America Versus “America”

Infidel753 brought my attention to this David Cross video. Watch it and then we’ll talk:

This is an issue that I’ve written about quite a lot. We saw a related phenomenon at the 2012 RNC when Clint Eastwood showed us that when conservatives talk about Obama, they mean an imaginary one that doesn’t exist. When conservatives talk about “America” they don’t mean America as it now exists or ever existed. As far as I can tell, they mostly get their ideas about what “America” is from Leave it to Beaver.

So when they complain that America has gone to hell, what they mean is that the unquestioned superiority of white men is gone. Leave it to Beaver was on television from 1957 through 1963. There may have been no black folks demanding their rights on that show, but there sure as hell were blacks folks demanding their rights in America. Medgar Evers was murdered as part of that struggle while Leave it to Beaver was still in its first run.

But these conservatives are not idiots. They understand when liberals complain about America, they aren’t complaining about how America isn’t the same as “America.” They know that liberals are on the other side. Liberals want to destroy this fantasy America. The problems we see will, if anything, move the real America further away from the conservative fantasy. For conservatives, what’s wrong with America is summed up in “Are The Good Times Really Over” by Merle Haggard:

Note that Haggard is a total hypocrite. He makes disparaging remarks about two drugs that he is well known to have used a great deal. But the line that gets the biggest applause is, “When a girl could still cook and still would.” Why is it that June Cleaver ain’t cooking no more? It’s because she has to work outside the home because Ward no longer makes enough money to support a household. But there I go again, getting all liberal with facts. In the conservative fantasy, June left the house because of the pill.

When liberals talk about problems in America, they are talking about ways that we might fix those problems. The Tea Party notion of the problems with America is just that the wrong kind of people aren’t shutting up the way they should. It’s all social stuff. The one economic big complaint that they have is that taxes are too high, even though they are far lower than they used to be.

The whole of the conservative base is best thought of as one big cultural resentment. So it is no surprise that they find liberal criticism of “America” unacceptable. That’s one of the biggest things they resent! The conservative complaint is that America is not “America.” The liberal complaint is that America has problems and “America” is total joke. We might use the same words, but we are talking about different things. They are right to hate us.

4 thoughts on “America Versus “America”

  1. Just to add to that, there seems to be a sociological aspect to this phenomenon. Conservatives, the "Real Americans," see themselves as the in group and liberals are the out group. They see their fellow conservatives and the American State as the in group and the American State to them is like a wayward family member. When they complain about public policy, they feel that they are complaining about a their loved one’s recent string of failures and mistakes but they will always be family. Meanwhile, if liberals criticize the action or inaction of the American State, it is seen as an attack because liberals are the out group.

    It is usually not the case on both sides. Liberals do not see conservatives as the out group, as not being part of America (the exception might be our views toward the elite of the elite, the billionaires who hide their money in offshore accounts and who periodically renounce their citizenship). I think the reason for this asymmetry is due to the fact that conservatives see themselves as the natural ruling class while liberals want power but we feel like we have to earn it. When conservatives are out of power, they must "take back the country" from the liberal usurpers but when conservatives have most of the power, liberals ask themselves how do we do better in the next elections.

  2. @Colin Keesee – That’s an excellent point. It’s okay for me to criticize my wife, but not you.

    I do go back to John Dean’s book [i]Conservatives without Conscience[/i] and the effect of authoritarianism on the right. I think the reason conservatives tend to think of liberals as inauthentic is because they have been told to. There is an infrastructure there. But you couldn’t really have the same thing for liberals. The ideological core of liberalism is being open to the facts–or at least thinking of ourselves that way. You couldn’t have a liberal Bill O’Reilly.

    I understand that it is a difficult time for the white man because he actually has seen his power reduced. But he lost that power to the white male elite, not to the women and minorities. I’ve gotten a lot of conservatives to understand that, but it takes repetition because [i]Fox News[/i] is always there to tell them this myth about minorities taking what is supposed to be theirs.

  3. Thanks Infidel753! Truly, criticizing the administration is patriotic when a Dem is in the White House, and treasonous when it’s a Repub.

    On it taking repetition to get through to conservatives — boy, I’ve gone through that. And it’s like building a house of cards. It takes forever to construct a careful argument which might barely get them to see things your way, and then boom. Something happens to them or is on Fox which reinforces their preconceptions, and there goes your efforts.

  4. @JMF – Funny how that is. We don’t hear much from the militia movement when a Republican is in the White House, even though afterward, they claim that they were very angry with what Bush did.

    House of cards? Exactly.

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