The enemy.

What will unify our divided nation? On the left and on the right, everyone is asking that question; but of course the only answer they come up with is “This country will be united when everybody agrees with me.” That is not a satisfactory answer.

What is needed is a crusade. Not a war. Dr. Boli is opposed to wars on the deeply personal grounds that they inconvenience him. No, what we need is a moral crusade, a common enemy that we can fight together. Furthermore, it must be an enemy with very unusual properties. It must have the ability to persist indefinitely, so that the crusade can also go on indefinitely; but it must never pose a serious threat to our existence, so that we are never tempted to give up. It must give us victory after victory and yet it must never be defeated. This is the kind of enemy we need. Where shall we find it?

After diligent research and no little cogitation, Dr. Boli has determined that the enemy we need is beauty.

Why beauty? If we look at the extremes of left and right, we see that they are two varieties of the same species. The old puritan virus that has infected Americans since 1620 has mutated into two main variants, but they are still recognizable as variants of the same thing. Now, the thing a puritan hates and fears most is beauty, and particularly beauty in art. Art has no business existing unless it is useful. This is a principle accepted by every American worthy of the name, from fascist to communist and anywhere in between. A hammer is the tool that drives home nails, and art is the tool that drives home moral lessons. Beauty in art is a deviation, a distraction from the mission, and what is worse is that it makes us suspect that beauty alone was the artist’s primary motivation—or, to put it in proper American Puritan terms, that the artist was in league with Satan.

There was a time, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when the United States had formed an elite class of artists and architects who were determined that beauty would be forced down the throats of the puritan yokels. (See the illustration, which is part of Giuseppe Moretti’s Welcome group from 1896 at the entrance to Highland Park in Pittsburgh.) This would supposedly turn them into something less yokelish. The yokels fought back; and though they lost many battles, as the monuments in some of our great cities attest, they won the war, assisted by a wave of artistic puritanism from abroad.

But the artistic instinct is hard to suppress entirely, and rebels rise in every generation to raise the flag of Beauty. What Dr. Boli proposes is that the puritans on the right and the puritans on the left should unite in a common crusade to hunt down these rebels and squash them like cockroaches.

You can see the many advantages of this plan at once. There will always be a small number of artistic souls willing to be martyrs for Beauty; in fact the martyrdom, for many of these deluded individuals, is Beauty’s chief attraction. They do not carry weapons, so they pose no danger to our moral crusaders. The most violent thing they ever do is stand in front of a bulldozer, and some states have already made vehicular homicide legal in the case of a demonstrator who is in the way. We can simply apply those ready-made laws nationally. Yet no matter how many of the partisans of beauty we squash, it is a genetic defect of the human species that it is always producing more of them. There is always a minority of individuals tainted with the artistic temperament. We can be confident that we will win every battle, yet the war will never be finished. This is the formula for a permanently successful crusade, and we can look forward to an era of renewed prosperity and good feeling under our crusaders’ motto,

Unity in Mediocrity


  1. Joseph Moore says:

    Setting aside for a moment the burning question of how best to achieve national unity, would Dr. Boli please answer another burning question raised by this essay: Which of the many wars during your long life have most inconvenienced you, and how?

    (I’m impertinently guessing the Civil War, assuming Dr. Boli was residing in the States at that time. Practically the definition of an inconvenient war.)

    • Dr. Boli says:

      The Civil War was indeed very inconvenient, but Dr. Boli would probably place the War of 1812 above it on the inconvenience scale. With the exception of one major eruption into Pennsylvania and a few small skirmishes here and there, the Civil War inconvenienced the South vastly more than it did the North; and Dr. Boli, having been made a rabid abolitionist by the constant assaults of Southern anti-abolition propaganda, was willing to let the South be inconvenienced a bit. Not only did the War of 1812 bring enemy troops to unexpected places—and of course there was the even more inconvenient uncertainty about where they might show up next—but it had been very hard to be a patriot in the years leading up to the war. We knew we were going to have a war, but we delayed picking the enemy until the last minute. Any patriot who had spent years working himself up into a lather over France was caught in a very embarrassing spot when it was finally announced that Britain was the enemy.

      But even a good war like the Spanish-American War, where we pick an enemy that we know we can soundly thrash in an afternoon, causes enormous inconveniences in the form of parades, bond drives, home-front preparedness committees, and other things that clutter up the sidewalk and make it hard to get down to the Diamond for a pound of tea.

  2. Occasional Correspondent says:

    Particularly as to the motto, see:
    Vonnegut, Kurt “Harrison Bergeron” (1961)

  3. GP says:

    The country will not be unified until a conquering horde comes down from the steppes of Saskatchewan and establishes a new Imperial Dynasty

  4. Charles Louis de Secondcat, Baron de La Brèed et de Montemeow says:

    There is but one crucial problem with Dr. Boli’s otherwise ingenious suggestion.

    Americans are already thoroughly unified around the destruction of beauty, they just disagree on precisely which ugliness must replace it. Half of America wishes to replace all beauty with kitsch — none of this sneering elitism for us, thank you. They like their patriotic kitsch Chinese-made, preferably in plastic, by Walt Disney or Warner Bros. More little garden gnomes, more houses made of ticky-tacky, more moreness, that’s what they want.

    The other half, of course, think art useless if it is not completely incomprehensible or “politically revolutionary”. If art does not let you chuckle at all the rubes who don’t understand why urinating on your painting to make weird oxidation patterns is aesthetically bold, then is it really art? Aesthetics after all, was an invention of the 18th century. Pre-modern principles like this beauty nonsense need not apply — and at any rate, industrial manufacture and photography have made the muses obsolete. They have risen beyond such nonsense.

    Perhaps Americans might be made to unify around avant-guard kitsch? Andy Warhol did have some common appeal, but the truce is an unstable one.
    A great host of intelligences more devious than Dr. Boli have toiled mightily to ensure that Americans hate both their neighbor and their neighbor’s art. Your minority of individuals with artistic temperament are forever rebels, true, but only to the other side.

    You can not manufacture love of beauty out of humans, but you can do far better! You can make them hate ugliness! You can make them hate their neighbor’s ugliness so fiercely that they will run straight into the arms of some other ugliness out of shear spite. As they flee, the hate will burn them up. They will uglify themselves, till others flee in turn from them — straight into the arms of the self-same ugliness!

    An eternal crusade! Indeed you never spoke truer words, Dr. Boli. Ugliness breeding hate, hate ugliness, and this on towards infinity, like an eternal, self-consuming flame! Truly, Moloch is a fearful idol.

  5. Daniel says:

    “…There is always a minority of individuals tainted with the artistic temperament.” Thank you. Well played, sir.

  6. reepicheep says:

    I checked with beauty, and she’s booked, sorry.

    Tiktok would be happy to fulfill our need of a common enemy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *