The Pulitzer Prizes came out today. One went to a columnist who wrote two years ago that Barack Obama was ethnically unequipped to understand America, and another went to the greatest songwriter of all time. Both of them were mistakes.
Hank Williams won a Pulitzer today, which will come as something of a surprise to him because he's been dead for 57 years. But it's about time he got some recognition! Being universally known for generations as having been one of the key figures in the invention of American popular music is one thing, but winning a Pulitzer Prize as "a creative force that influenced a wide range of other musicians and performers" more than half a century after everybody else on the planet who cares about, or is aware of, music has understood that fact is quite another. According to a press release accompanying the announcement [pdf], the board settled on Williams after conducting a "confidential survey of experts in popular music." Oh to have listened in on those super-secret evaluations: "So what can you tell me about his Williams fellow. Does he really have the goods? This is a Pulitzer we're talking about, after all." Previous winners of this "special citation," which is a preposterous attempt to make up for the fact that the Pulitzer Board pretended the last half of the 20th Century never happened from a pop music standpoint, include Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan. We're still waiting for Johannes Kepler to get his posthumous MacArthur.
Perhaps one reason the Pulitzers never took a look at Williams until today is because the board was too busy lavishing praise on columnists who argue that it is appropriate to take the ethnic heritage of political candidates into account when evaluating their fitness for office. That would be Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist who won a commentary citation today for her "perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues." In 2008, one of those political and moral issues was whether Barack Obama had "blood equity" in his country, because he's only half American on account of his black Kenyan father:
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.
Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?
The answer has nothing to do with a flag lapel pin, which Obama donned for a campaign swing through West Virginia, or even military service, though that helps. It's also not about flagpoles in front yards or magnetic ribbons stuck on tailgates.
It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
See? Obama doesn't "get" America, because his blood doesn't have enough American nucleotides or something. And his heritage—all those Africans that he never really knew but are related to him—renders him incapable of understanding those "hard-won" values that real Americans comprehend implicitly because they are genetically receptive to Western Culture. Does that sound like a hyperbolically reductive caricature of Parker's perceptive and often witty position? It's not:
And, the truth is, Clinton's own DNA is cobbled with many of the same values that rural and small-town Americans cling to. She understands viscerally what Obama has to study.