Just got back to Guadalajara and environs after two weeks of Christmas in Washington. Good times were had, old friends seen, but it was not altogether a delight. Going back to America every nine months or a year is like watching something decay in time-lapse photography. It can be a shock.
Arriving in the Virginia burbs of the Yankee Capital, I turned on CNN with the attitude of a forensic pathologist. Gawd. It was sickening. A lynch mob. Endless raving against Trump by talking heads who seemed to have a high-school mentality, asking each other leading questions to elicit scripted answers. International coverage was slight and mostly Neocon twaddle about the Russians are coming and Iran may kill you at any moment. No attempt at impartial coverage of the news. Yes, I understand: If you are an American this is normal and you think me naive for being nauseated. I get it.
So I go to Fox. Maybe, maybe, just possibly, the Zorro Channel will be better. It can’t be worse, I figure. The thought provides momentary solace.
But no. Fox is as crooked, calculated, partisan, and embarrassing as CNN. It just does it in the opposite direction. Tedious. Stupid. It is the intellectual analog of a Ugandan bus-station latrine. Why do people put up with it? I conclude, once again, that journalism no longer exists in the United States.
Perhaps worst about it may be the contempt it displays for the public. It is not the respectful manipulativeness suitable to an intelligent audience, but seems to regard the public as retarded rabbits.
And ads, ads, ads. “Ask your doctor about new Sefafim for that troublesome leaky bladder. Bleeding from eyeballs may occur. In the event of stroke, call 911. Cerebral gangrene has been reported. Spleen may explode….”
And late on the 24th, “Retail Holiday Eve DEALS! DEALS! Last minute shopping savings! Yes, sixty percent off garbage that only a mutant sloth would want!” Christmas is as spiritual as a truss ad.
OK, America’s rampaging social stew. (I’m not sure that stew can rampage, but we will overlook the matter. It’s Christmas.) Being ideologically chaotic, I have friends running from googoo liberal to White Nationalist. This allows almost everybody to hate me. We stayed with my daughter Emily Ann, who lives in an Hispanic section of Alexandria. She reports an alarming level of violent Latino crime–none. It is alarming, anyway, for White Nationalists, who hope that whites will rise in a pale tidal wave and sweep out the Pedros and Lupitas and what have you. Worse, She says she and the neighbors get along well. This is about as surprising as lunacy in a Democratic administration, but what the hey.
The Latinos just aren’t behaving badly enough to start a good tidal wave. Love it or hate it, or have more important things to think about, like sorting your socks, the country is going international. Walking a mile or so to a shopping center to replace a forgotten toothbrush, we found a Chinese store with an Asian clerk and mostly Latino customers. At a branch of my bank, we encountered a Latino clerk and manager and later, attending the Christmas service in a Protestant church, we met a female Vietnamese and a male Korean pastor. My ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins was Lebanese.
Nobody seemed upset about it. This is great if you want domestic tranquility, and the pits if you want racial purity. But it’s happening anyway.
Violeta wanted to see the National Cathedral, so we got a Lyft and set off. Lyft and Uber seem to have put an end to crooked cab drivers, a very good thing.
Weather was chilly but not really cold, morning skies gray. The Cathedral is a magnificent building, Gothic and looming against the sky with a somber solidity. There was a genuineness about it, a solemnity. It was not designed in Jersey at corporate.
Impressive. Until you went inside.
The incongruity begins with its being made an all-faith church. Gothic is Catholic, period. Has been since 1137 at St. Denis. Catholicism is Christian, period. Yet there are no crosses. Presumably these might offend somebody.
The trendy lunge at inclusiveness doesn’t work, nor does the secularism implicit in the attempt. Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Voodoo, and the Cargo Cult really have little in common and many serious differences. Protestantism, though Christian, is so culturally distinct from Catholicism hat it belongs somewhere else.
In a secular city, populated by people of incompatible if only culturally held beliefs, it has become a tourist attraction instead of a church. Inside, huge TV screens hang from walls, giving the atmosphere of a sports bar. These do not yet run ads for adult diapers, seeming to give video tours of the Cathedral. Yet no one with a sense of what cathedrals are, or were, or even of historical manners, could possibly hang screens here. Downstairs in the crypt, where presumably bodies lie in marble caskets, the tourist store sells Star Wars masks. It is religion by Disney, cheap, commercial, and ignorant.
Though I am not religious, I could not possibly so treat, say, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I thought of the busload of American kids I once saw rush into a church in Mazatlan, running around and yelling, “Hey! Look at this! It’s really weird….”
If I may make an incursion into the deep waters of sociological theory: I wonder whether geographic origin doesn’t play into the social war over Latin immigration. Leaders of White Nationalism seem chiefly of North European ancestry and, though it is hard to tell, so do their followers. A large gap of culture and outlook exists between the souls of upper and lower Europe.
Note that in southern Europe, of Latin derivation, food is strongly flavored, architecture imaginative, fashion a flourishing business, colors vivid, faith Catholic, music human and emotional. The adjective that comes to mind, overused because applicable, is “vibrant.”
Going north, as you reach England and the Nordic world, colors fade, food becomes bland, architecture boring, people more reserved, religion Protestant, and music majestic rather than colorful. No one would ever mistake Carmen for a Nordic opera. (Latin cultures produced the tango, and German, the polka. Nuff said.)
American Gothic, by Grant Wood. Northern Europe and its colonies, and southern Europe and its colonies, are not the same.
Latin American culture is, well, Latin, and perhaps inexplicable to chilly Northerners. For example, Mexico has a Latin language, Latin religion, Latin legal system (Napoleonic code), and music, dance, and art far closer to those of Italy or Spain than of England. The culture is–dare I say it?–”vibrant.” Which the British, Germans, Danes, and such are not.
There. We understand the world and doubtless will never have to think about it again. I wish all a Happy New Year, though I don’t hold out much hope.