Monday, 28 April 2008

Rants

Michael Hirsch reads NYT story about “American Idol,” gets the vapors, thinks the North should secede

What passes for sense at Newsweek Online:

In the summer of 1863, Robert E. Lee led an ill-advised incursion into Pennsylvania. His army was defeated at Gettysburg, and thence afterward Lee beat a fighting retreat until the South lost the Civil War. One hundred and forty-five years later, the South--or what has become the South-Southwest--has won another kind of Civil War.
“Hey boys, did you save your Confederate money like I told-ja? ’Cause it looks like the South’s finally gonna rise! Yee-haw!”
It has transformed the sensibility of the country. It is setting the agenda for our political, social and religious mores--in Pennsylvania and everywhere else.
...which is why this year’s Presidential choices are two leftys and a RINO, right? Oh well, for the sake of argument, continue...
This thought, which has been recurring to me regularly over the years as I've watched the Southernization of our national politics at the hands of
(cue scary music...)
the GOP and its evangelical base,
(Okay, what would you expect him to say, “transnational progressives and Gramscian socialists?” Come on, it’s Newsweek!)
surfaced again when I read a New York Times story
Well, there’s your problem...
today. The article was about an “American Idol” contestant--apparently quite talented--who was eliminated after she sang the title song from “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Dear Michael, “After” != “because,” although the Times might like you to confuse them.
When it debuted 38 years ago, the rock opera was considered controversial for its rather arch portrayal of a doubt-wracked, very human Jesus, but the music was so good and the lyrics so clever that it quickly became a huge hit. In the delicate balance of forces that have always defined American tastes--nativism and yahooism
...and bitterness. Don't forget bitterness!
versus eagerness for the new and openness to innovation--art, or at least high craft, it seemed, had triumphed. But our national common denominator of taste is so altered today that the blasphemous dimension of “Jesus Christ Superstar” now trumps the artistic part.
...at least, for readers of the New York Times. See above.
And somehow, no one is surprised. Our reaction
Whaddaya mean, “Our?” You got a mouse in your typewriter?
is more like, “Why would she risk singing a song like that?”

In part this is a triumph of demographics. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge observed in their 2004 book, “The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America,” the nation's population center has been “moving south and west at a rate of three feet an hour, five miles a year.”
...in what’s been, so far, a futile attempt to get away from all those damyankees
Another author, Anatol Lieven, in his 2005 book “America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism,” describes how the “radical nationalism”
as opposed to non-radical, EU-style nationalism?  Or maybe peaceful, cooperative Iranian nationalism?
that has so dominated the nation's discourse since 9/11
except for Newsweek, National Public Radio, The New York Times, the alphabet networks, MSNBC, the Democrat party, etc., etc...
traces its origins to the demographic makeup and mores of the South and much of the West and Southern Midwest--in other words, what we know today as Red State America. This region was heavily settled by Scots-Irish immigrants--the same ethnic mix King James I sent to Northern Ireland to clear out the native Celtic Catholics. After succeeding at that,
“Succeeding?” Guess that’s why all those former-IRA people are now part of the British government.
they then settled the American Frontier, suffering Indian raids and fighting for their lives every step of the way.
...and did a great job of it, too. Now we’ve got the country, while the Indians run the casinos and are exempt from federal taxes. Win/win!
And the Southern frontiersmen never got over their hatred of the East Coast elites
...or their liking of bagpipe music. Horrible, just horrible...
...and a belief in the morality and nobility of defying them.
And it’s fun, too.
Their champion was the Indian-fighter Andrew Jackson. The outcome was that a substantial portion of the new nation developed, over many generations, a rather savage, unsophisticated set of mores.
“A man’s word is his bond.” “Never start a fight, but if you find yourself in one, fight to win.” Stuff like that...
Traditionally, it has been balanced by a more diplomatic, communitarian Yankee sensibility from the Northeast and upper Midwest. But that latter sensibility has been losing ground in population numbers--and cultural weight.
“’bout time, too... by crackee!”
The coarsened sensibility that this now-dominant Southernism and frontierism has brought to our national dialogue is unmistakable.
to readers of The New York Times. See above.
We must endure “lapel-pin politics” that elevates the shallowest sort of faux jingoism
as opposed to... real jingoism? Wotthehel is that supposed to mean?
over who’s got a better plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. We have re-imported creationism into our political dialogue (in the form of “intelligent design”).
...which is so uncontroversial
Hillary Clinton panders shamelessly to Roman Catholics,
When she’s not pandering shamlessly to anybody else who might vote for her. (It’s called “running for office.”)
who have allied with
(Cue more scary music)
Southern Protestant evangelicals
Aieeee!
on questions of morality, with anti-abortionism serving as the main bridge.
because it's such a... um... settled issue
Barack Obama seems to be so leery of being identified as an urban Northern liberal
I can’t imagine why. Look at all that the urban northern Liberals have given us.
that he's running away from the most obvious explanation of his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers: after Obama graduated from college he became an inner-city organizer in Chicago, and they were natural allies for someone in a situation like that.
Yep. Wouldn’t want to draw any conclusions. “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas,” another of those “unsophisticated mores,” I guess.
We routinely demonize organizations like the United Nations
deservedly. See Bolton.
that we desperately need
Whaddaya mean... oh, forget it.
and which are critical to missions like nation-building in Afghanistan.
Because they’ve done so well in Africa, Bosnia, and Palestine.
On foreign policy, the realism and internationalism of the Eastern elitist tradition
“Sure, we can make a deal with North Korea. No problem!”
once kept the Southern-frontier warrior culture and Wilsonian messianism
Hey, “He kept us out of war!” Also, he was a Democrat. Just watch it!
in check. Now the latter two, in toxic combination, have taken over our national dialogue, and the Easterners are running for the hills.
Attention all Easterners: Hills ----> thataway.
In Texas in particular, Lieven
a Brit who hangs out around east coast.think tanks, and is therefore qualified to expound on all things Texan
writes, we can see “the mingling of the Southern and Western traditions” that made its first appearance during Jackson's presidency, and which today so defines our current politics, culture, and foreign policy.
...except for the Presidential candidates, most of Congress, Hollywood, and the State Department
Indeed, George W. Bush himself may embody this national trend best.
Warning: Preposterousity Zone Ahead!
In Bush there seems little trace left of the Eastern WASP sensibility into which he was born and educated, and which explains so much of his father's far more moderate presidency. The younger Bush went to Andover, Yale and Harvard, but he rebelled against the ethos he learned there. The transformation is complete, right down to the Texas accent that no one else in his family seems to have. Bush is a Jacksonian pod person.
!!!
None of this is quite as simple as the triumph of the South, of course. “I’m suspicious of that argument,” says Gaines M. Foster of Louisiana State University, author of “Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913.” “The Civil War was essentially about preserving slavery and acquiring independence. And the South lost both of those things. And gave them up.” Beyond that, the Old South is gone with the wind in other ways, having suffered a hybridization from Northern and Midwestern influences. “At least one of four people in the South were not born here.
Yep, runnin’ from those damyankees
Even ‘Southern’ is now a fuzzy term,” Foster told me. And as Mike Huckabee demonstrated when he failed to spread his appeal beyond his Southern base, there is such a thing as too Southern.
...as opposed to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Oh wait, you mean Southern and Republican...
Polls show that at least as many Americans think Barack Obama shares their values as John McCain.
IMHO, not good news for either candidate.
Still, something deep and basic has changed in our country. After watching the recent, excellent (despite some historical inaccuracies) series “John Adams” on HBO, I dipped back into the Adams-Jefferson letters. Two things occurred to me: one, party politics was just as vicious back then, in its earliest days, as it is today. Nothing new there. What does seem foreign to us today is the dedication to free thought and, even more, free moral choice that so dominated the correspondence between those two great minds.
Why, look at the American university:  No “free thought” there. (At least, not if you want to graduate. Whoops!)
When Jefferson, in his letter of May 5, 1817, condemned the “den of the priesthood” and “protestant popedom”
Hey, wait a minute. Are the Catholics supposed to be good guys, or not? I’m confused!
represented by Massachusetts’ state-supported church, he was speaking for both of them--the North and South poles of the revolution. Yet John McCain, even with the GOP nomination in hand, would never dare repeat his brave but politically foolhardy condemnation of the religious right in 2000 as “agents of intolerance.” Why? Because we have become an intolerant nation, and that's what gets you elected.
Or maybe it’s just that he’s pissed off so many people that he needs every vote he has left.
Another expert on the mores of the South, author Michael Lind,
...who also hangs out at an east coast think tank.
notes this change is also attributable to the rise of the mass media and the eclipsing of the patrician culture that produced both Adams and Jefferson. “Both the New England Yankee and the old Southern colonel are gone,” he says. “It’s a battle between folk cultures, and it seems the Jacksonian is the more dominant.” It's not a clear-cut victory, but the South has won the day.

Hey Mike, if you want to hook up with Quebec...

Posted by: Old Grouch in Rants at 18:47:14 GMT | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 "Free moral choice" to the left means one thing and one thing only: abortion on demand. 

Posted by: CGHill at 04/29/08 01:13:39 (g/E2o)

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