Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mayberry R.I.P.

Daddy Frank only infrequently writes feature articles. They're worth the wait. On "declining America" and "American exceptionalism". Runs to 5 screen pages and is my "highly recommended read" of the day.

In reality, The Andy Griffith Show didn’t transcend the deep divides of its time. It merely ignored them. “Local control” of Mayberry saw to it that this southern town would remain lily-white for all eight years of its fictive existence rather than submit to any civil-rights laws that would require the federal government’s “top-down management” to enforce. [...]

These declinist authors have in common a paucity of plausible or practical solutions to address the laundry lists of imperatives that America must deal with urgently if it is to save itself from perdition or extinction. But their most revealing shared trait, whatever their individual politics or panaceas, is an authorial demographic—they are all white men of a certain age (my em). It’s not happenstance that the Indian-born Fareed Zakaria, who shares some of the declinists’ complaints, conspicuously stands apart from them by defining his subject, in The Post-American World, as not “the decline of America” but “the rise of everyone else.”

Samuel Huntington wrote in 1988 that declinist waves “may be better indications of American psychology than of American power,” and that “decline, in short, may be in the eye of the beholder.” That certainly applies now. However serious America’s problems, the declinist panic has been fed psychologically by the advent of Obama: He was vilified for negating American exceptionalism months before he was even inaugurated and had the chance to take any official action that affected the country’s fortunes one way or the other. That Establishment pundits would be fellow travelers in this animus, yearning for an Obama who is not Obama, or for a great white daddy who would bring back the good old days, is a bipartisan indicator of a larger resistance to the onrushing ethnic, social, and cultural change in America of which Obama is only the avatar. It’s a kinder, gentler, and more respectable form of Palinism.

Lost in all our declinist panic is the fact that the election of an African-American president is in itself an instance of American exceptionalism—an unexpected triumph for a country that has struggled for its entire history with the stain of slavery. “Only in America is my story even possible,” Obama is understandably fond of saying, knowing full well that as recently as the year of his birth, 1961, he would not have been welcome in Mayberry, let alone the White House. That his unlikely rise has somehow been twisted into a synonym for America’s supposed collapse over the past four years may be the most disturbing and intractable evidence of our decline of all.

Shorter: The old white men that have traditionally run the joint are pissed that we let The Other in and America is getting browner and that signifies a collapse of the bad old ways of the good old days.

Don't worry, you old farts. Eventually the leaders of the 'browning of America' will become just as corrupt and repressive as you are and everything will be normal again.


Alessandro Machi said...

Maybe worse, and there in lies the irony, no?

"Andy Griffith was such a solid show, I wonder if anyone ever asked him why there were no african americans on the show.

BadTux said...

Eventually the leaders of the 'browning of America' will become just as corrupt and repressive as you are and everything will be normal again.

Given Obama's record on civil liberties (every repressive Bushevik policy, he's for) and his coddling of bankers, looks like "eventually" is, well, now. Just sayin'.

Of course, Rmoney is such a corrupt and vicious tool that only a fool would vote for Rmoney over Obamoney, but power corrupts, apparently, regardless of the color of the holder. It's only the bigots who care about the color of the person in power, and fuck them.

- Badtux the Multicolored Penguin

Anonymous said...

Look, no offense to anyone, but I am very tired of all this noise about "American Exceptionalism".

We are a great country, I'll grant you that, but but so are a lot of other countries. I'm just so sick of hearing how we're more this, more that, and more better'n anyone else in the whole wide world at EVERYTHING, and God's only real BFF to boot. Looked at another way, "American Exceptionalism" has the same ugly tone to it as "Deutschland Uber Alles" and "ubermensch"--and has often led to similar results (just ask the Vietnamese and the Iraqis).

(Oh, and as anybody who's ever traveled outside the U.S.will tell you, there are a whole lot of things other countries do a hell of a lot better than Americans--the kind of mass transit Europeans have comes to mind...)

Besides, we certainly have to ignore a whole lot of our history in order to have such a shining image of ourselves. For example, I often think that America lucked out that in the 1800s there was no U.N., no International Criminal Court, no Geneva Convention and what have you, when we were teaching Native Americans the meaning of "Manifest Destiny". Otherwise, the better part of our military and political elite would have been in the dock, up on charges of ethnic cleansing, atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc...