Sarah Churchwell reviews Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed! by Katharine DeBrecht
FOR a while during the 2008 election – namely, in the honeymoon period immediately following John McCain’s decision to nominate Sarah Palin as his running-mate – it looked as if the old Republican strategy of inciting ‘cultural resentments’ in order to ignite the conservative base would work yet again. Less torch-bearer than flame-thrower, Palin offered a divisive vision of an America whose ‘reality’ was a function of its conservatism, defensiveness, and a general sense of animus against perceived privilege. When Katie Couric, interviewing Palin on CBS, asked her why she had not acquired a passport until 2006, Palin’s answer was touchy, revealing, and predicated on class resentment: “I’m not one of those who maybe come from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduated college and their parents get them a passport and a backpack and say, ‘Go off and travel the world’. Noooo. I worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life, until
I had kids. … I was not part of, I guess, that culture.”
The logic of Palin’s defense, characterising a ‘culture’ of education defined by privilege, leisure and self-indulgence, and pitting them against a different ‘culture’ of work, discipline and self-reliance, is the zero-sum logic of the culture wars. Palin’s hostility to education, and indeed to language, would eventually come to define her candidacy, and establish the limits of America’s tolerance for anti-intellectualism. The real winner of the 2008 election may yet turn out to have been the English language.
Language has long been an unacknowledged casus belli in the American culture wars. If they were fought over the ideological ground of value systems, religious beliefs, political dogma or fiscal policy, the wars have always been waged by means of loaded words. The difference between liberal and conservative was habitually expressed by means of charged registers that put at stake language itself – and its metonymic associations, including not just the tools of vocabulary and grammar, but also the question of edification, of literature, reading and education. Liberals, associated with over-education, ivory-tower irrelevance and elite effeteness, were understood by extension to indulge in overly theoretical, exclusionary or multisyllabic language, as well as pedantry. Conservatives, by contrast, associated with small-town exurbia, were understood to employ the aw-shucks, down-home, common-sense vernacular of the man on the street. Conservatives long claimed that the argument is between those who are too busy dealing with reality to bother themselves with trivial semantics, and those whose privilege affords them the luxury of irrelevance. But in fact the argument is over argot: the way in which language is classed.
So much said in so few words. Recently I posted a column by conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg that was a lengthy and contradictory tirade against “experts“. It seems to be the conservative view that we can run a complex technologically advanced country without experts. Some how the answer to all problems, issues, predicaments, diseases, engineering challenges, and medical problems will arrive eventually through some magical common sense bolt of knowledge. One that enters one’s head without damaging the skull or reading a book. Not a week goes by that I do not hear that so and so might be book smart but they ain’t got no common sense. Not exclusively, though for the most part this is the Palin-Perry-Bachmann-Beck-Limbaugh crowd. If they have credentials of some kind – education or experience, they glad to flaunt them. Otherwise it is expertise that got us into what ever trouble under the topic du jour. Certainly experts are not always right – the social sciences have a very bumpy history. On the other hand there has been progress. We feed billions of people on a remarkably small amount of land. People are living longer than ever. Cancer is likely in its retirement years. We can fly across oceans. The internet has made connecting to people from around the world easier than ever – the result of some experts at DARPA. It’s the elitism of a nationwide clique of know nothings. If you know something or have ambitions to learn something than you can’t belong. A human’s reach should not exceed their grasp. Knowledge must be rejected so that the Palins of the world do not feel inferior. There will be no pondering the meaning of life, a poem. a book, a movie. There will be no artistic expressions beyond crude crayon drawings. Know your place and keep your intellectual curiosity in check. Than you’ll be one of them.
“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss
Matt Seitz has been doing a weekly update on Breaking Bad – “Breaking Bad” 4×9, “Bug”. While he makes some good point about Jesse in the last episode, I’m not so sure about Jesse having found himself. That would necessarily imply that he has also found a way out and he hasn’t. Walt as usual suffers from farsightedness. He only sees an ending down the road. In the mean time he is ignoring or bungling the small moves.
late 1800s homestead. a time when one could enjoy the absolute ecstatic pleasure of no Medicare, no Social Security, no FEMA, no FDA, no workman’s compensation.
A 14-year-old boy got into a fight at a school bus stop and the school district’s police officer responded by shooting him to death, the boy’s mother says. She says the cop had been reprimanded 16 times in the previous 4 years, suspended without pay 5 times, and “recommended for termination for insubordination,” but the school kept him on the force “without remedial training.”
Police departments really need better screening procedures. While most cops strive to be good cops, police work is a magnet for people who have issues with rage and revenge.
Yet another reason to be a conservative/libertarian – CNN Tea Party Debate Live-Blog
9:21: Ron Paul the doctor says a 30-year-old who has an accident and needs intensive health care should’ve planned ahead and is responsible for himself. When Blitzer asks if society should let that young man die, some in the crowd shout in approval. Tea Party audience members heard yelling: “Yeah!” “Let him die!
Perro-come-perro cultura. I would know how this would benefit society if only I had some of that special commonsense.