Rick Perlstein is Not Ersatz

I'm trying to get fired up about Governor Christie breaking the law and not paying into my pension fund, but it's an abstract concept that won't affect me until far in the future so it's hard to get as indignant about it as I should (and I'm trying to be proactive and "tweet" my opinion to the proper politicians, but that's a fairly abstract way to protest as well) but meanwhile, I'm banging my way through Rick Perlstein's dense book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and learning just how galvanized America was politically in the early sixties; the theme of the book is that it was just as fun and exciting and rebellious to be a conservative as it was to be a liberal civil rights champion, or-- a few years later-- counter-culture hippie . . . everybody was getting radical and the middle of the road (Nelson Rockefeller) was boring (aside from his new woman) . . . Perlstein uses my favorite word (ersatz) to describe the rumored American model town the Soviets built so they could train Communist spies in "indigenous American arts" like sipping sodas at drugstore fountains . . . these were the sorts of things that the John Birch Society was worried about-- if you weren't into communal living, then you might be into building a bomb shelter in your yard-- and though a Communist defector killed Kennedy, he was killed in a city of vehement right-wing lunatics . . . soon after, George Wallace discovered that there were racists in every state, not just Alabama . . . and while Kubrick was satirizing the bomb, intelligent people were having serious discussions about how we might use it and what the death toll might be . . . and people came out in droves to protest, to sit-in, to firebomb, to riot, to root for radical candidates-- very different than the digital protests that happen today; these were wild times, and deserve deserve wild and whirling words, and Perlstein provides them (including, among others, the words "cloture" and "vitiated") and while his works aren't light reading by any stretch (and I recommend using Kindle so you can control the font) they are required reading if you want to understand the political zeitgeist of the sixties and early seventies.

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