Tuesday, February 17, 2009

David Brooks, dreaming of Denver, New Amsterdam, New York and Heading West with Pew

Okay confession time. Because of the time zone differences, it's possible to read David Brooks in The New York Times just after he's posted, at a time when we in the American colony called Ooorstralia sit down for a quiet chardonnay. Then it's easy to get a little tipsy, get a little ansty and  fire off a missive to the 'post comments here' section of the rag.

Blogging therapy has cured me of this, though not the glass of chardonnay, since I favor a New York lifestyle over a Californian one, and as we know, if you have a glass of wine in California for lunch, you're a raging alcoholic, a fiend one step away from being Ray Milland in Lost Weekend.

Anyhoo, Brooks appears a most amiable and civilised man - the sort of erudite, sharp and sure right wing window dressing eminently suited for NPR, and the equally amiable Mark Shields and Jim Lehrer. And his columns are often rational and coherent. He's the respectable side of the right in America, the Colmes to his very own Colmes, with Hannity nowhere in sight.

At the same time, he manages to be incredibly irritating, jumping the shark, nuking the fridge, in sudden outbursts of right wing loonacy which make you wonder if he's suffering from a three faces of Eve kind of complex (the thought of which maybe led me to that drink and fire off a missive thingy).

The news that The New York Times is once again thinking of charging for access to special features pleases me immensely, because they once charged for access for Brooks and his fellow columnists, and when they lifted the veil and I found out what I was missing, it was mainly irrational rage at Brooks being a sometimes cheerleader for George Bush and the assorted extremists who'd infested the Republican party like a bunch of wild eyed white ants. If they start charging again, I might be able to go off the drink, and give up blogging (or so my therapist tells me). One thing's for sure, I won't be paying.

Now you can't expect a right wing columnist to forsake his tribe - after all, how would he make a living for the rest of his life? And you therefore can't expect an even handed approach, because some times you just have to dog whistle, or duck quack or turkey gobble to all the fellow loons to let them know that sometimes you like to tease liberals into believing in you, only to gazump them with satanic force.

One of the reasons Brooks is irritating is the way he makes lofty pronouncements, much like Christopher Hitchens always loftily gabbing on about Mesopotamia (and thereby confirming that deep down he remains a British colonialist git).

Brooks is also inclined to be devious, as he is in his column  I Dream of Denver. In a typical underhand way, Brooks takes some Pew research, and proceeds to whip up a dog whistling Sarah Palin storm about what makes America and Americans.

First there's the straw dog - unlike all those liberal dreamers and tosspots who inhabit the fringes of that great land, Americans don't like to ride bicycles, they don't like smaller homes and tinier fridges, and they don't like dense communities, and they don't like superior beer (actually he's on the money there). They also don't want to live in Amsterdam, they don't want the Dutch option. How's that for insight? (And if f you've seen 30,000 New Yorkers riding their bikes in the five boro bike tour, remember it's all just an un-American sham, a con job).

Now don't get clever. This has nothing to do with whether Americans can actually speak Dutch and might feel a bit lost surrounded by people speaking the Nederlands. Oh no, it's because Americans like to look over the next horizon, they like to move outward, and city dwellers are unhappy, unlike suburbanites and rural types.

And of course real Americans want to head west. Not all the way west, to Californee, where the Governor has busted the state's finances (come back grey Grey Davis, all is forgiven) and liberals and hippies infest the big towns like red oak borers. They want somewhere new, not dull old NY, or LA or Chicago. Remember, old folks and family types hate big cities, and they're the real Norman Rockwell America (with a touch of nauseating Spielberg thrown in).

So where's it all at? According to Brooks, Denver, San Diego, Seattle, Orlando and Tampa. Funnily enough, last time I added up the population of those five cities - and let's be generous here - they came to under 7 million (even a hundred things to do in Denver while you're dead couldn't get its total over the three million mark).

And last time I counted greater New York had twenty million, while LA clocked in at 10 and San Francisco well over 7. So you see all those New Yorkers ain't got a clue.

You can see where all this is heading can't you? Real Americans don't want any of that fancy pants New York living. They don't like the LA star structure, they don't like Ivy League status, they like friendlier neighborhoods, slower lifestyles and service-sector employment. They love wide open spaces and casual wardrobes.

And of course they love McDonald's over Starbucks, according to the ever reliable Pew team. (Brooks, in what is a quintessentially funny American way of seeing the world, actually thinks Starbucks is real espresso culture. You have to wonder if he's ever been to Italy and  tasted real coffee. He's actually defaming Italians - anyone living in little Italy in the Bronx should storm the heavily mortgaged Times building).

Yep, if you live in a big city, then you're not a real American, you don't have American dreams, and you don't know that your inner soul demands that you head west, off to those trailer parks in the Arizona desert. Strange how young people love New York (according to Pew), but that's really only further evidence that young Americans aren't really all that American.

All this is nonsense of course - a nice skew on the cue ball of Pew research,  as a cheap way of taking a pot shot at "those who dream of Holland". You have to wonder whether Brooks has walked around parts of New York and ever noticed, even now, so many years later, how bits of it still feel a tad "New Netherland" 

The Brooks' break is a roundabout way of suggesting hippies, or gays, or liberals, or burger haters or ponce coffee drinkers are missing out on the American dream. But actually the terrorists got it right - they attacked America in its heartland, and took out two of its most potent symbols. 

That's right, they attacked the real America, where you can get a good coffee (sometimes) and where people don't blather on about an active outdoor lifestyle (Brooks typically forgets to mention hunting when he daydreams about skis, kayaks, soccer, hiking boots and boating equipment. What an ersatz liberal git. Bet he's never gone a hundred miles outside NY without getting the shakes).

Well if it's all the same to Mr. Brooks, who can debate as long as he likes with other Americans about the American dream and how it seems to be centered in Denver, allow me to continue to converse with Americans who would rather be dead than live in Denver (or have to support the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 2002 was just a blip on the radar). 

Heck I even know Americans who don't like cinnamon and won't have it on their coffee!

Somebody even told me that Christopher Hitchens is a American citizen, and the only outdoor living he looks like he's done is crossing the street to the next television studio.

If America can embrace an atheist like Hitchens, it's a bigger, grander, greater country than David Brooks and his puny dreams of Denver could ever imagine. The man must be full of self-loathing, there doesn't seem any other reason for him sucking up to a lifestyle he'll never live himself, yet somehow imagines is the proper American dream. Me, I'll just go with the notion that America is at its best in its big cities, and that New York is the greatest city in the wuuurld, possibly the universe. If only the rest of America, and Denver in particular (mile high as it might be) could live up to it. 

So come on New York Times. Start charging for a look at David Brooks, so I might never have to be troubled him by again. Sure, you won't get as many click throughs, but Republicans will just love to help out (I know Rush Limbaugh will be the first to sign up so he can live the Denver dream). That way, I can give up the chardonnay and sack my therapist. It has to be win win.

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