2013 America: Paul Harvey Vs. Calvin Klein Underwear Guy

I just published an essay entitled “A Tale of Two Americas” over at the American Spectator on the 2013 Super Bowl commercials. I make the point that the ads reveal the cultural divide in America, or the “two Americas.” There’s Calvin Klein America, which is sexually obsessed and selfishly motivated, as seen in a ridiculous CK advertisement. Then there’s Paul Harvey America, personally virtuous and sacrificially minded, as seen in a spellbinding Dodge RAM commercial.

This point got a strong response when I shared it on Twitter with the millions who follow me (Justin Bieber and I are neck on neck in our contest for most followers). I had fun developing it for the Spectator. Here’s a swatch from the piece:

I think this is what he would see: there are polar Americas today. There is one that celebrates sex, hedonism, and self. There is another that celebrates family, sacrifice, and country. One is ultra-modern; the other is traditional. These polar Americas are competing strenuously for the hearts of citizens.

The Super Bowl commercials this year gave indisputable evidence of the, shall-we-say, “liberated” version, the modern America (I’ll call it the Calvin Klein America). One minute we were watching Joe Flacco, the no-nonsense, very tough Ravens quarterback throw a deep bomb for a touchdown; the next we were watching a pompadoured man contort himself like a hairless pretzel in nothing but Calvin Klein underpants. The theme of unbridled sexuality continued apace throughout the night. A man sneaking his way out of bed following a one-night stand returned to get his t-shirt from his now-discarded paramour; women shed untold layers of clothing in countless commercials for endless iterations of CSI; and then there was the halftime show, when a talented wife and mother power-writhed her way around the stage in a performance that was half-Amazon, half-striptease.

Here’s the whole thing.

Please note that I’m not arguing for subsidized farming, nor the bailout of Chrysler a few years back. Nor am I against the modern market in a categorical sense. Farming is good work, but it’s hard work. Generations of my family have farmed in Maine, and I grew up visiting my great-uncle’s dairy farm in Atkinson. So while I deeply appreciate farming culture, and loved the Paul Harvey ad (here’s the longer speech from whence it came), I’m not at all anti-city nor anti-capitalism.

I do love what farming represents, and what’s bound up in its way of life. Gospel-driven Christians don’t need to feel weird about supporting the virtuous rhythms of the American past. We shouldn’t cheer the loss of cherished ideals and principles. It’s not gospel vs. ethics in our worldview, or faith vs. tradition. We don’t equate virtuous living (in terms of sacrifice and loving family and working hard) with saving faith. But neither do we see virtue as opposed to saving faith.

It’s not.

That’s a point worth sharing, I think, whether you have 15 “followers” on Twitter, no “followers,” or 20 bazillion, like the aforementioned Mr. Bieber.


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