Michael Totten

Cities in Amber

If a place is frozen in time, how many years have to pass before it can fairly be called reactionary?
I lived in the Midwest in the mid-1990s. (Iowa City, in case you’re interested. Nice town. Not what most people on the coasts imagine when they think of Iowa. Kurt Vonnegut lived, wrote, and taught there for a while.)
Several of my left-liberal friends liked to make fun of Muncie, Indiana (a city which I have to admit I never visited) because it was supposedly stuck in the 50s. Maybe what they said was true, and maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know because, like I said, I never went there. But if it really was stuck in the 50s at the laughably late date of the mid-1990s I think it would qualify as reactionary. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.
Dr. Frank is reading The Voice of Guns, a book about the Symbionese Liberation Army, published in 1977. (I actually know one of the members of the SLA because I inadvertantly hired him.)
Frank cites an excerpt that describes the decade-old time warp that Berkeley was back in the 1970s. He says, and I agree with him, that Berkeley still hasn’t changed. (I have been to Berkeley recently, so I think I can say this.)

Berkeley is the ghost town of the Movement, the morgue of the New Left. It is a city dominated by the huge University of California Berkeley campus; a college town uniquely caught up in its own peculiar atmosphere in which swift, turbulent currents of the sixties still swirl, settling well outside the American mainstream. Once the premier capital of the counterculture, Berkeley is still mecca for those seeking to discover or re-create the angry, hopeful anarchism that surged across the nation in the youthful rebellion of the last decade…

Here the Revolution never failed, it merely fell into limbo… Among themselves, they created a time warp, an enchanted-village effect in which much of what constitutes time seems frozen in 1969.

I think it’s time we stop thinking of Berkeley as progressive and designate it reactionary instead. It’s the Muncie, Indiana (assuming the old Muncie really was the old Muncie) of our time. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.