Beauty and Ugliness

Here’s a Christmas-y song that I think is beautiful:

2000 Miles

The song was written and sung by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

Here’s what Hynde said at a rock concert in 2003, not that long after the 9/11 attacks:

“Have we gone to war yet?” she asked sarcastically, early on. “We (expletive) deserve to get bombed. Bring it on.” Later she yelled, “Let’s get rid of all the economic (expletive) this country represents! Bring it on, I hope the Muslims win!”

I like several Pretenders songs (Back on the Chain Gang, for example), and this pretty much spoiled them for me. I’m not boycotting the group…I don’t turn the radio off if one of their songs comes on…it’s just…sad.

Fast forward to 2012. The Korean rapper known as Psy (“Gangnam Style”) was scheduled to perform at a Christmas concert (a benefit for Children’s National Medical Center) which is traditionally attended by the President of the United States. It turns out that in 2002, he smashed a model American tank onstage “to oppose 37,000 U.S. troops that descended on the Korean Peninsula” (in the words of a CBS Local writer who seems to be as ignorant of history as Psy himself evidently is)…and a couple of years later, he rapped:

Kill those f***ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those f***ing Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully

This rant was apparently inspired at least in part by the murder in Iraq of a Korean missionary by Islamic terrorists after the SK government refused to cancel its plan to send troops in support of the Iraq war.

After the information about Psy’s past performances came out (and Psy issued a standard pro-forma apology). some people thought that Obama might have declined to attend a concert at which Psy was a star attraction. But they were wrong, and he did attend.

One would think it would be obvious that for the commander-in-chief to attend a Psy concert..given the above highly disrespectful to American military people, and indeed to Americans as a whole. What would have been most appropriate would have been for the concert organizers to disinvite Psy. Failing this (and there might have been contractual reasons making it impossible even had the organizers been inclined this way), Obama could have issued a brief statement of regret that it was impossible for him to attend given Psy’s comments about Americans. This would have demonstrated that the President has respect for his own country, and that he expects such respect to be shown by others.

No one familiar with Obama’s history would really be surprised that he did not choose this course. What is slightly surprising, and more than slightly disturbing, is that Obama’s attendance seems to have been just fine with many Americans, and with most of the old-line media. This Atlantic writer, for example, uses the Psy-Obama handshake to bash any “right-wingers” who might see anything wrong with Obama’s presence at the concert.

Of course, when a couple of months ago Americans in Benghazi were actually killed, as opposed to just being threatened with being killed, most of the old media showed great lack of interest in digging into the feckless Administration behavior that led to this debacle.

What is pretty clear is that we have a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not identify as Americans. They may identify with their profession, or with their social class, or with their educational background and asserted intellectual position, or maybe even with their locality…but identification with the American polity is missing. (And this phenomenon seems to be strongest among those whose self-concept is most closely tied in with their educational credentials.)

What such people do generally care about…a coolness, which means they care about entertainers and celebrities. We now have a President who apparently cares more about the transient glory of being associated with a flash-in-the-pan rapper (and whoever else sang at this concert) than about showing respect to those he has the responsibility to command. And this is evidently just fine with many among the media and academic elites.

There’s an old science fiction book (The Star Seekers, Milton Lesser) in which the inhabitants of a multigenerational starship have lost the knowledge that they are aboard a moving space vessel and believe that their internal world is the whole universe. A boy on an initiation journey through the four spheres of the ship (which have become isolated from one another over time) realizes the truth about their larger journey, and that the ship is nearing its destination and will crash unless immediate action is taken. He encounters great difficulty in getting people to take the situation seriously. The people who are least interested in taking action are those who live in the Place of the Revelers. These people were apparently (generations ago) actors and entertainers, but now they only watch old videos and go to “empathy sessions.”

“The end of the world,” said Rolf. “And the Revelers don’t even play games. They do worse. They watch old pictures of people playing games, they sit in their overstuffed chairs and experience empathy.”

As I said in a comment here:

I think much the same is occurring in American society today: the “magical thinking” is that the safety and security of the recent past and of the affluent American environment can be extrapolated.

To which I would add: the “empathy” that today’s Masters of the Place of Revelers wish you to experience is highly artificial and restricted in its targeted objects.

See relevant posts on politics and coolness at Assistant Village Idiot (he also has more recent posts on this topic) and Bookworm.

And here’s another thought: What if, after the South Korean missionary was murdered, Psy had called not for the torture and killing of Americans, but rather had called for the torture and killing of Iraqi Muslims?…indeed, what if he had called for specifically for the torture and killing of Iraqi Al Quaeda members and their children and parents. Would Obama have attended his concert? Or would his multicultural sensitivities have prevented it?

26 thoughts on “Beauty and Ugliness”

  1. I think we know the answer to that one David. As to “Americans” not identifying themselves as Americans there was a neighbor who would hang his flag by his door every day – not Old Glory, but the blue UN flag.

    There’s a segment of society that considers themselves “citizens of the world”.

    Chrissie Hynde – not a small but if irony that Rush Limbaugh uses her song My City Was Gone as his theme song – muist drive her nuts (although I assume the royalty checks help assuage her anger)

  2. Most educated people in the USA do not identify as Americans because we have spent two generations educating people to despise and vilify Ametica. Vietnam was the start of this process, and two recent botched and unnecessary wars have intensified it.

    These attitudes are baked into the cake at this point.

  3. Well, I do think that Psy very likely won’t be asked to participate in a USO tour…
    (insert cynical chuckle, here.) And it might turn out that his fifteen minutes of international fame are nearly up anyway. Gangnam Style was this years’ Macarena – a one-hit wonder that burned gloriously and then flamed out.

    South Korea (hereinafter referred to as ROK, Republic of Korea) has kind of a schizo attitude toward the US, especially when the matter of North Korea comes up – that and the whole Korean War. The ‘official’ ROK attitide is one of dearly wanting to be reunited with the North (hereinafter referred to as the NORKs for no particular reason but that was the slang term when I was there), so everyone mouths the appropriate platitudes, but deep down, they don’t really because taking responsibility for the deprived, starving basket-case that North Korea is would very likely sink the prosperity of the ROK. Of course, they can’t come straight out and say this in public … but they know darned well what happened when East and West Germany reunited. Then you have the various lefty elements in the ROK who believe it would be absolutely nifty for the NORKS to liberate the ROK and the whole peninsula would be one big happy monocultural and Stalinist family again under the wise guidance of the Family Kim, and the only reason keeping this happy development from happening is the Bad Old USA.

    Of course, the older South Koreans know absolutely this is absolute poppycock and so do the more responsible elements of ROK society, and so – every six months or so when the NORKS engage in warlike activities which scare the c**p out of the rest of the peninsula – they are reassured by the continuing presence of the American forces. Every time this happens, American citizens and dependents get phone calls from Korean friends, wanting to reassure themselves that there hasn’t been a quick evacuation of non-essential personnel in the last day or so. I swear, sometimes I used to think we were a sort of military security blanket for the ROKs … I am pretty sure they can take care of themselves, too. The NORKS haven’t fought a balls-to-the-wall serious war since the mid-fifties, whereas we’ve been in three since then.

    Then, added to the mix is local resentment about incidents where Americans have (usually accidentally) killed or injured local civilians, or have otherwise committed some kind of crime. When such an incident happens, the protests, the screaming, and the accusations about the brutal and licentious soldiery are perfectly earsplitting and provide plenty of fodder for the local leftists. But when some local Korean hard boyz commit murder, maiming, robbery or rape against American service-personnel (which happens far more often than the other way around) there’s naught to be heard but the sound of crickets.

    I liked Korea very much, by the way – and enjoyed the heck out of the time I spent there, and working all over the place at jobs outside my military duties. But there were some head-shaking aspects to the place, and little puling leftoids like Psy are one of them.

  4. Sgt. Mom’s discourse speaks to the rotten core of (most) human nature. Thanks, Mom!
    Usually this is about money. But we all know that. Rarely do pop (or movie) stars advocate a well-thought out position on anything relevant. David Mamet comes to mind. How’s he doing?
    When a movie or a record is due out, celebs will say something/anything. Usually and deliberately outrageous.
    It’s the same with many other liberal causes. Here on the toney North Shore there is a group that wants to bring us the multicultural benefits of “affordable” housing.They are a little fuzzy on just how that is supposed to happen, but the simplest solutions seem to have evaded them. They could; 1) Put up their own money, buy a building, subsidize the rents and shut up about it. Or, 2) They could open their own spacious homes to these people, enclose them in the warm embrace of universalist humanitarianism and teach them the ways of the liberal middle class.
    The kids would fit right in at school. Go Trevians!
    But they don’t and nothing happens, because nothing is supposed to happen-outside of the 501c3 employees keeping the donation stream flowing.
    I think the Pretenders was a terrific band. Maybe the best singles band ever (That includes the Rolling Stones and CCR-we’ll discuss that some other time). But I do not give my time or money to people who use it to insult my beliefs or promote causes I think are harmful. It isn’t a boycott: my attention is simply directed elsewhere.

  5. David,

    You’re right (as usual). I see it as an utter failing on the part of parents and teachers. We have a huge segment of the population with absolutely no understanding of or appreciation for the economy we live in or the liberties we enjoy. They see these things as a birthright to be taken for granted … and incredibly assume the rest of the world lives the same way – and when it doesn’t it is solely due to American greed for oil; American lust for military conquest; etc… as preventing the rest pf the world from living exactly the way we do. Knowledge of both economics and history in this country are generally nothing short of pathetic.

  6. I’m sad that Chrissie is just another show business idiot. But it is not unique or surprising.

    It is too bad, because she can rock, which is a rare quality in a woman, and she has a wonderful voice, which is a rare quality in a rocker.

  7. “Here on the toney North Shore there is a group that wants to bring us the multicultural benefits of “affordable” housing”

    I went through this on the local planning commission. There is a well funded nexus between developers, “public interest law firms” also known as community organizers, and the city officials. The PI law firms always fine a need for more “affordable” housing in suburban communities. Developers come up with plans for such developments, always separated from unsubsidized housing. The hearing comes and we get lots of propaganda about “nurses and firefights” who need this subsidized housing. I spent 25 years living with a nurse who now has her own house, and my fireman son has a very nice four bedroom home.

    The subsidized housing is intended for the illegals who gather across the street near the lumbar yard looking for jobs. When I proposed that a certain percentage of the developer’s next project be reserved for affordable units, I got nowhere. That would be the simple solution and avoid the stigma of “section 8 housing.”

    The nexus rejects this. One development that was considered when I was on the panel but is being built now actually has a fence between the subsidized apartment, which have kids, and the other half which was marketed to over 55 adults.

    It’s a racket but not one soon to be ended.

  8. I think Obama was right to attend the concert. Had Psy not apologized, then I would probably agree with David. But since he did, I find it quite odd that David would take the position that he does.

    Accepting an apology is a way to not only end a dispute, but to cement the transition of the apologizer from enemy to friend. It exhibits magnanimity, and self-confidence. To shun someone permanently even after they apologize seems quite unwise and self-defeating. One would send the message to all the other mistaken people out there that pursuing a path to reconcile yourself with America is a waste of time.

    In no way does acceptance of an apology from a former enemy constitute disrespect to our troops.

    “What is pretty clear is that we have a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not identify as Americans.”

    Yes – all those conservatives who seem to indulge fantasies of seccession, now that the people at large have spoken. A PPP poll found 25% of Republicans felt so in the days after the election. LINK,/a>

  9. JC….he apologized after he got caught.

    There was no “dispute” to end. Psy did the cheap and easy thing by engaging in and amplifying the anti-Americanism that he clearly expected was saleable among his fan base.

  10. Joe Citizen – “now that the people at large have spoken”???

    What planet did that happen on?

    “The Center for the Study of the American Electorate put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004.”

    Your man Barack received the support of 29-30% of the eligible voters. What happened last month was a resounding rejection of Mitt Romney and of the political process in general, but do not delude yourself into thinking the “people at large” support Obama and your nonsensical ideology.

  11. Bill,

    You have my sympathies. It really sucks, I know. I have been through this from the other side in years past.

    The Rasmussen poll (yes, even them) today has Obama’s job approval rating at 57%. That is on this planet, this country, believe it or not…

    The first step in coming back to claim the center is to acknowledge how far out on the tail you are. Its the hardest part of the process, because it galls…

  12. Joe,

    “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 55% of Likely Voters at least somewhat approve of President Obama’s job performance. Forty-four percent (44%) at least somewhat disapprove.

    Today’s figures include 34% who Strongly Approve of the way Obama is performing as president and 33% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of +1 (see trends). Yesterday and today mark the first time the president’s Approval Index has been in positive territory since June 29, 2009.

    55% of likely voters … he got anice bump from the excelent job he did yesterday in his talk at the interfaith gathering in Conn.

    If you think 55% of likely voters riding a temporary emotional high putting him above 50% for the first time in three+ years is the “people at large” speaking then I sincerely hope you are enjoying whatever self-created reality you live in.

  13. The “apology” fits in well with Chicago Slick’s now tiresome game. This is boilerplate doublespeak when addressing “them” and then when speaking to “the people”. Of course the mugwump should have never been allowed on the property, in fact, his visa should be revoked and the South Korean embassy should have issued a real apology…a gentle reminder how “troops” have allowed a tick like “psy” to bloat, and just how successful his act would be under a “unified” Korea. Come to think of it, those same troops have allowed an…oh, never mind!

  14. What is pretty clear is that we have a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not identify as Americans.

    Can you say: ‘Blue State Red State’?

    How about this: We let the BLUE states secede and form their own country and stop screwing up ours?

    Then we restore the laws and the Constitution to what it was in 1900, and quickly add in some of those smart additions like the 18yo vote and Women’s suffrage… and then go from there.

    Just thinkin’…

  15. }}} There’s an old science fiction book (The Star Seekers, Milton Lesser) in which the inhabitants of a multigenerational starship have lost the knowledge that they are aboard a moving space vessel and believe that their internal world is the whole universe.

    Ummm, Rather than pointing people to the guy who ripped Heinlein off, why not point to the guy who wrote the original use of that plot… I mean, almost to the jot and tittle…?


    (Note: Star Seekers was published in 1953 according to Amazon. Also, amusing OT add-on, he had far, far more success as mystery writer Stephen Marlowe, though it appears he was remarkably prolific in the short SF realm)

    Hint: If there’s an SF plot that could have existed before 1960, Heinlein wrote the first example of it. That’s true amazingly more often than you’d believe.


    Orphans of the Sky
    Orphans of the Sky is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, consisting of two parts: “Universe” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1941) and its sequel, “Common Sense” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1941).

    …Over time, the descendants of the surviving loyal crew have forgotten the purpose and nature of their ship and lapsed into a pre-technological culture marked by superstition, wherein the word “Ship” is become a synonym of “cosmos”, so that “To move the ship” is considered an oxymoron, and references to the Ship’s “voyage” are interpreted as metaphor. They are ruled by an oligarchy of “Officers” and “Scientists”, whose head is the putative heir of or successor to the original captain. Most crew members lead a simple illiterate life of agriculture, seldom or never venturing to the “upper decks” where the “muties” (an abbreviation of “mutants” or “mutineers”) dwell.

  16. IGB…there are a lot of blue-thinking people in red states, and vice versa. The conflict is really at an individual level, not a geographical level, although obviously it maps onto geography to a significant degree.

  17. }}} That would be the simple solution and avoid the stigma of “section 8 housing.”

    Section 8 housing has a stigma because of the behavior of the type of people typically taking advantage of it, not because of their skin color or the fact that they “need assistance”.

    THIS is why people don’t want S8 in their neighborhoods, or even near their neighborhoods.

    I live on the border of an S8 area.

    A neighbor of mine was the victim of a breakin during broad daylight in her first-floor condo. There’s a fence around it which allowed the burglar to work relatively un-observed. The stuff was recovered about an hour and a half later, as the burglar was noticed by some cops walking home with the goodie bag… a large sheet he’d wrapped it all up in.

    Needless to say, he was walking to the S8 housing from the non-S8 housing.

    Peeps need to stop pussyfooting around it for PC reasons. The people who need S8 housing for an extended time are generally NEVER going to be anything but social drains. You can be in a bad state and need a hand up to get on your feet, but if you keep needing “hands up” you’re really asking for “hand outs”. And there SHOULD be a stigma to that.

  18. Bill,

    First off, there is something about the Rasmussen poll you seem not to understand. In addition to reporting the basic approval/disapproval numbers for the President, he has an additional measure – something he oddly calls the “Presidential Approval Index” which is not what it sounds like – it is not the simple approval minus disapproval value. Rather it is “strongly approve” minus “strongly disapprove”. It is a relatively meaningless measure, but one that Rasmussen invented 4 years ago, the day Obama took office, no doubt so that he could present an approval number than grossly misrepresented Obama’s true popularity. He is an advocacy pollster, after all. For example, a couple of days ago Ras had Obama’s approval at 56/42, for a net +14 – but the “index” was -1. Someone who was not paying attention (not mentioning any names here Bill) might read that -1 and think that Obama had less than majority approval. Which is obviously not the case. Don’t you just hate it when you get lied to by your own side?

    As you can see from the quote you included, it is this silly “index” which has gone positive for the first time in 3 1/2 years. Obama’s actual approval has been over 50% since before Election day, was bouncing around above and below it throughout the fall, and was above it at several other points over the past four years (bin Laden time most notably).

    Anyway, to your large point, which I still think is really quite silly – you mention that turnout amongst registered votes was down to 57.5% this time, thus undermining the legitimacy of any mandate from the people – is that your claim? You mention the higher turnouts in 08 and 04, but fail to mention that this year’s turnout was either higher, or roughly equal to that of every other previous election going back to the seventies (excepting 1992).

    If you want to make the claim that “the people” have rejected American democracy, and thus Obama’s presidency, along with most all others, and that they all suffer illegitimacy from that, then make that argument explicitly. But it makes no sense to pin this on Obama alone. In any case, I don’t think that you can argue the point that however you assess Obama’s popularity or support, it is significantly higher than any support for your ideas, or candidates on your side.

  19. IGB…yes, there’s a lot of similarity between “Star Seekers” and “Orphans.” The circle of entertainment obsessives was, though, IIRC, specific to “Star Seekers.”

    The general feel of “Orphans” was of a society that had become pretty primitive (again, IIRC), whereas “Star Seekers” was more just a feel of stasis and ennui.

  20. Joe,

    The numbers are what they are. 29% of the registered voters cast theirs for Obama. The “people at large” have not, in fact, “spoken” in favor of Mr Obama.

    28% of the “people at large” voted for Romney, and the remaining 43% essentially voted for ‘none of the above’.

    It is what it is, Joe, as much as you and the rest of the left would like to believe that he is wildly popular.

  21. Sorry Bill, but it is you who is kidding himself. Polls have always shown that the people who do not vote, when pressed for their opinion, end up breaking pretty much the same way that the voters do.

    You can see that in all the national polls. A lot of them undercounted Obama’s result this time, but that is because for the last three months before the election, they were all applying “likely voter” screens to the data – i.e. trying to guess who amongst the registered voters would actually turn out. And the conventional wisdom there was off.

    It is commonly accepted that a likely voter screen pushes results a few points in the GOP direction. If you remove that factor from all the polls done near Election day, you get the likely result that polling all registered voters nationwide gives you the same result as the actual election.

    Same with these approval polls. Go to RealClear and look at their approval charts. They have nine polls in their average now – some likely voters, some registered voters, some just adults – all positive, with the average being net +9.8. In fact there has not been a single approval poll since September showing a net negative for the President.

    Are you trying to somehow convince yourself that Obama didn’t really win, or something? Refer back to my original comment to you…

  22. You’re welcome, Setbit and ErisGuy … it comes from reading a lot, especially of older books. (19th century and all…)When I was still active duty, there were co-workers who used to say that hanging out with me ought to be worth education credits! ;-)

Comments are closed.