One decreasingly fashionable view of colonial history holds that the American Revolution succeeded in part because of ideological consensus—the remarkable tendency of Americans to hold the same basic views on the same foundational ideas. We’re all pretty much committed to the idea of equality before the law, for example. If you explained that concept to a dude in 18th-century Korea, he would A) become obsessed with your cell phone and B) laugh at the notion that every person in a society should obey the same laws. From outside our particular historic paradigm, Americans’ general agreement is mind-blowing. Yet, at this very moment, Rick Santorum is running a campaign based on the idea that this county’s biggest problem is gay dudes. He will never be President, but hundreds of thousands of people agree with him. Get a few conclusions removed from basic principles, and the nutso worldviews of your fellow Americans are breathtaking. It’s Friday, and people across the country can’t wait to recharge by watching some Ghost Whisperer and going to church. Won’t you marvel at their fantastic perspectives with me?
As anyone who heard “Imagine” fifty times at the dentist will tell you, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. The former Beatle has always been a cultural lightning rod, in part because of his intense popularity among people who do not otherwise like music, and in part because he was—in perhaps the most accessible, non-threatening use of the phrase ever—the smart one.* It was therefore satisfyingly ironic when, around 11:30 Eastern yesterday morning, “Lenon” eclipsed “Lennon” as a trending topic on Twitter. “Lenon” continued its meteoric rise throughout the day and, as of this writing, has knocked “Lennon” clean off the trending topics list. It was a watershed moment in the measurement of world stupidity. Either that or it was a startlingly apt metaphor for our national discourse, naturally synthesized by our most contemporary medium of communication—a free hint from the ghost in the machine.
Those of us from Iowa used to lament that our Republican senator, Charles Grassley, had become the face of opposition to health care reform. Why did the most recognizable Iowan in national politics have to be a wizened elf who accused every bill of providing free abortions to immigrants and kept assuring us that the Death Panels were in there somewhere? I, for one, wished that someone else—anyone else—could serve as Iowa’s delegate to the national imagination. That, boys and girls, is why you must never wish. Representative Steve King (R–IA) has fulfilled our longings in the most ironically disappointing way possible. Sure, Chuck Grassley is an asshole, a stubborn hick whose Twitter feed read “Barb made oatmeal,” on the day his committee abandoned the attempt to reach bipartisan consensus on health care reform. But yesterday Steve King called for the overthrow of the United States government. Apparently Congressman King has forgotten where he works, along with a bunch of other important information that might otherwise have allowed him to make a useful contribution to the operation of America. In speaking to the Huffington Post, he called for a peaceful takeover of Congress similar to Prague’s Velvet Revolution, and likened the state of our country to that of Czechoslovakia under Soviet communism. “It is very, very close,” he said. “It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over.” Which raises a lot questions, not the least of which is whether Representative King knows what that word means.
Since August, when Sarah Palin was eaten by a Grue as a result of staying in a darkened area too long while studying foreign policy, a replicant version of her body has been operated by a funny snake. We know this. What you may not know is that the snake finally finished writing that book—which is currently being edited to remove numerous and baffling references to the warmth of field mice—and he is now free to pilot Sarah Palin’s body around the country, collecting multi-thousand dollar speaker fees and making his views known. Like most snakes, the one controlling Palin’s body is friendly and inquisitive, and spends most of his time scanning the ground in search of candy and coins, which he hopes to barter for social acceptance. In that capacity, he’s discovered a possible left-wing conspiracy and a change in our minting policy that may shock and disturb you.
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.