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Frank Rich: Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corners

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cal04 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 08:25 PM
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Frank Rich: Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corners
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/opinion/08rich.html?_...

“WHEREVER you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense,” says the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Those words were first heard by New York audiences in February 1938, as America continued to reel from hard times. The Times’s front page told of 100,000 auto workers protesting layoffs in Detroit and of a Republican official attacking the New Deal as “fascist.” Though no one was buying cars, F.D.R. had the gall to endorse a mammoth transcontinental highway construction program to put men back to work.

In the 71 years since, Wilder’s drama has become a permanent yet often dormant fixture in our culture, like the breakfront that’s been in the dining room so long you stopped noticing its contents. Requiring no scenery and many players, “Our Town” is the perennial go-to “High School Play.” But according to A. Tappan Wilder, the playwright’s nephew and literary executor, professional productions have doubled since 2005, including two separate hit revivals newly opened in Chicago and New York.

You can see why there’s a spike in the “Our Town” market. Once again its astringent distillation of life and death in the fictional early-20th-century town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., is desperately needed to help strip away “layers and layers of nonsense” so Americans can remember who we are — and how lost we got in the boom before our bust.

(snip)
Last week Jon Stewart whipped up a well-earned frenzy with an eight-minute “Daily Show” takedown of the stars of CNBC, the business network that venerated our financial gods, plugged their stocks and hyped the bubble’s reckless delusions. (Just as it had in the dot-com bubble.) Stewart’s horrifying clip reel featured Jim Cramer reassuring viewers that Bear Stearns was “not in trouble” just six days before its March 2008 collapse; Charlie Gasparino lip-syncing A.I.G.’s claim that its subprime losses were “very manageable” in December 2007; and Larry Kudlow declaring last April that “the worst of this subprime business is over.” The coup de grâce was a CNBC interviewer fawning over the lordly Robert Allen Stanford. Stewart spoke for many when he concluded, “Between the two of them I can’t decide which one of those guys I’d rather see in jail.”

Led by Cramer and Kudlow, the CNBC carnival barkers are now, without any irony whatsoever, assailing the president as a radical saboteur of capitalism. It’s particularly rich to hear Cramer tar Obama (or anyone else) for “wealth destruction” when he followed up his bum steer to viewers on Bear Stearns with oleaginous on-camera salesmanship for Wachovia and its brilliant chief executive, a Cramer friend and former boss, just two weeks before it, too, collapsed. What should really terrify the White House is that Cramer last month gave a big thumbs-up to Timothy Geithner’s bank-rescue plan.

In one way, though, the remaining vestiges of the past decade’s excesses, whether they live on in the shouted sophistry of CNBC or in the ashes of Stanford’s castle, are useful. Seen in the cold light of our long hangover, they remind us that it was the America of the bubble that was aberrant and perverse, creating a new normal that wasn’t normal at all.

The true American faith endures in “Our Town.” The key word in its title is the collective “our,” just as “united” is the resonant note hit by the new president when saying the full name of the country. The notion that Americans must all rise and fall together is the ideal we still yearn to reclaim, and that a majority voted for in November. But how we get there from this economic graveyard is a challenge rapidly rivaling the one that faced Wilder’s audience in that dark late winter of 1938.
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Bozita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 08:55 PM
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1. That's Frank Rich's best.column.ever.!
Gee, I guess I say that often.

Anyway, it's true!

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Me. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 09:00 PM
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2. Beautifully Done
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AwakeAtLast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 09:08 PM
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3. That is a terrific comparison
We will probably be seeing a lot more blasts from the (Depression) past.

Thanks for posting!
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JNelson6563 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 09:09 PM
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4. Brilliant.
That about covers it. :toast:
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Pirate Smile Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 09:25 PM
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5. Comparing "level of taste flaunted by America's upper caste" to "Uday and Qusay Hussein"= priceless.
"The once-lionized lifestyles of the rich and infamous were appallingly tacky. John Thain’s parchment trash can was merely the tip of the kitschy iceberg. The level of taste flaunted by America’s upper caste at the bubble’s height had less in common with the Medicis than, say, Uday and Qusay Hussein. "

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gristy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 09:28 PM
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6. This paragraph stands out for me
The once-lionized lifestyles of the rich and infamous were appallingly tacky. John Thain’s parchment trash can was merely the tip of the kitschy iceberg. The level of taste flaunted by America’s upper caste at the bubble’s height had less in common with the Medicis than, say, Uday and Qusay Hussein.
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FrenchieCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 03:52 AM
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7. Outstanding Column!
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democrank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 05:14 AM
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8. Nail......meet hammer.
Another Frank Rich classic.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 07:55 AM
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9. A superb column
K & R
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hiphopnation Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 08:00 AM
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10. excellent piece
thanks for sharing

:thumbsup:
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gratuitous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 10:02 AM
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11. Oh, what absolute bosh! Bosh, I say!
The coup de grace for Stewart was not when he said he couldn't decide between Stanford and the interviewer which one he'd rather see in jail. The baseball bat laid upside the head was after the interviewer obsequiously asked Stanford how it felt to be a billionaire. Stanford chuckled while patted the courtier on the head, spat in his eye, and admitted that it felt good. Stewart's response was "Fuck you."

Of course, you can't say that in the New York Times. But the world might be a better place if sometimes you could.
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bluesmail Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 10:31 AM
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12. Best column because it smacks of truthiness. eom
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Ikonoklast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 07:00 PM
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13. Ouch. That'll leave a mark.
CNBC...Can Not Be Credible.
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Number23 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 07:20 PM
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14. $80,000 teddy bear??!
Heads should roll. :mad:

Rich is right. Uday and Qusay would have been proud.
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 07:22 PM
Response to Original message
15. Great article. All those whining about having to pay "other people's" mortgages
should try reading this.....every morning when they look in the mirror.

"The notion that Americans must all rise and fall together is the ideal we still yearn to reclaim, and that a majority voted for in November."
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myrna minx Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 09:17 PM
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16. Excellent. K&R n/t
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