Their more scientifically educated, multi-hued and poly-gendered, atheistical successors rule us too wisely and not well, or will if we ever let them.
By Bertram Wooster
The nostalgia roused by the passing of Poppy Bush-Nottle grows from a multiplicity of roots, interrelated like those of an aspen grove: our memories of a simpler, better time, during what I am told is often known as the Second World War, with which Poppy himself, though mentally spry as a stripling, was always irrefragably associated, owing to his actually having been there, for some reason that escapes me at the moment; the yearning of our Marxist press for the kind of Republicans who would cheerfully sign a tax hike or a bill forcing us all to throw away our funds on ramps and elevators so our homes can be invaded by noxious people in wheelchairs; and the selfishness of Jeeves, who has suddenly deserted me over a matter that should have been too trivial to separate us, a little tastefully trimmed chin-and-lip hair that seems to me entirely appropriate and has been praised by sophisticated judges including the Honorable Roberta “Bobbie” Wickham, and which I shall never give up. Do your worst, Jeeves!
But two of the more jaundiced views on these waves of emotion struck me as making a nearer approach to the things that are bringing it on. Mr. Beinart, writing for The Atlantic, suggested that the late president was in some bipartisan sense the last “legitimate” president, which sounds like an absurd calumny against the late Mrs. Bush, though perhaps not against the late Mrs. Clinton — not that I know anything about it but I hate to miss an opportunity to slander anybody — but is in fact meant as an observation that all the subsequent presidents have been either Democrats (afflicted by problems like unbecoming sex habits or melanin) or did not win most of the votes. Meanwhile, Mr. Foer, in the same magazine, accused the nostalgics of “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”
I think one might usefully split the difference between these views to suggest that the only legitimate president is a prep school boy, not of course from Hawaii, and that is what we, by which I mean me, are so exercised by as we register the loss of the last president, probably, to have played interscholastic baseball in a private-school league.
Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the preppies as a ruling class — because we feel, at some level, that their exam-acing, multiracial, church-avoiding successors who have taken dictatorial control over the government as far as I know since 1992, are not doing a great job. What else can I say?
Foer suggests that preppies were not so great, in the sense that some of them were bigoted anti-Semites, and I must note, as a Roman Catholic, that they were often even Freemasons, so I am certainly hip to that. Nevertheless, simple logic teaches us that a little bigotry is no reason to ditch an entire ruling class without considering the consequences, for instance the possibility that if we were to allow more unusually pigmented people into the mix, they might just constitute another unforgiving élite just like the old one, and we'd be no better off than we were in the first place. Let ladies into the Drones Club, let people with good SAT scores compete at an advantage with descendants of John Harvard and Elihu Yale, and the situation could be hardly any different than what it is, making the entire thing a pointless exercise.
Worse that that, you might end up with a situation in which the new élite discriminates in exactly the same way the old one did, for example at Harvard, where I am informed a freshman class is only 25 percent Asian, though Asians make up nearly 6 percent of the population. This blatant bias against our buck-toothed brothers is something that would never have happened when Poppy was an undergraduate.
Which is probably why people are starting to realize that the old élite was much better than the new one, with a spirit of noblesse oblige that can really only exist when the people experiencing it really belong to the noblesse, and the practice of personal austerity that you only find among people with a 300-year-old estate, wearing tatty sweaters among their prize pigs and orchid exhibitions.
People of the old élite were also notable for a quiet cosmopolitanism, witnessed not in the vulgar performative practice of allowing themselves to be seen with people different from themselves, but in the practical reality of providing employment to French chefs and Japanese gardeners. How many eminent Victorians alongside the bigots who no doubt deserved their bad reputations — how many Victorians learned Bombay Hindustani or Zanzibar Swahili simply in order to help them take part in ruling the natives, saving the latter from the trouble of ruling themselves?
And how competent were they, thanks to their training in Greek classics and reluctance to think about things like mathematics and engineering? Right down to the unfortunate business in Vietnam, they demonstrated how to rule India and Africa without ruling us, by which I mean me, in the unpleasant way Democrats are determined to do if they ever win another election, God forbid. Do we really want to turn these jobs over to people who know how to observe, theorize, and calculate, without the resorts of a peerage, religion, and a fraternity network?
How did they manage to do these jobs so well, in spite of their lack of any specialized training, knowledge, or experience? I think people need to understand that there's a higher and more valuable kind of experience you imbibe when you are nicked for knocking off a policeman's hat at three in the morning after an uproarious evening at Bingo Little's place. It's no wonder that people, by which I mean me, regret the loss of those precious times. And that nothing you say will talk me out of my beard, Jeeves.