Monday, July 28, 2008

The Fathers of Atoms

In his essay Starship Stormtroopers (available here), Michael Moorcock deftly points out the essential tension between mythic-narrative depictions of the American mental landscape: "To be a rugged individualist a la Heinlein and others is to be forever a child who must obey, charm and cajole to be tolerated by some benign, omniscient father: Rooster Coburn shuffling his feet in front of a judge he respects for his office (but not necessarily himself) in True Grit." The counterpoint to that, of course, is that the true rugged individualist, as depicted in forms ranging from the media action-hero (Jack Bauer, say), or in extreme form, as one of Ayn Rand's cardboard protagonist, is that the rugged individualist must always be prepared to act, to enforce compliance with Truth, Justice, the American Way, and whichever kind, paternal authority is the exemplar this time.

Against this mythic-narrative backdrop a century and more old, the American political landscape has seen the rise and domination (for the last 30 years or so) of political actors (some of them really are actors) who not only believe the myth, but have taken it upon themselves to enact it in whichever ways they can. The political landscape also contains a cadre of distant authorities, urging these John-Wayne-in-their-own-minds to do something:
"We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." (Phil Gramm)

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." (Ann Coulter)

Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous. (Rush Limbaugh)

We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee. (Ann Coulter)

A great deal of good could be done by arresting Bill Keller having him lined up against the wall and shot. (Melanie Morgan)

My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. (Ann Coulter)

Sometimes, people who have been listening too hard to people attempting to push the bounds of acceptable discourse to include violence and death threats do in fact act on it. Apparently, in the story of Jim David Adkisson, we're seeing it again. Adkisson had written a four-page "manifesto" detailing how much he hated liberals (among others), was an avowed neo-Confederate, and an all-round charming example of humanity bigot.

I can't help but think these things are of a piece, that the mythic reality written about and enacted so dramatically by another right-wing icon, John Birch, informs these people's unconscious idea that they are the instrumentality of the paternal authority, the hero out to save the day by enforcing the correct social order as they perceive it, the Rugged Individualist writ real.


Post a Comment

<< Home