erik lundegaard

James Baldwin Explains FOX-News in 1959

One of the disadvantages of Google, or search engines in general, is that you miss all the stuff you'd find on the way to finding what you're looking for.

For my review of “On the Road,” for example, I couldn't find, online, James Baldwin's criticism of Jack Kerouac, so I began to go through my books. Those things on the shelves back there. I thought it was in an early essay but “Notes of a Native Son” seemed too early. So maybe “Nobody Knows My Name”? And there it was. The last essay: “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy.” The white boy in this case being Norman Mailer, not Kerouac.

But on the way to that discovery I re-read a few of the other essays, including the first, “The Discovery of What It Means to be an American,” and came across the line below. He's talking about the various differences between America, where he was born, and Europe, where he became an artist:

On the contrary, [Americans] have a very deep-seated distrust of real intellectual effort (probably because we suspect that it will destroy, as I hope it does, that myth of America to which we cling so desperately).

It's been a while since I've come across a sentence that so succinctly defines the message of the GOP generally and FOX-News specifically: distrust the intellects (elites) and cling to the myth (tall in the saddle). Most real intellectual effort destroys absolutism, which is what myths are about. Intellectual effort is hard, wish fulfillment is fun. Why we're where we are.

It's a shame, by the way, that James Baldwin wasn't around to see the election of Barack Obama and the shift in American attitudes toward homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the latter of which is being played out before the U.S. Supreme Court this week. Baldwin would have been 89 this year.

James Baldwin


Posted at 06:52 AM on Thu. Mar 28, 2013 in category Quote of the Day  
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