KICK IT AS IT LAYSnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nIwas drinking a whiskey atnthe Frontier Saloon innFrontier, Wyoming, a couplenof nights ago when my hostnmentioned a report he hadnwatched on CNN regardingnthe desperate plight of NewnYork City and the depthsnto which it has plummeted.nThirty — even twenty —nyears ago, ambitious Americans,nwhether born and brednin Dallas, Texas, or Bismarck,nNorth Dakota, thought of thenplace in breathlessly romanticnterms similar to those effusednduring the 1920’s and 30’s by Thomas Wolfe, a native ofnAshville, North Carolina, who had gone north to Gothamnin search of literary fame, fortune, and the love of beautifulnwomen. Today, CNN said. New York City is no longer thenmecca, the alpha and omega, for on-the-make Americans —nit simply isn’t worth the inconvenience, the unpleasantness,nand the physical danger of living there. A moment’snreflection on my part confirmed that this was indeed thenbrightest piece of news concerning the state of America andnAmerican culture that I had heard in many moons. Sondefying the sin-taxers in particular and the New AmericannPuritanism in general, I had another whiskey-on-the-rocksnto celebrate it.nSince 1975, when President Ford refused to allocatenfederal funds for the purpose of bailing New York out ofnrichly deserved bankruptcy and the New York Daily Newsnresponded with a now-famous headline (“FORD TOnNEW YORK: DROP DEAD”), the city has generatednnearly as much self-worshipful propaganda as it has groundbreakingnsocial, cultural, hygienic, and political pathologiesnin what might be alternately viewed as either a pathetic or andisgusting attempt to restore its national — indeed its international—nimage. Before 1975 New York had been toonproud to engage in that sort of organized self-puffery —nmeaning, of course, that it didn’t need to. That is not to say,nhowever, that its reputation as both the apex and the enginenof American civilization was a deserved one; in fact, the citynhas probably not been a fit place for civilized Americans tonreside since before the Civil War, although — until recentlynat least—rich Americans have always been able to live wellnthere, as anywhere.nThe New York Mystique was based on the notion that thencity was “cosmopolitan” — unlike the rest of the UnitednStates that was, by implication, “provincial.” There is truthnin that notion, to the extent that heartland Americans havennever particulariy wanted to be “cosmopolitan”; that theynwere not in the early days of the Republic “cosmopolitan”;nand that today the United States, although it is culturallynspeaking the primary global influence, is still neverthelessnnot “cosmopolitan.” This has to do in part with the fact ofn22/CHRONICLESnnnthe American hinteriand having retained to this day so muchnof its original skepticism toward Europe and the rest of thenworld, in part with the fact that the consolidation of then”global village” has resulted in a marked decline, rather thannin an increase, in cosmopolitanism. What America was andnis, is pluralistic; but it was pluralistic not because it especiallynwished to be so, but because that was how history turned outnfor it. The modern fetish of “pluralism,” therefore, was leftnto the kind of people who choose to inhabit such places asnWashington, D.C., New York City, and Boston, for whomn”pluralism” came to be indistinguishable from “cosmopolitanism”—which,nof course, it most certainly is not. Thenextreme — really, the nearly pathological — degree to whichnthis fetish has been sentimentalized was illustrated by thencentennial anniversary celebration of the Statue of Libertynin New York several years ago: a celebration that did notnrequire the presence of Henry James to reveal it for what itnwas, namely, a vulgar politicized indulgence from whichnevery element of cosmopolitan taste was conspicuouslynabsent. For weeks, sentimentalists hailed millions of immigrantsnfor having themselves been hailed by the upsweptntorch of Ms. Liberty while ignoring completely the fact thatnlarge numbers of these people-from-many-lands carriednwithin them, like undeclared horticultural imports, the seedsnof what would later blossom as what Joseph Sobran has sonaptly and wittily called “alienism” — a species of hostilityntoward historical America and everything America used tonstand for that has contributed mightily to the destruction ofnNew York City, and that is currently engaged in a strong bidnto ruin the nation as well. “It used to be a joke here,” a NewnYork publisher explained to me last summer, “to say thatnNew York was becoming a Third World City. Well, now itnisn’t a joke any longer. It’s a fact.” Actually, New York is notna Third World City either, anymore than it is that mysticalnmicrocosm of the pluralistic society that its progressivelymindednboosters like to praise it for being. Today, New Yorknhas gone beyond not just cosmopolitanism but culturenitself—anthropological culture I mean, not the WhitneynMuseum and Haitian street fairs. Almost, New York hasngone beyond humanity. It could quite accurately be called anzoo, were it not for the fact that so few of its denizens arenbehind bars.nThe 1980’s witnessed the demise of the ideology ofnMarxist-Leninism and perhaps, through the continuingncollapse of New York City, the 1990’s will see the end innAmerica of the ideology of the Global Melting Pot, knownnotherwise as the Towers of Babel. So at least we are entitlednto hope. Meantime, the I LOVE NEW YORK types willnprate endlessly to anyone who will listen about the widenvariety of international cuisines available throughout theirncity; even as what in better days used to be referred to asn”the national letters” are made, year by year, less availablenand still less contributed to by the American publishingnindustry that — once upon a time — was Gotham’s unquestionablenand invaluable contribution to a larger Americannculture.n<^nChilton Williamson, Jr. is senior editor for books atnChronicles, and the author of, most recently, ThenHomestead, a novel.n