There was a lot of anger brewing in me while I read Mark Leibovich’s This Town. I’ve never been naive about the nature of politics and have been raised with a robust set of skepticism goggles. Nevertheless, after reading Leibovich’s log of opportunism, cynicism, and naked, shameless self promotion, it feels like I’m a kid again and Santa’s just ripped off his beard in front of me. Reading about the pure circle jerkiness of this closed club of insiders was utterly infuriating.
A comment from Seinfeld’s Elaine to Jerry springs to mind: “Sometimes when I think you’re the shallowest man I’ve ever met, you somehow manage to drain a little more out of the pool.”
That was my overriding sensation of the cliqueness that dominates Washington.
However, I realized something after reaching the back cover: isn’t that how we all are? It is so easy to look scornfully at others but to be utterly blind to those same faults.
There’s always in-groups and out-groups. The older you get, the stronger these distinctions become. Most people probably feel that inclusion/exclusion reaches a peak in high school and then slowly tappers off.
I remember working at a warehouse with all my friends (Home Decorators!) in college and there was the mentality of us, the employees, and them, the customers. We were gatekeepers to their cheap furniture. If they wanted a marble sink loaded in their Subaru, they had to go through us. We joked with each other, covered for each other. Even within the company, there were exclusionary groups. The warehouse staff was separate from the sales’ staff and we were all separate from management.
In college, those in my major had a whole secret, separate world away from other majors, who, of course, had their own parties, gatherings, and opportunities cordoned off from the outsiders. During graduate school, the MFA was almost a hermetically sealed chamber. Trying to bring outside friends or loved ones became one of those stressful social exercises of juggling two different sets of expectations and identities.
I think Jim Gaffigan said something about that…
And, as a professor, don’t even get me started on the inclusion/exclusion practices of academia.
Ultimately, I think what made me so mad about This Town is that many of those traits I saw on display reminded me of myself. I can imagine, being placed in that environment, the nation’s capitol, that I might make some of the exact some choices, act the very same way. I would be just as cloying and superficial as Mike Allen, Tammy Haddad, and Terry McAuliffe.
Sure, I might convince myself I wasn’t, that I was being noble and honest and, as a real bullshit covered cherry on top: “true to myself.” Still, the scary thing is I would likely be just as blind to what I’m doing as the glitterati of D.C. are because that’s how things are done there. That’s how things are done in a lot of places.
This Town is in us all.