|Everybody's Got One
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Friday, February 21, 2003
An exemplary moment in the West Wing's alternate reality Inauguration episodes that I'm finally getting around to watching (I know, I know, barrelfish ... but there's a larger point):
Bartlett the uber-Clinton asks a speechwriter, "Why do I care more about American lives than I do about Kundunese lives?" (Kundu is the Rwanda-knockoff experiencing genocides this week, as grist for attractive and powerful white people's moral self-examination.) The aide boldly answers, "I don't know ... but you do." And as the scene ends both of them are troubled by what is clearly a profound moral failing of some sort.
In the real world, of course, the answer is, Because you aren't the president of Kundu, silly. But in Hollyworld it never occurs to either of these characters (or the auteur) that an elected official might feel a special responsibility to those he represents, much less any kind of preferential option for his own countrymen. The concept isn't even on their radar screens to be shot down.
This is a prime(time) example of how virtues are extinguished in a society. Patriotism, in this case. First it becomes suspect; then laughable; then a likely indicator of pathology; then incomprehensible. Finally it's gone, leaving only a vaguely disquieting memory behind, like the smirk of the Cheshire cat.
It's already happened with chastity and self-denial. Patriotism isn't far behind. On the glidepath are fidelity and discretion and honor and self-reliance.
And what evolved new virtues are proposed to replace these? Diversity and tolerance? Openness and self-realization? God help us all. posted by Kelly | 11:57 AM link