How cured meats killed the American dream

David Brooks, a product of private schools and two affluent parents, faced the problem that bedevils many a newspaper columnist today: He had a deadline and nothing to say.

So he quickly — presumably — dashed off the tired criticism of affluent parents who are gaming the system for everyone else, and titled it, “How We Are Ruining America.”

Let’s be clear here: The affluent providing the best for their children while simultaneously denying even the faint aroma of equal treatment by the less fortunate is not only the entire history of America, it remains the inspiration of a large number of people who share Brooks’ title as “conservative.”

“We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible,” he writes. He means “liberals” when he says “educated class.”

But let’s not even debate the notion that this is something new or whether it’s even real. It’s real and has been for generations.

Had he taken more time to think about it, he might’ve postulated that America’s political polarization is based on our increasing tribal mentality that gives us the most comfort when we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals (note: Bill Bishop did that today in his Aspen Ideas Festival lecture, which was broadcast on MPR News Presents).

There have been tougher struggles for some Americans besides not having the right baby stroller, but Brooks is going to make his stand on the funny names for cured meat.

So let’s just focus on how weird this paragraph is, which he offers as proof of a country run amok:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

What kind of country do we live in when panicked people, faced with Italian names at a deli, scurry for safety at a Mexican joint?

If you only have a “high school degree” and have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps to survive lunch at a deli, well, God bless America.

Brooks could have considered an ongoing question in America: “Can you get ahead without other people falling farther behind?” Instead, as is Brooks’ nature, he merely teed it up for Twitter.