YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 7, 2015

The “change of heart” explanation

This blog addresses the most effective theme in American popular culture: religiously based sentimentality. For a related blog noting the meme of “one Nation” see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/.)

What follows is the liner notes “About the culture” that I wrote for the Yankee Doodle Society’s first recording, “Sentimental Songs of the Mid-19th Century” (Takoma Records A-1048, 1976; songs by composers Stephen Foster, Henry Clay Work and George Root).

[Liner notes:] The music of this recording is the sheet music of the mid-century parlor, songs performed by the genteel family at leisure. The self-improving impulses of these log-cabin graduates found satisfaction in decorous language freed from frontier crudity, boisterousness, and sexual innuendo. Gathered around the piano, the entire family could join in the harmonized chorus, affirming the values and sentiments suited to their new station, and experiencing the reassuring world invoked by the sentimentalists.

For the American Eden had been shaken by the tremors of industrialization. The system of laissez nous faire or unfettered economic competition in an open marketplace had promised both personal freedom and social harmony. Instead, the 19th century witnessed the growth of an alarming gap between rich and poor, with terrifying social strife: depressions, panics, riots, class, race and sex antagonisms. The Puritan’s “heavenly kingdom on earth” had frequently turned out to be “hell with the lid off” — as Dickens described Stephen Foster’s Pittsburgh.

Rather than scrap the entire economic kit and caboodle, as various utopians were urging, middle class Americans tinkered and fussed, relegating hopes and memories of personal happiness to a sacrosanct Home Sweet Home, nestled in benevolent, maternal Nature.

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Protected from the unpleasantness of business, the genteel woman guarded the hearth: priestess to the cult of domesticity.  From her privileged position as the national repository of moral purity, she led the crusade to clean up society, the untiring foe to alcohol and prostitution: home wreckers in whatever guise.

Social evil, all of it, was viewed by the reform-minded gentility as the product of individual corrupt hearts, a coronary lapse in social empathy. Clogged by the polluting passions, the offending heart required purging through exposure to the Noble and the Pathetic, with tears and sighs conferring absolution upon the wayward self.

What constituted the Noble and the Pathetic, the preponderating subjects of sentimental song? They were teen-aged soldiers defending the Flag, “happy darkies” and steadfast maidens contented in service to their masters: doomed draftees and perfect angels consigned to the shadows of public life. Those who were about to die, or who had barely lived, were saluted by the millions…whose own capacities for action were increasingly crippled as wealth and power were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

The sentimental song, like the chaste ministrations of genteel mothers and sisters, served to reconcile ordinary Americans to loneliness and social impotence. Dreaming of curatives, their condition was eased with the catharsis of a good cry, and the glimmer of Union provided by a well-made song in the fellowship of performance. [End, liner notes by CS, emphasis and quotation marks added]

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November 6, 2015

Ben Carson’s appeal to Republican primary voters

Ben Carson valuesThis blog (supplemented by https://clarespark.com/2015/11/07/the-change-of-heart-explanation-for-dr-ben-carsons-redemption/) attempts to lay out reasons for the politically inexperienced neurosurgeon’s broad appeal to segments of the Right.

  1. The conversion narrative is always a winner to conservatives; the claim that divine intervention changed Dr. Carson from a pathologically violent adolescent to the mild figure he cuts in the debates, is of obvious appeal to many born – again conservatives.
  2. Detroit’s Dr. Carson may stand for the urban black population as a whole; many conservatives hope to solve the problem of the decadent black underclass through a religious revival, perhaps led by the nuclear father-led family. The rags to riches theme is a staple of conservative ideology.

Many Republican voters seek to remove the stigma that they, as a whole, are racists and/or anti-science; with Carson there is a double pay-off: not only will Republican voters support a black President, there is no conflict between science and religion. Hence Fox News Channel leaped to Dr. Carson’s defense on the Megyn Kelly show on November 5, 2015, interviewing him sympathetically and without skepticism or much curiosity regarding his proclaimed innocence of the CNN charges.

What remains to be explained is why the connection between Dr. Carson and Armstrong Williams, his close adviser and promoter of the allegedly “moderate” Nation of Islam as a solution to urban violence in Chicago , has gone virtually unexamined, even though the conservative journals American Thinker and The Daily Caller have raised the issue. Certainly, no one on Fox News Channel in the prime time shows has explored such a troublesome connection, but then presumably “moderate” Fox has generally ignored the alarming rate of rising antisemitism/anti-Zionism, preferring either silence or the moral equivalence narrative favored by President Obama (see this widely read blog https://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and-obamas-view-of-israeli-history/).

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Bibliography:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/05/politics/ben-carson-2016-childhood-violence/index.html.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2015/10/support_of_farrakhan_organization_may_force_ben_carson_to_separate_from_longtime_adviser.html

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/04/armstrong-williams-on-ben-carson-campaign-they-cannot-stop-this-revolution/

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/251180-the-man-behind-ben-carson

http://dailycaller.com/2015/10/17/top-carson-aide-wants-taxpayers-to-fund-farrakhan/

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/11/armstrong-williams-to-curb-chicago-violence-bring-/

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/ben-carson-holocaust-theory-prompts-outcry-jewish-groups/

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/24/ben_carsons_cringe_inducing_foreign_policy_ignorance_israel_edition/

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