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On David Brooks' Four American Narratives article

Frank Kaufmann

On May 26, 2017, David Brooks' The Four American Narratives was published in his home space, The

New York Times. In the piece, Brooks summarizes George Packer's speech to the think tank New

America, and then stretches Packer's thought a touch farther.


As I read through the goodly percentage of Brooks' paraphrasing Packer, I thought to myself. Hmm

that's cool; to be so famous a writer that you can get away with producing a piece under your own

name that is nothing other or more than a review of somebody else's insights and innovations? I was

disabused of that bewilderment, when Brooks rolled around to his own thoughts and

recommendations at the end of the piece. In fact, he needed to re-present Packer's 'thesis.' They were

the context, and the parent concept for his own propositions.

I'm stuck in a way in the same regurge, but only now twice removed. Oh well. Glass houses.

Brooks and I agree that Packer's quadruptych is very helpful in the current, political-social morass and

disorder, namely 'the Trump era,' and its global net and weave. Please read of these four narratives in

Brooks' fine recounting. In short these are: 1. " the libertarian narrative that dominates the G.O.P.

America is a land of free individuals responsible for their own fate. 2. "The narrative of globalized

America. This is the narrative dominant in Silicon Valley and beyond." 3. "Multicultural America. It sees

Americans as members of groups, whose status is largely determined by the sins of the past and

present." 4. " The narrative of America First, the narrative Donald Trump told last year, and which

resonated with many voters." Both Packer and Brooks expand on these insightfully.

After his annotated summary of Packer, Brooks comes to why he's writing, namely to offer his own

options. He reveals these through two metaphor-prisms, Rome and Athens; 1. "The mercantilist model

[that] sees America as a new Rome, a mighty fortress in a dangerous world," and 2. America as a new

Athens, a creative crossroads leading an open and fundamentally harmonious world."

I'm a big Brooks fan, and in good ways "he's done it again." Beyond that however, he fails in this article

at a deep and fundamental level, a way that Brooks (among extremely few) has it in him not to have.

When citing ur roots of Western Civilization, and the underlying genius and essence characteristic of

each, it should be impossible to omit Jerusalem in the litany, the literary, historical-philosophical

Being human (in one model), when in balance and functioning well, may be seen as harmonizing

interrelated quadrants. Interior and exterior, and heart designs and mastery designs. The interior or

'within' dimension comprises self, the divine infinite, and invisible, causal entities and reality. The

exterior comprises manipulation and organization of external affairs, both physical and social. Mastery

comprises both core intentional bases for manipulating external affairs and matters, and the tools and

techniques by which these intentions manifest. The heart realm of being human pervades all the rest. It

is not constrained nor bound to confined and delineated boundaries.

Heart even though it abounds in all quadrants, does have its own unique and premier brief, most

insuperably and infinitely, whom we love, and how we love. These are the unique purview of heart. The

fact that heart pervades and underlies the entire extension of being human, means that whom we love,

and how we love also traverses the whole of the interior realm. This includes, therefore whether or not

we love God, and if so how. It includes whether or not we love our gurus, our teachers, and our rabbis.

It includes how we love scripture, how we love poetry, how we love Verdi. The greatest of what we can

become originates in whom and how we love. This most important of the narrative-options, whenever

we want to do the Rome and Athens thing, is the Jerusalem metaphor. In the start-points of western

civilization, Jersualem is the 'heart' player. The bed-time story of love, covenant, forgiveness, the

Golden Rule, turning cheeks, and loving enemies. These foundations of polis and society are from love,

not social construct, nor the shallower ebbs and flows mind, art, and economic and military affairs.

This is what David Brooks overlooked and missed entirely ... David Brooks of all people.