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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Sunday, November 28, 2010


David Bromwich, writing in the 25 November issue of New York Review of Books, speculates that the U.S. is suffering the “southernization of American politics.” It’s been going on “since Richard Nixon in 1968” but has now become the substance (as it were) of daily and media life, represented by the reported “anger” of the far right. What are they angry about? The “loss” of “the America we grew up in.” Bromwich points out that one has to be over sixty to have grown up in an America noticeably “less chaotic” than the present, but that hasn’t prevented “the myth of the 50’s” remaining popular “ever since the 70’s”. So “southernization” is--in one convenient phrase--a compound of racism, “white fear,” fake nostalgia, and reaction against “the 60’s”. I think this is an insight.

I grew up in the America evidently fantasized by so many. (I graduated high school in 1953). It was already a “chaos” of McCarthyism, rabid anti-Communism, blacklisting, lynching, and even more open racism. And this is only a partial list. So the “50’s”--the idealization of the “man’s world” and “women’s place” and so on--was a fantasy even during the 50’s. The "ideals" were merely masks for exploitation. Maybe racism and a pervasive "victim" mentality were more pronounced in the South; Washington DC is a “southern” city, after all. In any case this masquerade has become our "government." None of this assuages my grief over the present, but it’s nice to have a theory.

I'm consoled by Theodore Roethke's lines, used as an epigraph by Aaron Copland:

I see in evening air

How slowly dark comes down on all we do...


Blogger jobail said...

Hey Dad,
I haven’t read the quoted piece, but I, by strange coincidence, have already come up with the sci-fi fantasy film version of the ‘southernization’ of America. I was listening to NPR drone on about “polarization” and “entrenched positions” the other day and was suddenly seized by a vision, like William Blake seeing a demon before his eyes that must be drawn on paper.

I was picturing the imaginary United Federation of Planets halls of power in one of the Gene Roddenberry inspired Star Trek movies. The story line has the center of government of “good beings” in the entire universe in San Francisco (re: ultimate liberal triumph over “southern evil”).

But in the “southernized” version the seat of universal governance would be in say, well it’s obvious for the historic name--Memphis! And instead of the peaceful, intellectually, sexually and racially integrated populace that Roddenberry imagined, there would be a cohort of flabby white men (and a few suitably desirable women) amiably mixing and laughing on the steps of the shinning City while the darker and lower casts moved about in obvious service to their superiors.

This was a very complete image, with uniforms, logos, color schemes and architecture all echoing the triumph of white fear over neo-liberal impulses.
In other words---yeah.

Now to pen a treatment, sketch a story board and start raising the money for production-it should be as easy as a lynching now-a-days!


9:41 AM  

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