there was some jealousy mixed in as well.nDrooks’s liberalism made it impossiblenfor him to understand or to be fair tona great many of the most significantn20th-century writers: Proust, Joyce,nPound, Eliot, Stein, Faulkner. Theynwere, like Hawthorne and the laternMelville, concerned with sin, weakness,nthe chaos of the present and, as such,nwere probably fascist to the core. FornBrooks, Whitman was the moral hero ofnAmerican literature, the writer most fiillynengaged in his work—the artist asnhero. While many are repelled by Whitman’snexcessive individualism, Brooksndid not see him that way. He saw insteadnan expression of personality as the greatnwriter moved heroically in the directionnof social change. Whitman gave us fornthe first time the sense “of somethingnorganic in American life”; hen”precipitated the American character”;nhe created out of disparate materials anfresh democratic ideal. Everything goodnin the modern world owes something tonWhitman; he laid the “cornerstone of annational ideal”; like Virgil, he gave tonAmerica “A certain focal center in thenconsciousness of his own character.”nWhat Whitman stood for was progress,nthe unified community absorbed intonone powerful emotional force, movingnproudly and inexorably into the future,nwilling everything to be better in a placenwhere dreams come true. Passage tonmore than India.nIt must be said that Van Wyck Brooksnwas not comfortable with this liberal formulationnuntil quite late in life. I thinknthere was a connection between his uneasinessnwith this view and his extendednmental and emotional breakdown whichnlasted through much of the 1920’s andnpart of the 30’s. I find none of the explanationsnoffered for it convincing innthe slightest, least of all his alleged agonynover his book on Henry James. I think thencrisis was spiritual—based on religiousnconcerns and precipitated by the strongnopposition of his first wife to Van Wyck’sninterest in Catholicism. The materialnrelevant to this topic in Nelson’sn*>*»nChronicles of Cultttrenbiography is new to me, and I do notnknow how much more of it there may benin his papers. Nelson feels that he wouldnhave become a convert but for EleanornStimson’s opposition. In any event, afternhis marriage it was a “forbiddennsubject.” Brooks’s “religioussensibilitiesncontinued to exacerbate his emotionalntroubles.” As a young man he felt that hencould “abide only in Rome or Rationality.”nThe price of domestic peace was Ra­nAmerica, America . . .nA declared fellow traveler andnunabashed procommunist, the Greekncinematographer Costa-Gavras has madenan openly anti-American movie, one thatnis fiercely hateful of the American sociopoliticalnsystem. He made his movie innAmerica, using American money. Henthen received the resounding acclaim ofnso-called liberal—but still American—ncritics, and he packed American movienhouses (mostly with American haters ofnAmerica). Finally, his American star,nwho plays the part of an American who Lsncorrosively disenchanted with thenAmerican government, is reverentiallynreceived in real life by the AmericannPresident in the American White Housen—the symbol of American statehood.nAll this isn’t so bad, considering thenhistory of American self-abuse withnwhich America has survived for centuries,nand which makes it nonechcless thenperpetual dream of all the poor people onnearth who wish to escape the communistnparadises for the wretched, the needynand the destitute. Self-flagellation wasnalways the favorite American pastime,nand that habit of self-abasement hasnbecome in out time more and more annobject of shoddy manipulation—thenmost obvious intention of Mr. Costa-nGavras. His easy victim is rudimentaryngood sense.nTo make the matter clear, one mustnput Missing, the movie in quesion, into ancertain perspective. Mr. Costa-Gavrasnmade an earlier movie about thentionality. Was he perceiving thenbankruptcy of liberalism and the folly ofnhis choice? The trauma he underwentnwas formidable. His whole past demandednthat he choose Rationality quitendeliberately during his crisis. He madenhimself become arbitrarily and firmly indifferentnto all transcendental terms.nSecular humanism was his choice:n”There is only one world, and we hadnbetter make the best of it. Our onlynl.iin:Ki Ci III Ki: |nnnheinousness of right-wing dictatorships,nand we had little quarrel with his condemnationnof them, although its tonenwas that of a defeated KGB agent rathernthan that of a true lover of freedom. Thennhe made a movie in which he condemnednStalinist corruption as detrimental to thendecent, much-abused, humane idea ofncommunism—mankind’s best hope. Wendetested that movie: not a single sequencenof it or word in it attested to thenhindamental structural attrocity of thenpolitical reality of Marxism-Leninism—asnCosta-Gavras saw it, some mean peoplenhad soiled the ideal, which remains asnsacrosanct as ever. How the communistnstate has martyrized societies and annihilatednhumanness all around thenworld since Stalin was not mentioned.nNow Mr. Gavras has made a movie innwhich the structural evil of a freelynelected government, i.e. the Americannpolitical system, is allegedly bared. Hisnpoint is not that Americans may commitnmistakes (like the unreasonable,noveridcalistic Stalinists) but that the veryncore of our statehood is a source ofnabomination. The fact that he freely sellsnhis movie in America means nothing tonhim. In older, better, days guests like Mr.nCosta-Gavras were kicked out onto thenstreet. In the decaying America of ourntime, he is fawned upon as a celebrity andnincluded on the liberal cocktail-party circuitnin L. A. and New York. And his starnlunches in Washington, D.C. with thenchief executive of this symbol ofnwickedness—the batteied idea ofnAmerican democracy. •n