February
26th 2012
Remember when?

Posted under: American history, Gender, the body, wankers, weirdness, women's history

Remember when during the 2008 primary election candidate Barack Obama argued that his selection as the Democratic nominee would mean that we’d get past all of the kulturkampfen waged by aging hippies and College Republican Baby Boomers still stuck in the 1960s?  Indeed, it was central to his appeal, and he played it up.  For example, here’s his speech “The America We Love,” June 30, 2008:

Still, what is striking about today’s patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day

Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. . . .

Given the enormous challenges that lie before us, we can no longer afford these sorts of divisions. None of us expect that arguments about patriotism will, or should, vanish entirely; after all, when we argue about patriotism, we are arguing about who we are as a country, and more importantly, who we should be. But surely we can agree that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism. And surely we can arrive at a definition of patriotism that, however rough and imperfect, captures the best of America’s common spirit.

Are you f^(king kidding me?

No Red America, no Blue America, just the United States of America &c., so long as you rid us of the horrible, horrible Clintons, who after all are the only reason we’re stuck in these bogus culture wars.  Yeah, good times!  (Some of his more foolish admirers even claimed in print that ending the culture wars would be his “greatest feat.”)

I never believed Obama at the time, but I sure wish he had been right about getting over the 1960s already.  As Leonard Pitts wrote recently, the Republican primary this year suggests that we’re all in danger of becoming Mad Men-era reenactors.  I already feel like a reenactor when I hear contraception being called bad for women, or serious legislation requiring the medical rape of women.  Or, really, any conversations among politicians involving the word “transvaginal” at all.

14 Comments »

14 Responses to “Remember when?”

  1. Profane on 26 Feb 2012 at 10:36 am #

    All I can say is that I really miss this guy, and I am not sure where he has been for the last four years:

  2. ej on 26 Feb 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I guess the real issues at stake here (i.e. unemployment and the economy) are just too difficult for people to handle, so we need to spend time discussing women’s reproductive rights. But really, some of this legislation might actually help with the economy. When I was pregnant, I was at risk for pre term labor, so I had a number of those transvaginal ultrasounds. At $2600 a pop.

    So requiring that women contemplating pregnancy termination have them would help energize the economy. If nothing else, it would bolster incomes of medical practices, give insurance companies more charges to fight and require a whole new generation of ultrasound techs be trained.

    Two birds, one stone, maybe? The GOP is genius.

  3. Z on 26 Feb 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    $2600, ej?! This makes me realize something I should have thought of: that would put a huge financial barrier, etc.
    So the plan makes abortion effectively really difficult to get…

  4. truffula on 26 Feb 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Just because I am reading a stack of essays today:

    Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day

    If a student of mine wrote this, ze would fail. I get that this is a speech and thus not bound by the usual requirements of hyperbole avoidance but really, as much as I’d like to be past whatever he is complaining about, I’d also like to be past the fairy tale basis for the complaint.

    I don’t actually want to get over the 60s/70s or get over the 30s, for that matter. They were times when people stood up in their messy, imperfect way, demanded redress of their grievances, and made some progress. Fancy guys like Obama really don’t seem to like the rabble getting uppity. Patronizingly help the rabble, they are okay with that, but let the rabble speak for themselves? Probably not.

  5. Z on 26 Feb 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    “Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. . . . ”

    Actually, these caricatures were quite successfully marketed, and most Americans I meet do “buy into” them.

  6. Susan on 26 Feb 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Well, my take is that most people did get over the 1960s, it’s just that there is a very vocal group that is still fighting the battles of that day and age. And that is running the GOP primary.

    The worst part of the Obama speech is the reference to the supposed insults to returning vets in Vietnam — there are great deconstructions of that story. Also, I think he forgets that the end of hostilities — just like the end of partisanship — has to be agreed to by all parties. Alas, the republicans decided that they had more to gain by NOT ending partisanship than by actually trying to do things.

  7. Historiann on 26 Feb 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Susan and truffula make great points. It’s the whole myth of spitting on returning Vets all over again. But you have to invoke a *fake* offense from the Left in order to make it appear that Right-wingers were equally wronged in all of that “divisiveness.” (Obama might have correctly evoked the Weathermen as left-wingers who were willing to engage in violence against their political opponents, but this was amist the brouhaha over Bill Ayers.)

    But there really is no equivalent to the violence conservatives were willing to engage in, especially with respect to the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement. None at all.

    Transvaginal probes for the lot of right-wingers still prosecuting the kulturkampfen, I say.

  8. Indyanna on 26 Feb 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Second/third/fourth Truffula, Susan, and Historiann. Pretty simplistic binary categorizations and caricature in Obama’s declamation. Where do we put liberal Democratic hawks, of which there were many, or one-percenter Patricia Hearst as Tania, holding the machine gun for Cinque on the 1974/5 bank job and stock broker progeny making bombs in Manhattan? Or the evolutions that almost everyone went through during that or any era? Granted, as Truffula notes, it’s a speech, and not a double-blind peer-reviewed review essay. But the hardest history to ingest and metabolize may be the years that transpired when you were 0-10, hence my aversion to the 1950s as a “historical” subject. In any case, I’m still trying to figure out whether we are *really* “all Federalists and all Republicans.”

  9. koshembos on 26 Feb 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Obama’s 2008 campaign was ran as a non violent fascistic movement organized by veterans of the 60′s wars. That summarizes the crap we were getting then and now. Sadly, way too many went for it; probably some of the above commenters above as well.

    The belief that postpolitics exist is moronic. The idea that we labor in the 60′s misses the point that the Republican are still fighting the Civil War.

    I live in a very Democratic state; I will not vote Obama.

  10. LadyProf on 26 Feb 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Argh, I remember that June 2008 speech. Smarmy, sickening, dishonest. This blog post is the first criticism of it that I know of.

    I have declined to read Obama’s multiple memoirs but from the reviews I gather they prescribed post-partisanship as the cure for what ails the USA. What we voters saw was what we got. Ironic that the maligned Hillary Clinton (and to a lesser extent Bill) has actually been effective in reaching across the aisle to get work done.

  11. joellecid on 27 Feb 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I agree with the notion that this is all just myth-making, and especially ugly given that the rhetoric has moved ever more rightward, and the image of a radical left has become ever more vilified and ever more inclusive of anyone who sits even in a very moderate middle.

    What does strike me in my own experience teaching in a very conservative classroom is just how much my students are still living in the political myth-landscape of the 1960s. They blame everything on “hippies,” assuming that all left-leaning people are hippies today (if “hippiedom” could even truly be classified as leftist). They also blame women’s libbers and any left stereotype from the 60s for any political move they disagree with. Sometimes I feel like I’m teaching in in 1967 rather than 2012. Sigh.

  12. truffula on 27 Feb 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    They blame everything on “hippies,”

    My partner was just at a family wedding in Texas and apparently some young’un in the clan asked if my partner was, you know, one of those hippies he’s heard about. Sorry kid, nope, can’t check that off your life list yet.

    I do know some bona fide hippies, Rainbow-Family-of-Light hippies and while I love them immensely and think they have a solid set of family values, they are not necessarily the first folks to call when the interhemispheric council starts writing the constitution of the United Bolivarian States of the Americas. They won’t sign anything. They are good at non violence principles and de-escalation though. That would be handy.

  13. Historiann on 27 Feb 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Maybe the Rainbow Family could stage an intervention in the thread below this one.

  14. Mamie on 27 Feb 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Gee, one of my siblings was a bona fide hippie–and now a very right-wing, Ron Paul enthusiast.

    I do blame her for everything.