A Clever Allegorical Essay from Henry Allen Regarding Our Society’s Unwillingness to Cope with the Facts that Underlie Our Decline — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Perspective on Culture Revived
© 2011 Peter Free
18 June 2011
Every once in a while, a writer says something in a hard-hitting fashion that impresses readers, simply because its cleverness twists like a knife
I recommend reading Mr. Allen’s short essay right through to its conclusion (even if you don’t ordinarily like to read slightly extended metaphors).
What he says is cleverly crafted and insightfully accurate.
Henry Allen, America’s WASP Rot, Washington Post (17 June 2011)
Here is an taste of Allen’s point
Extracts regarding his theme:
I worry that America is becoming a character in a story by John Cheever or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
There was nothing wildly luxurious in their spending, no polo ponies or pearls, just the obligatory private schools, Bloody Mary brunches at the Inn, station wagons with yachting flags, silver wedding presents, lots of dogs, the whiskey.
They borrowed from banks and relatives to keep the city shining. They borrowed against their houses. They sold Aunt Cornelia’s breakfront. They ignored bills and they despaired.
This is what the American government is doing, too. Whether the problem is summer places or wars, sailboats or health care, the despair and folly feel the same.
So does the decline in power and prestige, and the poignant denial of decline, prompted by the fear that if we don’t live and spend a certain way we’ll cease to be us — we’ll lose our place in the world.
© 2011 Henry Allen, America’s WASP Rot, Washington Post (17 June 2011) (paragraphs split)
But that ain’t all —
Allen’s essay’s genius lies in his historical and cultural metaphor. It aligns New England “WASP rot” with our similarly misguided and undisciplined American government and public.
I cannot recall reading anything else on the subject of declining American willpower that is quite so apt.
Even down to the historical congruency between our white Anglo Saxon Protestant New England colonial heritage and the nation’s current leadership, many of whom come from that same pedigreed clan.