Saturday, July 04, 2009


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.

---Samuel Harrington

If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.

---Robert Frost

The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

---Pablo Casals

I guess I need to begin this with a couple of explanations. First, allow me to assure you I had planned to use this photograph and caption for a couple of days before Alaska's governor dropped her bomb upon the nation yesterday. The illustration is from the Sarah Palin 2008 calendar for the month of July. Therefore the photo of a possibly naked (but probably bikini-suited, also flag-designed) body wrapped in Old Glory is not something dug up from beauty pageant days by a frothing liberal. Either she or her staff did it for her own commercial calendar.

Second, the caption by Sinclair Lewis was not on the calendar---but added by a blogger, possibly frothing at the time. Maybe Sinclair Lewis was agitated when he wrote that in his last major work, It Can't Happen Here, but our first Nobel Prize winner for literature was a pretty in-control guy...except for alcohol. Author of Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Dodsworth, Sinclair Lewis offered insight into American behavior and values that probably would benefit us to read again today.

I use the illustration because of clothing we're bound to see worn on this day at parades and celebrations. Over the past 8 or 9 years, I've noticed conservatives and particularly Evangelicals decorate themselves with the United States flag at work and at play. Sarah Palin does too, and I'm sure wanted to identify herself with such people in her calendar. But I remember a time when you could be scorned by the very same conservatives and Evangelicals, and maybe land in jail, for wearing the flag.

Abbie Hoffman was a co-founder back in the early 1960s of a group called the Youth International Party...usually referred to as the Yippies. Abbie used to wear a shirt made from a flag that would be completely in conservative style today, but which caused outrage just 40 years ago. You can see it here in a discussion about the Obama flag pin controversy. Hoffman, and I believe Jerry Rubin, the other co-founder and also member of the Chicago Seven, were accused of desecrating the flag by wearing it. How did things get so turned around in just 40 years?

Well, many things have gotten turned around in those same 40 years. We might want to ponder some of these changes in style---economic, political, diplomatic---on this 4th. Maybe it would be good to read the Declaration of Independence aloud at the picnic table. Conservative talk show hosts are recommending it, and it seems like good advice. However, they also are flirting with gatherings and demonstrations today to encourage revolution against our elected government. These same people would have shouted treason at anyone suggesting that 5 years ago. Even disagreement was cause for questioning one's patriotism and loyalty.

These are strange times, and we appear to be staggering under the load of 9/11. We've never been very good at accepting tragedy. We're a comedy nation...and we know only to lash out when challenged. The Greeks thought tragedy was a more important teacher than comedy, but we disagree. Sinclair Lewis introduced "boosters" in Babbitt, and I guess we didn't catch the satire long enough to avoid a trade of citizenship for consumerism.

I'm going to be marching in a 4th of July parade in a couple of hours here in Athens, Ohio. I won't be in the military contigents, but rather a group of theater folk celebrating a new production of Oliver that somehow I've gotten myself into. Charles Dickens, who wrote Oliver Twist when he was in his 20s, had been dead for 15 years before Sinclair Lewis was born. Wouldn't it be wonderful to imagine a conversation between the two? Someone want to write a play? Time to go, but if you want a witty view of Governor Palin's appearance yesterday, I suggest Gail Collins' column in the New York Times this morning. Have a safe and sane Fourth!


Quinty said...

Palin is so awful that she is truly fascinating. One wonders how Lewis, Marc Twain, H. L. Mencken, Molly Ivins, and others would have responded to her, and a conversation on the topic between Dickens and Lewis would certainly be fascinating. Attaching that Lewis quote to the photo was brilliant, and thoroughly apt. Too bad serious novelists are often seen as mere historic characters today, with no current relevance. Except, perhaps, on left leaning campuses.

The mass news media was able to tear itself away momentarily from Michael Jackson to remark upon Palin’s departure, pointing out the eccentric nature of her lengthy and rambling speech. Which is well worth watching if you are a Palianologist. There is something decidedly creepy (effluvial?) about this glimpse into her mind. And what if she had been elected vice president? And had become president? Could she have upped and walked out of the White House one bright clear day simply because she was sick of it all? Or is there something happening here which we don’t know about yet?

Let’s not forget. These are true Snopeses. Not the yuppified version young George Bush exemplified. Maybe tomorrow Palin will go out and shoot herself a moose. Something to soothe her agitated nerves.

I see in today’s Huffington Post that Levi Johnston intends to write “a tell all” book on the Palins. This came out through Levi’s assistant, “Tank.” Oh, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Collins’ collumn was right on.

Quinty said...

I'll beat Jazzo to the punch this morning by adding Maureen Dowd's column today on Palin to his site, if he doesn't mind?

"It’s no fun unless she’s the one aiming those poison darts..." Dowd says. How true, how true. She nicely disects Palin's ramblings, which means she had the patience and stamina to enter into the muck. But hey, someone has to do it.

(I will quibble with her assessment of LBJ. I may be wrong but I always thought the horror of the Vietnam War and his inability to make it work his way destroyed LBJ. Unlike Cheney and Bush, he had a conscience.)

Now, Sarah's Folly

Published: July 4, 2009

Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president.

Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.

Usually we don’t find that exquisite battiness in our leaders until they’ve been battered by sordid scandals like Watergate (Nixon), gnawing problems like Vietnam (L.B.J.), or scary threats like biological terrorism (Cheney).

When Lyndon Johnson was president, some of his staff began to think of him as “a sick man,” as Bill Moyers told Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Moyers and his fellow Johnson aide Dick Goodwin even began reading up on mental illness — Bill on manic depression and Dick on paranoia.

And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governor’s erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there.

“Several told me, independently of one another,” Purdum writes, “that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy’ — and thought it fit her perfectly.”

The White House can drive its inhabitants loopy. So at least Sarah Palin is ahead of the curve on that one.

As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability.

Quinty said...

Dowd cont'd.....

On the shore of Lake Lucille, with wild fowl honking and the First Dude smiling, with Piper in the foreground and their Piper Cub in the background, the woman who took the Republican Party by storm only 10 months ago gave an incoherent, breathless and prickly stream of consciousness to a small group in her Wasilla yard. Gobsmacked Alaska politicians, Republican big shots, the national press, her brother, the D.C. lawyer who helped create her political action committee and yes, even Fox News, played catch-up.

What looked like a secret wedding turned out to be a public unraveling as the G.O.P. implosion continued: Sarah wanted everyone to know that she’s not having fun and people are being mean to her and she doesn’t feel like finishing her first term as governor.

She can hunt wolves from the air and field-dress a moose, but she fears being a lame duck? Some brickbats over her ethics and diva turns as John McCain’s running mate, and that dewy skin turns awfully thin.

Maybe there’s another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop — there’s often a hidden twist in Sarah’s country-music melodramas. Or is this a reckless high-speed escape from small-pond Alaska, where her popularity is dropping, to the big time Below?

Even some conservative analysts admitted that the governor’s move seemed ga-ga before venturing the spin that Palin might be “crazy like a fox,” as Sarah’s original cheerleader, Bill Kristol, put it.

Maybe, Kristol mused, she could use the 18 months she would have spent finishing her term to write her book and study up on the issues for 2012.

Why not? Palin/Sanford in 2012, with the slogan: “Save time — we’re already in Crazy Town.”

Palin’s speech is classic casuistry.

After girlish burbling about how “progressing our state” and serving Alaska “is the greatest honor that I could imagine,” and raving about how much she loves her job, she abruptly announced that she was making the ultimate sacrifice: dumping the state on her lieutenant.

Why “milk it,” as she put it, when you can quit it? “Only dead fish go with the flow,” she said, while cold fish can blow out of town. Leaving Alaska in the lurch is best for Alaska. She can better “effect change” in government from outside government. She can fulfill her promise of “efficiencies and effectiveness” by deserting Juneau midway through her term — and taking her tanning bed with her.

“We need those who will respect our Constitution,” said Palin, who swore on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. She said she can’t fulfill that silly old oath of office in the usual way because she’s not “wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.”

Naturally, she dragged the troops in, saying that her trip to see wounded soldiers overseas “fortified” her decision to give up because “they don’t give up.”

She refuses to succumb to the “politics of personal destruction.” It’s no fun unless she’s the one aiming those poison darts, as she did when she accused Barack Obama of associating “with terrorists who targeted their own country.”

Sometimes, she explained, if you’re the star, you have to “call an audible and pass the ball” and leave at halftime, “so the team can win” somehow without you.

The maverick must run free when greener pastures beckon. The musher must jump out of the dogsled when warmer climes call. As Palin’s spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton, says, “The world is literally her oyster.”

But just remember, beloved Alaska, it’s all about you.