Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The disuniting of America

If you cruise on over here, to Done With Mirrors, you'll get to read a lovely Callimachus post about why the humanist mythology surrounding George Washington was important stuff (not merely "lies") and why mythology matters to a country's ethos. Here's just a snippet to tempt your appetite:

Parson Weems and his biography of George Washington loom large in the 'Lies My Teacher Told Me' industry. Wretched literalists love to remind everyone that George Washington never chopped down a tree, never said 'I cannot tell a lie,' and never skipped a silver dollar across the Potomac. They claim these things are, or recently were, taught in schools as facts. They chew endlessly on the juiciness of a pious writer inventing a story -- a lie -- to illustrate the badness of lying. Why did Parson Weems lie? I say he wasn't lying. I say he was inventing mythology.
Recently, a friend and I were talking about Barry Manilow (we both sheepishly admitted that we were fans in the 1970s), and I said that you really hadn't lived if you hadn't heard his old TV commercial anthology. I realized that nothing like that could be done today -- with 500 cable channels, there is no shared culture that would allow everyone to giggle about Manilow's prodigious TV commercial output. Most people nowadays, if presented with a commercial compilation song, would recognize at most only one or two riffs. The question is, of course, how can a country hang together if it shares nothing? If we don't have a common ethos or mythology, whether it comes from the Bible or the Brady Bunch, what binds us as a people? We end up being the Disunited States of America, which is a depressing thought.