Monday, September 30, 2013

In Birmingham...


Sorry for the drought in posting. Meanwhile, a new documentary on the unique role of Muscle Shoals, Alabama in music history is a reminder that Puritans misunderstand America. The "Swampers" included David Hood, who is the father of Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.
At the moment, the puritanical tradition in American politics finds its fullest expression in a political party that has evidently lost its ability to win national elections but is willing to shut down the government and risk the entire country’s economic future rather than compromise its ideals. No doubt that seems courageous and inspiring to those who share those ideals, which, as I wrote last week, are not as crazy as they seem at first glance. (Republican strategy for holding power: bread and circuses, without the bread.) But there’s a current of nihilism, of ritual self-purification, of red-white-and-blue seppuku, that has an epidemiological grip on the American right, and it’s disturbingly strong right now.


It’s almost impossible to say anything clear-headed about the hyper-patriotic zeal of Tea Party people who put those giant screaming-eagle stickers and “Terrorist Hunting Permits” on the back windows of their F-150 pickups, about the desperate ahistorical yearning to recapture some libertarian white-people wonderland that never existed in the first place. But let’s try this: That’s an American tradition, but it’s not the American tradition. I firmly believe that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and that flag-waving does little more than reveal the weakness of one’s argument. But it is a matter of fact, and not political opinion, that the dominant current of American culture has always been a heterodox and dynamic flow, full of surprises and unexpected combinations and cultural and racial miscegenation of all sorts. That is the lesson of Muscle Shoals, and of Camalier’s film “Muscle Shoals.”

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