Friday, April 17, 2009

Stupidest column of the year

Hard to imagine, given that it's only April and Charles Krauthammer, Maureen Dowd and Cal Thomas are still pounding away, but -- ladies and germs, I think we can go ahead and stop the balloting for Stupidest Column of the Year, because nobody's going to catch George Will:

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically – running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.

Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

It is, he says, a manifestation of “the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby.” Denim reflects “our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings – the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure.”

Will is channeling some berk from the WSJ, who's channeling ... Esposito's inaugural address? OK, just so we're clear on that.

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults (“Seinfeld,” “Two and a Half Men”) and cartoons for adults (“King of the Hill”).

... Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling – thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism – of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.

Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

Maturity, elitism -- starting to form an idea about where he's going with this?

Edmund Burke – what he would have thought of the denimization of America can be inferred from his lament that the French Revolution assaulted “the decent drapery of life”; it is a straight line from the fall of the Bastille to the rise of denim – said: “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Ours would be much more so if supposed grown-ups would heed St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and St. Barack's inaugural sermon to the Americans, by putting away childish things, starting with denim.

So George Will is really just a sort of polysyllabic Glenn Beck with a bow tie? It all comes back to the arrogant guy in the White House? OK, got it.

You may, at this point, suggest that George Will is practicing the sophisticated art of satire. There's a slight problem with that. He isn't funny, and it really, really helps for satire to be funny. Spinal Tap is a snort a minute. "The Last Recall" is pitch-perfect deadpan. But George Will -- he could put you right off your fresh-fried Irish baby.

The last graf is too good to pass up:

(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former Sen. Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother.” Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)

Son, you can wear whatever you want out there. Mr. Monroe is going to wear a tie, all right?


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

So George Will pines for the Fifties, when Mr Cleaver and Mr Anderson wore ties to the ... shopping center, was it? ... and never, ever put on chinos? Surprise me.

Or perhaps he'd like to go back to the days of Gainsborough, when 7-year-old boys dressed like their fathers?

Will is a grump. I'd say a curmudgeon, but you're right: there's no entertainment value.

1:08 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Plus, King of the Hill maybe be animated, but it's more substantial than most live-action shows.

1:10 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Strayhorn said...

When I started my previous job I was told that Friday was "blue jeans day." I smiled and really didn't pay that much attention. After a couple of Fridays had passed (in which I wore business casual) I was informed in more direct terms that I was supposed to wear blue jeans. I responded that my clothing budget was used up for that month, alas, and also hinted broadly that the dress code in the office handbook did not mention "blue jeans day." I continued to ignore this silly dictum. And started to float my resume.

Even in my current job I'm surprised when people comment on my usual shirt and tie. Yes, we work on a campus. But adult men wear shirts and ties to work, even on campus. Had a meeting with the chancellor lately? No? Let me fill you in: shirt, tie, jacket. And he's a pretty informal person.

So, on the one hand, I can sympathize with Will. If I wanted to wear jeans to work, I would have kept working construction.

But, on the other hand, it's like the president complaining about traffic jams the other day - don't you have anything better to worry about?


2:00 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

He's not talking about WORK. He's talking about the mall, for crissake. The street, the airport - with your kid.

2:37 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

We should note that Will's "Men at Work" is about baseball, in which you more or less get to go to work in your pajamas.

I think Will wants to be able to say he fought in the Culture Wars but doesn't want to put up with the food, discomfort or possibility of actual danger.

2:55 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

This sounds like something T. Herman Zweibel would write: "At long last, we launch the War on Dungarees!"

It is nearly as funny as something in The Onion, but apparently not intentionally so.

4:39 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Strayhorn said...

Will didn't fight in the Culture Wars? All that posing as a Tory was for naught?

4:40 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous raYb said...

George is pining for his co-named conservative, Bush, don't you think? Bush's rule was coats and ties in the office all the time. Saturdays included, when no one else was in, except maybe an aide or two and one of those Secret Service guys who never wear anything less formal than pinstripes (not the Jeter kind).

8:54 AM, April 18, 2009  

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