There is a cartoon that has, as they say, “gone viral” on the internet in the last two weeks or so. It’s one of the oldest threads from the Schultz empire, and one never tires of its utterly predictable and utterly funny ending. Lucy the capitalist progressive always wins, and Charlie Brown never learns. Here is an earlier version, that sums up its message.
Is this a strange way to introduce a comment, inspired by Mike Church (The King Dude), about the decadence of our culture? Let me say that the reality of its decadence is here not in question. Click the “delete” button if you think we live in a healthy society, and go back to playing fantasy football. King Dude sent along a link to The Atlantic, which specializes in killing trees for no purpose—an article by one Conor Friedersdorf, called “America Isn’t as Decadent as Social Conservatives Think It Is.” Mr. F calls up two straw men “conservatives” to make his point: Ross Douthat, the favorite Charlie Brown of the New York Times, and the very interesting Eve Tushnet, who is a livewire combination of Lucy and Charlie. As long as you are in the mainstream network and call yourself conservative, I guess you can plan on some attention from one of the last pretentious magazines that has not yet left the 60s.
Mr. F says that Mr. Douthat is a “perfect example of a social conservative compromising his ability to influence cultural change by misdiagnosing its causes.” Leaving aside the assumptions that there is any such thing as a “social” conservative, or that such a creature would want to “influence cultural change,” or that moral choices have “causes,” Mr F goes on to try to discredit Mr. Douthat with the voice of Eve Tushnet, whom he calls a “traditionalist.” Well, I guess. I had never before heard of her, and I have been, indeed, a traditionalist for over forty years. Not surprising, though, when I learn that she is the daughter of chattering class progressives, openly homosexual since her early teens, a convert to Catholicism while at Yale (!), and a celibate, serious Catholic whose opposes homosexual marriage. I read a bunch of her stuff this morning. She is, I think, a genuine article, and I kind of like her. This does not mean, however, that Mr. F has a clue about how traditionalists cope with the very difficult problem of marriage and having children that is the subject of the decadence that Mr. F insists does not exist.
Pushing aside the beans and getting down to the pork, Mr. F says that Mr. D uses anold-fashioned argument that is based on “bourgeois values” (never mind that he assumes we should all know what “bourgeois” is and that “values” is a poor substitute for morality), and he enlists Ms. T to show that even “traditionalists” understand that old-fashioned morality just doesn’t cut it any more. God, who is the elephant in the room for most real conservatives, is MIA for Mr. F. He is real for Ms. T, but you wouldn’t know it the way Mr. F quotes her. Mr. D is too much a New York Times gentleman to bring in the sticky subject of transcendence.
King Dude offers that Mr. F’s tree-consuming article is “secular, relativist tripe,” but I think he is being too kind. When you contemplate the trinity of Friedersdorf, Douthat, and Tushnet (has a certain ring, doesn’t it?) trying to define the boundaries of moral discourse, and someone as usually sensible as Mr. Dreher willing to engage their silliness, shouldn’t all the rest of us line up with Charlie Brown and approach the ball that Lucy is holding?Rod Dreher of The American Conservative introduced Ms. T to his readers about a month ago, using, interestingly, the same quotations Mr. F uses, and calls her “Kierkegaardian,” by which I guess he means “a life of faith” trumps stiff-necked “bourgeois” morality. I think that “Kierkegaardian” is about as bad a name as I could call anybody, but Mr. D(reher) uses it as a compliment. One of the responders to his short essay says that “Most people today cannot afford bourgeois values.” Another opines that she cannot see “what certain conservatives see in Tushnet’s naval-gazing nonsense, except that she’s the official celibate Catholic homosexual.”
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.