I was going to take up my Brooks pen today to talk about how Mr. Brooks once again really, really seems to be writing about his Thing About Which All His Colleagues Have Agreed Not To Mention through the lens of the tragedy of others; this time via a remarkable young woman -- Clemantine Wamariya -- who survived the Rwandan genocide and wrote an essay about her experiences, before, during and since.
Of course the best way for Mr. Brooks to tell Ms. Wamariya's story would have been to let Ms. Wamariya tell her story. Turn the column over to her for a day and let her have at it. I mean, the Times clearly exerts no editorial control over what Mr. Brooks writes, so why not?
But instead Mr. Brooks gave his millions of readers the David Brooks Reader's Digest version of someone else's work in which someone else's experience is compacted into a sermonette on the Complexity of Life, with enough room left over for Mr. Brooks' obligatory Important Lesson:
We work hard to cram our lives into legible narratives. But we live in the fog of reality. Whether you have survived a trauma or not, the psyche is still a dark forest of scars and tender spots. Each relationship is intricacy piled upon intricacy, fertile ground for misunderstanding and mistreatment.
Yeah. There it is. "Whether you have survived a trauma or not". That shot of pure, Brooks-brand stomach-turning cask-strength privilege that should make anyone with an intact soul wonder what Mr. Brooks's last words would be if he were, say, fired into the Sun. (I'm guessing they would be less, "Each relationship is intricacy piled upon intricacy, fertile ground for misunderstanding and mistreatment" and more "Saraaaaah. Why did you leeeeave meeeee!"thus making Mr. Brooks' last words his most honest utterance in living memory.)
I was going to write about that.
I was even going to make this terrific comparison to the not-nearly-forgotten-enough Bob Greene, who also made an abrupt, mid-career transition to moralizing fogey, much like Mr. Brooks. Who made an amazing living writing gauzy, morally uplifting treacle, much like Mr. Brooks. And who often by focusing on the mundane --
Increasingly, Greene’s columns began to include a dateline from another state, or even another country. But while his time on the road increased, the subjects of his columns narrowed. He wrote about hotel rooms, faxes or soaps in hotel rooms, airplanes, airports, the life of a chauffeur (Greene gave up driving in the 1970s). When he crossed the ocean on the Queen Elizabeth 2, he wrote about eating in his stateroom and watching television.
Although he still produced funny columns, his writing began showing signs of nostalgia...
-- reducing life into short, carefully-calculated saccharine globs of Midwestern aw-shucks values that delighted the rubes, but were often wildly at odd with Mr. Greene's actual personal history.
Just like David Brooks.
But having written in perfect, uninterrupted futility on the subject of Mr, Brooks 1,000 times over the last ten years, I find that my arm is all crampy and tired.
And I've had a shitty day. And kind of a shitty month.
I suffer, apparently even as David Brooks and Rwandan genocide survivors suffer.
So I will simply direct your attention to the stylings of No More Mister Nice Blog:
That's what Brooks derives from this story? That if I'm a comfortable middle-class American and I'm impatient with my mother, it's really pretty much the same as what takes place between a refugee from slaughter and the parents she didn't see from ages six to eighteen? That happy and unhappy families are all alike? That (to paraphrase one of his op-ed colleagues) the emotional world is flat?
And to Brother Charlie Pierce:
"He's writing today about this amazing story of survival told by a woman who escaped the horrific slaughter in Rwanda back in the 1990s. What a saga! Of course, it wasn't enough just to tell a tale of genocide and the indomitable human spirit There had to be something in there that connected to the perilous life of a wealthy member of the American opinion elite, beset as he is by the metaphorical machetes of daily life."
And to The Rectification of Names
And to...well...you get the idea.
(crossposted at driftglass)