Saturday, June 06, 2015

The dawn of the current age, the Fifties vs. the '50s, and more


  • "1965: The dawn of our current age." It was the beginning of the end but things didn't suddenly change then in America. (A friend remembers living in Atlantic City the summer of '65: it was still the '50s.) That happens in bad depictions of the Sixties: after the Beatles came to America (20/20 hindsight: I wish they hadn't) or even after President Kennedy was murdered, most people become hippies and it's almost all about flowers, love, and a new kind of rock music. (K-Tel Records' Bad Fake History, yours for $99.99 in four payments.) Actually, most of Middle America looked much like me for most of the decade and in some cases longer; the only place most people saw a hippie was on TV. I saw the old America fade away from 1968 to 1973 and have been chasing it since; I remember when "our current age" took over Middle America. But much of the new stuff only continued trends in the old, as reactionaries (paleoconservatives, hardcore traditionalists who want to go back to the 1800s or the Middle Ages) point out. (President Truman wanted to nationalize health care, as did America's Catholic bishops in 1919! Well meant. You can be dead wrong about politics and economics and be a perfectly good Catholic, so I don't worry too much if I'm wrong about those. Harry and Bess Truman are with President Johnson as the latter signs the Medicare Act.) '50s progressivism caused Vatican II: "Why indeed should we not scrap everything that is old and eccentric and just have something streamlined and modern and which 'does the job'?" Crisis repeats the conservative Novus Ordo line (in the '80s such conservatives were at least as nasty to Catholic traditionalists as Catholic liberals were: "you're outside the church"), letting the council off the hook too easily. Councils can't teach heresy, but that one was a mistake. Yes, as a Catholic I can say that.
  • The Fifties/fake '50s. A story about the mostly still real doo-wop Wildwoods: Summer Nites. My views are mixed (never been to this place). Like the "Summer of Love" and Woodstock, the centers of the K-Tel Records bad depiction of the Sixties, the Fifties are part of a period, not the whole story. An article from the Sha Na Na founders' old college, Columbia University, says those Ivy League musicians invented the fake '50s as part tribute and part parody (making fun of the Italian-Americans who said no to the Sixties throughout that decade): kitsch/camp. The restaurant part of Summer Nites seems pretty good, fairly close to the real thing (which of course I go to when I find it). The other thing is the Wildwoods are wonderful (on classic-car show weekends, they're my Brigadoon) because there's so much of the real thing still there. (Like my friend's time in AC.) So why make something up or go to something made up? Restore one of the many real places instead, as some motel owners there have. Of course other 1900s decades, certainly the Seventies through the Nineties, are easily caricatured too. (Disco '70s, synth '80s, grunge '90s.) I don't see a signature style going into the 21st century, in the Oughties or the New Teens, but by the late '90s I didn't care anymore.
  • Gay marriage: Don't get played and don't take the bait. Sensible people from the old America, when such things weren't talked about (what I was taught: "don't pick on them; they have a problem," progressive by old street standards, considered bigoted now), want to live and let live; the thing is the left isn't about that. It's not about these people's rights; it's about taking my and your rights away.
  • Ross Douthat on the trouble with libertarianism: The liberalism of adult autonomy. The triumph of one distinctive moral code, the morality of rights, over another, the morality of ends. Big on rights, not responsibilities.

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