Some of you may know that I am still scribbling in my spare time (such as it is) on what may someday be a book length treatment of late 19th Century prairie populism and our current political predicament.
(Word to the wise: anyone who harbors ambitions of writing anything worthwhile in your “spare time” … you are either delusional, you use the phrase “spare time” as a euphemism for “I have no life,” or you have a stubborn streak of idiocy–that is to say, you persist in the idiotic notion that telling the world what you think is in any sense a worthwhile activity. I diagnose myself with the latter, but the matter could be put up for debate.)
Anyway, I have been refining a particular thesis designed specifically to accommodate one goal (see below) but which has the potential to bear fruit along a number of lines of inquiry, and I thought I’d put it to the Porch for some well deserved criticism and mockery which may result in a few valuable refinements here and there.
I posit that there exists in the structure of our particular republic the necessity for a certain kind of struggle which leads to that uniquely American form of civic dignity which in turn produces that particular sensation of freedom which is so elusive and evades articulation through the established symbols of American political rhetoric.
This thesis has the benefit, or at least it is intended to provide the benefit, of describing a coherent and understandable affinity between and among my favorite American thinkers, writers, and statesmen–a thumb-nail sketch of whom would include: Jefferson, Whitman, Thoreau, early prairie populists, the southern agrarians, Taft, Rothbard, Lasch, Reagan, Abbey, and Berry.
If true, or even if helpful but false, the thesis produces the following possibly fruitful lines of inquiry:
1) How much of America’s shared angst and sense of being “hemmed in” (whether by the state, by traditional morals, by the conspiracy of the powerful, or whatever) arises from the relative success of government at eliminating legitimate arenas of struggle?
2) To what extent are substitute forms of conflict adopted in order to compensate for these lost arenas of struggle in order to maintain some sense of civic dignity? (i.e., foreign wars, progressively destructive “civil rights,” rapacious and destructive acquisitiveness, etc.)
3) Is there a set of alternative symbols available in the repository of American political rhetoric that is sufficient to re-engender through struggle the particular under-articulated American sensation of freedom?