Greetings and Salutations;
There are some places on the Net where rational, reasonable, insult free, discussion of difficult subjects can happen. I seek these out, because I find the rest both tedious and annoying.
Well, in one of these sites, an interesting discussion arose about the problem of how the Republic*nts demonize liberals and seem to have goals antithetical to the promise of America. I have extracted a few of the comments here:
The wise woman whose page it is, gave us this original post:
TRUE CONFESSIONS: Last night on the news, Medhi Hassan, played a clip of that nutcase preacher in middle TN. The preacher was screaming that he didn’t want any democrats in his church. That they were evil and to get out. He didn’t want them there. It was breathtaking. It was breathtaking. The hatred was stunning.
(The “preacher” being mentioned here is a real piece of work by the name of Greg Locke. He claims to be “Christian” but his Fruits belie that claim. Here are some bits of information about this psycho. Christians Cannot vote Democratic; Demons told him there are Witches in his church; Maybe a LITTLE adultery!. )
Today I get an old college acquaintance that thinks Dems are responsible for the baby formula shortage. Sure. And then another acquaintance finds PBS a dangerous channel. And others on the same thread think it’s a socialist channel.
I pride myself on speaking the truth. The Truth. Andrew Vachss taught me that. He taught me that Truth is Truth no matter who tries to tear it down. Imagine thinking that PBS is socialist. Why? Because it operates on subsidies and our monetary gifts? Radio Free Europe – anyone remember that stuff? Whereas if GE is paying for the ads then you will be told what they want you to hear. Does anyone get that? Or are you so naive that you would believe Monsanto? GE? Tesla? Really? Then I suggest you wake up.
I speak because I am getting tired of hate and liars, but mainly, I’m tired of people that don’t know the difference. That don’t have a large enough understanding of the arc of history and what trouble we are really in. They think PBS is the issue? God help us all.
You can take the truth and bend it all you want, but there’s always gonna be someone like me that will tell you that PBS is offering you Truth. That Biden is trying to fix 4 years of truly incomprhensible damage. That when women are forced to have children they don’t want, that’s the devil’s handmaiden. All this suffering and all this hate and somehow the libruls are doing it to you? I’m huring you? I mean – I really don’t know how to help you. But it’s really getting to where I don’t care to.
Well, needless to say, this post generated a great deal of discussion…mostly in agreement, and with short comments about how others have seen the same, sad changes in people they were friends or family with. One thoughtful fellow asked the following question (Which I think is very much the correct one to ask)
What saddens me is that the people of whom you speak are our peers. We are the generation that claimed that LOVE is the answer, the generation that united to end a war, the generation that wanted to save the world. Now, a huge percentage of that generation wants to take us to a 1950s that they know never existed, an era of hatred and repression. What happened to us?
This is the question I want to address with this essay.
What happened to us? here are a few things that have changed since the 1950s – which, because I was born in 1955 is the decade I use as a benchmark. Here are some factors, in no particular order.
After around 100 years of continued oppression of people of color after Lincoln supposedly “Freed” them, and gave them the same rights enjoyed by the white community, The people of color realized they would never have true equality unless they took steps to create some trouble. “Good Trouble”. SO, they ratcheted up the resistance, and demands for equal treatment. They took the steps of marching in protests, and taking the beatings given them by the white cops and racists. In spite of some truly horrible actions (easily documented with a Net Search), they stood up, proudly, in resistance…and they persisted. People like John Lewis would NOT take “NO” for an answer. Through the 1960s, organizations such as MOVE and the Black Panthers were formed, as, a more militant branch of the push for that equality they have been promised.
The Beat Generation of the 1950s spawned the Hippy Generation of the 1960s and 1970s. The Beat Generation expressed their rebellion against the rigid social rules by embracing (for the time) unconventional dress; a “Cool” attitude; and a love for artistic output that rattled the cages of the older generation. Perhaps the best known poet of the time was Allen Ginsberg Although Jack Kerouac is a close second. Ginsberg’s poem HOWL was such a departure from acceptable writing it generated an obscenity trial. This did result in a massive victory for free speech, which was good…but also planted the roots of some of the most foul speech being spread that one could imagine.
The Hippy Generation was an interesting mix of free speech, free love, drug experimentation, another revolution in music, theatre and other art forms, and the glorification of “Do your own thing”…NOT “Do what society/your parents/your boss/your pastor expects you do do” This fueled conflict between the older and younger generations, of course.
The Vietnam War that we were embroiled in during the 1960s and early 1970s brought more change to reality. It was the first war that was routinely televised. I remember sitting down to dinner, and at times the evening news would be on the radio, which provided the daily body count to go with our dinners. The images, some of which are so horrifying that they left us with nightmares for decades, were all over the television. In black and white, or color, they had the impact of a sledgehammer slamming into one’s head.
Even today, with barely an effort, the image of that little girl, running down the road, naked, after being burned by a napalm attack is as clear to me today as it was when I first saw it.
The image of the Viet Cong soldier, just as brigadier general Nguyễn Ngọc Loan,pulled the trigger of his .38 pistol, turning brain to mush is another unforgettable image.
The growth of technology started to get legs in the 1960s, and the computers began to move from huge machines filling a vast room, needing huge air conditioners to keep cool, that cost $millions to acquire and run, to the watches and smart devices that are an integral part of our life now; that can be purchased for under $50, and in most cases have more computing power than what passed for a Super Computer up into the early 1980s.
Although, common sense said that a Catholic would never be elected to the Presidency, John Kennedy won the office. Unlike people’s beliefs, the Pope did NOT control what he said, did or thought, although even then, we had the folks that believed he was still an undercover agent for the Vatican.
In the past 30 years, the impact of humanity on the Earth itself is finally being felt. We have crapped where we eat so much that the ocean is so polluted with plastic that it will take decades, if not hundreds of years of focused work to clean it up. We are seeing species going extinct at an increased rate; We are near the end of Fossil Fuels as a viable energy source; We are seeing water and air so polluted that it is not uncommon to see signs telling us not to swim in it, or, days when a warning to stay inside, and avoid breathing the outside air on a continual basis. even 50 years ago, while things were bad, they tended to be in isolated spots. Now, though, it is affected the world from pole to pole.
All of these examples, and more that I have not mentioned, have one thing in common. They all either undermining the “Normal World” the older generation lived in, which would make that generation feel as if their “Place in the world is being eroded away”. And, THAT is a significant part of the answer to the question asked above – “What happened to us”.
Add to the above changes, and the feelings of helplessness that it can generate in a person, the fact that over the past 40 years, the educational system in America has been undergoing serious changes. While there were a few positive changes, the negative issues are the controlling factors here.
There has been a huge number of rounds of questioning the quality of education. Usually it is administrators and politicians doing this. Since they are the ones with power, they come up with a scheme to “Improve education”. Since a vast majority of these people have never set foot in a classroom as a teacher, they are working from a theoretical model which simply does not exist in reality. Therefore, while their designs may look really appealing, they often end up being disasters when pushed onto the teachers to take to the classroom. Often there are great, general ideas, but no plans for implementation. It is a vanishingly small percentage of these plans which include input from any number of experienced teachers.
Over this time period, the goal of education has changed. The politician, occasionally pushed by parents, love to wave the flag of trying to make sure the kids have a great education, and, that incompetent teachers and poorly performing schools are eliminated, have created cycle after cycle of evaluation tests that a supposed to figure out what schools and teachers are doing the best job of educating the students. Then, the politicians love to take the results of those tests, and close schools (but rarely move the funding from those schools to shore up other schools) Alas, this is a complicated issue, that really needs another essay…but here is an interesting article discussing the issues of closing underfunded schools The most worrisome aspect of this change? Education has moved away from ensuring competency of a student in the subjects being taught, and, towards teaching the answers to the tests that will put the best light on the schools and teachers.
One of the skills that is lacking in schools is teaching basic, critical thinking skills. As a part of this, students must be given the tools to do research properly and to ascertain the difference between nonsense, and valid information. Right now, it is rarely taught below college level. I think it should be included in the curriculum from the first grade on. I realize that differing subjects require slight variations in the techniques, but mostly that is not that the basic techniques change, but, there are different things that must be studied and included in evaluating a given subject. Understanding this, and making sure that one knows what these factors are, is part of the process of critical thinking.
I have seen, over my life, an evolution in parents that adds to the problem. This is a lack of interest in supporting education, from schools, to being involved with one’s kids in getting homework done, and making sure that they actually understand what they are studying. So, we see such things as parents pushing to be in control of what is taught in the classroom, administrators who are not willing to support their teachers because of fear of political repercussions, and, often, a huge increase in the level of bureaucracy in schools. Very often I have seen a widespread contempt for intelligence and extensive education.
All of these factors have created a generation or three of citizens who are looking around, and seeing themselves replaced at the top of the pyramid. They fear losing their power and prestige. In many cases they fear that the people replacing them at the top of the pyramid will treat them, as they have treated others lower down the pyramid. As a part of that, they are continually impacted by events beyond their control. The Pandemic; inflation; climate change; the changes in society caused by the various groups now demanding to be treated with the same respect that they have been accustomed to. Women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, for example, all have been pushed underground and told they were unworthy of real equality for a trainload of invalid reasons. Now, that is no longer acceptable, and the patience of those people has run out…so, as with the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s, they are engaging in “Good Trouble” and will no longer take “no” for an answer.
What happened to us is that with the loss of the solid training in positive character traits and tolerance, such more primal programming – such as the hatred of, and fear of “The Other” and a turning to violence to solve problems instead of rational discussion and compromise, has taken over. The fears I mentioned above, and the contempt for education have primed millions of Americans to be targets for any smooth talking grifter who talks a good game, yet fulfills none of their promises. Who feeds on the fears and hates of the followers, to inflame their emotions, and push them to very dark places. This, I believe, is why we have gotten into the state that America is in now.
To answer my question in the title…I believe that the Republic*nts want to take America back to a mythical time when they were the top of the pyramid, and their privilege allowed them to use women and people of color as chattel, without consequences. Where their masculinity would be confirmed by their being the sole breadwinner in the family. A world created by the Andy Griffith Show…which many of them appear to believe is a documentary and not a sit-com. They want to retain their power, and prestige and appear to NOT understand that those are not a zero-sum game. Simply because someone else gains power and prestige does not mean that they will have less power or prestige. They want to be in control of everything in their lives…and this goal is totally destroyed by the many forces I touched on above that are out of their control.
I believe the answer to the question “How can we fix this” is contained above in my description of the various issues. We must each work to combat and stand up to, any signs of the above, negative traits. When we see Lies…we should present the truth. When we see racism, or hate speech or inappropriate jokes about women or men, we should give feedback that sort of thing is neither acceptable, or funny. We must work to show them that their way of life is self-destructive not only on a personal level, but on the level of the society itself. We really must offer them an alternative that will help them heal, and realize that the options we present them can improve their lives and in some ways give them more power and respect than their ways did. On the political front, We must work to get as many folks as we can, who agree with us, to the polls, to vote for candidates that can get America on a path to a positive place. Frankly, these days this means vote Blue, not Red. even in the 2020 election, better than 40% of the eligible voters did not end up at the polls casting a vote. This is better than it has been, but, still is an embarrassment that we must work to change.
God Help Us ALL.
Be safe, get vaccinated and boosted; wear your mask; wash your hands more; and stay away from crowds.
Bee Man Dave
This is an excellent study of what has changed in America, but my question in the original post is “What happened to US?”, what happened to the generation that instituted those changes that made so many of us turn back to hatred and oppression as the answer?
I don’t know. But I am well aware that it is complex. From the propaganda of the of the oppressors successfully turning our fear and anger against our fellow oppressed to the right-wing anti-education agenda that creates an ignorant and docile public waiting to be TOLD who to fear and hate. And those who gain power embodying those hates and fears who give the people permission to openly express those feelings, often violently. But I still can’t find the trigger for all that.
Lastly, a note on the content of the essay. Your mention of THE BLACK PANTHER movement needs more information. They were more than just a militant movement. They created day cares for people of all races, provided free lunches, etc. These were innovative. The people behind the party were brilliant, educated people.
I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for thinking about my question. You put many of the problems that have arisen since the counterculture movement into perspective.
Thanks for the thoughtful criticism and feedback. I kind of skimmed over a few things, including the much broader role of the Black Panthers, and, some further motivating factors that have moved people to hate because it was beginning to feel as if I was writing “Remembrance Of Things Past” again…I try and balance the length of the essays with the issues, to keep them short enough that people will actually read them, but long enough to at least hit the high points of every issue. I have already come up with a couple of new factors that frighten White Men, that I really need to add! I shall likely either add more about the Black Panthers and their broad role in the community here, or, perhaps a link to another blog essay.
Bee Man Dave