“The answer you’re looking for could be deep in our own national genetic code.”
This is what I heard myself saying to my former History students at their recent 50th class reunion. Between Martini’s at Spaggia, they were trying to make sense out of the traumatic post-election split in their own ranks.
“Some of us hate the guy, others admire him. Makes no sense.”
I couldn’t resist the opening. “You never did pay attention in class. This makes perfect sense. Remember what we were talking about back in the Sixties?”
It was inappropriate of me to pull them over to a separate table, but I justified myself thinking it could be my last lesson. So even before the salads, we recalled how the national DNA was from the very start a split between the rich and those who expected to be.
When Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, they clearly marked the cultural line between the east coast “originals” and the frontier “latecomers.” Later Mark Twain and the New York dime novelists made the same distinction between the east coast “bankers and dandies” versus the “authentic” Americans blazing trails and fighting Redskins.
This same enduring schizophrenia of grudging envy along with deep resentment speaks to us clearly from the national Couch. What keeps the 99% from rising up in actual revolt at the 1% is the enduring lure of the American Dream. Something like the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field resenting the 3-piece suits in the Sky Boxes
Translated: “I don’t like billionaires, but if he ‘s that smart, maybe his smarts can work for me…”
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