Gerrard Winstanley is a good communist, which is to say he’s been dead for more than 300 years. He was a founder of the True Levellers/Diggers, a 17th-C. Christian sect that set up shop in a number of locations during the Protectorate. But I’m interested in him today less for his politics than for a line which may predate him, but which he put to famous use. In his pamphlet A New-yeers Gift for the Parliament and Army (1650), he says “[…] the Devil will not be mocked.”
And I thought of those words today as I read a post by Jay Nordlinger at The Corner. The subject was Clint Eastwood’s performance art at the Republican convention, and the outrage (Sorry, that’s “OUTRAGE!!!!1!one!!eleventy!”) it provoked in the usual suspects. Even the President (or his handlers) forgot the cardinal rule (“Don’t punch down.”) and responded. In the wake of all this, Nordlinger pointed out something those of us in the dextrosphere have known for quite some time:
One of the advantages conservatives have, I think, is that we’re used to criticism. For instance, if we speak up on our campuses, we are demonized, ostracized — read out of the human race. You get used to it (sort of). Liberals are always being patted on the head: “Good boy”; “Good girl.”
We’re used to being mocked too. In movies, in television shows — think of Saturday Night Live alone! Liberals, less so. Conservatives exist to be mocked, liberals to do the mocking. And when the tables are turned . . .
Now, I’m not saying Obama or his supporters are the devil — the group includes friends, relatives, and others of my countrymen. However, there is a degree of certainty and self-righteousness among many of them that will. Not. Be. Mocked. By contrast, I think thoughtful conservatism — with its tragic view of human imperfectibility — recognizes that because we are all flawed, we should be able to take a joke or two.
As a side note that may perhaps be illustrative, the CHE hosts a number of blogs, including one (by a group mostly based at UC-Davis) called The Edge of the American West. About an hour before Eastwood did his bit, a commenter at Ace’s posted the following:
I got an advance copy of Chris Matthew’s prepared comments…
“You know what strikes me? You got this guy, Clint Eastwood, he gets up there and he just looks angry. He looks like an angry, old, white man. And he’s speaking to a group of angry, old, white men. So it plays well in the house, but this guy is detached from the pain of those that are left out.
“I start to watch this guy, the scowl on his face, and it occurs to me that his role in Gran Torino was more of a biography than anything.”
Remember this, and let’s see how close I get. I like my odds.
Well, it wasn’t Chris Matthews, but Prof. Eric Rauchway posted the following at Edge of the American West:
So, everyone noticed that Clint Eastwood at the RNC appeared determined to portray a cranky old man – scolding an invisible President Obama, represented by an empty chair. Eastwood seemed often incoherent, and fairly goofy.
But it seems also worth noting that Eastwood’s imaginary Barack Obama was angry, inarticulate, foul-mouthed – uppity, even; in need of correcting by an older white man. And Eastwood dispatched him with a movie line he used to cow an African American punk.
I’m just saying.
You know, when someone tries to parody your viewpoint in advance, and winds up being nearly spot-on prophetic, it may be time to wonder if you’ve lapsed into self-parody.
I’m just saying.