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Waxing nostalgic about America …. the gun connection

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Honey ! I'm Home - flickr

I read a diary a bit ago where the author was waxing nostalgic over what they missed about the 1950s and 1960s post WWII era. The supposed benefits of the cold war etc. Mostly the economic advantages those of us white middle class had.

I too miss some things about the era I grew up in. I shall list a few of them here.

I miss climbing trees and wondering about without having to think about where I was wondering much. Fences at that time were mostly for keeping farm animals in and other animals out. There were no gated communities and you rarely saw a No Trespassing Sign. Those were usually on some official building or some such.

Science and radio were big deals. Watch Mister Wizard and Discovery were cool programs. Both explained and demonstrated things that even a 1o year old could understand. And there were great science fiction shows as well. Like Science Fiction Theater and of course Twilight Zone. But even the games show were intelligent. Like The GE College Bowl and To Tell the Truth. Or funny ones like You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx. The original show about nothing. Mostly a venue for Groucho’s wit and (often suggestive) humor.

Intelligent talk shows with Steve Allen and Jack Parr and Dick Cavett. Intelligent cartoons like Rocky and Bullwinkle and Beany and Cecil. Dramas and plays by Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling , Orson Wells and Gore Vidal. Kiddy TV hosts and The Three Stooges and Our Gang Comedies and Abbot and Costello.

Schools with recess and science toys that you could actually do something with. Sure they could be dangerous but that was half the fun. Science itself was cool and fun. And the radio played music. And the musicians could play instruments.

There is something else that is also disappearing at an alarming rate these days and it is more than alarming a particular part of this country. To the extent that they are losing the minds over it. A cultural phenomena that has been depicted in the movies, on radio and in television for decades. The white christian male dominated society as presented so eloquently by Doug Muder, a 50-something ex-mathematician in his latest essay. The Distress of the Privileged. He uses the movie Pleasantville as an example.

In a memorable scene from the 1998 film Pleasantville (in which two 1998 teen-agers are transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV show), the father of the TV-perfect Parker family returns from work and says the magic words “Honey, I’m home!”, expecting them to conjure up a smiling wife, adorable children, and dinner on the table.

This time, though, it doesn’t work. No wife, no kids, no food. Confused, he repeats the invocation, as if he must have said it wrong. After searching the house, he wanders out into the rain and plaintively questions this strangely malfunctioning Universe: “Where’s my dinner?”

Privileged distress. I’m not bringing this up just to discuss old movies. As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

So I think it’s worthwhile to spend a minute or two looking at the world from George Parker’s point of view: He’s a good 1950s TV father. He never set out to be the bad guy. He never meant to stifle his wife’s humanity or enforce a dull conformity on his kids. Nobody ever asked him whether the world should be black-and-white; it just was.

George never demanded a privileged role, he just uncritically accepted the role society assigned him and played it to the best of his ability. And now suddenly that society isn’t working for the people he loves, and they’re blaming him.

It seems so unfair. He doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy. He just wants dinner.

Levels of distress. But even as we accept the reality of George’s privileged-white-male distress, we need to hold on to the understanding that the less privileged citizens of Pleasantville are distressed in an entirely different way. (Margaret Atwood is supposed to have summed up the gender power-differential like this: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”)

George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.

Indeed this idealic world that is presented in the movie and that the author (Doug Muder) uses to make his point is crumbling all around. To the point that it no longer represents a viable voting demographic. It is especially upsetting to those who are authoritarian on the the religious/political right. Those that the republican party could count on since the time of Nixon.

It’s this domination that is under attack and it’s the threat of having their guns taken away – there by leaving them impotent and defenseless against this onslaught – that is driving them now to extreme reaction. It was bad enough that their view and place in family was being threatened by gays and women and minorities, but now they see themselves with no way to fight back. Guns – the symbol of American manhood from those John Wayne westerns to the fighting on Guadalcanal.

It’s this bullied, boorish arrogant America of the 1950s they do not want to lose. Where their word was final in all situations. Where they could get what they believed they deserved and win any argument – with a bullet if necessary. Now a black man has come out and said they can no longer behave in this manner and has threatened to remove their Smith and Wesson manhood.

And it’s just not fair.

America’s White Male Pathology

9:44 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

White Male Superiority

We have seen it time and again. A small group of people in congress spewing out the most outrageous garbage and crap. Dog whistling about small government and states rights and religious freedom and what not. The same fine folks who began spewing out about the countries lack of morals and permissiveness. Law and order and patriotism. Respect for authority.

The very same people who see no harm in beating their kids or wives. And as Frank Schaeffer says in this essay from Alternet, a group of angry, scared white males – mostly from the south – who see their world dissolving in front of them.

I’m not talking about the white young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the white far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.
This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics.
The manufactured crisis we face are not about economics. These self-inflicted wounds are about a few people’s fear of being marginalized.

It’s not considered polite to mention race anymore. But I’m going to mention it anyway. We have a white problem.

These are the same people who really do feel that they have a right to say and do as they please. That really do not get the concept of rape because they do believe that white males should be able to have sex with whoever they please and when they please and women just have to comply. That white male authority should never be questioned.

And having a black man as president – a black man who is apparently more educated and intelligent that they are – a black man who is the opposite of they picture of all non-whites, goes straight to their resentment.

And why do they unquestionably support the elites in Wall Street ? This ought to be quite obvious, the elites represent – yey they actually are the embodiment of white male superiority. A superiority they see being attacked from all sides.

So as Frank Schaeffer points out and I agree, the whole point is to paralyze the government – to freeze the changes in their tracks.

A state of panic exists because Republican members of Congress demand a state of paralysis. They want to freeze the world as it is because the new world doesn’t have room for white male bigots who base their lives on Bronze Age mythology and white, privileged, Jeffersonian-style institutional racism. Their real ideology has nothing to do with gun rights, fighting against abortion or reducing the size of the federal deficit, but has everything to do with their own personal psychological turmoil.

Indeed to force a return to a world they knew, where white males called all the shots and everyone else “knew their place”. A world where bigotry and racism was the norm. The very idea that these people would find themselves having to to say “yes sir and no sir” to a black or latino or gay or woman, is completely foreign to them. From gerrymandered districts whose hated goes back to slavery, reconstruction and jim crow. They see no reason to change and resent having to do so.

And they see themselves being more and more marginalized each day.

America’s (no so) liberal past. A brief history lesson.

5:26 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Family Time - Flickr

With all the talk of how the political right seems to be heading off a cliff and equated to fascists, I thought I would do a little reminiscing of how wonderful life was here during my childhood in the 1950s.

Lets start with the women first.

For the most part women were stay at home moms. Most had finished high school but few went to college. Those that did could look forward to exciting careers of teaching, nursing, secretarial work etc. College was for finding a husband, after all.  And women all wore dresses.

The whole country was segregated. Not just the south where it was law but up north as well. You nearly never saw any blacks in any of the department stores or shopping centers or on public transportation or anywhere that was for whites. This went for other minorities in certain parts of the country as well. College for most blacks and even latinos and Native Americans was pretty much a lost cause since the only jobs open for most were low paying.

You did not see Blacks on TV much and in fact Nat King Cole had no sponsors for his short lived program.    Mixed race marriages were against the law in a lot of states at this time. As was any kind of homosexual activity and abortions. There were also some fairly stiff restrictions on divorce as well in some areas.

People went to church. And if you didn’t, it was seen as nearly un-American in more than a few places.

Speaking of un-American, any talk of supporting communism, socialism, Marxism could get you fired or worse sometimes. McCarthy didn’t last that long but his legacy did.    Americanism was holy, so that meant capitalism as well.

Spouse abuse was not considered a crime when carried out by the husband.  Police did not interfere with domestic situations much.  Corporal punishment of children was the norm and not considered child abuse. And killing Black people – even in some northern areas – was considered sport and not a crime.

We had a draft and all wars were considered good and just. Especially those against any communist countries. Toppling communist or socialist regimes and installing fascist ones was the official government policy.

Yes life was pretty good if you were a white protestant Anglo Saxon male in this country then. And especially good if you worked for a defense contractor.

And this is what the right wants to bring back.