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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COMMENTS

Gee wrote:

His dismissal of Kerouac's On the road is at the very end of part one of The black boy looks at the white boy.

I don't think his assessment of Obama or same sex marriage rights would be positive. Obama and Holder missed. Same sex marriage is a hollow victory when children are still assaulted in their homes and schools where they should be safe. How many gay kids won't grow up to have that opportunity? Here in Ga it still isn't an opportunity. Where you see laurels to rest on he would see a hundred years too soon. I find it awkward you think Obama is a milepost, I still see streets littered with bodies of young black men shot down by those that protect and serve the colorless only.

Comment posted on Sat. Oct 11, 2014 at 08:10 PM

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