Jr. High Politics

When I was in junior high school in the sixties, you had to be a fan of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, or The Beach Boys (this was southern California). Call it an early form of identity politics -- it was pretty severe. You had to dress like your chosen group, wear your hair like them (as much as your parents would allow), and show contempt for the music of the other two bands. It was possible to shift allegiance, but the period during which you were without a firm identity produced high anxiety & resulted in social ostracism until you could establish your bona fides with your new band. I was thinking about this the other day when reading the comments on one of the lefty political blogs. Partisans of Hillary, Edwards, & Obama produced arguments that pretty much amounted to "My guy/gal is cuter than yours" & especially, the pop-paranoid, "It's no fair the way everybody treats ________!" In other words, everything that my guy/gal does is the very definition of cool & correct & upstanding & well everything, whereas everything that your guy/gal does is uncool, suspect, disingenuous & extremely icky. It's probably the same on the right-wing blogs, but I don't follow them. In a way, such strong loyalty to a candidate shows a refreshing lack of cynicism, but it struck me as a strange way for adults to behave. So, which Democratic candidate equals which of the rock groups of my childhood? I think I got the order right above: Hillary is the cynical, tough Rolling Stones candidate, Edwards is the smart but traditional Beatles, & Obama is the basically substanceless Beach Boys candidate who presents his lack of substance as a virtue. Now, don't ask me if Joe Biden is the Bob Dylan Candidate -- you can only push an analogy so far. Besides, that was hight school & the comments I was reading were dead ringers for middle school snark.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on “Jr. High Politics”

  1. I can remember in my middle school years it was important to show which side you were on for the Frazier/Ali fight, and in my neighborhood, if you favored Ali, you would get beaten by the Frazier loyalists. I can’t imagine why this kind of allegiance to absolute strangers was so important to kids of the day.

  2. Yes, such identifications seem to take the place, in modern technological societies, of tribal affiliations, which, apparently, we’re hard-wired to find attractive, especially when young. The problem is that so many people never grow out of such modes of behavior & belief.

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