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revolutionaries foreswore tea

Let me take you on a journey back in time to the evening of September 26, 2016 and the first Trump-Clinton presidential debate - I'm sure you remember it well, as do I. The summer was over, Trump was in hiding and David Plouffe was on Morning Joe claiming that "Clinton still has a 100% chance of a win" (if you want to laugh your ass off take 5 minutes to watch the video). Of course, HillBilly did have a 100% chance of winning just like I had a 100% chance of winning or you had a 100% chance of winning and Donald J Trump had a 100% chance of winning. But what of the odds? For that we need bookies, er, pollsters to eye the horses, survey the track and entice the suckers to place a bet.

The team at Echelon Insights did some polling on the two days following the first presidential debate and tabulated their findings showing a clear win for HRC among the viewing audience - 58% for Hitlery and 26% for The Elvis from Queens. The firm sent out an email crammed with additional "insights" gleaned from their polling that measured her royal highness on compassion, knowledge of important issues, qualifications, and temperament vs. the Donald on toughness and straight talk with regards to taxes, ISIS, jobs and email servers. All very enlightening but the last bullet point insight might have been the juiciest of them all - way down at the bottom of the page was this gem.
We find cultural and political divides when it comes to the Broadway musical Hamilton and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Clinton wins 61% to 28% amongst voters who say they have either seen the play or listened to the soundtrack of Hamilton, and wins Morning Joe viewers by 56% to 36%. Trump leads 44% to 35% amongst voters who have never heard of either Hamilton or Morning Joe.
Bingo! This one should have been front page/above the fold but sunk to the bottom of the bits as an amusing observation confirming the stereotypes in broad circulation about Trump voters. The wake up call came on November 8th when everyone learned how many people in America couldn't care less about Broadway musicals or morning round table gab sessions among people who are rightly considered their enemy.
 So when Morning Joe tweets Hamilton's Aaron Burr we've got something of a double-whammy of meaninglessness because what the Echelon report DID NOT provide its readers is a breakdown, population wise, of the MorningJoe/Hamilton voters vs. the Filthy Rube voters and that number is what makes all the difference. Back in the day (1776) when this whole thing called America was getting off the ground the numbers were pretty much the same - there were a few revolutionaries hidden away in the metropolis and a larger, more passionate mass roaming the small towns on the periphery and farming the hinterlands. The pamphlet writing theater goers of colonial America had no interest in breaking their commercial and cultural ties with England but the revolutionaries (=Patriots) did. The implication of this "insight" is that Trump voters are simpletons who don't appreciate culture while Hitlery voters are comprised of highbrow sophisticates who watch "deep state" apologists in the morning and contemporary minstrel shows at night. How did we get here?

The Tao of Trump
Culture and Anarchy

I would point to The Cultured Life, an article by Joseph Epstein published in The Weekly Standard as a good place to start our exploration because the author attempts to explain why this life (the cultured one) is worth pursuing. First off is a quiz - Do you have any comprehension of the following people, places or things:

  1. Sergei Diaghilev
  2. Francis Poulenc
  3. Mark Rothko
  4. Alexander Herzen
  5. the 1913 Armory Show
  6. John Cage
  7. the Spanish Civil War
  8. George Balanchine
  9. Jean Cocteau
Don't worry, most people don't know anything about this stuff (not even the virtucrats who watch MSNBC). And this is just the first shot in a long article extolling the life of the mind that opened up to Epstien upon entering the University of Chicago in the mid 1950's where he was bitten by the culture bug and chased it down the rabbit hole. I love this article BTW and I'm not making fun of Epstein so much as following his lead and giving full throated America First perspective on his thesis. From a middlebrow American's view, one that looks upon a great deal of High Culture as transitory bullshit that might (or might not) last into the next century the short answers are 1. Russian ballet 2. French Music 3. Russian Painting (NYC) 4. Russian Socialism 5. Birth of the Modern (NYC) 6. NYC Music (NYC) 7. Soviet Imperialism (Spain) 8. Russian Ballet (NYC) 9. French Film. More importantly, nothing on this list has anything to do with America - at least not the America that was formed in 1776 and not the foundational America that still exists despite the best efforts of "Adolf Hitler's gift to American intellectual life" that taught "culture" to young minds of Hyde Park.
"What it took to pass through the gates into the realm of high culture was years of thoughtful reading, listening, viewing, thinking. This would develop the critical sense needed to discern the difference between serious and ersatz culture, and a receptivity to the sublime in beauty. High culture critics, meanwhile, saw their job as that of gatekeepers, making certain that no inferior works were allowed to pass themselves off as the real thing."
Indeed, "the pursuit of high culture came with a price" and that price included a subscription to "The New Criterion" where Samuel Lipman and Hilton Kramer raised the bar on highbrow to olympian heights. I remember my first encounter with this cultural journal like it happened yesterday - in a UWS bookstore on Broadway on a cold winter evening perusing the periodicals the bold color (probably red or purple that time of year) caught my eye and I started flipping through the pages. "Wow! I can't even believe something like this even exists," I thought to myself as I read and read and read articles and reviews and poetry (real poetry!) for about an hour. Amazing. I became a loyal subscriber and there were a few things I loved about this journal 1. it had a contrarian POV 2. they didn't publish in July or August (taking the summer off is very civilized) 3. it had no film criticism or any criticism of popular culture at all - the editors didn't hate popular culture so much as they didn't acknowledge its existence. The closest thing they had in this area was James Bowmen's comments on The Media a stellar example of which is his commentary on the post-mortem coverage of Princess Diana's death ride with Dodi (one of the greatest things I've ever read). While I enjoyed reading The New Criterion and could keep up, for the most part, I must admit that (I mean, who's kidding who?) I am "much too handsome to do serious scholarship", and even if I were not, I'd never choose the privation of life's manifold entertainments and diversions in a quest for... well, for what, exactly?
"The sad truth, the bad news, is that one never really attains culture in the way one attains, say, a plumber's license or a CPA. If anyone says he is cultured, or even thinks himself cultured, which no truly cultured person ever would, he or she, like those who think themselves charming, probably is not. In striving after the attainment of culture, one invariably falls short. Other people are soon enough discovered who have it in greater depth and make one's own cultural attainments seem paltry."
Thus begins the list of great minds the author has met over the years and then settles on the model of a cultured American novelist in the person of Willa Cather who's life story and work product validate the Epstein's theories.
"Cather, born in 1873 in Virginia, grew up in the small town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, and through self-cultivation became a citizen of a much larger world. As a writer, she was above nationality, above politics and gender, androgynous as all the greatest artists are. Willa Cather, in effect, Europeanized herself."
And here we come full circle because if the choice comes down to Europeanizing America or Trumpian Anarchy there are still enough Hamiltonian/Jeffersonian Americans to choose anarchy. Though Hamilton and Jefferson fought over almost every detail in their opposing ideologies there is one point they were in adamant agreement upon - America would NOT become another Europe. The 1776 revolution was not about taxes or representation or any of the other crap history professors claim it was about because all those grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence were just rationalizations for a much bigger goal and that was to create a society that left Europe in the past. The founders of this nation and the common merchants and farmers who did the fighting knew all about Europe - they had just escaped it and staked their fortunes in the New World. Their battle, fought with real bullets and blood, was to Americanize themselves and make their world on the western end of the Atlantic better than the one they'd left behind - A new Atlantis as they say. It is myopic to analyze European history post 1776 without considering the infuriating and embarrassing success this New World project achieved and the commensurate bile and disdain leveled against the USA and it's people. Ipso facto, to be Europeanized would necessitate a dismissive and envious de-Americanization and patient disgust for it's people and institutions which usually coincides with a move to New York City (See Morning Joe).

"High culture makes life richer—and thereby immensely more interesting" and that, no doubt, makes it a worthy pursuit unto itself. It gives us the ability to elevate the abstract paintings of one man to the highest level of critical esteem and relegate the paintings of a 5 year old, who paints the same stuff, to the scrap book of history. It takes refined cultural awareness or a special kind of stupid to distinguish the difference between today's highbrow art and kindergarten projects. That problem is a direct result of the fairly recent Europeanizing of Americas culture and based on the last 240 years of European history one would have to say that's a bad idea. It is important to remember that 1776 revolutionaries wouldn't drink tea and they punished those who did to avoid replicating Europe on the North American continent. The formation of the Federal Government and the US Civil War both focused on creating and maintaining a union that would prevent separate waring nations from forming on this virgin soil. Up until the 1950's "European ideas" were looked upon with great skepticism by the American people because of the horrible crimes and brutality those ideas visited upon the innocent for centuries. Now, after 50 or 60 years of denigration and propaganda a "conservative" weekly publishes an article lauding the struggle to Europeanized ourselves without the slightest doubt of the intrinsic good in that advise. That is the struggle and that struggle continues today and will only grow more intense as culture gets swept away by the forces of anarchy.


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