Halloween allows Americans to do two things they love: shop and break Puritanical taboos.
Halloween. It’s a holiday anticipated and embraced with equal fervor by kids craving an unmitigated sugar rush, by adults looking for an excuse to dress up like creepily-eroticized pop-culture characters, and by dentists craving sugar-induced high insurance deductibles.
Halloween is a big deal in America today. For a hyper-materialistic society that long ago replaced agricultural rhythms with consumer totems as markers of the seasonal cycles, the first appearance of Halloween paraphernalia in shopping centers signals the transition from summer to fall. Moreover, American society is rife with contradictions created by major disconnects between ideals and reality on issues ranging from marriage, to sex education, to economic mobility. Halloween’s emphasis on duality and the inversion of traditional social customs appeals to Americans caught up in these webs of contradictions because it effectively sanctions misbehavior and the inversion of “traditional” norms. In this respect, Halloween — at least temporarily — validates Milton’s famous line that “it’s better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.”
This is not a good way to debate human social organization. It’s just not.
During the 2012 presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney made some remarks that may have sunk his candidacy. This was nothing new for the perennial presidential candidate. After all, the guy is about as charismatic as a brick wall and has changed his political positions so often over the course of his public career that “foot in mouth disease” likely runs in his bloodline. But the comments to which I’m specifically referring were his infamous “47 percent remarks” delivered on May 17, 2012 in Bacon Raton, Florida to a table of chair-straining plutocrat donors. The remarks were, of course, captured on hidden camera by bartender Scott Prouty.
Rogue NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden: whether hero and villain, he’s a symbol of over 200 years of American debate over balancing liberty with security.
Are you free? No, seriously, are you really free? Do you feel that your government is protecting you from terrorists? If so, how much power should the government have to protect you from harm? Furthermore, how much power should the government have to protect itself from harm, and should you play a role in defending the state that affords you liberty and protection? These types of questions are actually quite difficult to answer if you really dig into the details of what duties and obligations come with being an American citizen.
A 1904 Campaign Poster for candidate Tom Watson of the “People’s Party,” also know as the “Populists.” They didn’t last long, though some of their policies did. Also, Watson turned into a xenophobic, racist nutball.
Why can’t the United States muster the will to create a viable third-party to challenge the calcified, shame-immune, institutional bureaucrat incubation pits known respectively as the Democrats and the Republicans? Throughout American history many idealistic souls have longed for a third-party alternative to the ensconced two-party system, and, despite a few fleeting exceptions, they have been sorely disappointed.
The American tradition of mass democratic politics has historically combined with structural limitations within the country’s governing institutions to make third-party movements akin to knocking on Mordor’s gates and hoping to be let in with a wink and a smile. Yes, one does not simply start a third-party in America.
A protester at a Tea Party rally holds a sign demonstrating the continued importance of slavery’s legacy in U.S. political discourse. Notes: this is how NOT to have a “conversation about race.”
What does it take for that contradictory, opinionated, but not always informed, ethnically amorphous mass of sputtering, super-sized humanity known collectively as the American public to have an honest conversation about race? Heck, what does the phrase “conversation about race even mean?” Henry Louis Gates, esteemed Harvard professor of African-American history, thinks it’s utterly meaningless, and that talking about race means recognizing how race is interwined with U.S. History. In an interview for Salon, Gates emphatically states that “since slavery ended, all political movements have been about race.”
Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, likes to smite his political foes by angrily faux-filibustering. Because freedom.
The two-week long, Tea Party Republican-engineered shutdown of the federal government is finally over. This week the Senate reached a deal that a politically battered House GOP reluctantly endorsed because it kicked the can of U.S. fiscal and political dysfunction down the road until December and February, when they can again wage scorched earth politics against all-things Obama.
Meanwhile, the horse-race junkie American political media has been focusing on the “winners” and “losers” of the shutdown. Most media outlets, save the hand-wringing experts at the Center for American Progress, have declared the Tea Party Republicans the tail between their knees losers: the victims of ideological rot and political miscalculation. Except for Ted Cruz. Indeed, the junior Republican senator from Texas — his term in the Senate barely a year old — was near universally dubbed a political winner even though his party was left with egg on their reactionary white faces.
Congressnut Michele Bachmann (R-Toontown) speaks (possibly in tongues) to the Evangelical Values Voters Summit.
A large and very politically active segment of the American population, mostly Evangelical Christians, can’t wait for the end of the world. As the Washington Times recently reported, a Barna Group poll found that 4 in 10 American adults believe that “the world is currently living in the ‘end times’ as described by prophesies in the Bible.” When the data was broken down further, the poll revealed that 54% of mainline Protestants agreed that the end times were immanent, while 77% of evangelicals and 45% of Catholics believed that Jesus would soon return to earth to do stuff that He could, as the Almighty, theoretically do from His celestial La-Z-Boy recliner instead. But I digress.
A massive army of deluded Tea Partiers sport the Confederate flag outside of the White House. Give them credit for being able to find the White House.
The scene of perhaps 200 confused, yelling white people gathered at the grounds of the World War II Memorial and the White House was indeed stirring. The most notable antecedents of these Tea Party dingbats, the Confederate revolutionaries who rebelled against the federal government from 1861-65, would be proud to see their torch being carried by such valiant souls.
On October 13, 2013, this group of motley rebels convened on Washington D.C., carrying the Confederate battle flag, of course, to complain about the World War II monument and other federal sites being closed due to the Republican-led shutdown, which started over Obamacare, then descended into a mindless brouhaha of conservative hen pecking. Leading these fearless warriors was Sen. Ted “Filibuster, but not Really” Cruz, the de facto figurehead of the shutdown itself. Sarah “Caribou Barbie” Palin, former half-term governor of America’s largest welfare state, tagged along — because why not. Despite being rallied by Senator Cruz, the guy who engineered his party’s shutdown of the federal government, the Tea Partiers blamed the shutdown on President Obama — because why not.
An 1850s era Boston Know Nothing Party newspaper, the American Patriot. The Know Nothings opposed taxes, immigrants, and feared American moral decline. Sound familiar?
In light of the 2013 shutdown of the federal government, much proverbial ink has been spilled trying to understand the lumbering, lily-white, unreasonably enraged, largely geriatric albatross known as the Tea Party that has taken the Republican Party into its paranoid talons and simply refuses to let go. Understanding what drives these Medicare-scootering reactionaries is key to understanding the mind of contemporary American conservatism. But these neck-vein bulging, spelling-challenged, addlepated political equivalent of howler monkeys are, in fact, only the most recent manifestation of a seemingly intractable American tradition: nativism.
Tea Party protesters are part of a grand tradition in U.S. history, in which privileged white people complain about stuff.
With the Republican Tea Party-backed congressional orcs continuing to lay siege to the Helm’s Deep of the federal government, there’s been a lot of discussion of late, especially by Salon’s Joan Walsh and Think Progress’ Zack Beauchamp, about how deeply entrenched issues of racial resentment are at the heart of the government shutdown. Both point to the GOP’s “Southern Strategy” that for several decades now has effectively convinced insecure white people that “Big Government,” steered by the Democrats, will redistribute state-supported goodies like tax benefits and welfare from the truly deserving ivory nobles to the allegedly mooching dusky rabble.