John Updike on “Why I am not a dove” or “liberal illusion continues”

I am indebted to Maggie’s Farm, a website collectively put together by a group of sane people, who describe themselves as:

We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn’t pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does “try my best to be just like I am,” and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.

This sums up my attitude as well.


Now: on to Mr. Updike and his essay, cited on Maggie’s farm and published in American Digest. It dates from the period of the Vietnam war. I cite a sample to show that nothing has changed since the 1970s, that the bien-pensants are still with us in force, evincing their moral superiority while condemning those who  defend their ability to sleep at night in comfortable beds.


The protest, from my perspective, was in large part a snobbish dismissal of {President Lyndon} Johnson by the Eastern establishment; Cambridge professors and Manhattan lawyers and their guitar-strumming children thought they could run the country and the world better than this lugubrious bohunk from Texas. These privileged members of a privileged nation believed that their pleasant position could be maintained without anything visibly ugly happening in the world. They were full of aesthetic disdain for their own defenders, the business-suited hirelings drearily pondering geopolitics and its bloody necessities down in Washington. The protesters were spitting on the cops who were trying to keep their property—the USA and its many amenities—intact. A common report in this riotous era was of slum-dwellers throwing rocks and bottles at the firemen come to put out fires; the peace marchers, the upper-middle-class housewives pushing baby carriages along in candlelit processions, seemed to me to be behaving identically, without the excuse of being slum-dwellers.

We may be living in a reprise of the Vietnam War days, with Trump replacing the war as the focal point of outrage. Like Johnson was in his day, Trump is the lugubrious bohunk, this time from Queens instead of depression-era Texas. His crime is to have succeeded that golden child of liberal illusion, Barack Obama, just as Johnson succeeded the anointed one, John F. Kennedy (though I hold that Kennedy was far more honourable and straight than Obama).