Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Political Commentary on Southern Themes (and the Newt): Abby Zimet, Ernest Dumas, and Gene Lyons

This report by Abby Zimet at Common Dreams fairly well encapsulates for me what's gone incredibly awry in the political (and cultural, and religious, and ethical) priorities of many Americans today: Zimet notes that while governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky is cutting his state's budget for education and other basic services to the bone, he continues to earmark a $43 million tax break for a creationist-themed amusement park with a honking big replica of Noah's ark.

As Zimet observes, the park's promoters hope that it will "teach the world about God’s Word and the message of salvation!" Zimet's rejoinder: "If people in Kentucky still know how to read [i.e., after their education budgets have been cut to the bone to build the faith-based park]."

Meanwhile, my fellow Arkansans Ernest Dumas and Gene Lyons explain in the forthcoming weekly edition of Arkansas Times why the Newt is going over so very well in the bible-belt heartland of the American South.  Dumas sees Gingrich as a "practiced fabulist" who doesn't turn a hair as he shamelessly bends the truth (e.g., taking the 10.8% unemployment rate of Reagan's administration and sticking it on the Carter administration, where the rate was 5.6-7.8%).  

But as Dumas says, why bother with a niggling matter like bare little old truth when richly embellished fable and myth perform so very much better--especially in the case of an American South that has always hungered for mythology: 

Southerners, or a good portion of them, are accustomed to a mythical view of history and celebrate it. And when a debater is unconstrained by facts or even a rough approximation of the truth, he gains a great advantage. So it was with Gingrich in South Carolina, and so is it likely to be in the Republican primaries across the South.

And Lyons: 

Judging by the whooping and hollering of the CNN debate audience, the GOP’s neo-Confederate wing wishes for nothing less than an electoral replay of Pickett’s charge—the doomed infantry attack at Gettysburg most historians believe marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War. A sizeable proportion of South Carolinians have yearned for a rematch ever since.

If the Newt gets elected, we may have a bible in every hand instead of a chicken in every pot, honking big replicas of Noah's mythical ark instead of books in classrooms, and Confederate battle flags flying jubilantly over the statehouses of the newly revived Confederacy.

But who needs truth when we can have myth to sustain us?  Or chickens, schoolbooks, and racial justice when we can have, well, whatever it is unreconstructed Southerners think they'll be getting as they wildly celebrate the Newt's unabashed shame and his chutzpah in standing up to the first African-American president?

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