Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Sad Dishonesty of Garrison Keillor

I have over the years enjoyed the radio work and writings of Garrison Keillor. I began listening to "A Prarie Home Companion" back in the 1980's. I bought cassette copies of my favorite shows. (My all-time favorites are "The Royal Family," and "Tomato Butt.") I bought Lake Wobegone Days, Leaving Home, and WBLT. I truly identified with his journey from small-town boy to a grown-up bemused by the changes in the world around him.

So it really hurts to read what Mr. Keillor thinks of me. I seem to be some sort of monster in his eyes:
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.
Apparently, long ago we were lovable:
Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.
Oh my.

I guess that Mr. Keillor is abandoning the characterization of Republicans as "Babbits" and McCarthyites who chained thier wives in domestic slavery. I guess those genial Rotarians weren't the scourge of American arts and letters after all. Calling Allen Ginsberg! Telegram for Henry Miller!

So the 1950's Beat movement, the Feminism movement, the 1960's Student Radical movement and the rest were all just faux pas?

I look at the description of Keillor's book, Homegrown Democrat, and marvel at its unconcious irony:
In a book that is at once deeply personal and intellectually savvy, Homegrown Democrat is a celebration of liberalism as the "politics of kindness." In his inimitable style, Keillor draws on a lifetime of experience amongst the hardworking, God-fearing people of the Midwest and pays homage to the common code of civic necessities that arose from that tradition. He skillfully asserts the values and politics of his boyhood--the values of Lake Wobegon--and reserves the right to toss a barb at those who disagree. A thoughtful, wonderfully written book, Homegrown Democrat is Keillor's love letter to liberalism, the older generation, JFK, and the yellow-dog Democrat city of St. Paul that is sure to amuse and inspire Americans.
The "politics of kindness" ???!!???

I am amazed that Mr. Keillor's nostalgia for that past seems to have blinded him to it's conflicts and consequences. If he cannot see the differences between the 1955 and 2005, many of the rest of us can.

The changes through which the Republican party went were in response to the political and social calamities that the country endured in the 1960s and 1970s and the defeat that it experienced in 1964. The Republican party became in the 1990s the majority party in the United States. It won elections again and again. There is no cabal, there were no "stolen" elections.

People voted Republican because they didn't like or didn't trust the Democrats. If that hurts your feelings, I am sorry. Now dry your eyes and blow your nose.

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