Cheer Up, Peggy
This is an open letter to Peggy Noonan, written in response to her recent troubling piece in the Wall Street Journal, A Separate Peace.
What is up with the art-student angst? Cheer up, already. The subtitle of your most recent WSJ essay was "America is in trouble--and our elites are merely resigned," an idea which you expanded upon with these words:
And some--well, I will mention and end with America's elites. Our recent debate about elites has had to do with whether opposition to Harriet Miers is elitist, but I don't think that's our elites' problem.
This is. Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
Fist off, I must say that -- as a long-time reader and admirer -- I'm mystified by the significance you ascribe to these "elites" and their outlook on the future. What is so all-fired important about the disposition of journalists and politicians? Is this what you learned working for Ronald Reagan? Are these the people he would have looked to to save us from impending catastrophe?
I don't think so.
Our future has never been entirely in the hands of journalists and hack politicians in Washington. Luckily, it is even less so today than it was in the past. If these groups have made their "peace" with anything, it is probably with the fact that they simply don't matter as much as they used to, and that they aren't the ones shaping and determining the future.
The people who will determine the future are hard at work in the real world. Some of them may be classified as belonging to some sort of "elite;" but most of them do not. They work in business and in the public sector. They are educators, doctors, sales people, farmers, clergy, and, yes, even some journalists and politicians. They are scientists and engineers.
You've spent a long time working in and around the Washington political scene; you're going to need to look outside that circle if you want to draw a bead on where our society is actually headed. I would urge you to pay particular attention to the activities and accomplishments of the latter two groups mentioned above. Aside from a -- please forgive me -- deeply misguided essay you wrote on cloning a while back (which I responded to here) I have not known you to have much to say on what's happening in the scientific and technological arenas.
That, of course, is too big a topic for me to attempt to address in single blog entry, even in summary form. (Although we do take a stab at it every now and again.) But look into it for yourself. I think you will find that we do, indeed, face tremendous risks in the coming years. But we face even greater opportunities. And those who stand ready to help us overcome those risks and take advantage of those opportunities are not part of any tired Washington "elite."
Look into it, Peggy. You may find that you disagree with some of the more outrageous-sounding projections of what's coming next. But even these come from from sources at least as credible as Ted Kennedy, for heaven's sake.
I, for one, think we're going to have a wonderful future. And I'm ready to do what I can to make it happen. If the political and journalistic elites think otherwise and have decided to check out, well...I can imagine greater losses than that, to tell you the truth.
Please do look into it. Good luck.
Your faithful reader,
UPDATE: Blogger Dave Justus has more.