Political Animal


July 04, 2012 1:50 PM And Another Contrarian Voice….

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of contrarian voices, Charles Pierce did a post yesterday (h/t commenter danimal) motivated by his return to a state park where he worked back in the 1970s. Among other things, it shows that Pierce is not simply the American Left’s greatest satirist, but someone whose bitter snark often disguises a form of patriotism that used to be familiar and even beloved. A sample:

Deep in the forest, there’s an old abandoned railroad bridge, a relic of the days of the WPA, a monument to the dead triumph of public purpose in a country that has surrendered its soul to a cramped sort of accountancy. There is a sense of political commonwealth, of public spaces that belong to all of us, that we need desperately to revive, and not merely in cyberspace. Being American — truly, fully, deeply American — has always required physical space. It was the country’s original promise, the basis for the American dream. There is something in my old forest now that feels very much like an ancient, weathered shrine, the songs of the birds like mournful monks at a kind of vespers. I have hope, though, because I still know how the wind sounds here.
Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • castanea on July 04, 2012 2:26 PM:

    What is missing from political discussions these days is an understanding of the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

    The former, I think, involves loving one's country but accepting that it is imperfect, and trying to make it better.

    The latter involves thinking that one's country is the best there ever was, and being willing to call for the destruction of everyone who disagrees with you.

    The rightwing practices nationalism but calls it patriotism, to the detriment of our common future as Americans.

  • c u n d gulag on July 04, 2012 2:46 PM:

    Sometime after the moon landing in 1969, we went from a "CAN DO!" nation, into a, "Nope, we can't afford that!" nation.
    Was it Nixon?

    Reagan gave that regressive pessimism a smiley face.

    And today, we celebrate the ghosts who founded this once great nation, and their great, but imperfect idea.

    And too many people confuse the Tories with the revolutionaries, forgetting that the Founding Fathers were the ones who were the revolutionary Liberals, fighting the King, and the Tories who supported the King were the Conservatives fighting for the status quo.

    To think otherwise, is stupid.
    To say it out loud, is laughably absurd.

    But, in a nation where too many of the voters are stupid, ignorant, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and/or homophobic - what can we expect but stupidity and absurdity?

    And we gaze at what was built while we still dreamed and thought "Not only, 'yes we can!, but yes we must!!!'" - and think, "WOW! We certainly could do some things back then when we wanted and needed to."

    We also look around now, like some aging movie queen, and we're told, "Well, sure it'd be nice - but it's too damn expensive. We don't have the money we once had."

    What happened?
    Lowered taxes on the wealthiest, and the greatest income disparity since "The Gilded Age!"

    In other words - Conservative Valhalla.

    That "Shining City On a Hill" is no longer lit-up as some beacon for freedom and liberty - it's a burning hulk, with every man and woman out for themselves.

    Instead of getting together and running to see what we all can do to save that city, everyone's out to see what they can grab before it's nothing but a pile of ashes.

  • barkleyg on July 04, 2012 3:29 PM:

    "Among other things, it shows that Pierce is not simply the American Left’s greatest satirist, but someone whose bitter snark often disguises a form of patriotism that used to be familiar and even beloved"

    I Love CHARLES!

    It is his SATIRE that separates Charles from the rest of the Political reporter "class(?)".

    Instead of the Villagers preferred "Victorian Wimpy" writing style, Charles uses REAL words. This ability, plus his personal history of discovering America through anecdotal and real stories, create a depth that most columns lack, plus the deserved SATIRE that few writers dare to write in Real instead of faux words about the article's subject.

  • Rugosa on July 04, 2012 3:53 PM:

    c u n d - well said, and sadly so true.

  • N.Wells on July 04, 2012 4:05 PM:

    The advantage of growing up partly in one country and then moving to another is that after you grow up mindlessly swallowing all the standard mindless jingoistic patriotic crap that surrounds everyone, you suddenly hear it all over again, but with a completely different set of conclusions, at which point you realize just exactly how mindless and hollow a load of crap patriotism really is. It is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but it is all too often the first recourse of a politician up to no good.

  • zandru on July 04, 2012 5:55 PM:

    It Wasn't All the Rightwing

    "Sometime after the moon landing in 1969, we went from a "CAN DO!" nation, into a, "Nope, we can't afford that!" nation."

    Don't leave the Left off the hook. I remember the endless carping following the moon landing - and every other moon mission - about what a waste of money it was, because there were still poor people. That, instead of the government blowing our tax money on expensively shooting a couple of overprivileged, elite white men into the sky, all that money should have been applied to alleviating poverty right here on earth.

    You may also recall the artsy liberal-arts orientation of the youth movements in those days. No hard science, engineering, math or definitely no "sci-fi" for them, nosiree! Space exploration was something to be mocked. Remember "Major Tom"?

    However, I agree that the overwhelming governmental cheapness we're enduring now is almost entirely from the reactionary right. "We never spent that much money, back before wimmen got the vote" is another one of their talking points. Hint, hint.

  • James E. Powell on July 04, 2012 7:23 PM:

    The Greatest Generation lost its warm feelings for the grand, collective achievements of their country the minute they found out that they had to share them with black people.

  • Ed, Watertown MA on July 05, 2012 10:58 AM:

    I will probably be pilloried for this comparison but Charlie Pierce, especially in his new forum at the Esquire political blog, reminds me of no one less than the late great Molly Ivins.

    They both have the ability to use humor and a quick wit to eviscerate their opponents without descending to ad hominem attacks. And being out-loud laughing, funny as hell at the same time.

    Take a moment to add: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics to your daily read list.

  • charles pierce on July 05, 2012 4:03 PM:

    Damn, Kilgore. That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me. And thanks to the commenters, too. Molly was a treasure, no doubt.