land of loners
September 1, 2010, 4:50 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags:

What are the antecedents of isolation?  For me, as I’m sure many people, they are plural; and surely come from both nature and nurture.  Alcoholism and addiction lead to isolation, being dropped off at boarding school for years can be, sibling rivalry is, and so is professional jealousy, some cities are hard nosed and cruel, and some jobs antagonistic and aggressive, words can isolate.  I think we choose it, and have been choosing it for generations.  It’s become a part of the DNA of American life.  It’s an endgame, I hope it’s reversible.

Here are a few other sources of isolationist thinking:

Our longstanding reverence for self-sufficiency hasn’t helped matters. Ralph Waldo Emerson gave us a sharp shove down this road with his famous essay “Self-Reliance,” and Cole Porter lyricized the uniquely American claustrophobia that danced off the tongues of a parade of popular crooners: “Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze/And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees/Send me off forever but I ask you please/Don’t fence me in.” Frontier-oriented American mythology is studded with exemplars of the lone hero, from Daniel Boone to Amelia Earhart, to say nothing of the protagonists of Hollywood westerns such as High Noon (1952). Male buddy films date back to Laurel and Hardy, but their profusion in the past three decades—including box-office franchises ranging from Beverly Hills Cop to Harold & Kumar—is a strong social contra-indicator, like the lavish outfits and interiors of movies made during the Great Depression. If something desirable is missing in life, people like to see it on the screen.

America: Land of Loners, Daniel Akst, The Wilson Quarterly

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