“If a nation is an ‘imagined community,’ to invoke Benedict Anderson’s metaphor, then how can we live together when the communities we imagine are, at every level, incompatible?”
n Megan Thee Stallion’s brain-dead and repulsive hit single, “Thot Sh-t”—it says a lot when our song titles are too profane to be printable—there is a little couplet that might as well be a diagnosis of the current orientation of our society’s elite classes: “I walk around the house butt-naked [sic]/And I stop at every mirror just to stare at my own posterior.” America’s elites, it seems, have regressed to the anal stage of development. They are stuck in the pose of stripping this nation down and gawking at its own growing rear end, fixating, on the one hand, on our absurdly beatified “marginalized and vulnerable” bottom-dwellers and, on the other hand, on the mounting pile of excrement being extracted from the most unsavory episodes of our history. That obsessive focus on those who are and that which was left behind threatens our collective future or means, rather, as I want to argue in what follows, that we appear to have reached the juncture at which our roads ought to diverge between those whose path lies backward and downward and those who cherish the lessons and legacies of our past and are ready to take us onward and upward toward a still-brighter future.
The “Thot Sh-t” video consists largely of repetitive shots of low-class women proudly thrusting naked cellulite out at the screen and features Megan Thee Stallion mowing down an older white guy purporting to be a United States Senator by ramming into him with a garbage truck and culminates in a shot too repugnant to describe, a particularly perverse spin on what the recently deceased University of Chicago English professor and prominent queer theorist Lauren Berlant has framed as the “desire to enter a senator’s body and to dominate it through an orifice he was incapable of fully closing.” The video, in summary, is devoid of all aesthetic value, bubbles over with hatred and resentment despite its superficial veneer of “sex-positivity,” and is generally demeaning to the entire human race. When I behold such spectacles and consider them in the wider context of a class of coastal corporate elites that make a living hawking and promoting such culture-destroying, child-corrupting filth even as many of these same elites in the entertainment industry and the media lecture us about how irredeemably awful America is, I begin to think, “What is the point?” What is the point of trying to communicate with these people? What is the point of trying to find the middle ground between polar opposites? What is the point of sharing a nation with people who degrade us, resent us, despise us, and are out for blood? What is the point of flailing—in hope, in desperation, in anger—to bridge a gulf that is growing unbridgeable?
I was an English major at Yale. I went to Harvard for law school. I live in the heart of New York City and enjoy its diversity of peoples, cultures, and cuisines. I relish the arts. Driven by a love of learning, I keep my mind open, feel stagnation creeping in if I spend so much as a day without discovering something new and take pleasure in reading dense works of literature, philosophy, and “Theory” with a capital “T.” I am one of those people who actually knows exactly what “critical race theory” is and what it is not (and for that reason, cannot be hoodwinked by the Left media’s desperate disinformation campaign that would have us believe it is an abstruse legal doctrine that has nothing to do with the regressive race hustlers besieging our schools today). I say these things not to brag (I think of Yale and Harvard today not as points of pride but as failed institutions that have abandoned their educational missions in favor of an unsavory mix of profiteering and indoctrination) but, rather, to stress that I am not what might be demeaningly caricatured as a Bible-thumping, science-denying, guns-and-God right-winger; I have all the external hallmarks of one who should feel perfectly at home among America’s elites. Consistent with their general biases, I abhorred President George W. Bush and his disastrous Iraq War and supported then-Senator Barack Obama over the war-mongering Senator John McCain in 2008. And yet, today, I and many like me would probably feel far more comfortable in the company of those right-wing caricatures than in that of my ostensible peers.
The elites are losing us; they are losing more and more of us every day. When I read much of what is being written nowadays by the cognoscenti at publications like The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Boston Review, Vox, and their many like-minded comrades-in-arms, they seem like dispatches from another world.
- In that world, so they claim, despite the manifest progress of manifold decades that have brought us to the point of a black President and Vice President and schools, universities, and employers doing everything in their power to admit, hire, and promote as many black applicants as they can find, some sort of unvanquishable, unfalsifiable shape-shifting phantom who goes by many names—“systemic racism,” “structural racism,” “institutional racism”—is running amok amongst us, a standard-issue business casual getup and briefcase in place of a white sheet, hood, and burning cross.
- In that world, despite the fact that an unarmed black person’s chances of getting killed by police is less than that person’s chances of being struck by lightning and, in fact, no greater than the odds an unarmed white person faces in like circumstances, blacks are supposedly being gunned down by cops on a daily basis and taking their life in their hands every time they venture outside.
- In that world, white supremacy is causing black people to attack Asians.
- In that world, even as murder rates skyrocket nationwide, while the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (the origins of which China will not let us investigate) continues to claim lives, we are told by our President that white supremacy is the “most lethal threat” to our nation today.
- In that world, evidence be damned, America was founded not in 1776, with the clarion call of freedom sounded by the Declaration of Independence but, rather, in 1619, when the first slaves came to these shores.
- In that world, monuments to our Founding Fathers are torn down and monuments to the career criminal George Floyd are erected in their place.
- In that world, while nations like Iran and China routinely crack down on dissidents, brutally crush protests, and persecute ethnic and religious minorities, including China’s acts of genocide against the Uyghurs, our Secretary of State, in a move that approaches treason, has invited the United Nations to investigate the United States for racism.
- In that world, requiring people to prove who they are in order to vote is racism.
- In that world, black billionaires demand reparations.
- In that world, a shallow, shameless, social-climbing, self-involved C-list actress who plainly cannot get along with people, whether her birth family or her in-laws in the British royal family, as recompense for the ignominious deed of breaching trust and publicly airing her personal gripes, gossip, and dirty laundry on national television to Oprah, is turned by our media into some sort of heroic martyr merely because she cloaked her gossipmongering in a flimsy charge of “racism.”
- In that world, any verbal or physical attack upon a non-white person is simply assumed to be motivated by race, no matter the circumstances, whereas making up and throwing around petty and derogatory racialized labels such as “Karen,” “white privilege,” “white fragility,” and “whiteness,” far from being racist, is actually progressive.
- In that world, we must talk incessantly about racism and then talk incessantly about how we never talk about racism.
- In that world, race is destiny, while the sex and gender of children remain unsettled at birth.
- In that world, in order to create a level playing field, we are told we must have racial double-standards instituted in nearly every walk of life but a single standard for both sexes, as we allow men to compete in women’s sports.
- In that world, in order to appease a tiny but outspoken and politically powerful minority of psychologically tormented individuals (who, to be sure, merit counseling and compassion), we must re-imagine our entire society to eviscerate the fact of biological sex that is a reality throughout much of the animal kingdom, upend the gendered pronouns that exist in all Western languages, refer to mothers as “birthing people,” and start teaching tots that they can choose from a menu of sexual identities.
- In that world, in the name of “science,” we are told (by those invoking rare exceptions to the obvious rule) that human sexual dimorphism, i.e., the existence of sex differences, is merely a social construct, whereupon these same people act surprised when we no longer trust the “science.”
- In that world, many of the same people who claim to stand for “science” routinely elevate the “lived experience” of people of color and other “marginalized and oppressed” people over facts and objective truth.
- In that world, it is not okay for men playing their traditional role to woo women with the dogged persistence and determination that have been the stuff of great romances for eons on end, but it is okay for men claiming to be women to stray into women’s spas, restrooms, and changing rooms.
- In that world, the difficult question of what is or is not science—a question that has spurred great debates among scientists across the ages and bedeviled prominent philosophers of science like Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn—has now been definitely resolved by Google backroom technocrats as consisting in the ever-shifting guidance of the High Priest of Science, one Anthony Fauci.
- In that world, the races, genders, and political views of creative artists matter far more than the aesthetic merit of their works.
- In that world, the monumental achievements of elite minds of centuries past are being attacked, undone, and removed from curricula by the resentful elites who rule over us today.
- In that world, whether schools and universities challenge or coddle students is a direct function of how many badges of oppression those students prominently display.
- In that world, teachers who are supposed to be opening our children’s minds by exposing them to the best that has been thought and said in the world are, instead, closing those minds by telling children what to think, whom to praise, whom to blame, and what to do about it.
- In that world, a movement whose well-recognized rallying cries include “No Justice, No Peace!”; “All Cops Are Bastards!”; and “F—the Police!” and that repeatedly leaves a trail of looting and rioting when it rears its head is endorsed nationwide and gets its slogans brandished in storefronts and its name painted on state-sanctioned street murals.
- In that world, when anti-cop protests spilling over into violent riots met by fawning media coverage lead cities to cut law enforcement budgets and undermine officer morale across America, causing a sharp spike in murders here but not elsewhere in the world, we blame the problem on a worldwide virus.
- In that world, we lionize criminals and demonize cops.
- In that world, the executive editor of the nation’s most prominent newspaper moonlights as a prophet, telling his journalists the theme their stories must push (that theme, unsurprisingly, being racism) for the next several years into the future, the kind of move that may have more than a bit to do with the fact that 58% of likely voters now see the media as “the enemy of the people,” as reported in a recent Rasmussen poll.
- In that world, the surest path to success is not years of hard work but, instead, blaming others for one’s failures in the hopes of squeaking one’s way into the grease of handouts and government-granted equity of outcome.
- In that world, unelected technocrats silence and de-platform Presidents.
- In that world, the Republican Party that is fast becoming the party of the working class is now, in a show of elite class bias, casually branded a proto-fascist organization and existential threat to democracy, while the party closely allied with the Big Tech platforms that censor and de-platform people who voice “bad” thoughts is just fighting the good fight and standing for time-honored freedoms and democratic traditions.
- In that world, governments do not need to pass laws or wield executive authority to force book publishers to censor disfavored books because the publishers happily do it on their own.
- In that world, a stray public remark someone made when they were a teenager could get them fired 20 or 40 years down the road.
- In that world, freedom of speech is no longer necessary for the masses because their overlords have already determined what is or is not true.
This is not the place to go seriatim through each and every one of these or countless other, similar bizarre facts of that world—impinging ever-more-obstreperously upon our world—in the hope of demonstrating why they are utterly off the wall. And what, in all events, would be the point of such an exercise? Whom would we convince…and of what? Could any marshaling of data tied together by carefully reasoned conclusions, however compelling it all was, prove to one who does not already see it and know it and feel it in his bones that our nation is now dominated by people who have lost confidence in our collective enterprise and, thus, lost their way and are leading the rest astray? That ordinary people are increasingly being uprooted and terrorized by these activist elites? That the traditional foundations necessary for a society to produce a thriving culture and economy are being steadily eroded? That our children are being raised to be fragile, confused, simultaneously narcissistic, self-hating and quick to cast blame, impulsive, undisciplined, hedonistic, over-stimulated through technology, under-socialized in navigating the nuances and obstacles of actual relationships and stripped of time for quiet immersion and contemplation, prematurely sexualized, pseudomature but never fully grown-up, and systematically deprived of the accumulated wisdom, knowledge, and adornment of our finest intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual traditions? That we are now a society that, in its public life, makes a habit of casually profaning that which has held us together and been held sacred for ages and sacralizing instead, with all the vehemence of new converts, the rapidly proliferating orthodoxies of the moment? That the integrated human animal that was once part of functional human communities is being dismembered and anatomized into a superficial assemblage of colors, bodies, voices, genitalia, and sexual preferences used to ascribe subsets of the individual to various intersecting zero-sum identity groupings that cannot, in the end, yield anything other than the sum of zero for all involved?
Separations are difficult. They are a last resort. But sometimes they are necessary. We need a two-state solution to resolve America’s political and cultural crisis.
If you cannot see the truth of these convictions or, at least, understand in some substantial part what it is I am seeing, and if your reaction is to shake your head in dismay and dismiss this worldview as delusional, retrograde, racist, fascist, and so on, I ask, again, what point is there? What point is there for me or for you? Why continue the charade? Why stay together when we are like a couple that has drifted so far apart that we can only bicker about our past and look in opposite directions when we consider the future, even as our ceaseless squabbling does our children lasting harm? If a nation is an “imagined community,” to invoke Benedict Anderson’s metaphor, then how can we live together when the communities we imagine are, at every level, incompatible?
Well, okay, you might say, but wasn’t this pluralistic, diffuse republic with its multiplicity of states and system of federalism that our Founding Fathers bequeathed upon us precisely a tool for living peaceably with differences? Yes, indeed, but surely not when the differences have reached a juncture that is so fundamental, when technological “advancements” and federal encroachments upon state sovereignty have yoked us together so inextricably, when we can no longer shake hands amicably in the public square and then go our separate ways but are condemned instead, as it were, to share a bedroom in which you and I can no longer escape from our attempts to impose our dominion upon each other in nearly every aspect of life, both great and small. Shall we spend our days bombarding each other with bilious Tweetstorms and then, once every few years, go out to vote for candidates each of whom is monstrous to at least one of us so that they can then spend the next few years trying to push their priorities through layers of obstruction and gridlock while our frustration drives us to consider every nuclear option: opposing every single judicial confirmation or expanding the Supreme Court or blowing up the filibuster or putting an end to the electoral college or gerrymandering our way to electoral victory or restricting voting until only taxpayers have a voice or liberalizing voting until every illegal immigrant gets a say?
Like every couple that has been together a long time, we have grown attached to certain comforts in each other’s company, but, in the end, I believe that if you look deeply within yourself, you will find that what you need me for most now and today is as a point of comparison, as a foil to make yourself feel virtuous. Your whole life now revolves around pointing out my many flaws, the many ways in which I am “irredeemable” and “deplorable” through and through. And perhaps I, too, have succumbed to my own version of that same pathology. If we go our separate ways, we will have to find other polestars around which to orient our self-conceptions. But is it not better that way? Would it not be better for us both to find our respective positive visions of the good toward which we can aspire rather than spending our time fighting demons and staring into an abyss that, as Nietzsche warned, inevitably stares right back at us?
Separations are difficult. They are a last resort. But sometimes they are necessary. We need a two-state solution to resolve America’s political and cultural crisis. I do not know yet the shape of that two-state solution, whether it must be a total and utter divorce in all respects or just a partial divestment from one another, some much-needed distance, a turning of a single nation into a confederation of two republics. I do not know how we will split our property, whether you should take the coasts while I get the heartland, how we will manage the relocation of concerned citizens, and whether perhaps our current capital, in a symbolic gesture, should be subdivided into two. We will need to iron out the details, and we may find ourselves at loggerheads and, more than likely, will have to get lawyers involved. Hopefully, it will never come to blows. The physical terrain of America is just property, after all. Far more important than mere property is a sense of belonging, of feeling at home in our own land, that elusive feeling that both of us have lost. If we keep that end-goal, the regaining of that feeling of home, firmly in mind, we will navigate our way through the rest of the morass.
In the meantime, however, I and the millions like me here will continue to insist unflinchingly on what it is we see. Something like “Thot Sh-t” does not come out of nowhere. It comes at the tail-end of a long decline engineered by culture industry elites, who—heedlessly in pursuit of the easiest path to profits, which is to cater to the taste of the lowest common denominator—soften up the general public to tolerate and even expect and crave greater and greater degrees of depravity and vulgarity and to respect and praise artists who flaunt their narcissism and materialism stamped with a superficial gesture of unapologetic progressive liberation that makes it all okay. Yes, you could tell yourself (if you were to bother with such apologias at all rather than just bopping mindlessly along to the beat), Megan Thee Stallion—like America itself—is spending her days (when she is not busy engaging in fantasies of slamming garbage trucks into old, white, male Senators) walking around her house naked and inspecting her burgeoning derriere in every mirror she passes, but is it not marvelous that we have reached the point where someone like her has mustered the confidence and the courage not only to do such a thing but to tell us all so loudly and proudly?
And this is how we get a soulless civilization careening into that Nietzschean abyss. Some of us have been doing our best to oppose and reverse that decline on every front, but for many, hitching a ride on a downward-spiraling rollercoaster is a cheap thrill too hard to turn away. Even apathy is easier than the uphill battle required to pull a sinking ship back into its safe harbor. It is easier to destroy a culture than to create one. If this titanic nation is to drown, then let us at least salvage what we can and rebuild what we must. That monumental task will only be possible if we let go our grip on those mad revelers gleefully adding their dead weight to the vessel and pulling us all down.
Alexander Zubatov is a lawyer in New York, as well as an essayist and poet.