A respectful love letter to David Brooks

Dear David,

You have inspired me so, and yet we do not know each other. Ever since you wrote that vitally important article about the oppression inherent to Italian meats, I’ve reconsidered my place in the world, and how I myself contribute to grave injustice.

I am conflicted about potentially irradiating profound self-importance here, but have resolved to do so pro tem under the doubtlessly mistaken belief that I can serve as a most luminous effigy for the upper-middle class savages who share our false consciousness and of whom we are grateful subjects.

Indeed, I am so moved by my own self-absorption and performative tendencies in these dark times that I’d briefly considered self-immolating in front of Whole Foods – that organic gulag of the downtrodden – until I realized that in so doing I would surely appropriate a brave cultural tradition practiced by certain Buddhists and a few 1960s mystics of the West. Naturally I was and am very embarrassed by my craven oversight, and have thusly resolved to take a bubble bath instead. Self-love is the most radical act in this cruel world, and as such bubble baths are profoundly revolutionary, no?

But enough about me; I intend to share with you my thoughts, if I may be so bold as to assert myself their author.

I empathize, my Brooksie-kins, with your mild and decorous criticism – too harsh? – of contemporary activism, its self-absorption and performative tendencies, its multitudinous non-Euclidean geometries. And your verbose articulation of such grievances has led me to suggest that the proper and decorous way forward should involve a complete deflation of substance, metaphysics, and dare I say ontology.

Consider any structural barriers to class mobility in our contemporary hellscape, and then let us return to the questions of salami that cemented my admiration of thee. Salami – if we may deconstruct the term – consists of the syllables: salam, and i. And so you can see the problem here with sensible haste.

First, despite its unfortunate grammar (heavens, our schools!), we can see that it suggests the paramount question: “Am I Sal?”

I never once believed myself a Sal, not least because I am not a wretched Italian tradesman, but when someone or some word asks me a question, I am morally obligated to take it most seriously.

Words themselves do not attend collegiate institutions, and yet I have, and thus it is essential that I check my privilege and check it twice. It doesn’t really matter if I’m naughty or nice, or if the much rumored Saint Nicholas “gonna find out”1; indeed if I perceive myself as nice2 we understand it too emanates from my perverse self-inflated status.

Accordingly I think I might be Sal after all, and I hope that you remain most comfortable even in light of mine conjecture, and while I regret that my name is shared by an intimidating Olde World foodstuff, I must acknowledge who the evidence suggests I may be.

Second, the problematic word salami suggests that some entity can be a Sal in principle.

This is something I find most troubling, as it should suggest a certain essentialism that I find morally and lexically repugnant. I also fear that it poses a threat to the Lockean proviso that private property is justified on the basis of the labor one commits to it. I cannot be, or indeed possess, a Sal – not legitimately – for I have never improved nor even so much as modified a Sal of any sort. Accordingly, I relinquish my title to Sal which was never truly mine to begin with.3

Third, the equally troubling epithet I suggests that I have some relevance beyond that of a perpetually apologetic subject. This is most assuredly untrue, and I shudder to even use the I-word as it should only bring to mind the very (wrong, but more importantly, offensive) possibility of such. I reflect that the epithet is wholly contained within the phrase “I-word”, and therefore suggest that we replace that most profane designation with “that treachery which lay betwixt H and J.”

Now, let us wander from – though not too hastily! – this topic of salami and onward to even more profitable matters. Before we do, I should like to point out that when I use the term “profitable”, I do not mean to bring to mind our state capitalist system with all its insistence upon ignobly extracting purported surplus value from the thankless toil of the proletariat, but rather I mean only to refer to its second definition in the New Oxford American Dictionary, i.e., “beneficial; useful: he’d had a profitable day”, c.f., the first definition, “(of a business or activity) yielding profit or financial gain.”

With these prefatory remarks in mind, I should like to commit to the proposition “I love you” on the assumption that I, love, and you are somewhat more than most dastardly social constructions and hold some meaning that transcends their status as profane cultural signifiers.

If these assumptions should prove unwarranted, _   _o_e   y_u.

You are my light.4

  1. To justifiably utilize the words of the common man person.
  2. Not to offend those who frequent that fine city on the French Riviera.
  3. With which to begin?
  4. Powered by solar panels and of an appropriate luminosity.