Building The Sepulchres of the Fathers
(Soundtrack: Rage Against the Machine– Evil Empire)
The conversation on the “Giant-Size Avengers #2” thread on The Pop Culture Bored has switched over to pretty much all-Kingdom Come all the time, beginning with this Scott Tipton post…
I’ve been pushing an interpretation of the book as a participant in the Machiavellian Republican tradition (a good place to begin reading about this tradition, and its place in American historiography, is J.G.A. Pocock’s massive The Machiavellian Moment)… The cornerstone of my argument is my perception that “stability” is presented as a good in itself in this text. As far as I can see, Waid/Ross argue that power/sovereignty is to be used, primarily, to safeguard precarious (republican) balances against the historical process, which is always seen as degenerative… Thus, “character”/”virtue” is seen as the only bulwark against catastrophe/anarchy.
As a corollary of this argument, I’ve begun feeling my way toward an interpretation that places Squadron Supreme in the opposite historiographical camp. There is an ongoing debate, amongst scholars of the period, about the exact nature of American Revolutionary discourse. On the one hand, you’ve got Pocock, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, etc., who insist that the revolution was a “conservative” movement, intended only to preserve rights, and to create a state that would resist “corruption”. These theorists have come under fire from people like Joyce Appleby and Isaac Kramnick, who argue that the uprising was a more open-ended affair: an invitation to “permanent revolution”. Of course, both sides can find historical evidence for their interpretations, and it seems to me that, back then, just as now, there were people making making use of both idea-sets, sometimes simultaneously. The important thing, though, is to recognize that the positions are distinct. The “cult of the founders” is a different thing from the kind of American millenialism that I associate with figures such as Emerson and Whitman. And I’m not interested in “Americanism” that isn’t, at bottom, universalist, and dedicated to eternal progress/redress of inequalities on a world scale (and that includes, of course, justice to animals!)
Anyway, Squadron Supreme fascinates me because that book is about the dificulties that proponents of radical change must confront. That’s all I care about, politically. Our age, like Emerson’s, may be “retrospective”, and Kingdom Come certainly reflects this (just as the recent results at the polls do–on Presidents and “Proposals”), but that’s not good enough for me (nor was it good enough for Emerson)! The world is FAR too fucked up for us to look back upon our “fathers” with anything but regret. There’s no need to judge dead people. And understanding is always a virtue–but anyone who puts the past on a pedestal is also condemning most of the world to the gallows.
Good night friends!