Monday, June 28, 2004

We Got You, My Pretties
One of the umpteen e-mail newsletters I get is from Cecil Adams, the World's Smartest Human, author of "The Straight Dope," which appears in alternative newspapers across the country. In the newsletter, Adams revisited the question of whether The Wizard of Oz is really an allegory for the Populist movement of the 1890s. From there, I took off to another link that examined the question in greater detail, and then it was on to other topics. I am rarely surprised by synchronicity anymore, but it was still mildly weird, clicking over to Salon, to find that I was going back to Kansas again so soon. Earlier this spring, I mentioned an article in Harper's by Thomas Frank, who was trying to figure out why his home state of Kansas and the rest of the Great Plains have become so reliably Republican, despite the fact that Republican policies are destroying its economy and way of life. At the time, Frank was working on a book about the topic, which has just been released, and he sits for an interview with Salon today. His analysis of the cultural divide--not merely the simplistic red-state/blue-state divide we hear so much about--seems pretty persuasive to me. And also depressing, as it becomes clear the Democrats can't do a damn thing about it, because they're partly responsible for it.

(Digression: The persistence of the Wizard of Oz/Populism tale is laid primarily at the door of social studies teachers, who use it as a way to get high-school students into a subject that is otherwise dry as dust to them. I did it when I was student teaching, only to find that my kids were much more interested in the urban legend that one of the Munchkins hanged himself on camera and that the shot remains in the film--a legend they continued to believe even when I slowed the film down frame by frame and explained what they were seeing. A more contemporary legend, that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album synchronizes in spooky ways with the movie, hadn't trickled down to them yet.)

Recommended Reading: When I was in radio, I used to do a feature called Signs of the Coming Apocalypse--when we took note of things that seemed to mean we couldn't go on much longer. There was a beauty in the New York Times last Friday. It's not a big thing, but then, signs of the apocalypse often aren't. It's just another indication of the profound ideological discipline of the Bush Adminstration, and how even if we throw them out in November, we won't soon be hosing the stench off our body politic.

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