First off, I have to give credit where credit is due. Despite the fact that he’s little more than a propagandist for the Left, Aaron Sorkin is a talented writer. He has a great flair for soaring rhetoric and this monologue is a testimony to his abilities.
That said, this is propaganda disguised as monologue and there’s a lot to unpack.
The thing that really struck me is how sentimental the Left is for what it perceives as its glory days. I’ve read and heard a gazillion snarky commentaries deriding conservatives for their Reagan nostalgia, but I don’t see a whole lot of difference between that kind of pining for bygone times and this.
The other thing that’s very interesting about this monologue is that it reveals how modern liberalism uses cynicism and shame to promote its own brand of inverse nationalism. He’s openly denigrating overt expressions of positive nationalism, but he’s using this reproach to elicit sympathy for expressions of nationalism and state policy that he believes are more worthy of national pride.
The problem with the monologue is twofold; his characterization of “freedom” is in and of itself a straw man and he consistently conflates individual achievement and economic freedom with state policy.
Yes, it’s true that Canada, Japan, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Spain have freedom. But it’s relative just as it is here. In addition to forking over a giant chunk of your earnings, anyone starting a business is going to have to contend with a giant tangle of laws and a maze of bureaucracy in order to keep the lights on. By these measures, some of those countries are freer than ours, some much less so.
He bemoans low academic achievement, but says nothing about whether it’s a good idea for the state to monopolize public education and doesn’t acknowledge that perhaps this is the problem that’s contributing to that outcome.
He laments the incarceration and poverty rates, but doesn’t say anything about how the welfare state, the criminal justice system, the police state and the public school system collude to contribute to these outcomes.
He lashes out at outsize military spending and the meager household income metrics, but says nothing about the Federal Reserve, the IMF, the World Bank or the WTO.
He talks about how “we” built the greatest economy in the world. Since when do liberals take pride in economic achievement beyond Hollywood or Silicon Valley? Individuals built the greatest economy in the world, Aaron. Sometimes by buying off the government, and sometimes through individual and group initiative. I’ve been pretty successful at selling my skills in the private sector, but I haven’t really built anything. As the country becomes increasingly globalized and the very idea of national pride has been poisoned, does any young person feel any personal connection to America’s economic legacy that isn’t tainted by a Marxist stigma?
Hearing Sorkin rhapsodize over the achievement of American capitalism feels both wildly disingenuous and highly selective. After all, this is the guy who’s built a career romanticizing and glamorizing fictional politicians and portraying capitalists as conniving, manipulative degenerates. Even if it’s true, what does it say about his ethics? He’s benefiting pretty handsomely from the system given that his own portraits of capitalist icons are largely unsympathetic.
Is there anyone in the contemporary Democratic political establishment who will say anything even remotely charitable about the market economy nowadays? The default MO amongst progressives seems to favor bemoaning inequality in public while quietly reaping outsize rewards for their politicking behind closed doors. The hands down favorite amongst progressives in the current presidential candidate field has both refused to identify as a capitalist and has built a career waving the banner of socialism. The apparatchiks of the academic, activist and pundit class certainly aren’t singing the praises of capitalism either. Of all the the lines in this monologue which reek of falsehood, the stink of this one is the most foul.
He claims “we struck down laws”, but I’m really hard pressed to think of the laws to which he refers. Despite the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, DOMA has not been repealed. The PATRIOT Act is still on the books. The NDAA authorization passes every year without a peep of opposition. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria continue without so much as a token gesture of dissent from the left.
He alleges that “we cultivated the greatest artists”. It’s a partially true statement in that we have a relatively free market which has produced a rich diversity of art and media from which to choose, but how much of it reflects organic market preferences versus deliberate attempts by social engineers to manufacture culture? Everyone knows that taste is subjective and that the artists that people revere as “great” will vary with each individual. Is it even possible hold artists accountable to a standard of “greatness” anymore? Can you unabashedly assert a proud American identity in your art without being stigmatized for it?
But perhaps the most interesting lines are the ones which say that we “acted like men” and were informed by “great men”. I’m both surprised and disappointed that feminists didn’t storm social media to deliver a fauxtrage beatdown on Aaron Sorkin for being such a sexist pig! Personally, I don’t have a problem with the statement since, by and large, it’s true. Were there important women in history who contributed to philosophy, politics, and commerce? Absolutely. This does not change the fact that the major historical movements of war, politics, philosophy, commerce and exploration were made, in fact, by men.
Ultimately, he’s appealing to our inner greatness and capacity for morality, generosity and compassion. Whether he’ll admit it or not, he’s also making an appeal to national pride that no liberal will openly embrace nowadays. This is laudable. Unfortunately, he’s tying these virtues to an institutions whose motivations and morals are dubious and an underlying ideology that’s bankrupt.