Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Bill Kauffman writing Friday at American Conservative Magazine, I wanted to share this with you. This has everything to do with [r]epublicanism. Kauffman is also the author of one of my favorite books called Bye Bye, Miss American Empire. It is a treasure trove of republicanism and early and modern efforts at secession and establishing self-government in North America and the United States. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Bill Kauffman writing Friday at American Conservative Magazine, I wanted to share this with you. This has everything to do with [r]epublicanism. Kauffman is also the author of one of my favorite books called Bye Bye, Miss American Empire. It is a treasure trove of republicanism and early and modern efforts at secession and establishing self-government in North America and the United States. Find it in the library at MikeChurch.com.
Shortly after entering wedded bliss a quarter-century ago, my wife, a Las Angelena, told me that she wanted to see two cities: Utica and Cleveland. I, as is my wont, made her dreams come true. [Mike: He talks about how he took her to Cleveland and saw these things. Then he gets on to how he took her to Utica, New York.]
My other Utica venture was to pay homage at the Forest Hill Cemetery to Harold Frederic, novelist and bigamist, whose story “The Copperhead” I adapted for a film to be released this spring. Details—and Oscars, surely—to follow. [Mike: This is where it gets really little “r” republican interesting.]
Every small American city deserves a Gene Nassar. Mr. Nassar grew up among the Lebanese Christians of East Utica. As an adult, he established himself as a noted scholar of such poets as Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound while remaining rooted in the old neighborhood as a professor at Utica College and historian of his city, which he loves, sins and blemishes too, with the ardor of a native son.
Utica was once a baseball rival of Batavia’s in the New York-Penn League…
Mike: You ever heard of that, Andrew? You’re a sports guy. You ever heard of the New York-Penn League?
Mike: Have you? Did you have a team?
AG: No, no team there. I know of the league.
..and I like to think that the minor-league qualities of such cities—their intimate scale, the blending of the homely and the idiosyncratic, their unexpected tolerance of eccentricity—are the true soul of America. And of baseball. The majors are built on home runs and TV timeouts and $20 parking fees. To hell with ’em. To hell with the empire, too.
The glory and richness of America come not from its weaponry or wars, which debase us as much if not more than the relentlessly vulgar and witless products rolling off the entertainment industry’s assembly line. Rather, our numen is found in our regions, our little places, the unseen America beyond the ken of our placeless rulers.
William T. Coggeshall, state librarian of Ohio, explained three years before the War came that “It is not enough…that a national literature exists. It is required of a nation, which combines wide differences of characteristics, that each shall have its own representation. A Republic of letters may be a confederacy of individualities, [just as] a Republic in politics may be a confederacy of States.”
Before any potent or meaningful decentralist political movement develops in this country, we’re going to have to rediscover the places in which we live. We have to remember why we love our country—and the reason isn’t that “We’re Number One!” or that we can sprawl out on the couch chanting “USA! USA!” as the bombs drop and the televised chickenhawks cackle.
That isn’t patriotism. It isn’t even a parody of patriotism. It’s an allegiance to … nothing.
America, the myth goes, is a land of perpetual motion, of restless pioneers striking out for the West, or in our time, of restive television addicts lighting out for Las Vegas, with the mini-set in the SUV playing “Two and a Half Men” DVDs so that unlike the Joads, members of this family don’t have to talk to one another. We are, supposedly, always moving, never stopping, consumed by what William Cullen Bryant called “the vain low strife that makes men mad.”
And yet the best American writers—even those who follow their characters on rafts down the Mississippi, even those who write books titled On the Road or You Can’t Go Home Again—are almost always attached to a place. Not a home page, but a real, individuated place that is different from any other place on earth: Sarah Orne Jewett in South Berwick, Maine. Sinclair Lewis in Minnesota. Wendell Berry in Henry County, Kentucky. Thoreau in Concord.
The regionalist impulse in American letters is greater now than at any time since the mid-1930s. Backwoods New England. Romantic North Dakota. East Utica. Writers are looking homeward. Standing on what they stand for, as Edward Abbey used to say. Only good can come of this. The Little America ain’t dead yet.
Mike: That is spot on. People know your towns. You know your community. You know the reason why you want to live there. It probably has little to do with the mayor or the town council or governor of the state. It probably has something to do with something you really, really love and don’t want to be able to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, because of the proximity in which you live. It’s all about place. He’s right, republicanism is all about community. That is what the United States was mostly comprised of prior to the Spirit of ’76 meeting its final execution in that courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia in April of 1865. To get back to the founders, as many say they want to, you have to get back to the framers and founders point of view and way of life, which was, by and large, not very cosmopolitan but very, very local.
End Mike Church Show Transcript