Less than two weeks ago Frank Rocca mentioned Pim Fortuyn in his weekly TAP column, which was probably the first many of us America-firsters had ever heard of him. Now suddenly Fortuyn is dead from six assassin bullets. It's as if whatever violence France was spared during the recent hysteria over Le Pen spilled over into the progressive Netherlands. This is as ugly as it gets. Will Fortuyn now be smeared in death, or depicted as "a brash, brave, outspoken libertarian-conservative gay man," as Andrew Sullivan would have it? One Dutch socialist said his country has lost its political innocence. Will anyone argue Fortuyn's assassination confirmed the country lost its innocence years ago?
From a distance Holland appears to be one of those spots where drugs and prostitution are legal, along with euthanasia, trends that seemed to be set in motion in the sixties when the country had one of the most aggressive hippie movements imaginable. It created its own brave new world, and one can only wonder how far behind it other Western countries are.
In the U.S. we can imagine or at least hope we're light years behind. Bigger and sprawling and infinitely more heterogeneous, we enjoy real breathing room. If anything reminds us of Dutch progressive conformism it's when aspects of the sixties continue to play themselves out. A leading New York Times book critic, to cite a typical recent example, yesterday gave sympathetic coverage to a biography of rock star Neil Young. Nothing in her review bothered to explain why such a biography is of any value. The once sophisticated Times is long past having to defend the proposition that the Beatles are as important as Beethoven. They just are. So the review really has nothing to convey, other than the usual references to a guitarist who "had a heroin habit bad enough to put him asleep on his feet" or the biographer having "the inside dope about those years, and not only about dope itself," or Young in his early years of stardom always having "some babe rubbing his forehead with a cool towel."
Last week, the same reviewer tackled an eighties memoir, in which the male narrator recalls a cool, enigmatic buddy from high school days who would end up badly. At one point, she mentions something that struck her about their relationship. "Their extreme closeness, unexaminedly homoerotic in its physical admiration and intimacy, is something from which they both turn away." Can't two guys just be friends? Not anymore, apparently.
If you think Times is at home with rock and sex, you should catch its act when the subject is religion. Last Saturday, bimonthly columnist Bill Keller, still seething at having lost the contest to become the paper's next editor, decided to settle scores with the Pope, whom he blames for the pedophilia scandal. It gets nasty, as Keller becomes the latest New York writer to argue that the Pope and the Vatican are now as decrepit, corrupt and out of touch as the Kremlin was on the eve of Communism's collapse. "Like the Communists, John Paul has carefully constructed a Kremlin that will be inhospitable to a reformer. He has strengthened the Vatican equivalent of the party Central Committee, called the Curia, and populated it with reactionaries.... This is, after all, the church that gave us the Crusades and the Inquisition."
One of the beauties of Keller's bigotry is that he openly boasts he's no believer at all these days: "I am what a friend calls a 'collapsed Catholic' -- well beyond lapsed."
Still, he finds the struggle within the church for abortion on demand, married priests on demand, women priests on demand, and married homosexual priests on demand of interest "as part of a large struggle within the human race, between the forces of tolerance and absolutism." Not for a moment does it dawn on this heathen that perhaps the Pope brings a depth of belief to religious matters -- not to mention an understanding of and commitment to sacrifice -- that is worlds removed from Keller's mundane obsessions. Keller parades tolerance but he runs on empty. He wants to liberate a Church he has no real use for.
So what's all this about? Could it be that with God dead, all that we're left with is anger? Modern man has got everything figured out, and he's never been more miserable.