Friday links! Culture war edition


Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Let’s call this thing what it is: a war between two cultures that have somehow emerged from the same nation. Class warfare obviously isn’t happening. The average net worth of a US congressperson is just shy of $8 million dollars, which is approximately 100 times the median net worth of US households. This rich/poor thing is settled. Now we must lock ourselves in mortal struggle to resolve the conflict between tradition and modernity, ruralism and urbanity, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Community. Today is Friday, and America is on its H.L. Mencken, except for the half that’s on its William Jennings Bryan. Won’t you man the barricades with me?

If you read one link in this whole damn parade, read Andrew Sullivan’s longish “A Redder and Bluer World.” Props to The Cure for the link. You know I love a totalizing theory, and Sullivan’s argument that tradition vs. modernity will be the defining conflict of the 21st century is as total as they come. Like any good theory, it explains a lot of vexing contemporary phenomena, most notably the increasingly violent struggle between theocracy and liberalization in the middle east, and the disintegration of comity in the US legislative branch. Why? Because it’s abstract enough that you can apply it to anything. But it’s also worth thinking about, whether for insight or for kicks.

Lest you think we’re talking about a two-sided war, though, I draw your attention to Edward Snowden, the man who dared tell the American people that their democratic government is spying on them and who now faces the wrath of the Democratic president whom Republicans insist is a radical socialist. He’s still at the airport. Snowden claims that five countries have offered him asylum, possibly because he does not yet realize that he is being held prisoner in Russia. Seriously, dude: you are to Vladimir Putin as Bob Kraft’s Super Bowl ring is to Vladimir Putin.

Authority can do what it wants. It’s supposed to act like it doesn’t know that, but see preceding sentence. Or see the increasing militarization of police, as described with unfortunate hyperbole by Radley Balko. Balko seems a little hysterical and is possibly writing under a fake name, but his article makes a trenchant point. It’s full of SWAT teams raiding basement poker games, riot police pepper-spraying nonviolent protestors, and cops with t-shirts celebrating their plan to kick your ass. Anecdotal? Yes. But tell me your mental image of a public demonstration does not feature more black helmets and plastic shields than it did 20 years ago. That’s how they want you to think.

I’m joking; they don’t want you to think at all. As usual, wild rhetoric and the threat of force are not the best ways to humiliate your opponents into submission. If you really want to crush someone, you need a red pen. Rep. Mark Takano (D–CA), a former high school English teacher, has been harassing his colleagues by sending back corrected versions of their memos. My personal favorite among his corrections to the linked memo on immigration reform is the marked contradiction between “we must secure our border, improve interior enforcement, streamline legal immigration and modernize our visa system” and “it is precisely because the bill tries to address every issue at once that it is unworkable.” Those assertions are separated by exactly one sentence.

Let us never forget that elected government is a popularity contest, and it will always be the teachers versus the rich kids. Wait, that doesn’t work. Maybe it’s the nerds versus the jocks. Debate team v. cheerleaders? It’s definitely not skateboards versus Bugattis, as Lil’ Wayne would have us believe. Judging by his new jam, the real conflict is between contemporary hip hop production (great) and contemporary hip hop lyricism (absolute, lint-encrusted nadir.) Fortunately, you don’t dance to the words.


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