Skip to main content

"Uncle Pat," forever: No more "Pitchfork Pat Buchanan" (21 July 2009)

I'm hearing Pat Buchanan referenced quite a bit lately--especially here at OS. To pretty much everyone, he's the devil--someone who might be ID'd right now as Uncle Pat, but who's the devil: an intrinsic fiend who'd like nothing better than to (and please try and forgive me this) stick a black man, a pro-choice feminist, and someone jewish on the ends of his pitchfork' prongs.

Is he that? Well, in a way, he sort of is. But I mean this in that, at least as he is currently figured in the public' imagination--or, rather, as he had been before he moved from Pitchfork 'to Uncle--and, thinking now of Milton and of the Romantics, also a good time before, he has a/the devil's propriety, his stature, style, mean. That is, he stands alone, speaks as a powerful orator whose voice enchants, charms, twirls about, but also blusters and bombs, and has the devil's cunning, sly awareness (he knows, don't you know, that Rachel Maddow isn't actually all that impressed with Sotomayor; he knows, don't you know, that Obama has the words but not the heart; he knows, don't you know, America's most (il)licit desires . . .). That is, if you'll temporarily forget the first image of him I conjured and focus on the second, the way he carries/conducts himself is such that if you suspected that a lot of people who would have you believe they bring up his name in hatred, actually possess a deep affinity for, a profound attraction to, him, you'd be surely right in your suspicion.

Specifically, who might these people be? Won't be naming names, but if you sense in someone who rails against Buchanan, someone who knows well what it is to be bullied, managed, shut-down and shut-up, made to feel just a lowly nothing, well hidden, smothered; someone who may well normally associate him/herself with/within groups, but every now and then belligerantly announces just how God-damned independent s/he really is, in a way which leaves you immediately and readily attendant, placative, and what's-gotten-into-"him" startled/surprised; someone who would have you believe s/he is self-effacing, modest, just your ordinary joe, but announces this in a way which makes self-effacement seem a way to clear and open up space rather than close it down; this person might actually find the man very appealing, and so now struggles so very hard to establish the opposite, in hopes this might break his appeal.

Doesn't work, though. Because though in part they bring up to smash and break, they also evoke to sympathize--not, that is, to accede to his points, but to borrow, link to, partake of him in an effort to possess some of his power: "Sympathize," that is, as in the anthropological term "sympathetic magic." In a nutshell, they thunder at him so that Pat Buchanan! can thunder on through them. This single man, talked about as if he could bring down a nation through oration, evoke and direct its colossal wrath through his beration, is talked "up" by those to be counted amongst those who profit by being his prophets.

For to those who have not been so bullied/neglected, so unfairly aggressed upon, Pat can end up seeming not so much the devil, but rather, the beloved, the often wily but just as equally often clueless, flawed uncle. The emotionally settled, those more at peace, can see much to admire in Pat, they can even admire and speak of his personal charm, but though they will find him someone well worth listening/attending to, they will not find him dangerously seductive--they can readily shut him up, without feeling they've thereby startled themselves out of a pleasing, out of a necessary-feeling/seeming, trance. Of his manner of speaking, his oratory, they would see/sense weakness as much as they would strength. For he does speak as one who not just aims but needs to capture your attention, as one who is loathe to let you slip away, not just because he has something to say, but because he needs your company to fill a void. (They sense that, though people talk of his belligerence, focus on how he exhales, as it were, it is at least as appropriate to talk of hiswithdrawing into oratory ecstasy, of how he inhales and thereby moves away from those he is talking to.) This sense of him, too, of course, works to make him seem Romantic/romantic, but bespeaks of a pronounced need for respectful, kind treatment rather than emulation, to those able to see him as ordinary, as redundant, enough, even, to be (just) a well loved uncle.

Sometime later I might get into the good things that Pat does. He can be especially intuitive, aware; he can be very brave, very empathic, very kind. His admiration of Palin is so hugely suspect, suggests just how far off and gone he can be; he isn't racist, but his love of the common people isn't entirely disconnected from a hatred of all things "alien" and "strange"; but he really can be admirable--beautiful. But it may be that I'll just leave him now be and focus more on those I find even more beautiful--some, admittedly, like Chris Matthews, who take hits along the same lines Pat does. But for now let me end by saying that if Pat Buchanan ever ‘merges beyond just being "Uncle Pat," a fair possibility given that (deep breath now, one and all!) it is clear to me that though some people address him so because they really do believe his time is done, that he is lost forever-more to history, some do so because though they may well want him to come out again in his former Pitchfork guise at some point, still want to keep him close at hand, they can only justify (to themselves, to others) associating themselves with him, keeping him so manifestly present and resonating in their lives and readied for easy emergence into a crash/bang eventful future, by making him seem forever denatured and tamed (read: non-politician political), the problem won't be Pat Buchanan's dangerously powerful oratory skills, his other-even-if-netherwordly wrath and prowess: the problem, instead, will rest in those needing someone well suited to be set-up as an all-powerful Patriarch, someone appropriate to “spearhead” righteous vengeance upon those who've brought people so lowly down (to the) ground. So-to-speak, the power will be in the problem with the people, not in any such prowess some think incubates away in Pat.

In any case, even though his name is coming up quite a bit lately, no one’s going to put a pitchfork in Pat’s hands for a good while. May it be possible for people in the nation to evolve so, that few ever find themselves in mood to cue Pat to pick any such up again. Be unfair to us; be hugely unfair to Pat--someone who has clearly grown to like resting more idly as our somewhat odd uncle, someone who is in fact best served if he deigns himself just one more welcome dinner guest, as he dines querously but happily away amongst a numbered many at our generously sized, dining room table of a nation.


Popular posts from this blog

Superimposing another "fourth-wall" Deadpool

I'd like to superimpose the fourth-wall breaking Deadpool that I'd like to have seen in the movie. In my version, he'd break out of the action at some point to discuss with us the following:
1) He'd point out that all the trouble the movie goes to to ensure that the lead actress is never seen completely naked—no nipples shown—in this R-rated movie was done so that later when we suddenly see enough strippers' completely bared breasts that we feel that someone was making up for lost time, we feel that a special, strenuous effort has been made to keep her from a certain fate—one the R-rating would even seemed to have called for, necessitated, even, to properly feed the audience expecting something extra for the movie being more dependent on their ticket purchases. That is, protecting the lead actress was done to legitimize thinking of those left casually unprotected as different kinds of women—not as worthy, not as human.   

2) When Wade/Deadpool and Vanessa are excha…

"The Zookeeper's Wife" as historical romance

A Polish zoologist and his wife maintain a zoo which is utopia, realized. The people who work there are blissfully satisfied and happy. The caged animals aren't distraught but rather, very satisfied. These animals have been very well attended to, and have developed so healthily for it that they almost seem proud to display what is distinctively excellent about them for viewers to enjoy. But there is a shadow coming--Nazis! The Nazis literally blow apart much of this happy configuration. Many of the animals die. But the zookeeper's wife is a prize any Nazi officer would covet, and the Nazi's chief zoologist is interested in claiming her for his own. So if there can be some pretence that would allow for her and her husband to keep their zoo in piece rather than be destroyed for war supplies, he's willing to concede it.

The zookeeper and his wife want to try and use their zoo to house as many Jews as they can. They approach the stately quarters of Hitler's zoologist …

Full conversation about "Bringing Up Baby" at the NewYorker Movie Facebook Club

Richard Brody shared a link.Moderator · November 20 at 3:38pm I'm obsessed with Bringing Up Baby, which is on TCM at 6 PM (ET). It's the first film by Howard Hawks that I ever saw, and it opened up several universes to me, cinematic and otherwise. Here's the story. I was seventeen or eighteen; I had never heard of Hawks until I read Godard's enthusiastic mention of him in one of the early critical pieces in "Godard on Godard"—he called Hawks "the greatest American artist," and this piqued my curiosity. So, the next time I was in town (I… I was out of town at college for the most part), I went to see the first Hawks film playing in a revival house, which turned out to be "Bringing Up Baby." I certainly laughed a lot (and, at a few bits, uncontrollably), but that's not all there was to it. I had never read Freud, but I had heard of Freud, and when I saw "Bringing Up Baby," its realm of symbolism made instant sense; it was obviou…