Another repost from the always insightful History is Made at Night blog.
Last week in Iowa, Michele Bachmann launched her bid to become the Republican candidate in the next US presidential election. On the Tea Party far right of American politics, she has a long, lamentable history of anti-gay and anti-abortion activism not to mention whitewashing the history of slavery.As she made her way to the podium in Waterloo at the weekend ‘Elvis Presley’s Promised Land belted out’. Well the notion of manifest destiny and Americans as the new chosen people is a hardy right wing trope, and at one level there is a connection between the idea of the Promised Land and the American frontier.But we cannot leave the Promised Land in the hands of US Conservatives. The name itself derives of course from the Book of Genesis where God promises Moses the land of milk and honey, not a metaphysical utopia but the actual land of Israel. Over the millennia that tribal foundation myth of a people in the prehistoric Middle East has taken on a universal appeal, holding out the hope of a better world somewhere, some place, some timeIt’s hardly suprisizing that Bachmann chose Elvis Presley’s version of the song, rather than the original by its black songwriter. When Chuck Berry sings it there is no doubt that the songs works on at least two levels. On the surface it is simply a description of a journey from Norfolk, Virginia to California, part of the 1950s/early 1960s mythologisation of travelling across the USA (Route 66, Highway 61, On the Road).
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