Jonah Goldberg built up quite a deposit of good will with his classic book, Liberal Fascism. In my estimation, his account is now overdrawn. He and certain other editors of National Review have modeled a distinctly (and repellently) smug variety of political cultivation in recent years. The journal’s founder, William F. Buckley, Jr., played the “snobby elitist” to the hilt, of course—but Buckley’s public persona was indeed something of an act. Toward the end of his life, he typed up a personal response on letterhead to a rather importunate query letter of mine and signed it: not something I can imagine any of the New Guard doing. In him, the elitism was genuine superiority diluted with noblesse oblige. In this lot, the sporadic gestures toward popular culture (intended to stir a supercilious smile) conceal the blunt contempt characteristic of royalty gone a-slumming.
I began with these comments because I am going to unburden myself of some strong opinions about the Parkland adolescents who very overtly displayed coarse behavior for CNN’s delighted cameras. In a piece published by Mr. Goldberg last Thursday, people like me are advised to consider themselves the lowest of the low for criticizing youths caught in the throes of grief. Words were used in the column which William Buckley would never have touched, and which—once again—typify the new elitist’s tawdry bid for a moment of proletarian, pop-cultural “hip” (like Hillary Clinton’s “nothing-burger).
With no apologies to Mr. Goldberg, I contend that it is in extremely bad taste to carry on publicly as some of these teenagers have done. True grieving happens most profoundly in private. Soldiers like my father-in-law who saw real combat never want to talk about their experiences. On the other hand, people who in fact were far from the line of fire and have little to mourn are the very ones who rush before an audience and fume volubly about the enemy’s wickedness, never breaking off a sentence or groping after a word. I have seen the boy named Cameron on several clips now—his face and voice have indeed proved difficult to avoid lately—and a more eloquent Cicero is scarcely to be found in his peer group… but grief does not speak in torrents of rehearsed eloquence. Neither does it spill its rancor on people far from the crime by drawing associations of a highly politicized nature.
As cameras rolled, the boy in question flung at a United States senator—Marco Rubio—the preposterous and insolent charge that Rubio’s mere face brought back images of a killer staring over the barrel of a gun. Again, with no apologies to Mr. Goldberg, I will say that if this boy had seen the bore of a weapon waving in his face days earlier, he wouldn’t be around to see anything else. (Or if he had indeed watched it weave right before him without firing, many victims could have wished that he had grabbed the thing and pointed it into the ground.) Naturally, the extravagant claim made on behalf of his imagination’s vigor was pure hyperbole.
What exactly is going on inside of millennials? What strange cogs and sprockets move their emotional responses? Since when do you register grief by turning your back on the killer and forming a political lynch mob marching to the script of the world’s paparazzi? Since when do you respond to a senator and one-time presidential candidate who comes to commiserate by verbally and (one might say) globally spitting in his face? How does this help any parent bury a son or daughter? Traumatized survivors have often tormented themselves with the question, “Why them and not me?” in the past. No longer, apparently. Now they hire an agent to book gigs on Oprah and Kimmel.
I’m going to say it, even though the Goldbergs of the world will think me a heartless swine for doing so: this conduct is boorishly childish to the point of obscenity. Gun control has nothing whatever to do with my verdict. I dare to say, rather, that some in this forthcoming generation—perhaps many—want a lesson in manners and common decency… and, obviously, they’re not going to get it from the “conservative” likes of Jonah Goldberg. The pampering, apparently, will continue without end.
There’s nothing worthy of indulgence in a seventeen-year-old who, say, springs up at his mother’s funeral, curses the minister up and down, and screams, “Stop with all this religious crap! If there were a God, I’d still have my mom!” The outburst would be understandable, but it would remain unacceptable. Hopefully, a father or near relative would order the child to quiet down and either seat himself or leave the building—and the order would be peremptory. Not only do such displays selfishly deny to others a chance to absorb the loss; they also plunge those who author them into an unproductive state of mind that can only prolong their anguish. Adults are supposed to recognize as much and to nip incidents like this in the bud—not to misidentify them as sacrosanct and nudge them to center-stage.
And the crucifixion choreographed by CNN was nothing like a church service for a child’s mother. For pity’s sake… parents are trying to come to terms with knowing that their children will never graduate from high school. Perhaps birthday presents are lying hidden in closets that will now never be opened. Has any consideration at all been paid to the misery of these people? I know we’ve all pretty much lost our minds… but have we not even the faintest vestige of taste and decency left?