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.

  • RBHolb

    Whatever questions he may have been able to raise about class in America are now lost under one overriding question: Who invites a friend out to lunch without asking what they like to eat?

    • Mike Stevens

      I wonder if they’re still friends.

    • Maybe he could’ve written about how some people are willing to think of new things and some people would rather just try the same old comfortabl thing and hope that somehow that will lead to something new and better.

      • Wayne

        I’m assuming his lunch date took place in New York, so I’m confused at how Italian words used in menu items at what’s probably an Italian restaurant/deli are so weird and out of place.

        The Olive Garden has stuff on their menu that uses words like Piccata, Piadina, and Carbonara, and they’ve got a place in Grand Forks and no one complains.

        I mean, New York has an actual neighborhood called Little Italy. How is this a stretch? And, isn’t the whole “melting pot” thing kind of the point of New York?

    • Jerry

      Judging by the friends reaction to unfamiliar ingredients, I am going to guess he meant Tex-Mex and not Mexican

      • “Taco” and “burrito” are now as ‘Murican as two other immigrant imports, “hamburger” and “frankfurter”.

        Brooks probably means “Taco Bell” when he says “Mexican”. 😉

        • Jerry

          It’s what goes into those tacos that might be exotic to Americans, unless you know a lot of people who (knowingly) eats brains, cheek, and tongue.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            I don’t do brains or cheek, but you can get a good tongue sandwich at the deli. 8^)

          • At Taco Bell? Highly doubtful. But, those sound like things that get put into our everyday hot dog. 😉

            I have had experience with pork belly and, uh, “calamari”.


          • Jerry

            They’re ingredients you can find at most of your local taco trucks ( if you have a local taco truck). Taco Bell, on the other, I’m convinced is actually vegan, because cheese and beef shouldn’t look like that.

          • I doubt David Brooks has ever ordered food from any food truck. lol

  • Veronica
  • Jack Ungerleider

    I won’t go to Twitter to find out (too much of time sink) but I wonder someone provided a riff on the Italian Deli paragraph that went like this:

    So I meet up with this guy, some big macher with a NY newspaper. A friend sent him to me with instructions, “Take him to lunch”. He’s dressed all fancy like so I take him to the 2nd Ave Deli. I think he was okay with the Borscht and the latkes, but the kreplach and kasha varnishkes made him nervous, then he saw the Gefilte Fish and I thought he’d plotz. So I ask, “you want to go someplace else?” He nodded gently and said, “anyplace around here you can get a ham sandwich on white bread?”

  • Gary F

    It’s really got to be tough to be a coastal media elitist this days.

  • Gary F

    Now that Ross Douthat is the Grey Lady’s token conservative, what role does a rudderless Brooks take?

    • Wayne

      Apparently, he is now their token anti-Italian food, pro-Mexican food critic…

  • John O.

    David who?

  • Gary F

    He needs to come out to fly over country and meet Christopher Ingraham and Marilyn for lunch in Grand Forks.

  • lindblomeagles

    Thank you Bob for reminding us David Brooks hails from the “wealthy” privileged class because Brooks just served the nation the very same “deflection and segregation” he blamed on educated people in this column. Brooks rarely, if ever, criticizes “wealthy” people, especially conservative wealthy people, and has a rather strong intellectual way of saying the individual and his/her school is the fault for so much broadening poverty. Meanwhile, Brooks’ tone regarding economic and cultural segregation generally softens, unless the subject is about (again) the educational system. Brooks was just on NPR Friday, July 8, defending the so called “loss of Western Cultural education” that so many whites, like Donald Trump, feels. He made this comment, which Europeans weren’t remotely interested in listening too, to give a thumbs up to Donald Trump’s G-20 speech, and a nod to “I understand how you feel even if I don’t agree with your response” to the Ku Klux Klan rally in Virginia—a rally in which one of the Klan members said, “western civilization is being removed from American History.” Not once did Brooks give a reason, however, why so many of his conservative lambs couldn’t recognize the Declaration of Independence, a cornerstone of Western Civilization, on an educated station like NPR last week. I can’t buy what Brooks is selling here.