I showed them that during the American Revolution drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates pioneered many of the freedoms and pleasures we now cherish — including non-marital sex, interracial socializing, dancing, shopping, divorce, and the weekend — and that the Founding Fathers, in the name of democracy, opposed them.
I argued not only that many white Americans envied slaves but also that they did so for good reason, since slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States.
I demonstrated that prostitutes, not feminists, won virtually all the freedoms that were denied to women but are now taken for granted. By tracing the path of immigrants from arrival as “primitives” to assimilation as “civilized” citizens, I explained that white people lost their rhythm by becoming good Americans.
I presented evidence that without organized crime, we might not have jazz, Hollywood, Las Vegas, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights, since only gangsters were willing to support those projects when respectable America shunned them.
This was not the standard left-liberal perspective my students had heard, and it certainly wasn’t a conservative one, either.
I’m not sure how revolutionary these ideas are outside the academy. Hollywood has been glorifying the outlaw since The Great Train Robbery; Bonnie and Clyde has rightly been called a key cultural touchstone of the 1960s, when the “anti-hero as hero” finally became the established default characterization.
And The Godfather’s conceit — that the Corleones epitomize American capitalism and “family values” — has become a cliche.
I love the fact that this guy goes after Leftist icons, though. I may have to read his book