Friday, October 26, 2007
Down On The Farm
In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the new John McCain ad playing in Nevada:
Ezra Klein, in an appearance on Hardball, responded by saying:
I don't want to see us have another fight over who's a hippy and who's a soldier. I find it dull.
Unfortunately, that's the fight the other side does want to have, because it's one that polarizes important electoral demographics (presumably in their favor), as the other members of the Hardball panel made forcefully clear. As I've mentioned before, it's the kind of polarization that has not yet occurred in the Iraq War debate, where opposition cuts across cultural lines. But knowing this would be a subtext, if not the subtext, of the 2008 campaign, it's hard to understand how Hillary Clinton could have set herself up for such an easy attack.
The intellectual response to McCain's ad is that Woodstock represents America as much as the US Army does. Is there anything more patriotic than Jimi Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner? Anything un-American about gathering on the farm to celebrate the bounty of the American soil, which is symbolically what the event amounts to?
Obviously, that won't play very well in Nebraska, but what might is pointing out a simple historical fact. The imprint America has left on the world in the post-War era begins with it's rebels. Starting with James Dean, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe and continuing on through the Sixties rock 'n roll generation, the hip hop & graffiti revolution, and the internet upstarts, America's cultural legacy is one of freedom, reinvention, and the embrace of a certain type of experience that can best be described as carnal. That this rebellious streak has always wrestled with the Puritan code was obvious ever since Nathaniel Hawthorne sent Hester Prynne out into the world with a scarlet "A" sown on the breast of her shirt.
Woodstock and Vietnam were inseparable, even if they were by nature hostile to one another. But America has evolved since then, and Ezra Klein is a good example of how. The opposition to the war, young and old, is well-groomed, articulate and respectful. No one's trying to tear down the foundations of Western civilzation. Museums are cemetaries, built to preserve artifacts from a dead past. The fact that we're now building one for Woodstock shows how much things have changed since then, not how much they've stayed the same.