Thursday, July 09, 2009

Secular conservative culture warriors

Back in the days of Spiro Agnew, when the "culture war" as we know it was in its youth, being secular and a conservative culture warrior didn't seem like such a contradiction. With the dominance of the Christianist Right in today's Republican Party, though, it seems to be an odd eccentricity.

Taki's Magazine is an Old Right isolationist online publication that tries to cling to a lonely brand of secular culture war. This article by Steve Sailer of the rightwing-extremist nativist hate group VDARE, How Multiculturalism Killed the Counter Culture 06/24/09, makes some weird argument about how rock-and-roll music is white ethnic heritage, or some such garbage. Sailer's ideological equivalents in the 1950s were calling the then-new popular music of rock "race music". And they didn't mean the white race, either.

Aside from the bigotry, he makes this strikingly unreflective historical observation:

The late 1960s remain the fastest-changing period in my lifetime. For example, I was recently telling my son about the worldwide demonstrations in 1968, when he asked, “Did feminism play a big role in 1968?”

"Oh, no," I corrected. "Nobody cared about feminism in 1968. Feminism was 1969, not 1968." On further reflection, I helpfully added, "Environmentalism, however, was 1970, not 1969."

At that point, it struck me how bizarre it must seem by today’s slow-motion standards to assign huge historical movements to a single year with such confidence. For a child of the 1960s, however, it seems natural.
Uh, dude, if you're old enough to actually remember 1968, it most likely was the fastest-changing period in your life. You know, puberty, adolescence, acne, first kiss, etc. Maybe a teenager distracted by raging hormones and other things would only be able to grasp such things as fads. And while a young teenager might not realize that feminism long predated 1969 and environmentalism 1970, one would hope that he might have picked up on that sometimes during the subsequent decades.

This column calls to mind what Arlo Guthrie has often said: "Anyone who says they remember the sixties probably wasn't there."

And it's another anecdotal reminder that hardline conservatives are more defined by their image of "the sixties" than anyone else in American society.

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