Let us call the roll of national badasses: the 75th Ranger Regiment, USMC Force Reconnaissance, the SEALS, Delta Force . . . James Taylor?
What sort of warriors does a weary nation facing a savage enemy turn to? “The Quiet Professionals,” “Semper Fidelis,” “Death from Above” . . .
The spectacle of the Obama administration’s dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to “share a big hug with Paris” as James Taylor — who still exists – crooned “You’ve Got a Friend” is the perfect objective correlative for American decline: The pathetic self-regard of John Kerry and James Taylor’s Baby Boomers meets the cynical, self-serving, going-through-the-motions style of Barack Obama’s Generation X as disenchanted Millennials in parental basements across the fruited plains no doubt injured their thumbs typing “WTF?” It is the substitution of celebrity for power, of sentiment for analysis, of sloppy gesture for clear-headed commitment.
We’re responding to barbarism from the seventh century with soft rock from the 1970s.
James Taylor may in fact be the quintessential man of his generation. He is the son of two highly accomplished parents, his father a physician and dean of the University of North Carolina medical school who served in the Arctic with Operation Deep Freeze, his mother a soprano who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. A child of affluence bringing up the rear of the Age of Aquarius, he was in a mental institution by the time he was of high-school age, and then tried to launch a musical career but launched a career as a full-time junkie instead. His fortunes turned around when he inherited money and used his new status to move to London and exploit his social connections to link up with Paul McCartney and become rich and famous with a catchy song about what a complete screw-up he had been his entire life. At some point, this man who is so colorlessly country-club that he makes the Fox News weekday lineup look like the original cast of Hair declared himself a “churning urn of burning funk.” For the next few decades he proceeded to burden the world with a burgeoning catalog of insipid mediocrity until, finally, he descended to the lowest point a musician ever reaches, three steps down from busking in subway stations: He became a hired hand for politicians, playing with MoveOn.org’s “Vote for Change” tour through swing states on behalf of – small world! – John Kerry, our national personification of vanity, a kept man, dilettante, and Democratic time-server whose career was both launched and sustained by self-serving accounts of his service in the Vietnam War, a conflict that Taylor avoided by being declared mentally unfit to serve.
In our hour of need, the French gave us Lafayette. In theirs, we sent them the guy who drained all the sugar out of “How Sweet It Is” and substituted saccharin.
A word of advice: Next time, send Slayer.
Seriously: If you’re going to send a past-its-prime musical act to an ally in distress – instead of showing up to join the rest of the heads of state in a show of solidarity – then send in the wild boys from Huntington Park, Calif., who are, like the last effective foreign policy maintained by this country, born of the 1980s. James Taylor tells France, “You’ve got a friend.” Slayer tells the world, “You’ve got a problem.” And there’s something in the Slayer catalog for everybody: “Jihad” for the most literal-minded; “Evil Has No Boundaries,” a sentiment that social conservatives could surely endorse; “War Ensemble” for the neocons; and President John Bolton’s agenda for his first 100 days in office: “Raining Blood.” (“Endless war?” President Bolton scoffs. “Try three weeks.”) If you find yourself in a fight, you want to know that you’ve got a friend. But do you really want that friend to be James Taylor?
We Americans sometimes laugh at the French – cheese-eating surrender monkeys and all that – but in World War I they lost nearly 1.8 million people, or nearly 5 percent of their population, losses that were proportionally more than 30 times those we suffered in that horrific conflict. (In World War II, the French death rate was only four times ours.) They may have lost some of their fighting spirit since then – or they may not have, if you ask your average trans-Saharan jihadist – but we did not elect Barack Obama president of these United States out of a surplus of courage, either. It’s not that we should send the 101st Airborne to les banlieues, rather that we should be the sort of country that makes it matter when we say “you’ve got a friend.” When it comes to jihad, there are no obvious solutions, but there are some obvious non-solutions, and an impromptu James Taylor concert surely is one of them.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.