Lee Siegel, author and intellectual successor to Philip Roth, has an excellent column in today’s New York Times about public morality. In summary, if everything is wrong, nothing is wrong. If every cad is a criminal and every rogue is a rapist, if every outlier is an outlaw and every wrongdoer is an evildoer, if we are blind to the inequities of our worst impulses—if we willingly blur the distinction between venial sins and mortal sins—we will neither have a republic to keep nor a Constitution to preserve, protect and defend.
Siegel is right, though he is no member of the Right. He is, as I say, Roth’s successor for a reason.
To read his memoir, The Draw, is to read the autobiography of Roth’s cousin or nephew: a younger but no less combustible man of love, lust, rage, and ambition; the factual counterpart of a fictional character, whose sense of confinement begins at home and echoes throughout the pages about Siegel’s upbringing in Paramus, New Jersey. You can all but hear the screams, as they bounce from the Formica floors and crash against the laminate cabinets, stripping all suburbia of its veneer of respectability and awakening Siegel from his slumber amidst so many shopping malls and empty streets.
That Siegel is awake rather than “woke” is the essence of his piece. Which is to say he does not accept gross generalizations, where every Tom, Dick or Harry is—or must be—another Harvey (Weinstein). I suspect, too, that his opposition to President Trump is loud but not libelous; that he is too aware of history to abuse it; that he does not confuse whispers by the paranoid for the train whistle of cattle cars; that he is free to criticize the president, because no troops will storm his neighborhood or destroy his house; that the White House may send tanks abroad, but none will raze our homes or police the homeland; that this is the land we love, not the fatherland we loathe.
Read this wise liberal. He is an antidote to the lunacy of the Left.