Friday, July 03, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/03/09: Star-Spangled, Firework-Blasting, Flag-Waving Independent Edition

This weekend you’ll hear lots of people proclaiming their patriotic bona fides, a love of the mother land et al., as if love of country were the stuff of a baby gurgling at a swollen teat. Myself, I prefer patriots who are partners in this enterprise, who love the ol’ gal warts and all.

For example, I am a lifelong collector of Nixonia--memorabilia, tchotchke, and swag related to one Richard Milhous Nixon. My collection’s not as extensive as others’, I’m sure. I am at best an amateur. One can imagine the goldmine Woodward has, or Bill Clinton, or the junior Senator from Minnesota.

That is not to say my inventory is without interest. Did you know, for instance, that the Watergate scandal was adapted into a musical? I have the original cast recording. The grand dance number is entitled “Do the Nixon!”

And I’ve sundry other Nixon bits: a ceramic pipe holder making use of his caricatured nose, a direct mail piece with CREEP (the Committee to Re-elect the President) prominently featured, a dreadlock of shag carpet reportedly from the Nixon White House’s bowling alley.

It is a respectable, albeit motley, catalog. In a way, I feel the tackier the item, the better it reflects the 37th President of these United States. Nixon is not one for subtly, and in that I find his appeal.

Across the landscape of American politics, perhaps no one has ever been so brazen and devoid of fear as Nixon. Consequences--hell, rewards--be damned! Nixon must be Nixon, and he will do what his will desires. Certainly this is due to his pathology, but it is also the measure of his, for lack of a better term, charm. He is a pungent, smoky ripple of molten iron burning through the bland, uniform, cardboard layers of the American body politic.

In truth, my interest in Nixon is linked to his total embrace of the Southern strategy of the 1960s and 70s, which targeted white, rural Southerners as potential Republican voters by using coded language appealing to their ignorance, fear, and, most of all, racism. I lived through it in real time, and I can attest to its effectiveness.

But you don’t need my testimony. To an American below a certain age, it is impossible to imagine the old “solid South” of Democratic Party support, so much so that for years the gubernatorial elections of Alabama and many other states below the Mason-Dixon were decided by who won the Democratic primary, not the general election.

All of this brings me to another certain Republican creep, Sarah Palin. It would be false praise to call her original. I have seen this rough beast slouch toward us before. Nor can I say I find her ideas contemptible. She would have to put forth ideas first. However, I will say I admire her in much the same way one is amazed by a car choking out another two miles long after the gauge has bottomed out on E.

Palin’s appeal, for those who respond to it, bubbles up from that same dun cauldron of resentment and anger that Nixon brewed up four decades ago. But this time, I think, I hope, the beast will devour itself. Perhaps we are no longer a people who deserve a Nixon.

Today’s announcement of her planned resignation (and let’s be honest, she’s just flaky enough to call the damn thing off in a few weeks) signifies a full-throated commitment to the airheaded nihilism that’s taken her this far. Without the distraction of governance (such as it is) of Alaska in her way, she’s free to pursue whatever divisive whim or lucrative paycheck comes her way.

But what she doesn’t understand is what Nixon knew to his core: the Southern strategy was a means to an end, not an invitation. The hicks are welcome to watch the fireworks, but the professionals get to light the fuse. Otherwise, people start losing fingers.

Roll Tide.