The United States is still rich enough to meet higher-order needs and call them entitlements. The decades-long response to race, class and gender proves the point. Americans can fixate on respect, status, self-esteem, hurt feelings and positive recognition because the essentials just happen.
Potable water, traffic lights, microwave ovens and freedom from fear. They are there, like magic. Because all Americans are fed, reasonably policed and more civil than not — this point cannot be overstressed — authorities can sidestep policy basics and empirical findings.
The radical left evidently wishes to dismantle much of what makes this plenty possible — and what many rely on for survival — in the name of social justice. Functional America notices. Yet any rebuke to equity is likely to trigger renewed disorder of the kind condoned by blasé blue-state officials and the Democratic Party in 2020. The state’s clients and their paid handlers intend to keep a catastrophic tribute system and flow of public resources intact, and in many states and localities have the political power to do so.
For seventy-five years, US wealth and surpluses have allowed the expansion of a welfare state that provides vital support — food, medical care, housing, utilities and, in some cases, spending cash — to perhaps 20 percent of the population. These do not include the unemployed or Social Security and Medicare recipients.
Clients of the state include indigent single mothers whose children are neglected. The fathers are elsewhere. Yet their hardship still compares well with global poverty. America’s welfare class possesses cars, cable televisions and air conditioning. But basic needs like safety, love and trust that governments cannot conjure go missing. So the charity and benevolence are not working. They are instead producing monsters like Darrell Brooks, the Waukesha parade killer, and the shock troops of the radical left.
That’s where Kimberlé Crenshaw and other racial firebrands come in. Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher professor of law at Columbia University and distinguished professor of law at UCLA, Crenshaw exclaimed on Twitter the day of the Rittenhouse verdict: “Acquitted. All fucking charges. Understand what this means.” Crenshaw’s take on the Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre is yet unknown, and her agent at the Creative Arts Agency (CAA) is unlikely to clarify.
From the look of things, “understanding” means getting used to events like smash-and-grab looting, everyday lawlessness and a fast segue from dead Dancing Grannies to a teenage school shooter’s sketchy parents, resuming Woke Media’s preferred narrative.
Stirring racial animus has been Crenshaw’s lifelong modus operandi, and she’s good at it. She hit it big in Critical Race Theory thirty years ago, overlapping class, race and gender grievances and calling it intersectionality. This CRT concept is now taught from up-to-date elementary schools to graduate schools of law. Injustice collecting has done her well, but none of the largesse or honors the establishment has bestowed gives her peace.
Crenshaw leads the narrative swerve to victimized objects of patriarchal, Christian oppressors, who are also guilty of raping the planet. The goal is to convince the demos to abjure the regime. According to the script, white Americans are to be shamed, shaken down and punished for their ancestors’ crimes and inherent vice.
But Crenshaw is a mere device. The real woke power lies with kingmakers like CAA that steer the nation’s meta-narrative almost invisibly. Crenshaw gets the mike and drum to bang. Billionaires watch the world burn in their mansions and townhouses ringed with security guards, using injustice and racial discord in the US to distract from their global predation.
Meanwhile, the beau monde declares Pacific Palisades or West End Avenue to be “too white.” They don’t mean it. They mean it’s time for a festive Soul Food Lunch at the Brentwood or Collegiate School on Martin Luther King Day. They mean the tidal shift in contemporary economic and cultural power benefits their interests and privilege. In contemporary America, media and finance — making prolefeed and churning meta-narratives — are highly profitable.
Crenshaw contends that the nation’s law “has enslaved us. It has justified disenfranchising us. It has justified segregating us. It has justified marginalizing us, criminalizing us.” Is this a valid academic complaint or a case of histrionic personality disorder?
The paths out of this state of affairs are obvious. Few think gobbling junk food, playing the lottery, watching trash TV, taking drugs and casually having children out of wedlock are ways to improve your life. But any critique of the welfare class meets livid outrage. Its failure can only rest with racism and structural injustice that is deeply projected.
The sociologist Robert Nisbet believed that leisure was civilization’s number-one enemy. The boredom it bred and the quest for euphoria would undermine collective reason and community. Today, he would point to social media, video games, television, sports, pornography.
Functional America wants relief from looming crime, nutty government policies and escalating federal despotism. It is relocating to areas where it can — so far — count on police protection and justice before the law, seeking distance from antagonists (but often finding out to its dismay that anomie’s electronic reach is long).
What happens if metro wealth runs out and other people’s money dries up, if serious inflation kicks in, if gasoline, utilities and food shortages happen, if any number of fragile international systems go south…a lot of things? Americans without prestige or pull, whose historiography is not subversive, and who might even be un-woken nationalists, have valid reason to believe that authorities including juries, judges and elected officials might not protect their rights, property and person in the future — and in fact in some jurisdictions do quite the opposite.
Could America’s future have a touch of ancient Rome, as freemen desert towns to seek protection from invaders and plagues? Or could it be more Marie Antoinette-like, when the pastoral ends and the guillotine arrives? Sooner or later, it seems, Americans are going to find out.
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