I know, I know. I’m a radiologist, and no one does – or should – give a rat’s arse about my opinions on philosophy or politics. But since there is absolutely no screening process for Patch bloggers (I prove this again and again with every post), I can write about whatever I desire. So here I go…..
“You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill”
– from “Freewill”, 1980
I came of age in the late 70s and early 80s (for those of you doing the math of subtracting from 2012, I’d prefer you use the 1980s). I had long hair that was parted in the middle, and my wardrobe consisted mostly/entirely of blue jeans and black concert t-shirts. I spent a lot of time alone in my childhood bedroom listening to vinyl albums loudly through oversized headphones (occasionally also doing other things alone in that room, but that’s fodder for a future post). Like I suspect is true for many of my generation, my only youthful knowledge of Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher and writer, was that she was a muse for everyone’s favorite Canadian prog rock trio, Rush. Their 1976 album, 2112, was dedicated to "the genius of Ayn Rand," and Rush is the only band ever cited in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.
“You don't get something for nothing
You don't get freedom for free
You won't get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be”
– from “Something for Nothing”, 1976
I eventually left my childhood home behind and went away to college. Again like many of my generation, my musical tastes shifted from the bloated excess of prog rock to punk and new wave. I hadn’t given Ayn Rand another thought…..until I started reading about the Tea Party’s fascination with her. GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan has stated that Ayn Rand is the reason he entered politics and requires all staff and interns to read her books. US Senator Ron Johnson, a Ryan GOP colleague from Wisconsin, calls her most popular novel, Atlas Shrugged, his “foundational book.” Über right-leaning Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas demands that new law clerks come to his home to watch the film version of one of her other influential works, The Fountainhead (hopefully he doesn’t also force female clerks to drink cans of Coke during the movie). And Rush Limbaugh – whose voice is far more annoying than Geddy Lee’s – has repeatedly mentioned her on his radio show.
“Atlas Shrugged, for those of you who haven't read it, I'll give you the basic book report summary. It is basically about the achievers of life quitting, because they're tired of being 1% of the population pulling the other 99% in the cart. They're tired of everything they earned being taxed. They're tired of everything they earn being taken from them and given to everybody else”
– from “The Rush Limbaugh Show”, 2007
It sounds familiar, especially the 1% part, doesn’t it? But the Tea Party love for Ms. Rand makes little sense to me. While her philosophy does have a strong libertarian inclination that is completely in lock step with Tea Party thinking, she disdained the equally important socially conservative parts of their tenets. Ayn Rand was an atheist who despised Ronald Reagan, two facts alone that should bar even the mere mention of her at any Tea Party rally. She died in 1982, using her final public speech to assail “The Gipper”.
“The appalling disgrace of his administration is his connection with the so-called ‘Moral Majority’ and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling – apparently with his approval – to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics”
– from “The Sanction of the Victims”, 1981
Ouch. It sounds like Ms. Rand would be much happier having her ideas promoted by Rush the band than Rush the blowhard. As for me, my musical tastes have continued to evolve, but I have a teenage son who has more than a passing fondness for 70s and 80s hard rock. While I try to get him to listen to more contemporary – and IMHO better – music like the Avett Brothers, I haven’t been terribly successful. But we did have some quality father-son time a few weeks ago at the United Center seeing the now 60-ish Canadians live in concert. And it was comforting to hear Ayn Rand’s philosophies back where they belong.
“No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is”
– from “Tom Sawyer”, 1981