Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prairie Home Ignorance

Garrison Keillor's inane op/ed in the Baltimore Sun serves to prove a point I've been making about progressive cosmopolitans (Brian calls them urban liberals) and their discontents.

A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti; the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing...

You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys.... It took 20 minutes until a gap appeared and then a mob of us pedestrians flooded across the street and the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you've watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization...

There stood Renoir's ballerina in pale blue chiffon and Monet's children in the garden of sunflowers. And Mary Cassatt's "The Boating Party," which I stood and stared at for a long time. A lady in a white bonnet sits in a green sailboat, holding a contented baby in pink, as a man rows the boat toward a distant shore. (Perhaps the boat is becalmed.) The man wears a navy blue shirt, he is preoccupied with his rowing, and the lady looks wan and mildly anxious, as well a mother should be. The baby is looking dreamily over the gunwales. Is the man a hired hand or is he the husband and father?

A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won't get off. You stroll down past the World War II Memorial, which looks like something ordered out of a catalog, a bland insult to the memory of all who served, and thousands of motorcycles roar by disturbing the Sabbath, and it depresses you for hours.

If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter or Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullabaloo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.

Keillor's sand pounding ignorance is astounding. The bikers he refers to is the CHARITY organization Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to veterans groups and to assist active military and families. They also work on behalf of POW/MIA issues. They don't merely read about citizen soldiers they actively work to assist them, which is more than one can say about Keillor.

Keillor represents a cosmopolitan strain in our society, which views America as all about "progress" and holds attendant views of patriotism as nothing but "dissent" and "change." These notions are quite different from the type of patriotism typified by Rolling Thunder.

I'm speaking here of a cultural divide in America. The "global we" versus the "American we."

Obviously the spectacle of Rolling Thunder is offensive to Keillor's cosmopolitan sense of patriotism. How dare they obstruct his high-brow outing of viewing art of Renoir and Cassatt. The "global we" scoffs at such low-brow "irritation."

Keillor's reaction to Rolling Thunder is typical of cosmopolitans in that they don't really think that "the American we" has anything worthwhile to offer about patriotism or any other issue for that matter. In fact the "global we" get downright testy whenever they get a whiff of the "American we" talking about patriotism, call it patriotism paranoia.

The "American we" does indeed have important things to say about a whole host of issues, patriotism included. The sad fact is that the loud roar of Rolling Thunder falls silent on the tone deaf ears of cosmopolitans like Keillor.


Bruce Godfrey said...

Hi, Mark. Let me play urban liberal's advocate with you (though my part of DC is pretty low density and looks like the set from Sanford and Son more than like Dupont Circle. Not to mention the rightward "thud" my voter registration put on the DC electorate)

1. Rolling Thunder is not the only group of bikers who roar through DC on Memorial Day. Some are Vietnam Vets who are not part of Rolling Thunder; some are just biker groups taking advantage of a nice day, or wanting to be in DC on a day off from work and/or to express solidarity with the dead, the wounded and the surviving families.

2. I don't know how easy it is to see on first eyeball that a group of bikers is from Rolling Thunder AND what Rolling Thunder does; I spent Memorial Day in DC walking off the excesses of a sedentary lifestyle on foot, but did not see them. I know a lawyer in Annapolis who's a Vietnam Vet and learned about Rolling Thunder from him.

3. I am awfully glad that the good people of Pasadena, Maryland have an excellent fire company to serve them. My house burned down in 1997, and I respect the work of firefighters at very substantial personal risk to themselves. But dammit, when I attended a Memorial Day parade 2 years ago with Dave Fischer's campaign, those testosterone-fueled firefighters ran the sirens on the engines so loud that my children were screaming in terror for 20 minutes.

4) Keillor doesn't "prove" anything about anybody other than Keillor. Period. He may reflect the ad hominem thesis that you and Brian advocate that liberals who live in cities are undesirable people (since if their ideas rather than their persons were the issue, that would be your focus), but his example doesn't prove anything. Keillor is not urban, not cosmopolitan but remarkably provincial.

It's actually about as easy to attack Keillor from the LEFT as from the right, with all of his home-spun, small-town condescension towards people outside small-town, militantly white Minnesota. He is not cosmopolitan at all, but arrogantly provincial. You want quotes? I will try to dig them up.

Cheers to all.

Mark Newgent said...


Good to hear from you again.

1. I do not find cosmopolitans "undesirable people." I happen to know many liberals who live in cities, who I am quite fond of, I count you in that number. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I live in a large city full of liberals. Most of my neighbors share diametrically opposing views, however we manage to get along quite well.

2. I was not attacking Keillor the person. I in fact, did as you suggest and attacked his ideas and not him. I save my ad hominem attacks for those who deserve it.

3. Keillor maintains a home on the Upper West Side... how provincial. Furthermore, my definition of cosmopolitan is not mutally exclusive of rurals or provincials. Its is more of a cultural current that flows across geographic locales. You may remember I touched on this in one of our previous conversations.

Bruce Godfrey said...

Re: the Upper West Side house, you got me. Touche. Not surprised but did not know that. Figured he kept his operations in MN, his brain seems stuck there.

Glad you have not wavered in your contempt for Duke. It's important to be steadfast in fundamental matters of morality.