confidence in institutions. In case after case there has been a failure of administration, of sheer competence.
It's not just incompetence. By appointing unqualified and venal cronies to positions of power as a reward for filling his campaign coffers, Bush has destroyed the government's ability to fulfill its Constitution mandate to "promote the general welfare". This is corruption, as putrid and stinking as the corpses floating in Lake George. Mr. Brooks, welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit.
It's interesting to see the somewhat sheltered talking heads having the vapidity ripped away from them. Anderson Cooper is a case in point -- he saw rats gnawing on a corpse during his time in the horror zone that is now the Gulf Coast. I'm betting he still sees that every time he closes his eyes. People who see those sorts of things suddenly become a hell of a lot less tolerant of bullshit.
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