Tuesday, October 21, 2008

National security and intellectuals

I say this with some confidence: No one in the Bush Administration cares about John Adams. He is an undeniably good composer, and that alone guarantees him a resounding yawn from the least intellectual government in recent memory. If he's on a list, it's not because the men and women into whose hands we have entrusted the Republic, but rather because, probably, of Klinghoffer or because he shares a name with some IRA terrorist from the late 1970s.

I've pointed this out before, and it still blows my mind: Angela Merkel has interesting things to say about Wagner and various directors, though the things are interesting, probably, because of the low standards for cultural awareness to which most Americans hold their leaders. George W. Bush would probably be hard-pressed to name one or two of Wagner's music-dramas. I'd even spot him Walküre. If one of the titans of Western music doesn't register on the Generalissimo's radar, then I doubt John Adams is even in the same universe.

That's the tragedy here. I don't ask that the First Magistrate be able to hold forth intelligently on Thomas Mann or Friedrich Nietzsche, but I would like him to know who Mann and Nietzsche were. Our leaders, regardless of innate intelligence, have been forced to pander to the base (take that how it's meant) to the point where you'd have a hard time telling them apart from barely literate teenagers.

John Adams might be under surveillance or an INS flag, but it's not because he's an intellectual. It's either because some Google-searching flack in the bowels of one of the government agencies managed to get a hit connecting "John Adams" and "Palestinian sympathies" (from Klinghoffer), or because some terrorist has the same name. Intellectuals don't matter in the current equation of the Republic.

Thanks to Pliable for the point.