Today's Trump Talking Point: Is Trump in Any Sense a Normal Person, or Candidate? No.
Liveblogging the American Revolution: September 18, 1778: TD

Monday Smackdown: Why Don't the Editors of the New York Times Make David Brooks at Least Phone It in?

Preview of Test

Yastreblyansky: David Brooks on Civic Religion: The Radio Yerevan Joke:

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that Dr. King sang the national anthem before his "I Have a Dream" speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it?

Answer: In principle, yes. But:

(1) It was not before his speech but before Roy Wilkins's speech, since Dr. King was the third speaker, after Wilkins and John Lewis.

(2) It was the soprano Camilla Williams who principally sang it, standing in for Marian Anderson, who was delayed in some kind of traffic issue, and while there is no evidence that Dr. King did not sing along, in the traditional ritual of the American Civic Religion, hand on his heart, there is considerable evidence that nobody else did, in the extant video of the occasion, where Dr. King is never on camera but literally nobody other than Williams herself is seen to sing, no one at all puts hand to heart except for one man on the dais, hastily and looking a little guilty, during the applause afterwards, and most of the audience doesn't even stop talking, though the performance is pretty stunning, so it is more than likely that Dr. King was not singing either; and

(3) Dr. King's references to the Declaration of Independence were not wholly respectful within the terms of the American Civic Religion—

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men (My Lord), would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. (My Lord) Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

But he did refer in the great peroration to a de facto national anthem, calling it a lie and calling America less than great, and suggesting that he wasn't yet ready to sing it at all, until some day in the future:

the day when all of God’s children (Yes, Yeah) will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee (Yeah, Yes), sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. (Oh yes) Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride (Yeah), from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” (Yeah) And if America is to be a great nation (Yes), this must become true.

But if you want to think Dr. King was more comfy and polite and really kind of conservative in a pleasing, liberal way than the 49ers quarterback kneeling, and a great example to our teenage protesters of the American Civic Religion where everybody is so nice you practically want to dunk them in Ranch dip, you just go right ahead.

Yastreblyansky: David Brooks on Civic Religion: The Other Radio Yerevan Joke:

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that as late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth?

Answer: In principle, yes, according to a study published in 2006 by Tom W. Smith and Seokho Kim, using data from the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). But:

(1) It was as late as 2004, since the data were collected over a period extending into then, and the inquiry did not cover all the people on earth, but just 33 countries.

(2) This particular survey was only conducted one other time, in 1995-96 (in 24 countries) and on somewhat different parameters, so it's not possible to say how valid over a long period the measurement is.

(3) The greatest general national pride was shown not by Americans but by Venezuelans, though Americans narrowly beat out the Venezuelans on question of domain-specific national pride, such as the way the country's democracy works, its political influence in the world, its social security system, its scientific and technological achievements, its achievements in sports, its achievements in arts and literature, and so forth.

In this way—and I understand people may not be too comfortable thinking about this—we may have to consider the possibility that Venezuela at the outset of the Millennium may have had a better civic religion than we did, with their Bolivarian socialism and free classical music training for children, since it got them better patriotism scores, and not only that; as you can see from the table below, our country has been outdone as well by foreign countries such as Austria (with their Mozart-Kugeln and fancy ski resorts) and Ireland (with their pubs and most of the population living in the US), as well as being regularly threatened from below by Australian and New Zealand, in the Southern Hemisphere with its unfamiliar constellations and backwards seasons, and by Hungary, which is simply patently unfair. As my grandfather might have said, "If you have a Hungarian for a competitor in the patriotism stakes, you don't need an enemy."