Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rubes R Us?

In foreign policy circles, George Kennan, the architect of America's Cold War "containment" policy was "commonly regarded as the wisest of the Wise Men." And yet, as Louis Menand writes in the New Yorker, "the most peculiar thing about Kennan, a man not short on peculiarities, is that he had little love for, or even curiosity about, the country whose fortunes he devoted his life to safeguarding." In his terrific review of a new book about the diplomat, Menand notes: "Kennan thought that Americans were shallow, materialistic, and self-centered—he had the attitude of a typical mid-century European—and the more he saw of them the less fond of them he grew." Although it's hard to argue that Kennan's low regard for his fellow citizens is completely without foundation, his assessment from the Ivory Tower is overly simplistic. Americans are, well, complicated. Yes, broadly speaking, cultural sophistication (esp. in the European sense) is probably not our strongest suit. Still, I would not categorize most folks as self-absorbed rubes (Facebook notwithstanding). But then I come across Bing.com's Top Searches for 2011. Among news stories, the "most searched" unsurprisingly included Osama Bin Laden's death, Hurricane Irene, and the Japan earthquake/tsunami, in that order. However, there was one story that towered above them all: The Casey Anthony Trial. Um, well, Kennan is still wrong because, well, er ... hmm ...

No comments:

Post a Comment