Friday, October 24, 2014


In less than a couple of hours America lost two of her iconic sons, Oscar de la Renta and Ben Bradlee.  The first was the ultimate taste-maker, who by himself was the first to lift American fashion to European levels. He was the designer for socialites and was what the New York Times called "the red-carpet king."  Nevertheless, he maintained in both his public and private lives the demeanor of a man "to the manor born", while coming from humble beginnings. 
Ben Bradlee, who presided over the Washington Post's Watergate reporting was the ultimate Orson Welles-like alpha editor.  With the support of his extraordinary editor Katharine Graham, he published the Pentagon Papers (after the NYT discontinued publication). Later he enjoined Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward to delve deep into the Watergate break-in. Henceforth Richard Nixon was doomed.  His professional and private lives, his health, his Kennedy connection, were endlessly scrutinized, but his "persona" stood tall until the end.

Both de la Renta and Bradlee stood for what continues to make America great. For sure they were also blessed with living mostly in different acts of the continuing King's tragedies. Probably they behaved as they did because power rested in the hands of a different class (in moral terms). Not that the "patricians" have disappeared, they have just chosen to retreat to the Aventine rather than soiling their hands in the Capitol.  America looks amateurish not because the reservoir of talent and class has run empty, but because the offerings are becoming too debased for most to stoop to retrieve them.

This bouderie leads to a most unfortunate situation, which is starting to prevail in most Western democracies. The West is losing the narrative battle, less by absence of will than by the revulsion of the actors who despise the "script."  So the media are full of "sound and fury" from all the wrong sides.  Instead of Bradlee we are left with Snowden and Assange, who prefer to hide rather than to stand.  Instead of pressing our values we indulge almost masochistically in reporting the deeds of Jihadists and the radicals in our midst. It is high time that we re-appropriate our narrative, and stop giving evil a free ride.  Otherwise our moral and intellectual Codex might end up like the Dead Sea Scrolls, in a museum now run by ISIL.

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