I thought for a time that the spirit of 1990s Harvard--the spirit of the overstuffed resume, of privilege without sacrifice, of ambition without ideals--might have been dealt a mortal wound, and that my generation's future would be sterner and brighter, like steel in winter's light. My classmates and I had always been successful, at least as our world defined success, but it seemed fleetingly that we might be offered a chance to be great.Douthat spent his life waiting for greatness to be thrust upon him but was far too selfish to do anything to achieve that greatness. Douthat is a peculiar mixture of self-delusion and self-awareness; he knew that his position was due to money, that all his fellow students were not the best and brightest, that many of them were little more than well-born social climbers. But he decried the overstuffed resume while overstuffing his own resume, he lamented others' lack of sacrifice while refusing to sacrifice anything himself, he bitterly criticized his classmates' lack of ideals while never living up to any of his own. Douthat will always expect others to do what he will not, hoping that somehow the world will thrust greatness onto him without actually requiring him to do anything to achieve it.
Disillusionment came rapidly enough. It seeped in first with the realization, gained as graduation gave way to the beginning of real life, that we Harvardians would not be going to war. There was no call from Washington, no draft, not even an appeal for volunteers; we were told to resume our normal lives, not asked to take up arms. And so we did. In spite of the long nights spent researching the CIA and the chatter about the draft, there was no rush to join the military or the intelligence services, or even the government.... There simply weren't enough cadets to fill a Harvard brigade, both before September 11 and after.
A few of my friends did volunteer.... For the rest of us, though, joining the military or the CIA or the foreign service involved risking too much--not only our lives but our private ambitions, our dreams of fame or wealth or power. Throughout our youth, we had been encouraged to look out for ourselves, to compete ferociously for the prizes and honors and scores that marked success in the meritocratic world. We had been bred into a striving selfishness, and after such an education, I wonder if even a presidential call to arms would have convinced us to subordinate our own ends to those of the platoon or the embassy, Langley or Paris Island....
Others must suffer and die to make Ross Douthat great; others must live up to his ideals while he enjoys his civilized, self-indulgent life. Poor men must die for Ross' patriotism, women must sacrifice and suffer so Ross can weep for the holy fetus, families must sink into poverty so Ross can smugly lecture on conservative economic principles.
Ross Douthat is rich and powerful and elite. And one day, God willing, Ross Douthat will have climbed over enough bodies and economic destruction to become Great.