In Response to: Lost in the Democracy

Cheers for Walter Kirn ’83’s long search for America (November issue), especially given the pervasive stress and outright acts against constituted authority that lately have characterized our nation.

Kirn believes “the real tension in the country is between the people who feel condescended to and the people who feel unjustly accused of condescending to them.” (He has no comment on the outright acts.) He hardly enlarges on this extraordinarily inclusive and thus surprising statement, at least not in this multi-page article, but too many exceptions come to mind to regard it as definitive.

He faults Democrats for being speaking a language in their progressive policies that offends those Americans they claim to be concerned with: “It’s hard to tell a coal miner who has watched his father cough his lungs out that he has privilege.” Is this the secret of liberal failure? Kirn informs us that Americans “don’t like being talked down to.” 

Kirn also takes aim at the “pernicious effect of technology,” warning you the citizen to remember as your information is gathered: “Your data for their bullshit. That’s the deal.” I suppose Kirn is talking up to his audience here.

According to his biographer, Kirn is very popular on Gutfield!, late night TV for the red states, and although he does not assign Kirn to either political party, he quotes the former Princetonian as describing the Trump years as “a daily battle between an establishment that was horrified and offended and a guy who felt he wasn’t getting his chance to be president.” From the statements of a number of his advisers, I had assumed that theirs were the major, perhaps the only restraints on Trump.

The PAW cover that features a portrait of Walter Kirn asks, “Can America be understood?” The question remains unanswered in this issue.

Joseph E. Illick ’56
San Francisco, Calif.