Dad Studies, Assigned Reading: “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son.”

I’m reading a lot of Rick Perlstein lately. His book on Barry Goldwater, Before the Storm, reads the age of 1950s-1964 through the eyes of a new breed of ideological conservatism. Though of the left, he’s obviously enamored with the no-compromise attitude among this new right, and hopes to use the Goldwater crew burning down the house of Eisenhower Consensus Politics as a blueprint for how the left can take on the age of triangulation (the book was written in 2001). His new book, Nixonland, is due out in May and the advanced readers of this history of 1966-74 say it is even better.

But in addition to just admiring the discussion spheres and execution of campaigns on the new Right, he, like his co-writer at the Baffler Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, “One Market Under God”) go pretty deep into the ideology on its own terms. Perlstein just worked to get Paul Cowan’s “The Tribes of America” re-released – he also also contributed an intro – which is next on my reading list. It’s about a Village Voice writer existing with creationists-textbook supporters, truckers, anti-busing activists and other Right warriors of the cultural wars and trying to learn what he doesn’t see about their point of view. As someone who has listened to some conservative media in his day, I’m excited to visit the mindscape.

So while I’m getting ready for reading about the angry side of the conservative movement of the late 60s, I found this nugget from a Perlstein comment. In 1967 there was a hit song that broke into the Top 10 for a brief period called “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son” by a man named Victor Lundberg. You can, and I dare say, must, listen to this fantastic gem here. If one was ever to have a Dad Studies Seminar, this would be on the required reading list – there is so much to unpack.

What’s that? You didn’t listen to it? Here are some lyrics (full lyrics here) to get you to click on that song:

Only as a teenager if you will constantly remind yourself
that some of my
generation judge people by their race, their belief or the color
of their skin and that this is no more right than
saying all
teenagers are drunken dope addicts or glue sniffers

If you are having a bad Monday I implore you to hear Victor concede the point, while “Battle Hymn of the Republic” plays in the background, that it is unfair to think that all teenagers are glue sniffers. It is a difficult thing for him to admit. And this lyric, that pretty much takes the cake, and also ends the song:

And if you decide to burn your draft card
then burn your birth certificate at the same time
From that moment on, I have no son

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6 Responses to Dad Studies, Assigned Reading: “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son.”

  1. stevenstuden says:

    turtles it’s name When and began had probably I thought rich flavor. And grapes, to it personalities. black

  2. Ed 2.0 says:

    I have some home-schooling, right-wing friends. These are not listen to Rush, go to church folk. They are country. One doesn’t trust his current church and is thinking of starting a home church.

    I told him, “you’ll need to defend your home church from the atheists and/or school boards, so you better get some machine guns for your ranch.” He replied, “good idea.”

    I told them my theory about cultural conservatism, vis a vis Paul Cowan, giving lots of credit to tradition and loyalty and other virtues. And one replied, “no, no, no. Where I’m from, we defend ourselves, and some people just need killing. That was a successful defense to murder in my county a few years back.”

    Long story short, I think Thomas Frank is seriously wrong. He sees those people ideologically, rather than pathologically. Which is to say, he doesn’t appreciate their crazy.

  3. Mike says:

    Wow, that is fantastic. I don’t know if you read What’s the Matter With Kansas?, but some of my favorite parts are where he interviews people who start their own churches, and makes a point to take them entirely on their own terms. There are a lot of people in Kansas who believe that there is no (legitimate) sitting Pope currently; he mentions one story where a guy has his family come over for a ceremony where he declares himself Pope of a pre-Vatican II Catholic Church.

    Have you read Cowan, specifically Tribes? Am I wasting my time?

    If I was a smarter and more socially investigative man, I’d write something about reactionary conservative school boards. From Perlstein’s book, I get the feeling half of the Red Scare took place vetting School Boards and high school librarians.

  4. Ed 2.0 says:

    I haven’t read Cowan. I’d never heard of him before. Great find on your part.

  5. boynightugly says:

    The hollow pruning for kids community tree for the off I thought for the

  6. Eric says:

    In 1967, my senior year in high school, I wrote an essay in my English class analyzing “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son.” Today, for no particular reason, the song jumped into my head and I decided to look for it on the internet. I found this website. The song sounds sounds even more absurd today than it did in 1967. It was a lot more scary then, because Lundberg’s view of draft card burners (and other opponents of the Vietnam war) as unpatriotic was shared by a large segment of society. The song was a hit not because it was absurd, but because a lot of people agreed with it.

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