I don’t mean to overgeneralize, but everyone is shit. The Ivy League warmongers are in a tight race with the uneducated racists, and everyone who ought to know and/or do better is busy pandering to what segment of those audiences they imagine most lucrative. Also it’s leaf blower season, and nobody signals their turns anymore. Sometimes a small sample of unrelated events starts to seem like the end of civilization as we know it—or at least civilization as we like it—and the best thing to do with that feeling is to get it out of your system. Today is Friday, and H.L. Mencken was right: These dickcharmers are going to outlive us all.1 Won’t you yell through the windshield with me?
First, the good news: You don’t have to change your opinion about Jimmy Fallon. America’s cutest hack/funniest mimbo had Donald Trump on his show last night and subjected him to a blistering series of questions about his fraudulent schools and charities, his attacks on Muslim-Americans, his support from white nationalists, and his refusal to release his tax returns or health records. Just kidding! He tousled his hair.
I can just see the half dozen coke dealers and sons of entertainment lawyers who compose Fallon’s writing staff learning they’ll have Trump on the show, sequestering themselves with a white board and coming up with one idea: hair. This is the moral vision and commitment to craft that made the Tonight Show the proud celebrity lip-synching competition it is today.
Meanwhile, in the past, Sugar Research Foundation President Harry Hass laid out his vision for America: convince people to eat less fat, so they could eat more sugar. The New Yorker reports that in the 1960s, Big Sugar—the sector of the food industry, not the New Orleans madame with a heart of gold—funded friendly research and hid the dangers of its product in much the same way as Big Tobacco. Their effort to connect heart disease to fat instead of sugar consumption shaped 50 years of government programs and popular ideas about nutrition. James Surowiecki wonders if the low-fat, high-carb diets this campaign encouraged aren’t responsible for the obesity epidemic today.
Big Sugar is also indirectly responsible for Cane, Jean Toomer’s classic of weird modernism, so it’s not all bad. Cane was a big influence on me after I read it as a sophomore English major, but now I realize I should have learned its content without adopting its style. That’s cultural appropriation, at least according to the definition put forth by Fordham law professor Susan Scafidi, as cited in this excellent speech on the subject by Lionel Shriver. Quote:
The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”
Putting aside the question of whose permission I should ask, exactly, to use “finna” as a verb, Shriver argues that this view of appropriation runs counter to the writer’s task. Should Mark Twain not have written a slave character in Huckleberry Finn? Should Dalton Trumbo not have imagined the life of a disabled man in Johnny Got His Gun? Should my girlfriend not have made borscht at home? Respect for other people’s cultures is important, but a blanket prohibition on appropriation like the one Scafidi describes looks a lot like cultural segregation.
Cultural appropriation is still a real problem, of course, when the appropriated version of a culture overwrites the original. So seems to be the case with Pepe the Frog, which started out as a dumb 4chan meme before it was deliberately co-opted by white supremacists. Either that or it’s still a dumb meme, and the white supremacist thing is a scare promoted by Clinton surrogates—it’s hard to tell, since this article is pretty old. (Update: It’s definitely still just a dumb meme, and the whole Daily Beast thing amounted to a prank.) But it’s weird to hear anonymous internet Nazis2 talking about their plan to rebrand the image, which A) basically just involved putting swastikas on him and B) worked.
Meanwhile, not in the past where it should be, the governor of Kentucky told the Values Voter Conference that bloodshed may be necessary if the election doesn’t go their way. Seriously—he said Hillary Clinton might be elected and then segued directly into Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty” quote. He elaborated:
Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and our indifference, have given away. Don’t let it happen.
God dammit, dude. You are the governor of Kentucky, not a caller on the second hour of Alex Jones. I guess if I want decency and high values, I’ll just have to retreat into art.