America my nation.
Fantasy is my dwelling place
Reverie my destination.
David Brooks is a liar. It is both his job and his inclination. It is the only way he can be one of the elite, in every sense. He lives in the Fantasy Island in his head where rich people can grant his wishes. But there was always a catch on the island: be careful what you wish for because you have no idea what will the fantasy will cost you. Brooks has lied so deeply and for so long and with such fervor that he now believes his lies and can no longer tell reality from fantasy. He is deeply and utterly confused by the cognitive dissonance and he would really like all y'all to just shut up and stop trying to force reality into his fantasy.
Brooks can't keep out everything, however. The times, they are a-changing, just as they did in the 1960s. The era of white privilege is under attack by interlopers who don't belong in Brooks' America. Sure, the white rich still control the country but Brooks is not one of them; he is merely a well-paid servant, the butler who answers the door and keeps out the riff-raff, serves the wine in a silver bucket, and supervises the lesser servants. The rich don't mind making little sacrifices to appease the peasants and keep the peace because people like David Brooks are the ones who will actually do the sacrificing.
Brooks know this. Servants understand their master' needs quite well; that is how they keep their jobs--anticipate the needs of their master and carry them out before the master has to ask. But now the rich need something that Brooks can't give them. He can't diffuse Black anger or undercut the power of mass action. He cannot force his fantasy on these Others' reality.
Brooks' job is to whitewash economic exploitation of the masses. Because he is not especially intelligent he uses the same method as everyone else to control other people: morality. But White (Judeo-)Christian authority will not achieve the rich's goals. They need a minority to give them moral authority over minorites.
They need Ta-Nehisi Coates, who does not want to lead a movement or tear down the power structure. Like Obama, he wants to join it. He does not speak violently; he can be reasoned with and he is careful to protect his career. Brooks sees the writing on the wall and it terrifies him.
So he lies his fool head off.
Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While WhiteBrooks is not listening; he is lecturing.
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates,
The last year has been an education for white people.This last year scared me to death.
There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.The conversations about the above utterly bypassed me and made me look useless. That frightens and angers me.
Your new book, “Between the World and Me,” is a great and searing contribution to this public education.I have to say this so I can tear you down later.
It is a mind-altering account of the black male experience.My mind was not altered but it made an impression on me; is this the future? Will I no longer be of any use?
Every conscientious American should read it.When you read Coates remember my disapproval. That is what counts.
Black people are so... physical. And there is no way I can exploit their experience to my own benefit!There is a pervasive physicality to your memoir — the elemental vulnerability of living in a black body in America.
Outside African-American nightclubs, you write, “black people controlled nothing, least of all the fate of their bodies, which could be commandeered by the police; which could be erased by the guns, which were so profligate; which could be raped, beaten, jailed.”
Written as a letter to your son, you talk about the effects of pervasive fear. “When I was your age the only people I knew were black and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid.”
My job is to sell the American Dream. My job is in jeopardy!But the disturbing challenge of your book is your rejection of the American dream.
Nothing is more conducive to social advancement than being a Jew in the 1800s.My ancestors chose to come here. For them, America was the antidote to the crushing restrictiveness of European life, to the pogroms. For them, the American dream was an uplifting spiritual creed that offered dignity, the chance to rise.
Your ancestors came in chains. In your book the dream of the comfortable suburban life is a “fairy tale.” For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus. African-American men are caught in a crushing logic, determined by the past, from which there is no escape.
You write to your son, “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.” The innocent world of the dream is actually built on the broken bodies of those kept down below.
If there were no black bodies to oppress, the affluent Dreamers “would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.”
Look at how angry he is, White America! He blames you and your ancestors and your culture--the greatest in the world--for his people's exploitation!
Your definition is "white" is wrong.Your definition of “white” is complicated.
But you write “ ‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining).” In what is bound to be the most quoted passage from the book, you write that you watched the smoldering towers of 9/11 with a cold heart. At the time you felt the police and firefighters who died “were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”
You are an angry Black male, the third most frightening thing in the universe after Muslims and pretty young white women. You have a belligerent chip on your shoulder. You are a liar; you do not mean what you say.You obviously do not mean that literally today (sometimes in your phrasing you seem determined to be misunderstood).
You are illustrating the perspective born of the rage “that burned in me then, animates me now, and will likely leave me on fire for the rest of my days.”
I felt insulted. How dare you call my superiority exploitation? But the publication of this slap was a revelation. Am I still relevant? Is my job really in jeopardy?I read this all like a slap and a revelation.
I guess I have to listen to you. It's part of my highly paid job as Inspector Of Public Morals.I suppose the first obligation is to sit with it, to make sure the testimony is respected and sinks in.
Am I going to be attacked by the Twitter mob if I try to attack to protect my job? They are legion; I am merely one servant.But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree?
What do I do here? I'm totally lost. Do I listen? Attack? Pretend to understand? Just give you my Moral Authority badge and give up?Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions?
Am I passé?Does a white person have standing to respond?
Okay. Gear up, soldier. This isn't our first rodeo. Let's pull out the same arguments that have served me well for decades.If I do have standing, I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy’s decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.
Oooh, good one! I studied history, I can pretend to pull this off.I think you distort American history.
We are all sinners. That always works!This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame.
It doesn't make any sense but my readers have been so thoroughly trained in "both sides do it" that they won't even notice.There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one.
For me. For you, who cares?Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.
Yeah, innocence is good. We're not venal, we're innocent. We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood. Deep down inside of us is good!In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam.
Damn, where is my West Side Story album? Did the ex get it? Sigh. 1960 was a great year.
Sure it is but that dream is my bread-and-butter. Without it I would be Lou Grant instead of David Fucking Brooks.But a dream sullied is not a lie.
See, if you sell hope and dreams you don't have to actually change the present. It works great.The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past.
You can drag it out forever. It's a Freidman Unit!It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.
Dream, dreams will keep us together. Think of me babe, whenever some sweet talking Coates comes along, singing a song. Hear with my words and you wont hear a sound!This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide.
Damn, I'm good.
I bet she took my Captain and Tennille album too.
Ahem, I mean that a divided house will not stand and a falling house won't pay my bills.
Your dreams give you noble energy to be heroes. Social progress comes from believing that America is fair and good, not from anger and riots and protests. Sounds good (::fistpump::), and it'll undercut Coates' authority.It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements.
Reality destroys fantasy. Fantasy made me rich. Reality is destroying me. Exterminate the Doctor Coates! Exterminate!By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.
Maybe I shouldn't say anything. If I ignore him maybe he'll just go away. In either case I pretended to listen and what else does he want from me? My job?Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.
Shit, man. He wants my job and he might get it.