Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Joyless Jazz Age (2000-2008, R.I.P).

It was characteristic of the Jazz Age that it had no interest in politics at all.

--F. Scott Fitzgerald, from Echoes Of The Jazz Age (Nov. 1931)

Well, here we are less than five days away from a major political realignment. The nightmare of the Bush years and the dreams of a 50-year Republican majority might meet their final resting place next Tuesday. Barring the capture of Bin Laden by John McCain, nay, Todd Palin in the rocky border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and a 2000-point rise in the Dow, I am going to go out on a limb and say we are about to witness a massive regime change.

Even if Obama turns out to be some magical combination of Lincoln, FDR and Clinton, I still think we are in for a rough ride here in this United, divided, States. The past 8 years have been horrifying and the ugly lights are coming on after a long night of very tawdry, destructive, partying. In the morning we will awake to a legacy of illegal war, torture and a seemingly insurmountable avalanche of debt. I am just regurgitating the cliché that this really is a “perfect storm”. Just when the government needs to follow the Keynesian model of “pumping the well” there is no, uh, you know, liquid left to do so.

Also, I am curious to see how a nation whose culture is so bound to consumerism does when identity cannot be bought with a credit card. People are tribal and I have long argued that part of our democratic pluralism has been bound to our ability to distract and buy (I think this comes with the death of religion, maybe?). This is not earth shattering analysis here but I fear we could witness some massive civilian violence.

Or not.

Perhaps, the culture is going to experience the kind of contraction that many of us felt was and is needed. By contraction, I think I mean the end of, what I called, “The Joyless Jazz age”. The years when “Sex and The City” became a major cultural touchstone and Paris Hilton, for better or worse, was so dominant a cultural force that love her or hate her you couldn’t ignore her. The years when, despite a war that was draining our resources the only people truly appalled enough to do anything radical about it were over the age of forty: a mother named Cindy Sheehan and some upper West Side Grandmothers, Code Pink. The years when three hundred channels of cable spewed “To Catch a Predator” and “Cribs”, “The Hills” and “The Swan”, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, and “The Biggest Loser”, “American Idol” and “The Littlest Groom”.

The Joyless Jazz Age is over and not a moment too soon. Let’s pray (as only a secularists can) that its replacement is not nearly as gruesome.

I’m hopeful but I might be giving away my television and buying a shotgun just in case…