Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Passionate Politics and U.S.!

Calhoun explains in Passionate Politics that we must "distinguish the compelling from the good—in either the sense of interests and their many goods, or of morality as only an abstract ideal" (50). Bachelder uses this idea to construct the main storyline in his novel U.S.! His novel compiles different stories, media, and events regarding resurrections of Upton Sinclair. He creates a world where every time the socialist party needs help, they are able to resurrect Sinclair and ask for his advice. This keeps socialism alive in the US. Bachelder’s storyline centers on the idea that people need more than the desire to make change. They have to do something. The danger in this story is that socialism will die, and that without Sinclair, nothing will be done. However, resurrecting Sinclair is an action, a real step to initiate change. This is more than an abstract ideal.

Goodwin, Jasper, and Polletta also reveal in Passionate Politics that “emotions help to sustain movements in their less active phases” (21). The first part of U.S! reveals what happens during the less active phases. Some of the articles, interviews, poems, songs, and letters are from the time periods where Sinclair is dead, the less active phases of the socialist movement. They reveal how people use emotions to sustain movements (and to repress them). People read and review his books, and they sell the bullets that assassinated Sinclair. They play on emotions in order to keep people engaged. Bachelder also plays on our emotions as readers to keep the socialist movement somewhat alive even so many years later. Though Socialism is not so much a concern in the US now, the novel and its humor keep us thinking about it and considering the benefits of socialism.

Goodwin and Pfaff later explain that “movement activists and participants themselves may have to manage, but not eliminate, their fears” (285). They acknowledge that fear is sometimes necessary to initiate and sustain a movement, but it is also important that fear does not direct all the decisions that are made. Bachelder’s novel exposes the fear on both sides of the cause. A fear of capitalism keeps the Socialist movement going. A fear of socialism keeps everyone else continuously assassinating Sinclair and burning his books. In this story, fear is what sustains the movement. Fear can also play a part in writing books like Sinclair’s or novels like Bachelder’s. Obviously, Sinclair was feeling and attempting to create a fear of capitalism, and Bachelder tries to keep that alive. His fear may be that people will forget the past struggles of US citizens, what they mean, and how they could affect us in the future.

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