Thursday, March 12, 2009

American exceptionalism.

The Roller was up from Virginia this week so we went for dinner over at this Greek joint near Union Square. Cabbage rolls, orzo and veal in a casserole, peppery red wine. We started talkin about the book business and the web. Too much choice, people are confused. They need gatekeepers, filters, someone who's gonna wade through the junk and find the diamonds. Yeah, the paradox of choice: give people more of what they want and they start wanting only one thing -- one TV show, one blockbuster movie, one newspaper, if that, and one Oprah pick.

The Roller knows the difference between Tocqueville and Crevecoeur and he lives outside of Charlottesville in his own version of Jeffersonian America. I ast him, the United Nations, why are some Americans so mad at it? They think it's a conspiracy of some sort. Are they simply crazy, or what?

He takes his work seriously. He says, I think the UN does good work, but people don't think about that, they only see the disputes that're reported in the press. And then you have these raving nuts on Fox who claim the UN is responsible for everything wrong in the world, Darfur, Rwanda, the Taliban, Macedonia, AIDs, mudslides in Chile, the price of oil. Did you read Bacevich's book on American exceptionalism?

There was a happy party of eight women a few tables away, and one of them was wearing too much perfume. It's hard to take that sickly sweet floral scent in a restaurant. I mean, dontcha wanna smell what the kitchen's doin? But this night we let it go.

Yeah, I thought it was strong. And I liked the fact he leans heavily on Niebuhr's thinking. Maybe one of the good things to come out of this financial mess is that we won't think of ourselves as isolated from the rest of the world. Parts of the UN, like WHO and UNICEF and UNESCO are doing great work, but no one here cares. The rest of the world cares. Here we only care when the Security Council screws up. No one's gonna thank them for sending peace forces into Africa, after all.

Me and the Roller were enjoyin the grub, and the conversation, and the wine. Let me tell you, poot, you gotta come down and see my goats sometime. They love to eat good books. I promised him I would. Then we went outside and said goodnight and let the nighttime New York wash over us like black surf.

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