Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon: The awakening of the new century’s first generation

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/20/09

From my point of view President Obama is the most intelligent and savvy of Democratic Presidents to come to power in the post-war period. He has a sensory intuition which allows him to catch up quickly on things and he is far better at external things than internal things. China ambassador Jon Huntsman, Jr., the best of the current China hands, gives him the highest marks on his visit to China. Even the Campaign for Tibet seemed cautiously optimistic. Obama’s problem is that history has cast his role at the end of a vast epoch. History has made him the last agent of a realm of ideas that are suited to an age long past and a vastly different America. The Democrats and much of the Eastern establishment have a Roosevelt hangover and dwell like Proust in a remembrance of things past. It is exactly like the South that W.J. Cash wrote about in the late 1920s. The South was ready economically to enter the greater world but the honored ghosts of history prevented it from doing so for 20 more years.

Historic periods overlap. Gore Vidal, aged and decrepit, hating America, hating everything, longing for the “gallant” Roosevelt and conjuring the ghost of William F. Buckley, Jr., when he was awarded for “lifetime achievement” at the 60th annual National Book Awards this week, might be seen as the Roosevelt era’s “last Confederate” still waving the red flag after the world has gone on; gone on to Elvis, to Reagan, to Twilight. There were still Victorians long after the age had passed. And when Elvis first rose in the world on The Ed Sullivan Show he still had to contend with Stonewall Jackson over who would represent the post-war South.

Generations are the engine of history and the channel of historic change and those who look for generational change should get in line tonight to see the opening of New Moon, the second of the series of four new vampire movies. Tickets have been selling out months ahead like a Beatles concert. But when the first movie, Twilight, came out it was called a cult movie and a passing fad. Like they said about the Beatles. Critics said the writing wasn’t any good. Like they said about the Beatles. We are at the century’s turning. It hasn’t turned yet and it won’t for a few years. But it is beginning to rise new against old generations as generations always do, and the old ideas and the old century. In our period, even an old millennium.

When cultural patterns including political ones are established by the old generations, everything that is new “doesn’t fit” and becomes a challenge to the old generations. All at every level of power become priests and defenders of the old in opposition to the new. But we began to see the turning with the Twilight movie, which was widely panned by critics and promotion institutions although the book by Stephanie Meyers had already sold 30 million copies, mostly to young teenage girls. It is the politics of denial. The new are denied entry into territory already controlled by the old people. We are seeing in spades a similar pattern with Sarah Palin. We have been seeing it with Ron Paul as well.

Each generation has its own gods and goddesses: Victoria, Douglas Fairbanks, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Eisenhower, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. They form and fulfill their own generations and place them in sequence to generations past and those ahead. The new gods, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, awaken the long-awaited fourth post-war generation tonight with New Moon.