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Monday, September 23, 2013


Imagine someone travels back through time intending to settle the question of who shot JFK and materializes, by accident, in whatever room you happen to be in at the moment.

I'm imagining the time machine is the size and shape of a fountain pen; I also see the thing magically recharging itself. It takes a few hours and it's rigged so only the guy from the future can use it. Otherwise he'd be more than happy to let you go back and have a chat with yourself on your sixteenth birthday.

Here's the question : Would you be embarrassed at all by the time traveler looking at you as someone from this place and time? Or let me put it another way, would you worry you'd be viewed as the sort of person the time traveler would expect to find at this place and time?

There is a slight difference in those two questions. I'm assuming the time traveler knows a thing or two about this age of ours. Would it bother you if Vincent -- to give the guy a name -- had a real thorough knowledge of this era? Or would you rather Vincent only knew as much as the collage kid next door might know about the Hanseatic League?

I'm tilting these questions in a particular direction, the idea being to smoke you out as to what your real reaction to this culture is. This is something I would argue ought to be looked at apart from whatever you might think of American exceptionalism. From what I gather that involves how much more free we are to do whatever it is we choose to do, and that's no small thing. In fact, it's the freedom we have that makes us culpable for what I worry Vincent might be inclined to look askance at.

It shouldn't be your fault if the star of the moment is someone who calls herself Countess Kumquat, and that she's the one who did something she shouldn't have done at a halftime show. Unless Vincent is the descendant of one of our political dynasties he'll know that 98% of us may well loath Countess Kumquat. She only needs the millions that remain in that other 2% to show up at her concerts and scream their silly heads off to become a giant in the music business.

It's not your fault if Greg Gutfeld won't stop talking about whatever Meghan McCain had to say. By now I'm imagining Vincent is checking things off a list and muttering something about how it doesn't appear as though you're that big on much of anything.

How alienated are you? And can you actually insulate yourself from all the ever more awful stuff that's out there? Wouldn't Vincent have to be forgiven for supposing there must be some cumulative effect on you from this large a rubbish heap?

I think of that guy in New York who looked like Eliot Spitzer getting on that elevator with those tourists from Iowa and hearing an instrumental version of 'Love Potion Number Nine' on the Muzak. Things aren't as bad as that for the rest of us, but who'd have imagined they'd have gotten to be as bad as they are?

Raymond Chandler once made the argument that Shakespeare would have done well in any generation. He'd have refused to go off and die in a corner. He'd have taken what was around him and done something with it that lesser men would have not thought possible.

To that I'd say, well, okay, maybe. Given that there's only been one Shakespeare, if you were to want to get into an argument with Chandler on this point you could only do so only from the bracket of the lesser men. Still, it stands to reason Chandler's not infallible. I'm put in mind of the Chazz Palminteri character in Bullets Over Broadway -- the literary genius serving as a mobster's henchman. Isn't something like that as likely?

Doesn't the bad drive out the good? And in this culture what is there for the good to work with? A friend I've now lost touch with who was, and, I would guess still is, an ardent Leftist, always seemed to be under the impression that I agreed with whatever he'd heard on the news that some idiot Republican had said. For my part I dismissed that as a tactic. You can't be a Conservative and stomach much of what's on Fox News these days.

Maybe this is why so many of us are out for blood on this shutdown vote. Vincent might lump us in with the lumpenproletariat that hasn't missed an Adam Sandler movie, but we'll be damned if we'll let him suppose we'd side with such traitors as Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer and Obamacare's Nurse Ratched, Dana Perino!

Let's hope Vincent's careful with his suppositions. It isn't as though he's someone anyone's likely to come looking for if he ends up buried in the garden.

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