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Alex Beam

Don’t deplore — think positive

STOP THEM before they deplore again!

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman deplores anyone who knows less about economics than he does, which means pretty much everyone. Wall Street Journal opinion slinger Peggy Noonan can be counted on to serially deplore (pick one): the Obama administration; the common core; Hillary Clinton, etc.

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Crusty New Republic columnist Leon Wieseltier deplores, well, everything. Google “Leon Wieseltier deplores” and peruse the 56,000 results served up in one-fifth of a second.

Yes, this is very much the sacred calling of the over-50 American opinion writer: deplore, condemn, scoff, abominate, and dismiss. If they made a cartoon about a Baby Boomer newspaper columnist, they would name it Dora the Deplorer. If Jeep manufactured a vehicle targeted at the over-the-hill commentariat, it would be called the . . . OK, Alex, I think you’ve made your point.

I can deploy deploration with the best of them. Twitter, of course (“the utter fakeness of it all”); the iPad, which I derided as a commercially unviable “iToy”; and the wildly ugly Mandarin Oriental building on Boylston Street. “Many great architects build one bad building,” I wrote, deploringly, “[Alfred] Wojciechowski, and I am afraid this one is yours.”

I have deplored the writer Susan Cheever, “the Queen of Over-sharing,” just on general principle. I now officially un-deplore her. The Statute of Deploration has long since expired.

There are several hoary chestnuts in the “must be deplored file,” “Columnist deplores lack of civility” yields 568,000 results, with many a tired hack represented here: Susan Estrich; John Leo; Krugman, redux. I note that the Association of Opinion Journalists (not me!) has proposed a Civility Project Proposal to improve “the integrity of public discussion.”

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It is probably no accident that I have been meaning to write a column celebrating the lack of civility in modern culture. In fact, I keep a file of refreshing examples of people stating the facts as they really are, deglazed of hypocrisy and cant.

In a New York Times interview last year, Andrew Goldman said to “Mad Men” actress Elisabeth Moss: “You said of your very short marriage to Fred Armisen, ‘He’s so great at doing impersonations, but the greatest impersonation he does is that of a normal person.’ I read that and thought, Wow, that’s rough.”

Moss: “Thank you.”

Goldman similarly asked New Hampshire writer Jodi Picoult: “Whenever people have asked you what’s the worst book you’ve read, you’ve consistently said ‘The Notebook,’ by Nicholas Sparks. Aren’t you afraid you’re going to bump into him?”

Picoult: “One of the reasons that I say what I say about Nicholas Sparks is because I have bumped into him.”

Tell it like it is, Jodi! Leave civility for the lesser literary lights.

Has actress-cum-lifestyle theorist Gwyneth Paltrow become Inherently Deplorable? I fear it is so. She recently opined on her website goop.com that “negativity changes the structure of water . . . the molecules behave differently depending on the words or music being expressed around it.” That was before she bemoaned the zinc deficiency plaguing children’s diets. Curious; it seemed to me as though food deficiency in starving children’s diets might be the more pressing problem to address.

So little time, so much to deplore! The decline of the humanities; the “politics of personal destruction”; the dreary homogeneity of the nation’s opinion pages. Then there is always the high cost of (fill in the blank): Slurpees; Vanity Fair magazine; veterinary care; movie tickets; no-fault divorce; the Charleston Chew.

In the end, nothing is more deplorable than young Americans’ behavior; they are so inept! They text while driving (Outrage!); they sext when they should be studying (Impossible!); they engage in casual “hook-ups” (Scandalous . . . whatever it means); they don’t read newspapers (I can’t imagine why not). In international surveys, they place behind Singapore and Lichtenstein in school test scores.

Worst of all, they refuse to lead palsied lives of fitful alienation as their parents do.

I like young people. They seem plenty smart to me, and if they’re bent on having fun, I say: More power to them. No one else is. I’ve visited Singapore and Lichtenstein, and they don’t have a patch on us.

But that’s just Deplorable Me.

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at alexbeam@hotmail.com.
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