This Land Is Your Land: The Return of Educated People

January 19, 2009, 1:25 pm

Among other things we are celebrating this week is the enhanced public presence of people who actually think it matters whether you know anything or not. One of the curious things to me about many conservative intellectuals (David Brooks, Lynn Cheney, Robert Kagen, William Kristol, Phyllis Schlafly — let’s leave out folks like Ann Coulter for now, shall we?), people who were (and are) highly educated and read a lot, is that they insisted for years that it wasn’t necessary to have much of an education to run the United States of Amurrica. All you needed was an “instinct” for what the people, in all their glorious parochialism, wanted. Ideas just arose from good old common sense — like that because Saddam Hussein was a bad person who had once had weapons of mass destruction, he must have been responsible for 9/11 — and when they didn’t work out, it was, well “a disappointment.” As opposed to a disaster. Although Brooks began to criticize, and then explicitly walked away from the Republican Titanic as it was going down this fall, the others have either faded away without explanation, or, like William Kristol, continued to insist that they were right, right, right, and that the last eight years have been a triumph for democracy and the free market.

Fortunately that has ended. See Michiko Kakutani’s article, in today’s New York Times about Obama’s notion that reading thoughtfully expands a person’s world. The article also includes a curious factoid that George Bush’s reading was part of an ongoing competition with Karl Rove to see who could read the fastest. Dear God.

As a wonderful touch that symbolizes our return from the Land of Stupid People, did anyone but me think about what a terrific symbol it was that elderly Popular Fronter Pete Seeger sang Popular Fronter Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” last night on the Lincoln Memorial, with the President-elect in the audience? Did anyone else imagine Joe McCarthy and his tribe of egghead-hating anti-communist zealots spun in their graves, while Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and all the leftist intellectuals who were ruined by 1950′s campaign against left intellectuals (because that is where it all began, friends) laughed and sang along?

I’m thinking of getting a sticker for my Mac that says “This Machine kills Fascists.” No, maybe I’ll read a book in public instead — now that it’s safe to come out of the library.

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