Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Paul Ryan has issued his new budget. You can roam the Internet and read a lot of commentary on what the budget contains, nearly all of which is much more insightful than anything I'd come up with. Me, I'll just take note of a bizarre passage from the budget's introduction that Ezra Klein flagged:
While we belong to one country, we also belong to thousands of communities -- each of them rich in tradition. And these communities don't obstruct our personal growth. They encourage it. So the duty of government is not to displace these communities, but to support them. It isn't to blunt their differences or to flatten their character -- to mash them all together into a dull conformity. It's to secure our individual rights and to protect that diversity.
Communities rich in tradition shouldn't be forced to conform? When I read that, I feel as if I'm back in my late '60s/early '70s youth and I'm reading language in favor of black or Native American or (as we used to say) Chicano cultural nationalism. I feel as if I'm reading a defense of university ethnic studies programs, or bilingual after-school programs focused on Swahili or Choctaw or Nahuatl. I feel as if I'm perusing the catalog of a record label whose founders roam the Appalachians making field recordings of the last remaining traditional fiddlers.

I mean, obviously I know what's really being said here: We're suburban and rural white Christians and we don't need any damn Chicago-thug government bureaucrat to tell us how to run our lives. But I'm struck by how Ryan (or whoever wrote this for him) has taken '60s and post-'60s language of resistance to oppression, tweaked it slightly, and thrown it back in our faces.

Of course, this is a delusional fantasy. Do even the members of Ryan's base want to replace coast-to-coast Medicare with thousands of regional Medicares, one for each big or small community? But the language and its anti-bureaucrat subtext do tap into a zombie myth of rugged self-reliance, so I guess I understand why the passage is there.

I'll add one more thing: America's local "communities don't obstruct our personal growth"? Tell that to Tony Manero eyeing the Manhattan skyline, or Axl Rose getting off the bus and getting welcomed to the jungle, or Huck Finn lighting out for the territory, or Kerouac or Hunter Thompson going on various road trips. Americans have always felt that they had to get the hell out of their stifling communities. (Although it's hard to imagine any of the people I've named putting it in terms of "personal growth.")


Pops said...

I call it Uncle Paul Cabin For 21st. Century>

Victor said...

Jeez, the reason a lot of "Hearland 'Murka's" vacant, is because the young folks decided to leave 'Ma and Pa Kettly' behind, and to to have their "Fatal Glass of Beer" in the Big Cities:


Dark Avenger said...

"How can you keep them
down on the farm,
after they've seen Paree?"

M. Bouffant said...

So, now he's all for multi-culturalism?