Kathleen Parker, the Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning(!) racial alarmist columnist, ended her year proudly by being named one of the Least Important Writers of 2013. In honor of that, she's made sure that her latest column immediately qualifies her as one of the Least Important Writers of 2014.
It is common knowledge that the American Dream is dead. Not even Americans—some of the world's biggest suckers—believe in it any more. Except, of course, for vapid newspaper columnists who have wracked their brains and failed to come up with a single actual idea for their year-end column. They are the lone dead-enders left spouting the words, "Dream the American Dream in 2014." They are the sad people in the corner of the bar on New Year's Eve, all alone, sipping gin and desperately pounding out some tripe about "courage" before their midnight deadline:
The Founding Fathers were, above all, courageous as they challenged a king, fought and died for freedom and created a country from scratch with little more than mettle and intellectual vigor.
If this isn't exceptional, then we have lost the meaning of words.
They created a country from scratch with little more than mettle and intellectual vigor and hundreds of thousands of slaves. Exceptional.
As we begin yet another year, it is less easy to summon the dream. Instead of hope, a word that brought us a new president, we have entered an era of envy and doubt — envy for those who have more and doubt that we can ever dig ourselves out of debilitating debt.
Kathleen Parker, professional newspaper columnist, argues that we have "entered" an "era" of "envy and doubt," implying that previous to this year, those emotions were little known here in America—a nation where "envy for those who have more" is the animating principle of our culture.
Debt as a fraction of GDP is currently lower than it was in 1950, the golden era of The American Dream.
Depending on whose prognostications one believes, we are either rebounding, by dribs and drabs, or perched on the precipice of economic ruin. Let's figure we're somewhere in between, which falls short of inspiring. What is certain is that our economic standing in the world is damaged, our credit and credibility are weak, and business confidence is still in limbo.
Do weak economies and moral decay go hand in hand? We certainly seem poised to find out.
"I have absolutely no idea where our economy is, or where it is headed," says Kathleen Parker. "Let's just say it is in the middle of where various people say it is. Despite the fact that I have announced I have no real idea of whether or not this is the true state of our economy, I will now declare that it is 'certain' that our current economic state is bad. I will then spout a platitude about 'moral decay'—and, as a final thumb in the eye of my readers, fail to even affirm my belief in this bit of weaksauce cliche."
"I am a professional newspaper columnist," she adds.
From Miley Cyrus's naked cavorting on a wrecking ball — well, one can at least admire her metaphoric succulence — to Anthony Weiner's Twitter projections of His Very Own Self, we have lost all sense of decorum, that voluntary commitment to behavior that combines a willingness to consider others first (at minimum keeping our clothes on), enforced through the exercise of self-restraint.
Imagine how much research must have gone into digging up these two examples of cultural decay of decorum.
Note the term self-restraint. No one's arguing for a new Puritanism, heaven forbid, but a pivot toward responsible adulthood would be helpful in recreating a culture that doesn't pinch our faces with revulsion. How do we expect children to navigate through this tawdry muck to become the sort of people most of us would like to know?
After concluding that the dance performance of a single recording artist and the private online messages of a politician add up to a loss of "all sense of decorum" in a nation of 300 million people, Kathleen Parker goes onto argue for a "pivot" towards "responsible adulthood," presumably by all 300 million of us. What does this mean in practice? It means nothing. If Kathleen Parker were to get any more vague, her words would disappear entirely into blankness, or perhaps just a string of "mmmmmmmmm"'s filling up the space in the paper dedicated to her column.
Won't someone think of the children?
I suppose what I'm lamenting is the loss of our national imperative to do and be better. Where once we fashioned ourselves according to best behaviors, we now accommodate ourselves to the least. Take a look around a mall, if you can bear to enter. Valium recommended.
I suppose what I'm lamenting is the fact that thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in the past five years and yet here is Kathleen Parker, still gainfully employed, drawing a quite comfortable paycheck every week in order to write paragraphs that suggest we "Take a look around a mall, if you can bear to enter." Malls are dead, Kathleen. No one is there except grumpy middle-aged people like you. The teenagers are all hanging out on the internet now, writing prose superior to yours.
Perhaps I am naive, but cynicism isn't allowed today. And besides, I am in good company when I propose that America's strength and well-being come from her goodness. Our lack of attention to our goodness, combined with our craving for instant gratification and near-toxic stimulation, has led us far afield from our Founders' intentions. Don't worry, my angel wings are in sorry shape.
We may have been created with a universal yearning for freedom, but we have learned through experience that freedom is earned rather than bestowed. To keep it, one must be vigilant.
All it takes is courage.
I challenge you to find one actual argument or idea in the preceding paragraphs.
Kathleen Parker is a professional newspaper columnist, for fuck's sake.