2.05.2009

Culture Wars: The Nuge

Thinkin' about The Nuge again.

So: like most graduate students, I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. He goes interesting places, he says funny stuff, he dines on tasty-looking food. A season or two ago, he went through the southwest and ended up in Texas, hanging out with rocker Ted "The Nuge" Nugent on his crazy shooting range / ranch / animal-preserve-so-the-nuge-can-shoot-them / bunker-dwelling-psycho compound / practice space.

The whole point of the episode was Bourdain's quest to hang with red-state America and to prove that cultural bridges exist between all of us as Americans, whether we welcome Democratic control of congress and the white house or, as The Nuge puts it, we think that a Democratic government would be a "target-rich environment." In other words, the episode was a light-hearted celebration of compromise and mutual understanding, a rebuttal of the notion of the culture wars that separate us. Bourdain goes to Texas specifically in the name of conciliation. In his crypto-lefty politics,* conciliation, compromise, and communication are all positives.

What pisses me off about this kind of project is that you aren't going to see The Nuge renting a hybrid and visiting Manhattan or Portland or Santa Cruz, eating a bunch of tempeh, and volunteering at an animal shelter. Intransigence, inflexibility, and hostility to the opposition are right-wing values, something that probably peaked in the first few years after the Iraq War started, when dissent was basically treated as a form of treason. This comes out in Bourdain's interactions with The Nuge over and over; Bourdain's subtext is something like "ha ha ha, I may disagree with you, but these are darn good ribs, thank you for welcoming me into your lovely militia compound" and The Nuge's is something like "ha ha ha, I would like to shoot everyone who disagrees with me."

Thus, like most of my fellow tinhorn academic lefties, I'm very ambivalent about Obama's decision to try to reconcile partisan politics rather than press his advantage while the Dems have congress and the white house. I know that his attitude about most things, like ending the Iraq War, nationalizing banking, and so on, are more rational than anything the Republicans would come up with. I worry that by trying to work with everyone, Obama is ultimately catering to people who would like nothing less than to see him "fail."

* He alludes to his own lefty politics, but I've never seen or read any evidence of them. It's like he's too embarrassed about his own beliefs to actually let anyone know what they are.

6 comments:

Austin Rich said...

I think you hit the nail on the head: The biggest problem between the left and right in America is that The Left wants to find a way to help unite people, and The Right want to find a way to help themselves.

The Right try to make a good argument: you get to be wealthy, do whatever you want in the name of that money, and you have God on your side. Meanwhile, I've got the cracked out guys that sleep outside the local homeless shelter, the vast numbers of poor people that surround me, and (arguably) Michael Moore & Henry Rollins. So far, I know who's throwing the swankier party, even if mine is well meaning and tries to do what feels, uhm, "right"?

As for Mr. Bourdain: you should find the Portland episode of No Reservations, as he not only goes to the Velveteria with Chuck Palahniuk (pretty much the most PDX experience you can have as a celebrity), but the Velveteria also contains a velvet painting of The Nuge playing / firing his guitar / gun, yet again bringing everything on the Inter-Web-A-Tron full circle.

clumsygirl said...

Speaking of Left vs. Right, I am baffled by the handful of Right-leaning adults I have found in my building. I don't get the special ed assistant who espouses politicians who would cut his/her job in an instant, if given the chance. Do they not get the connection?

Your job depends on Lefties, people! Right wing America is not interested in providing equal learning opportunities to varied learners. Are they not thinking? Do they not care? Do they want to be unemployed? Do they not care about the kids they work with? If so... why are they in my room!!!???

gagh.

Rachel said...

I think when it comes right down to it, a lot of conservative politics in this country is WASP based - and thus many of these people already believe they're specially chosen of God and there are NO other ways to get to heaven, much less do anything here on earth. What's the point in compromising with people who are going to burn in an eternal lake of fire? I think your average well-educated Republicans who are Republicans because they approve of small government and more personal autonomy can be spoken with - some have been on the Daily Show and done a good job expressing themselves. It's the ones who believe God is calling them who are the real problem (*cough* PALIN *cough*).

kungfuramone said...

Cough, Palin, Cough. That sums it up pretty nicely.

A: word up. I actually haven't seen the Portland episode, although I did see the food-eating guy do the great balls of fire challenge at Salvador Molly's the other day.

C: I hear you. Congrats, the right won, you lose your job!

thetravellor said...

Being in DC over the last 3+ years, I've realized there's 2 types of Republicans. It's the the crazy ones (aka the "googely-eyed people"), who dogmatically believe everything they are told by the likes of Rush Limbaugh who are the problem. They see everything in black or white (aka red v blue) and don't want to take the time to understand the detailed nuances involved in policy-making, which is bad for everyone.

Then there are the ones who actually think about what they believe in and try to understand the details and unintended consequences. The thinking ones can actually be reasoned with and can be converted (in a slow & painful process).

I think "the Nuge" falls squarely into the "googley-eyed" category.

kungfuramone said...

Good point. And his eyes do, literally, kind of bulge out, especially when he's rocking hard or shooting guns.