Tuesday, 01 July 2008

In Passing

Jay Nordlinger wonders: What’s cool?


...or, more specifically,

Why isn’t Ivan Castro a twentieth as admired as — not to single him out, but . . . — Jon Stewart?  How did the whole country become Lenny Bruce-ified?
...
I think of something Bob Dole said in that marvelous, Helprin-penned convention speech (1996): “the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, and never learned.”

It is the phrase “never did anything real” that particularly haunts me.
By putting his life on the line– against odds, asking no accommodation, making no excuses– Castro highlights the petty artificiality of most of what we are pleased to call “heroism.”  His very existence is an embarrassment to the poseurs who equate “courage” with throwing ball bearings at the cops in some demonstration, or “speaking truth to power” with shouting down some university dean.  And his absolute confidence in the rightness of what he is doing affronts all who prattle “nothing is real,” “it’s all relative,” or “there’s nothing worth dying over.”  It’s little wonder that our Chattering Class ignores him; his standard is too far above them.

But should we call Castro “cool?”  I don’t know.  David Bowie was cool. So was Frank Sinatra.  But George Washington wasn’t cool.  Abraham Lincoln? Anti-coolness personified.[1]  Winston Churchill?  Maybe in his later “jolly stout man with his cigar” persona, but certainly not the Churchill who declared, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.”  The first astronauts?  “Right stuff” out the wazoo, but what a bunch of squares.

For coolness carries a burden of lack-of-seriousness- of-purpose.  You can’t be cool if you’re too committed; in fact the essence of coolness is ironically amused detachment.  Nothing matters anyway, why not laugh?

Except in the “real world,” reality... does matter.  A facade of irony won’t stop a knifepoint.  And though laughter can help get through times of trouble, laughter alone is insufficient.  Achievement requires more than attitude; it requires a seriousness, a dedication, a striving that transcend “cool.”

Which brings us back to Ivan Castro.  Out there, beyond “cool,” in the world of life-and-death reality, where we can but stand in astonished admiration.


Via: Power Line
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[1] Although Old Abe might have been cooler than we know.  He was renowned for his wit.  A 19th-century Jay Leno?

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