FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hawking the CounterCulture

by RON JACOBS

 

I haven’t seen more than ten minutes of the Democratic National Convention coverage yet, preferring to spend my evenings watching the Red Sox knock the baseball around, but I have read enough news to know that a picture of John Lennon hangs in the Fleet Center as part of the iconography John Kerry wishes to present to the people of the US. Another aspect of his cultivated image was present on Sunday when Mr. Kerry attended the ESPN-televised Red Sox-Yankees contest in Boston’s Fenway Park. Like any genuine Red Sox fan, Kerry was into the game. He jumped up and helped will outfielder Johnny Damon’s ball fair for a three-run homer along with the rest of the crowd. He high-fived Kevin Millar as he headed home after hitting a long home run into the seats over the leftfield wall. He seemed to be truly enjoying the win as much as I was in my house in Vermont.

But, back to that John Lennon poster. Somehow, I just don’t think that Lennon’s picture will be hanging in Madison Square Garden when the GOP sets up its show there in a few weeks. Nor is it likely that Bob Dylan, the Dixie Chicks, or Jerry Garcia will have their pictures on the walls inside the Garden that week. After all, even if George Bush might happen to like some of these artists’ work, there are his fundamentalist Christian supporters who would buy gasoline for any fires set to burn these musicians’ records (except for maybe some of Dylan’s Christian work). Nor is it likely that Prince or even Little Richard will be in attendance. I don’t know what George’s CD collection looks like, but I’m pretty sure John Ashcroft doesn’t have any Prince CDs.

This is where the split in the ruling class occurs. Along cultural lines. I am reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Maypole of Merry Mount” wherein non-Puritan English settlers in the Massachusetts colony join the Lord of May in a pagan revelry around the maypole only to be attacked by Puritan John Endicott’s minions. After ruining the celebration by the maypole revelers, Endicott finalizes his attack by destroying the maypole and arresting the revelers. Just as the pagan celebrations of the Lord of May and his group represented sexuality and the devil to Endicott, the counterculture and its values (despite the commodification and consequent mutation of those values) represent evil and the destruction of the American way as proscribed by the Puritanism of John Ashcroft and his element.

 

In the Puritan version of our history, the others in U.S. society–blacks, women and children–either kept their mouths shut or opened them only to say, “yes sir.” That is what changed in the 1960s. That, too, is what the theocratic right wants a return to. They would like to replicate the intrusion they conducted into Bill Clinton’s private life under the direction of Ken Starr into everybody’s home.

The drug war, anti-gay legislation, welfare “reform”, and the continued erosion of civil rights, especially those of people of color and the young, are all facets of this backwards motion. This retreat has been a bipartisan effort. Unfortunately for the more liberal Kerry supporters, Kerry’s support of this agenda (with the possible exception of its most obvious racist, sexist and heterosexist aspects) may very well backfire. By supporting Kerry and his centrist agenda, they could be setting themselves up for the further abrogation of their rights in the arenas of civil liberties and women’s right to choose. As for the antiwar position, the damage there has already been done. Last week’s surrender by Kucinich on the inclusion of language critical of the war on Iraq in the party platform was the final nail in that plank.

George Bush has minimal counterculture credentials and that’s why the Christian theocrats like him. Indeed, in the popular lexicon, he was a straight, juicer redneck frat boy. To make his persona even more appealing to the theocratic demographic, George actually has some sins for which he has repented: his rumored cocaine use, womanizing and his verifiable bouts with alcohol. To a god-fearing Christian of the fundamentalist ilk, there is nothing greater than repentance and spiritual rebirth as a fundamentalist Christian. His “rebirth” is part of George’s appeal. It’s not that he didn’t inhale; it’s that he did and saw the folly of his ways. Now, he walks the straight and narrow, risking the lives of others in his crusades while ingesting nothing more dangerous than a pretzel.

As I write this, I am realizing how much of it relies on perception. I don’t really know what George Bush drinks, nor do I know what his sexual habits are. However, the perception created and maintained by his handlers is that he is like I described him. In the same way, Bill Clinton was presented as a leftist hippie, when in actuality; this was far from the truth. Of course, that was not the image Bill wanted, but it was the one put forth by the Puritans (who also serve as George Bush’s handlers).

John Kerry was even more involved in the counterculture than Clinton and will have that hung around his neck. If he’s smart, he will play that card as a positive thing (which may be why he includes pictures of him and John Lennon together in his press packages) and not let the rightwing press turn it in to a negative thing. It makes no difference in terms of his essential politics, but it could play well on the campaign trail. God knows it’s less boring than Dubya’s do-gooder deceptions.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail