Worth Reading 9-28-2021

Local historian Barton Cockey wrote a strong essay on the preservation of monuments that brings a new perspective to the Talbot Boys debate.  Those who want to tear down statues try to claim the moral high ground, and this thoughtful essay reveals the emptiness of that claim. 

In an article that reminds JDQB and WDM of where we were 50+ years ago, Harvard professor emerita Ruth Wisse points out how distant the rising members of the political class are from the experience of national service.  She writes that ROTC was driven off campus during the Vietnam War by the combined opposition to the war and the draft.  After that era was long past, “rather than encourage outstanding students to undertake military training as part of their civic responsibility, faculty at Harvard and elsewhere took the lead in banishing ROTC from campus.”  Thus the understanding grew among those elite students that the nation was not worth their privileged lives to defend.  As a result, she writes “the war in Afghanistan was lost in the halls of Harvard.”

While on the topic of elites, Matt Taibbi reviews a new book that examines the rise of “credentialism” – the “last acceptable prejudice” of the highly educated that makes them despise the less-educated, particularly when they do not vote as the educated feel they should.  Taibbi ties this into Biden’s demonizing the unvaccinated and concludes (spoiler alert) that “Americans on either side of the educational divide are … all but rooting for each other to die now, and that isn’t a sentiment either side is likely to forget.”

WDM observes that the educational divide described in these two essays is also apparent in the controversy over the Talbot Boys.  The campaign to tear down the statue is unmistakably led by the elites described by Wisse and Taibbi.  Their feelings of superiority to the long-time residents — farmers, watermen, hospital workers, builders, mechanics, owners of small businesses — who want the statue to remain are expressed in all they write and say, and the class divide is unmistakable.

JDQB recommends devoting a large block of time to reading an essay by Robert Kagan in the Washington Post and a rebuttal podcast by John Podhoretz of Commentary.  Kagan’s astonishingly long essay has become something of a cause celebre among the nattering class.  He writes that “The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves.”  He forecasts confidently that Trump will be the 2024 Republican nominee and that “he and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary.”  

Podhoretz and colleagues take issue with the tone and the substance of Kagan’s piece, starting with how the unending complaints of Democrats about the Florida vote for Bush in the 2000 election started the delegitimization of elections.  There is also an enjoyable (for some) discussion of how Kagan never mentions riots, critical race theory or even the Afghanistan debacle while blaming Trump for everything bad that has happened since 2016.  Worth investing the time, even in 15 minute chun