Today’s America is not a place for subtlety and nuance. Today’s youth seem especially incapable of handling fine distinctions. No interesting heterodox mix of positions will be tolerated; total conformity is required. Cleave to the party line in toto, lest ye be canceled.
“Cancel Culture” is the new regime whereby one can lose one’s livelihood, one’s reputation, and even one’s friends for not hewing to every last tenet of the reigning orthodoxy. The gay journalist Chadwick Moore learned about the intolerance of left-wing cancelers when he came out as a conservative (italics added):
I began to realize that maybe my opinions just didn’t fit in with the liberal status quo, which seems to mean that you must absolutely hate Trump, his supporters and everything they believe. If you dare not to protest or boycott Trump, you are a traitor.
If you dare to question liberal stances or make an effort toward understanding why conservatives think the way they do, you are a traitor.
You must kneel before Rome, you must grovel at her feet. For wokesters, it’ll never do to be just “99 and 44/100% pure,” like the old Ivory Soap ads claimed. No, my fair cousin, one needs to be 100% pure. Otherwise, you might just be an anti-social deviant, or maybe even an adherent of deviationism.
When it comes to the big important issues, like whether one can choose one’s sex, there are no shades of gray, just black and white. Reality, however, is more interesting than the woke would have us believe. Some things (and people) are mixed, they can be both bad and good, both sacred and profane.
The woke can’t wrap their little minds around that. So let’s consider the dilemmas of serious people.
In the aftermath of the horrors of World War II, musicians wondered if they should perform the works of Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer. The dilemma was especially vexing for Jewish artists because Wagner was an anti-Semite, and had written ugly screeds on Jewish music. Even so, some of the world’s greatest Jewish artists chose to perform and even record Wagner’s operas.
The reason Jews didn’t “cancel” Herr Wagner and chose to perform his works is because they understood that an awful man with vile repellent views can also create beautiful music. (A word to the woke: Sometimes one needs to be able to hold seemingly contradictory things in one’s head at the same time.)
So Wagner (whom the French call vaughn-YAY) got a reprieve, and didn’t get thrown on the ash heap of history. And, get this, some of the finest interpreters of his work are Jews.
This was brought home to me when I happened on a video of the Jewish conductor Georg Solti in a recording session. And who do we see sitting in the trumpet section but Helmut Wobisch, who as a youth had been a Nazi. (You may get a kick out of watching Solti in the video; he was quite energetic.)