Magazine article Tikkun

Ayatollah G: The Renewal of Amerika

Magazine article Tikkun

Ayatollah G: The Renewal of Amerika

Article excerpt

As a twenty-five-year veteran I of "the counterculture," I would like Newt Gingrich to stop attacking my religion.

If, as The New York Times reports, Gingrich is prepared to spend the next decade burying the legacy of "the counterculture, McGovernik" movement, what will I need to do to escape persecution? Melt down my Grateful Dead albums Shred those incriminating Birkenstocks How far will his icy eyes pry into my personal life in order to shore up those traditional American values which he trumpets with such keen vigor?

It might help at least to understand what Rep Gingrich means by "countercultural" (a word which Ronald Reagan, for one, never publicly uttered). When Hitler blamed the Jews for the decline of Germany, when Serbs target Muslims or Hutus Tutsis, everybody knows who is under attack (except, of course, the spawn of mixed breeding). Ayatollah Khomeini showed "mainstream" Iranians who the enemy was, and they executed Allah's vengeance swiftly and without mercy. Before Ayatollah Gingrich rallies brother against brother across our land (sisterhood is obviously beyond him), he ought to identify his intended victim more clearly.

Perhaps he is referring only to those members of the President's inner circle who slip into fringed vests and sneak bong hits when no one is looking. But I doubt it. He is, after all, setting his sights on a population whose numbers were significant enough to corrupt the whole nation and its "long-term commitment to creating character"--evidently the sort of character best created with the lash. The tip of this subversive iceberg is the "very small counterculture elite, which is terrified of the opportunity to actually renew American civilization."

I wish I knew where this counterculture elite is, because for years I've been trying to get into it (Ram Dass just won't return my calls). In Ayatollah Gingrich's view, it has something to do with the "liberal" media, all those millionaires in hushed suits who anchor the news when they aren't busy turning over their communal compost heaps. There goes Ted Koppel's homemade granola.

Back in the late Sixties, when I first perceived the opportunity to "renew American civilization," it seemed that getting rid of elitism altogether would be a key component of the renewal. But this involves pondering the touchy taboo of class, a word notably absent from Ayatollah G's political vocabulary (not that one hears much about it from Bill Clinton, either, whose branding as a minion of the Left is a puzzlement to any counterculturist with a well-honed sense of direction).

How ironic that on Election Night the Ayatollah's alter ego, Rush Limbaugh, paused to deride those icky "Democrats" who perpetually seek to drive a wedge between different groups of Americans by raising the (obsolete) issue of class. Now one of the facts of American life that my countercultural buddies were rude enough to notice was that the wedge was already there (and still is), created rather by behavioral differences than by anybody's efforts to point them out. When was the last time you ran into Rush Limbaugh on the subway, or shared a Big Mac with Bill Buckley?

As long as Ayatollah G and his henchpersons can get away with blaming the "radical utopians" (in David Brock's phrase) for destroying public morals, there will be no renewal of civilization, American or otherwise. And if they succeed in stifling public debate, playing Russian roulette with the environment, and redefining morality as a sort of sanctified vindictiveness, there will be no civilization, period.

How can cultural war be averted, or at least conducted in a non-toxic manner? I for one do not believe that America's social fabric is beyond repair, nor that the polarization discernible everywhere must end in calamity. I am willing to believe that under his Ayatollah guise there is a little Newt who is simply and genuinely frightened by the trends he sees in contemporary society, as who would not be? …

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