David Brooks is unequalled as an observer of middle-class American social mores. He has a truly great column this week on the contemporary American culture of braggadocio. He contrasts the tone of American reaction to victory in WWII with our current habit of empty boasting about, comparatively speaking, trivia.
He quotes Ernie Pyle from 1945, who sounds nothing like loudmouths bragging about how “we” saved the world:
We won this war because our men are brave and because of many things — because of Russia, England and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature’s material. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other peoples. I hope that in victory we are more grateful than we are proud.
The closing line of his column is a gut punch:
It’s funny how the nation’s mood was at its most humble when its actual achievements were at their most extraordinary.