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View Diary: The Power of Myth (7 comments)

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  •  Frontier Myth (none)
    Your thoughts are interesting, and I hadn't considered the election from this angle. I suspect it will be very difficult for the Dems to fight on the level of myth (among so many others). What's missing from your analysis is the whole question of the myth of the frontier, unfortunately a more powerful cultural myth than the American Revolution. Though it has been some years since I read it, Richard Slotkin's "Gunfighter Nation" is really good on this subject.  

    The heroic frontiersman is a kind of Christ figure who risks or gives his life to redeem others, so that frontier mythology and dominionist Christianity are inextricably entwined. Republicans have completely owned this mythology since Reagan, and it will be a challenge to come up with an alternative. Reagan and Bush are, of course simulacra of frontiersmen but convincing enough for the rubes. I think Kerry, who is far closer to the real mythic hero, was trying to do build this aura around himself with his convention stuff on Vietnam (itself a symbolic re-enactment of the Indian wars, in the view of Slotkin and others), but he got derailed by the Swift Boat Veterans crap. It's a tragic irony that the phonies are immune from such attacks.

    There's probably a dissertation or two in this subject matter, but the short answer is, I think that rather than come up with an alternative, the Dems would do better to find a way to co-opt or confront this mythology directly. Even though the Western genre seems quaint today, it continues to have a powerful hold on the American psyche, particularly in the South and Central regions.

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