Maybe David Brooks didn’t get the memo, but the faux coronavirus patriotism is on the way out. Most people have seen through it and are sick and tired of it. But Brooks of the New York Times, infamous for admiring Obama’s pants, is notorious for getting the memo a decade later.
And so here’s a column from 2020 in 2021.
Could today’s version of America have been able to win World War II? It hardly seems possible. That victory required national cohesion, voluntary sacrifice for the common good and trust in institutions and each other. America’s response to Covid-19 suggests that we no longer have sufficient quantities of any of those things.
I doubt we could win WW2.
But Brooks has no interest in addressing why we don’t have
1. National cohesion
2. A sense of the common good
3. Trust in institutions
Could that possibly have something to do with the rise of a radical leftist movement that divides Americans into identity politics tribes, and poisons institutions into radical factional and utterly incompetent systems as terrible as anything out of the USSR?
Why would anyone in their right mind, of whatever political affinity, take the CDC seriously?
That basic sense of peoplehood, of belonging to a common enterprise with a shared destiny, is exactly what’s lacking today. Researchers and reporters who talk to the vaccine-hesitant find that the levels of distrust, suspicion and alienation that have marred politics are now thwarting the vaccination process. They find people who doubt the competence of the medical establishment or any establishment, who assume as a matter of course that their fellow countrymen are out to con, deceive and harm them.
This “the only person you can trust is yourself” mentality has a tendency to cause people to conceive of themselves as individuals and not as citizens. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently contacted more than a dozen people who were refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccine. They often used an argument you’ve probably heard, too: I’m not especially vulnerable. I may have already gotten the virus. If I get it in the future it won’t be that bad. Why should I take a risk on an experimental vaccine?
They are reasoning mostly on a personal basis. They are thinking about what’s right for them as individuals more than what’s right for the nation and the most vulnerable people in it
America has always been built on individualism, not collectivism. And if you’re going to ask people to function as a collective in a time of crisis, you had better represent them.
You can’t shower half the country with contempt, make it clear that you despise everything they believe in, and then expect them to show up.
Nor can you represent an expert class that has discredited itself repeatedly and then ask people to risk their lives on its word.
“A lot of Americans have seceded from the cultural, political and social institutions of national life. As a result, the nation finds it hard to perform collective action,” Brooks writes.
And predictably misses the point.
Americans didn’t secede. For the most part they were marginalized. And Brooks has no clue how to address that. Witness this pathetic paragraph.
“How do you rebuild trust? At the local level you recruit diverse people to complete tangible tasks together, like building a park.”
Recruit diverse people to build a park. And then ask them to discuss saving the polar bears and lobbying for trans rights. Followed by some soyburgers.
This is Soviet apparatchik levels of cluelessness. No wait, this is.
The Biden agenda would pour trillions of dollars into precisely those populations who have been left out and are most distrustful
D.C. consultants? Green energy investors? Community groups that serve as receptacles for Congressional Black Caucus organizers?
Now go back to trusting the establishment.
Don’t ask people for collective sacrifices when you constantly lie to them, treat them like garbage, and have absolutely no clue who they are and what they want.