To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Beats Deserved to be Beaten with Sticks

I'll say up front that I'm no fan of the Beats. Jack Kerouac's famous "On the Road" should have been called "On the Boring Road". (hint to writers: people edit their work for a reason). William Burroughs work is completely unreadable, unless you're in college and on mushrooms. And my 8-year-old niece could write a better poem than Allen Ginsberg, whose famous poem "Howl" made me wish he had been eaten by wolves before he had a chance to write it. With that said, their tune-out, anti-authoritarian, libertine lifestyle was a force for good in the stodgy, totalitarian era of J. Edgar Hoover and Eisenhower. And Kerouac's one great book, the Buddhist-laced "Dharma Bums", inspired an awesome name for a band, Pretty Girls Make Graves. And his book "The Subterraneans" deserves props for both its shocking directness in confronting racial fears (he swears he sees something "move down there" when he's going down on his black girlfriend) and for its good depiction of romantically-challenged men like myself (he wants a girl when he can't have her, but doesn't want her when he has her). It's a little disappointing to see Kerouac.com and The Beat Museum endorsing an establishment party (Democrats) in the election. Especially, as Reason's Nick Gillespie points out, when the Beats were so far removed from the establishment and conventional politics.
More power, I suppose, to political activists. But I wonder whether at least two of the three members of the Beat Holy Trinity would agree. Jack Kerouac, who gave his last major interview to National Review and was a big fan of that Republicanoid mag, was a hippie-hating conservative (albeit one who probably wouldn't fit in so well at The Corner). And William Burroughs isn't just one of Reason's 35 Heroes of Freedom (we honored him not only for his "relentlessly anti-authoritarian" writings but for proving "that you can abuse your body in every way imaginable and still outlive the entire universe"). As Jesse Walker noted here not too long ago, Burroughs had his, er, issues with FDR and assorted other Democrats, especially gun-control zealots. And even Allen Ginsberg, the most conventionally liberal in his politics of the Trinity, was at times a tax protester and tended toward rejection of conventional politics.