Monday, July 2, 2018

Bafflement, Odium, and Blood

I dunno, in some Yellow families Dad's always around.

The secret masters who run the Deep Times, the esoteric newspaper in the subtext of the New York Times of which the profane catch a glimpse whenever Jeremy Peters is sent to eat breakfast with the Trump voters in an off-the-Interstate diner, had a job for the Op-Ed page for which David Brooks, remarkably enough, wasn't stupid enough.

A guest piece by somebody called Matthew Schmitz explaining to sophisticated Times readers why it is that white Christian Pennsylvanians and Michiganders think of President Trump as a moral role model, "Trump's 'Purple' Family Values". You may have seen the money sentence on the Internet somewhere in the last hours:
Baffling as it may be to elites, Mr. Trump embodies a real if imperfect model of family values.
Schmitz is a senior editor diplomatically representing the Roman Catholic faith at the evangelical theoblog-magazine First Things, where his most recent outing on his home turf was a heliotrope- and candle wax–scented review of Alfred Hitchcock's great Catholic film, maybe you weren't aware that's what it was, Vertigo (1958):

Like all gothic tales, Vertigo reminds us that modernity is defined by the sharp distinction between present and past. We insist that we live in a time of technology, progress, and enlightenment—opposed to an earlier age of bafflement, odium, and blood. Our fantasies about this dark past both attract and repulse us. We indulge visions of a chthonic world where desire and cruelty run wild (dungeon—inquisitor—ravished maiden), then retreat to a comfortable present, blind to its untheatrical evils. If there is ever occasion to suspect that our society is bigoted in its scientism, casual about the killing of innocents, or indifferent to the abuse of weak flesh, we can ward off the thought by recalling that no one wears capes or intones Latin phrases. As long as the forces of religion and reaction can be kept at bay, we are sure that all will be well.
Yes, this is bad writing on the grandest and most ambitious scale, that can sound as if its author was at Oxford in 1895 and still be 14 years old.

Clearly the best person to put you in touch with the feelings of the non-elites of Nebraska. That's apparently where he hails from himself, and apparently they are very different from his Trump-despising ("no matter how conservative or religious") friends and colleagues in New York City:
almost all of the people I know in my hometown in Nebraska proudly supported him. They glossed over his infidelities and stressed that he seemed to be a good father. They were impressed by his “respectful” sons and admired the success of his daughters.
The people I know in Nebraska have the same moral views as my religious acquaintances in New York, yet they had a totally different view of Mr. Trump as a standard-bearer for family values. What made the difference? In a word, class.
It's not clear whether Schmitz is using "moral views" or "standard-bearer" in a particularly unusual way, or simply not aware of what he's about to say next, but it turns out that the Nebraskan Trumpers have totally different moral views from New York anti-Trumpers.

You see, moral scientists Naomi Cahn and June Carbone have discovered that there are two kinds of family—the Red authoritarian family, where Father makes the money and lays down the law, and Mother stays home supervising the kids, as many as possible; and the Blue egalitarian family, where Mom and Dad are having too much fun being equal to each other to have a lot of kids. And these kinds of families, while more likely to be conservative or progressive respectively, have similar moral values in that they favor respectability and oppose teenage motherhood.

But Schmitz in his Nebraska fieldwork has learned of the existence of a third model where Pop generally moves out before the things is really going—
A third model can be found among working-class whites, blacks and Hispanics — let’s call it purple. In these families, bonds between mothers and children are prized above those between couples. Unstable relationships are the norm, and fathers quickly end up out of the picture.
The difference among these three family models explains three different reactions to Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Liberal professionals decried his sexism, which violated the prime value of the blue family model: equality. Elite evangelicals decried his infidelity, which ran counter to the red family model’s stress on fidelity.
Strictly speaking I think since purple is a combination of red and blue and this new group has nothing in common with either of them it should be called Yellow, but maybe it's "purple" in honor of his prose.

In any case you can see how all Schmitz's working-class Nebraska friends—the white, black, and Hispanic ones—would be thrilled with Trump's moral modeling, because he's just like them—fathering babies all over town, as most working-class people do, don't you know, banging lewd actresses and grabbing pussies and moving on them like a bitch, and that's what everybody expects, and then he's unexpectedly nice to his kids, and lets them into the family business instead of leaving them totally on their own with the Oxy:
People familiar with the purple family model tend to view his alienation from his children’s mother [doesn't seem to have heard that there's more than one] as normal and his closeness to his children as exceptional and admirable. I saw this among my acquaintances in Nebraska. Even those from red families were more likely than my acquaintances in New York to know someone who has had a child out of wedlock or is subject to a restraining order.
It's just their quaint working-class culture, you see! Give them a presidential candidate who doesn't have a restraining order out on him and they're like "Gotta love that guy! He's earned my vote!" (Doesn't bother to explain, of course, how all those black and Latin friends of his in Nebraska were able to resist the Trumpian lure.)

You could say they're all about the bafflement, odium, and blood. I say, and I don't think I can keep an ironic distance any longer, who the fuck is this little Princeton prig with his purple prose telling the "working class" of Nebraska that he applauds their moral choice because they can't be expected to do any better? And we "elites" (quietly redefined not to include Princeton graduates in their early 30s holding down sinecures at refined wingnut welfare outfits like First Things: "elite" now simply means "opposed to Trump") should just put up with it because that's the best these voters can do?

It's a fuck of a lot more respectful to say that they were maybe feeling very pissed off and didn't understand much about anything, which, given the infantile state of our media, is hardly the audience's fault, and then a lot smarter to note, once again, that the Trump vote isn't "working class" in the first place. The Times isn't doing itself any favors by running this imbecile onanism.

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