Friday, 14 January 2011

Dangers of living in your past

I like Vikings. It's a bit schoolboy-ish I know: My surname is of Norse derivation. I have quite a few Norse tattoos. I think their culture is fascinating; they were so much more than the hairy thugs in horned helmets of popular myth - explorers, traders and artisans with a political and legal system that has quite a bit to admire even today. And when I've had a shitty day at  work the prospect of a warrior culture that suffered no insult or bullshit without swift and honourable recourse is pretty attractive. But I draw the line at carrying around a bloody big axe and settling my disputes with trial by combat. In other words I know that I'm not really a Viking and this isn't the dark ages.

Why then do many Americans persist in carrying on as if they are in the Old West ? 

I mean, much like the Vikings, I can see the attraction: If I'd had the chance I would have been the first to strap on a six-shooter and after a hard day on the ranch blow away anyone who looked at me a bit funny in the saloon... But this is the 21st Century and that stuff  just doesn't wash anymore.

Although you wouldn't think so to listen to US politicians from both sides of the liberal divide talking about the fall-out of the shootings in Arizona.  Maybe Obama is trying to appear non-partisan. Maybe he doesn't want to antagonise a mythological Middle America.  But  of course Jared Loughner's attack on 'federal government targets' was inextricably connected to the Right's myth of a democracy with frontier values, its obsession with gun ownership and the macho political culture and language of hunting and shooting.

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