- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Eastbound and down

“Hollywood has always celebrated individualist rebels, and the Southern backcountry has a longstanding anti-authoritarian tradition. … ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ was not a story that could be imagined only after 1969.

“It was a classic bandit narrative in the tradition of Robin Hood and Jesse James, with an invulnerable hero who defies unjust laws (in this case, speed limits and alcohol regulations), battles an oppressive sheriff (in this case, Jackie Gleason), and can move almost invisibly among the common folk who admire his heroic deeds (in this case, other drivers).

“But this Robin Hood was rebelling at a time when the word rebellion invariably suggested the word freak. This Little John was played by Jerry Reed, a guy who used to jam with Elvis. This Sheriff of Nottingham was a fat racist cop, a cultural archetype that took hold during the civil rights movement — and was most evocative among those who sided with the protesters.

“The genre that begat them reached its peak after the country relaxed its attitudes toward on-screen sex, violence and sympathy for lawbreakers, a change largely driven by the cultural revolution.”

Jesse Walker, writing on “The Hippie and the Redneck Can Be Friends,” in the April issue of Reason


“To those born with any sense of shame, the fact that Jimmy Carter regularly shows his face in this country in public is an infinite, multifaceted source of wonderment.

“The fact that Jimmy Carter sees himself as a sage elder statesman and regularly holds forth on subjects such as Middle East peace (!) and what current U.S. presidents should and shouldn’t do is a thing of pure, unadulterated astonishment.

“And the fact that Jimmy Carter (or any of his proxies) genuinely believes that his attendance was required (or even appropriate) at the funeral of the priest who stood up to Gorbachev — a priest who was, in so many ways, the professionally devout Carter’s exact opposite — is not only bizarre on its face, it’s disgraceful. …

“Then again, all John Paul II ever did was lead the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 25 years, travel millions of miles bringing hope to near every corner of the world, and help bring down the mightiest empire in the world armed only with a rosary.

“Unlike Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II never won a Nobel Peace Prize.”

Ned Rice, writing on “Jimmy of Mayberry,” Friday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

The great contest’

“What will our children be taught? Should the American story be told to American children as value-neutral, with lots of guilt and atonement on display? Or should American children understand that their country has changed the world for the better in ways that matter the most?

“Western civilization, of which America is now the point of the lance, is up against a ferocious enemy: Islamists who seek to destroy the modern and mostly beneficial American values that have shaped the modern world. …

“If we want our coming generations to be strong in the parlous geopolitical days ahead, they should know what the great contest is about. The American story is a great one, and understanding it accurately would make us stronger.”

Ben J. Wattenberg, from his book, “Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future”

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