The question of what to do with the Confederate battle flag is easy to answer: hang it in your frat house window instead of a curtain. Or adhere it to the back of your truck. You can even wear it on a shirt while your Big & Rich shirt is in the wash. These uses of the Confederate flag occur in different contexts and reflect its diverse meanings, but they all send the same essential message: I am white. Over at the Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum reflects on the problem with having a flag of whiteness, first designed by the losing side in a war over slavery and reinvigorated in the backlash against desegregation. Meanwhile, in the part of America that does not read the Atlantic, Republican candidates for president are conspicuously mum.
I was going to be angry about these kids, but one look at the profoundly sixteen-year-old-girl expression on that sixteen-year-old girl’s face and I didn’t have the heart. (If you’d like to get real sad, you can read a blog written by that poor girl’s mother, in which she calls Barbara Boxer a “moronic twit.” The badge on the right side indicates that she’s made the list of “best conservative blogs on the net,” which is apparently determined by total word count.) That’s her boyfriend on the left, proving again that teenage boys will do anything under certain conditions. And what are these desperate youths and the ragtag band behind them protesting for? Lower taxes on the rich, reduced social services, deregulation of business and conservative fiscal policy.
To hear Frank Rich tell it, protests like these are harbingers of a new era of cultural and political upheaval. Last weekend was the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, which television raised me to believe was the most important moment of the 20th century. It turns out that was all to promote The Wonder Years, though, because this year’s commemoration was overshadowed by the season premiere of Mad Men. First of all, if you don’t watch Mad Men, you should start immediately. It is the Cadillac of television shows, or the Combat! blog of television shows in that Frank Rich and I agree with it more than anyone else in America. Second of all, Frank Rich is right. The year that resonates with our present cultural moment isn’t 1969; it’s 1963.
If you’ve seen Easy Rider, you know that A) you shouldn’t just watch every movie your Intro to Film Analysis TA said was good and B) motorcycles are a symbol of rebel freedom. Harley-Davidson began building motorcycles shortly after the turn of the century, but it was their widespread use as messenger vehicles during World War II that imprinted on a generation of servicemen an indelible connection between riding, cigarettes, and trying to forget what you just did. After the Hollister Riots of 1947, when 4,000 bike enthusiasts turned a small California town into a slightly larger, much drunker California town, public hysteria over outlaw bikers ran high. Life magazine ran a scared/fascinated feature, Hollywood made a series of exploitation films culminating in The Wild One, and an icon of American counterculture was born.