Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nixonland, Page 341 and Counting

I'm a slow reader, which is embarrassing for a member of the Leftist Elite, but I do great on reading comprehension tests.

After a summer of struggle (and a few sidetracks, such as reading Little Women and Werewolves, listening to several Audible books and a half of a Kindle-for-iPhone book - hey, it's a weighty subject) I am up to page 341 in the 748-page (not counting footnotes) opus Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. I probably would have not made it to the cash register with it, but once Patton Oswalt quoted from it on a podcast, I was determined to not let a very busy comedian trump me in the Leftist Elite department.

The reason I bring it up now and not 406 pages from now is that every page seems to resonate with the current political climate - you know, the crazy Vietnam war, the dumbass Iraq war, the massaging of the media, the left against the right, etc.

The page in question recounts how the public's reaction to the severe beating meted out by cops and National Guardsmen on teenagers and journalists alike at the 1968 Chicago Convention was not anger at the cops, but overwhelming anger at the hippies and blacks in general (by then, there had been a rash of inner-city riots with a myriad of causes, lack of fair housing opportunities being only one). The Average American saw cops pummeling kids, and assumed, no, imagined scenarios in which, the kids had driven them to it, and got what they deserved.

Perlstein points out that at that time, there had been more damage done by terrorism (in the form of bombing and arson) on the right, by groups such as the Cuban right and conservative militia groups, then by the hippy-dippy left. However, the images of the leaders of the Black Panthers making threats against the police were so powerful that the majority of the country were convinced that the hippies and the blacks were the sole architects of the lawless state of the cities. And they certainly did their part. Both sides resorted to random acts of violence (i.e. terrorism) to promote their cause.

I saw a tweet today with a quote from a right-wing wingnut conflating some of the more fear-mongering names from the sixties with the mosque contemplated to be completed some two large blocks from the north side of the gaping hole that is still ground zero.

First, if I had not been in the middle of reading this book, I, a forty-eight-year-old, would not have recognized any of those names, as I was six in 1968, so who is the audience for this sort of scare? (Answer: your grandma and grandpa. They still vote.)

Second, who were the terrorists in the 60s? That's right. Us. Us meaning We Christians and We Hippy Hindus. Islamic terrorism was not a thing. Yet, we were just as scared. More, if you realize that our fear elected Nixon.

It doesn't matter what you're scared of. Somebody is going to find a way to push your buttons with your own fear. Don't let them. The founding fathers didn't.

1 comment:

SeattleDan said...

Keep working on Nixonland. I loved it. I lived through those times, and I was reminded of much that I'd either successfully repressed or merely forgotten.