Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Building bridges back to the 20th century, and how not to love too much

Matt Labash Columnist
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Since Obama seems to be making the rounds speaking from bridges, and you are always “in-the-know” — do you know when Obama will speak from that sagging, rope & wood walking bridge over the Missouri River in western North Dakota? It will be winter here soon, so he has to hurry. – Ron

Since Obama’s jobs bill stalled in the Senate, and he’s vowed to try to sneak it over the goal line in smaller separate bills, I am not privy to his future bridge-engagements schedule. So we’ll just have to anticipate. I’m personally looking forward to catching Obama on the Route 4 overpass in Waysons Corner, Md., as I’m pretty sure I noticed a rust spot on one of the guard rails the other day. My family will be bringing lunch-buckets and wearing pro-Works Progress Administration sandwich-boards to the speech, harking back to our blue-collar roots, thus helping President Obama carry out his F.D.R. role-play fantasy.

I’m not quite sure what it is about politicians and bridge fetishes. Bill Clinton had his “Bridge to the 21st Century.” Sen. Ted Stevens had his “Bridge to Nowhere.” Woodrow Wilson has his “Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.” Now, every time Obama passes a bridge, he has to pile out of his motorcade and tell us how he wants to put Americans back to work fixing one. Fix it yourself, Barack Obama. I’m busy.

But even if I wasn’t living like the Sun King as one of The Daily Caller’s two or three premier advice columnists — an exorbitant lifestyle littered with 24-karat dookie ropes and the finest Le Coq Sportif athletic wear (I dress like a rapper from the ‘80s, since it reminds me of Reaganism and happier times) — I’m not so sure that the dreams of our fathers, who wanted better lives for us, would entail us all donning fluorescent orange vests and pouring hot asphalt all day in jobs created out of the taxpayer kitty. In fact, if you translate Obama-ese into Chinese, then use your imagination, his plan for an economic recovery kind of starts to look like this.

Mister President, if you’ve never listened to me before (and you haven’t — you seem to do most of the talking in this relationship), then please listen to me now. Our middle class is disappearing at an alarming rate. Unemployment is rampant. Confidence in our institutions is reaching historic lows. And your remedy for this malaise is putting us to work filling potholes? Not that bridge-and-road construction isn’t honorable work. More honorable than writing faux advice columns or puttering around the White House, certainly. But I’d much rather have one of those Clinton-era, Bridge to the 21st Century private-sector jobs that used to exist by the bushel. I want to be one of those fin de siècle self-satisfied tech entrepreneurs who rides his Razor scooter around his workplace, crashing into the foosball table which proves that I’m a fun, non-hierarchal kind of guy who enjoys drinking Acai Berry smoothies from our office juice bar while taking snoozes in my company’s nap room on one of the beds made of IPO money.

So as long as you’re planning on bringing jobs back, why not look into bringing back those kinds of jobs? People say we don’t make anything anymore. Nonsense. We certainly do. We make decadent children, every generation of whom think it is their birthright that their lives will be happier and more prosperous than the preceding generation’s. So while looking for your lost mojo, see if you can help America find her decadent streak again. It’s by no means what made her great. But it’s what kept America thinking she was great, even when she had, in retrospect, already hit the skids. Still, never underestimate the salutary effects of self-delusion. Ninety-five percent of happiness is fooling yourself into thinking that you are. America has forgotten how to forget its own deficiencies. We need to remember that again. Denial got us this far. Why not play through? In our worst-case scenario —  if say, we become Greece — the Germans can just bail us out. We saved them from themselves with a market correction called “World War II.”  So maybe it’s high time that, like the remaining rich people you so detest, Germany starts paying its fair share, too.

Is it unhealthy to love a column so much that I have to ask the author if loving it too much isn’t healthy? – Peter Johnson

Yes, it is unhealthy to love anyone or anything too much. Because if you love somebody, you will inevitably have to set them free. That’s not my wisdom. It’s Sting’s. And I used to love Sting. Then I realized that if I truly wanted to demonstrate my (non-Tantric, platonic) love for Sting, I had to set him free. Which is why I probably haven’t willingly listened to a Sting song since 1991.

It was tough at first. But in the long run, I’ve totally benefited from going Stingless. Just think of all the Sting I’ve missed. His 1997 appearance at the MTV Music Awards with Puff Daddy, singing “I’ll Be Missing You” instead of “I’ll Be Watching You” to the late Biggie Smalls? Missed it. His 2006 album “Songs from the Labyrinth,” reimagining the work of Elizabethan era composer John Dowland, while accompanied by a Bosnian lutenist? Can’t say I heard it. His re-recording of “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” with that curly-headed Muppet, Matthew Morrison from “Glee”? I can honestly stipulate that I’ve never been happier not to hear a song.

So bottom line? You love this column now. But if you truly love it, in time, you’ll learn to hate it, as I now do Sting. At this moment, it might not seem possible, just as it didn’t seem possible for the 12-year-old version of myself, playing air synthesizer in the bathroom mirror, to ever let go of Sting’s/The Police’s “Spirits in the Material World,” a song I now find so tediously redundant, that I’d rather listen to Matthew Morrison cover John Ashcroft’s “Let the Eagle Soar.”

But the disillusionment will come. Trust me on this. I’ll make sure of it.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.