Waxing nostalgic about America .... the gun connection

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.




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I'm sorry, but I question this picture

geomoo's picture

I find it inaccurately insulting of a privileged demographic whose behavior is much better explained by a heavy burden of 24/7 propaganda than by pursuing self-interest.  Hell, if you go back and watch those old perfect family television programs, you will find them promoting all sorts of values which were not self-serving--values of tolerance, community responsibility, equal rights, and acute awareness of those who have less.  The notion of an unconscious white male breezing through the 50's completely unaware of social problems until the disfranchised forced them to notice--it's inaccurate and insulting.  Demand for change came both from inside and from outside the ranks of the privileged, and that continues today.

The stereotype being painted in this essay could have been predicted fifteen years ago merely by analyzing the likely effect of the rantings of Limbaugh and Fox Noise, rantings which were empowered not so much by their reflection of dominant attitudes as by boatloads of money intentionally blanketing every area of the country with rightwing radio and television.  In short, this state of affairs was intentionally created by those who wish to distract from the looting of the 99% by the 1%.  Let them think that the issue is race or gender or gun laws, distract them from the most essential aspect of their own self-interest so that they misidentify liberals rather than the ruling elite as the source of their unhappiness.  I believe that buying into this analysis actually empowers this divide and conquer strategy.

To be precise, I don't think it is an accident that gun control is a burning issue at a time when the ruling classes are preparing for an onslaught on social security and other last vestiges of middle class wealth.  If we acted out of self-interest, we would be working to make common cause with all ethnicities and social classes that stand to lose so much in the coming looting.

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Go fuck yourself.

geomoo's picture

I've been in the "white privilege" wars.  I know they're bullshit.  If you wanted to engage, I would be happy to give my opinion and listen to yours.  But you went straight to ad hominem and insult. I know my way back and forth around this issue, having been insulted and had my words twisted just about any way you can imagine both by people who were sincere and by people who merely wanted to provide cover for Obama's anti-liberal regime.  Most of us on this site have seen the worst of it.  You can be sure you won't find much interest in listening to insults in order to be educated about how white privilege blinds us to how it's perfectly fine to insult us and disrespect our opinions.

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I do not argue or discuss

cmaukonen's picture

with those who have a personal agenda. I merely point out what should be an obvious truth. If you take persoanl umbridge to it, then so be it.

To me it has always appeared that the gun symbolizes the white male sexual ego. Being able to stick it where ever he damn well pleases.

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Exsqueeze me

LaEscapee's picture

Don't bring that bullshit, the gun symbolizes the white male sexual ego? Are you kidding me?

Next time I see a black man or woman with a gun I'll let them know that he/she needs needs to put it down because it's all about the white cock.

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Are you wearing a lab coat? Do you hear voices?

geomoo's picture

Did you just return from ten years in an ashram?  Just trying to figure out where you stand to be so ready to call my response "agenda-driven" as opposed to yours, which you seem to fancy as neutral and devoid of ego.  I'm not sure how sneering responses spring from no-ego, but that may just be me.

My comment is an argument, not a confessional.  It may be right, it may be wrong, and I'm more than happy to entertain responses to what I actually said.  I am not interested in self-serving and highly imaginative analyses of my psychology.  I'm not sure what could be more egoistic, not to say arrogant, than that.

Yes, you hit a nerve, but it's not the one you imagine, and it wasn't from the essay.  My initial comment, whatever you may have imagined, was an invitiation to discussion, not a self-defense.  The nerve you hit has nothing to do with feeling a need to defend myself; it has to do with the use of white privilege as a distraction while the poor and middle classes get their asses kicked in a class war.  That and a lot more recent history around this question.

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You are wrong

LaEscapee's picture

The people you are talking about have no power and the "ego" you talk about is nothing more than ingrained hate for their fellow man.

Dare I say this is not the place you will find the latter but just like you there are many here that fit the mold of "no power", just like you.

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This cop started mouthing off to me the other day...

ratmach's picture

... so I told him to shut his hole. So he handcuffs me, and hauls me off to jail. Didn't make much sense to me, seeing I'm white and he's black, and so I planned on letting the judge know just how messed up the situation was. When I got into court, I told the judge all about it, and how it just wasn't fair. And yeah I was screaming. I'm white, and I have that right! So this judge, of the female persuasion, not only refused to give me bond, she found me in contempt! I am SOOO angry right now! There's gotta be SOMEONE in this country that understands that I, as a proud white man, have special privileges, and I should NOT be treated this way!

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I get what you are saying

LaEscapee's picture

I also can understand where you are trying to go, but....

You seem to be doing the same thing that you detest. You are lumping all those that miss the days when we didn't lock doors and our Mothers were there when we got of the bus after school as a single entity that were and are unenlightened about the struggles being faced as a society. Believe it or not some of us that grew up in the nuclear family were actually educated about caring and acceptance.Some of those stay at home Moms were actually doing yeomans work after they sent their kids to school.

Where I think you missed the mark is that not all those tat long for the days of yore are the Archie Bunkers of the world. Some of us just think that a simpler world is preferrable and race has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

I'm not really sure where or how you grew up but I have often said that if every person could grow up in Louisiana at the time and around the people I did thier eyes would be opened farther than they could imagine in their widest dreams.

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Maybe I wasn't as clear as I should haver been.

cmaukonen's picture

What I was attempting to get at was at the time of all of this - in the 1950s and 1960s - was also the hey days of white male supremicy and dominance. The ying and yang as it were.

That even with all the good stuff i missed, there was also the part where kids were seen and not heard and women spent most of the time running step and fetch it and men ran everything.

Though I miss the the first part - it's the fading of the second part that is driving others bizerk.

I myself miss not the second, but the first.

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Thanks man

LaEscapee's picture

yeah I tink lines got crossed here. I honestly get where you were headed I also understand  why others as well as myself might take offense. I mean seriously I was the only white kid in my first grade class because my mother took a stand and refused to send her children to private school.

I did eat at the kids table during those years but we never locked our doors. During the summer when we rode our bycicles or horses for miles and got hungry at lunchtime all we did was knock on a door and were fed even when it was at Miss Dora's house or Miss Angeline. All we had to do is be home before dark, those days are gone I would never let my grands wander like we did and that is a loss.

Here is where we agree those times were terrible for certain segments including my Mother who raised four kids while working two and sometimes three jobs with the only help being my grandmother. The grandmother that took a man miles in the trunk for reasons we won't discuss.

I guess what I am saying is we saw it, we lived it and we witness it today but we also have seen the other side of the coin, the one that others have never seen.

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This essay

nemesis's picture

has some great points, and could have been better received if not for the white male privilege insertion.  Plenty of people have guns and if all races and both genders.  I just can't grok where white privilege enters the gun issue.  


OK, an idealized vision of the 50s when there was no crime.  Well, a lot of crimes weren't reported in those days.  You sound like you're criticizing the typical Limbaugh listener.  I sure don't idealize or long for those days.  Serious shit went down back then.  

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Nope. Can't do it

ratmach's picture

I just can't give a postive rating to this, even though parts of it are interesting, and some bits I may even agree with. But whether you meant it to be the main theme of this or not, it comes across as a Tim Wise piece. Or maybe a Tim Wise Meets Andrea Dworkin piece.  White privilege with a side of male privilege.... right?

Well sorry, as others here have said, some of us have had it up to here with the "white privilege" argument.  I, for one, consider using that as a hammer against people as its own special type of racism. If you don't agree with people like Tim Wise, if that wasn't your intent, sorry I misunderstood. But if you do... well, just... nope.

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