Garrison Keillor’s run on Prairie Home Companion (PHC) came to an end this weekend. 14 years ago, when I first became acquainted with the show through my former girlfriend’s parents, I wouldn’t have cared less. Like a noticeable contingent of the NPR-listening population, I found Keillor’s voice grating, his humor uninspiring, and his musical choices bland. I thought nothing much of PHC for nearly a decade until it started to dawn on me why so many in my generation—particular white folk in my generation—professed to despise it. Because instead of offering up skewed depictions of American life and culture populated primarily by atheists, tech entrepreneurs, avant-garde artists, and transsexuals, PHC offered up a glimpse of what life is/was/might be like for a sizable slice of Americana who have been, and shall forever be, underrepresented and unnoticed by the sophisticated elites who run this country’s various media machines. It is little wonder then that PHC’s under-50 defenders are quick to point to Keillor’s “Democratic politics” and wry sense of humor to justify the show while quietly setting to the side the show’s willingness to take the Midwest’s (primarily Protestant and somewhat liberal) Christian temperament seriously while casting its gaze on the folk artistry that orientation has produced for more than a century. Though I often felt rather detached from Keillor’s monologues and the quirky observations he made along the way, I grew to appreciate what he was trying to capture without simplemindedly regarding it as “nostalgic,” “hokey,” or (the worst disparagement available) “too white.” Besides, the only times I can ever recall my children imploring me to “turn it up” is when the banjo plucking began or an old hymn recited on Mr. Keillor’s rather remarkable show.
The annual Fortnight for Freedom (FFF)—sponsored by the American Catholic Church—has come and gone, and just like in previous years, the event has nothing to show for itself. It has been several years since I attended any FFF events, and the ones I did go to were only worth attending because some wise men I know decided to drop the gloves by giving frank explications of the vacuous nature of America’s concept of “religious freedom.” Over the years, U.S. Catholics have been forced to watch in horror as the last vestiges of public morality have succumbed to the zeitgeist and those holding to orthodox Christian beliefs are forced to undergo the process of public ostracism. The few remaining culture warriors who hoped there was still a way to pushback against the country’s moral revolution which sanctions abominations too ghastly to speak about are officially a defeated lot. Whatever comes next, whatever there is to be done, cannot be accomplished on the secularists’ terms. And that is the great, pathetic error of the FFF. After everything we have seen for half-a-century, the “elites” running Catholic America are still desperate to play ball with the powers that be—and for what? In days gone by it used to be for a seat at the discussion table; now they’re just elated if their restroom privileges aren’t revoked. Trust me, if the FFF had any force, influence, or widespread support, “mainstream America” would have taken notice and mocked this sorry spectacle some time ago. May this be the last year we cling so desperately to what matters not. (I am not holding my breath, however.)
This leads me to my next point, which shouldn’t surprise a soul. I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July. To me, this day is my eldest son’s birthday and that is all. So, fellow Catholics (and Orthodox and Protestants), feel free to celebrate that or, better yet, put away the explosives, grab your rosary (or prayer rope), and start making reparations for this nation’s great sins which began 240 years ago today.