As I contemplate the coming election, I do wonder if a sort of cultural turning point hasn’t been reached, which was elucidated lo these many decades ago by Huey Lewis and the News – that it’s soon might be seen to be hip to be a square. Or to put it in standard English – if being sober, responsible, cheerfully working at a blue-collar and non-corporate job, engaged in a traditional man/woman marriage, and living out in flyover country somewhere, and being a traditionally patriotic, fiscally responsible, striving small business entrepreneur and home-schooling more than the requisite one or two designer-perfect offspring … might be the default option for the rebellious and non-conformist? I mean, really – look around at the current social and educational landscape in some of our larger and supposedly more urban and urbane environments. Take a good long look; I have a stack of barf-bags handy. What could be more logical than to rebel against such decay, despair, conformity and criminality than to stake out a suburban (or even rural) homestead in flyover country somewhere and wholly become what the putrid 1960’s retreads were rebelling against in the first place?
Look, the standard-bearers of 1968 have taken over the higher ground, roosted in the educational, media and political establishments like a flock of grackles – shrieking to high heaven and splattering the surface underneath with a Jackson-Pollocking layer of artistic but bad-smelling dung. Well, really – what could be more fun to the naturally rebellious youth than to tell the baby-boom cohort of elders (who basically trashed every American institution as they moved through it, save perhaps the military, technology, the culinary arts – and possibly retail) to take a hike, I’m going to live like my grandparents, or maybe my great-grandparents? Plant a garden, go off the grid and make your own clothes, and preserved food? I know that Martha Stewart was responsible for a lot of renewed popularity with regard to home-making, but she always seemed to me to be someone striving for Right-Coast upper-class respectability. What does one make of web and cable cooking-show personalities like Ree Drummond, the accidental country girl who wound up on a ranch in Oklahoma, living a comparatively laid-back life, cooking and gardening, and home-schooling four children?
Could this rebelling by going back to basics account for the retro appeal of Mitt Romney? Staid, conventional, traditional 1950s-Leave It To Beaver-style marriage, large and happy family, picket-fence suburban ideal home – everything that the brigades of 1968 revolted against, and subsequently established a new normal of something completely different from it – and now a new generation is rebelling against that? Amusing to contemplate, anyway.
I just hope the fashion for girdles and wearing high-heels and stockings to vacuum the floor is one thing that never revives. That stuff is uncomfortable.