Relax, We'll Be FineA grown-ass man feeling obliged to write for the paper of record, to be read by other grown-ass adults, a column that could be shortened to "Turn that frown upside down!" without losing any of its meaning, is bad enough.
According to recent polls, 60 percent of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction. The same percentage believe that the U.S. is in long-term decline. The political system is dysfunctional. A fiscal crisis looks unavoidable. There are plenty of reasons to be gloomy.
But if you want to read about them, stop right here. This column is a great luscious orgy of optimism. Because the fact is, despite all the problems, America's future is exceedingly bright.
But even worse is the reality that this educated, wealthy, white, straight, cisgender, thin, able-bodied, neurotypical, highly privileged American man speaks as though every resident of the US will equally benefit from the trends he believes will ensure the country's continued dominance.
When he says, "Relax, We'll Be Fine," what he really means is: "Settle Down, All You Malcontents, Lest You Upset the Apple Cart That Keeps People Like Me Doing Just Fine."
America being the best place it can possibly be for educated, wealthy, white, straight, cisgender, thin, able-bodied, neurotypical, highly privileged men does not de facto mean it's also the best place it can possibly be for an un/der-educated, poor, fat, disabled, trans lesbian of color. That seems like it ought to be obvious, but, as evidenced by Brooks' column, it's anything but.
Cloaked in his privilege of "normalcy"—male is the norm, white is the norm, straight is the norm, etc.—and fully invested in the idea that he is not merely the "normal" human, but a specimen of humanity to which everyone aspires, Brooks can do nothing but blink gormlessly at any suggestion that individual humans don't want to deny their intersectional identities and contort themselves to fit into the world that privileges him.
He doesn't understand (or won't) that the world was designed to his specifications, and trying to fit into his tailored culture is the emotional equivalent of wearing an ill-fitting suit every day for one's entire life.
"This suit which was tailored to my body's measurements fits me just fine! I don't know what your problem is!"
Brooks, like most conservatives and a hell of a lot of liberals and fauxgressives, don't understand that fighting for what's best for "America" (meaning the ideal America for privileged men) isn't the same thing as fighting for the equality of marginalized people.
In fact, they are frequently in direct opposition.
And Brooks' presumption that being "fine" for him does not take into account that "fine" is subjective—and even if it's true that America itself will be "fine," America rarely gives all its members equal consideration.
When we hear that something will be good for "everyone," it generally means it's going to be good for educated, wealthy, white, straight, cisgender, thin, able-bodied, neurotypical, highly privileged men—and hopefully lots of other people, too! The problem with this paradigm is that it's usually espoused by the people with the most existing freedom and opportunity, who are looking to procure more for themselves, or restore something they've lost, or protect that which they are anxious about losing.
This is the social counterpart to the conservatives' beloved theory of trickle-down economics: Make everything as splendid as possible for those at the top and the benefits will "trickle down" to everyone below.
Well, it's bullshit when we're talking about tax cuts, and it's bullshit when we're talking about equality and opportunity.
Great, swell, awesome that America will be "fine" and everyone like David Brooks will be "fine," as if that matters to people who won't be "fine."
As if it matters to the people who aren't fine now, and never have been.
"Relax—you're still going to be treated like a second-class citizen!"
Forgive me if I don't join in your "luscious orgy of optimism," Mr. Brooks. You privileged wankstain.