So how should our hapless captain manage this desperate moment? What prayer might he raise to heaven as torrents of rain beat against him?
Maybe he could start here, shouting: I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!
That's Peter Finch in the role of Adam Beale. The clip is from a 1976 movie entitled Network. Beale is a TV broadcaster who learns he is to be fired, and he's not happy about it, He has given his lfie to the news, and now, due to a fall in ratings, he learns he will be cut loose by the higher-ups. He is allowed to make a televised farewell speech. But his farewell address turns into a rant on the banality of existence. Surprisingly, his uncensored diatribe leads to an immediate improvement in viewership. People like what he's saying. Callers flood the station's phone lines. People want to hear more from Beale. And they do. Ratings improve as if by magic. So the corporate players allow Beale's nightly rants to continue, if only to see where they lead. Tragedy ensues. Beale, after all, has chosen to swim against the tide. People drown that way. That's the story line.
In that same vein, though not for banal reasons, let me now rant: I'm white as hell and I'm not going to take this any more.
Do you find that racist? Unhinged? If so, why? Because I said white? ... hell? ... not going to take this anymore? Or perhaps because my ancestors are merely Scots, French, Slavic, German, Jewish, Cherokee and one guy who was so drunk he didn't remember his contribution to our gene pool. I'm a witches' brew of Anglicans, Huguenots, Calvinists, Lutherans, Sephardics and henotheists. Is that why I don't rate? I thought such a tapestry might qualify as multicultural. Surely I must belong to some protected class. On top of that, I'm probably a genetic test away from African ancestry. Maybe as far back as the Olduvai Gorge, Lucy and beyond. Except my ancestors were too poor to own anybody, white or black or otherwise, far as I know. I'm pretty sure someone else owned us, or else we worked for them. Unlike your recent ancestors, Ben Affleck, not that you should care, though strangely you do. At some point you have to let go of the past and the outdated narrative that warps your thinking. You're an American. Act like one.
These days, I am told that Mena has been proposed as a new racial category. Such an anti-science political invention cheers me up. After all, given my heritage, I am clearly a multi-racial cur. No telling how much student funding I'll qualify for if I go back to school. And what with the re-definition of racism to fit the contemporary multicultural narrative, someone probably owes me reparations. Pony up, you mono-racial bigots. My Jewish ancestors were discriminated against by the Chicago police department, who favored their Irish kin. And that's not to mention what the Catholics did to my Huguenot relatives in France, or what colonists did to my Cherokee ancestors in South Carolina and what Hitler did to my German cousins in Europe. Remind me again how many gas ovens were operating in America during the 20th century? And how many of your relatives were tortured during the Spanish Inquisition and in Nazi concentration camps? Simple numbers will do. Someone owes me some simoleons. Lots of them. My family has many grievances.
Of course, that's not the point of our ahistorical social justice warriors, is it?
Their point is skin color. Or more specifically, African skin color and now middle-Eastern skin color, mixed though they are. My historic grievances are merely against fellow whites, or mostly white, depending on whether George Zimmerman and Geronimo were caucasians, The NY Times claimed Zimmerman is caucasian, despite his hispanic heritage, so I guess that settles it. But it also makes Obama a black white, or a white black. And me a left-handed right-hander, since I batted both ways in high school and clearly belong in someone's protected class. I'll leave you to parse that kind of nonsense.
Anyway, what was my point? Ah, yes, skin color and ancestry and being mad as hell. I'm sure North Africans had something to do with the Moors' conquest of Spain and their incursions into France in the 15th century, if history counts. I have every reason to believe my ancestors suffered terribly at their hands. Why does that not matter? What part of that history should fill me with white guilt? What happened to the global village?
Truth of the matter is, people do stuff, good and bad. Always have and always will. Skin color is irrelevant. Blacks sold blacks into slavery a couple hundred years ago, and some blacks and native Americans bought them as chattel in America. In fact, the wealthiest black man in South Carolina in 1860 owned 40-60 slaves, but you probably won't read about him in your history books, or hear about it in a History Channel documentary if violinists are playing in the background. It's irrelevant anyway. That sad era ended over 150 years ago. My real subject matter is the contemporary assault on white males, who otherwise are known as the perpetrators of modern patriarchy, racism, income inequality, unemployment, inner-city crime and the three-pronged attack on women, abortion and free birth-control. So lets move forward slowly, starting with the subject of males in general.
Males have dominated the history books in America, as they have in most cultures around the world, for reasons that are part biological, part sociological, and mostly common sense. If by patriarchal you mean who can swing the biggest sword or retreat the fastest, I'll take the guy nine times out of ten, simply based on foot speed. That's how genes work. If women had left their children behind en masse to serve on the front lines in history's conflicts great and small, and if they had done so in numbers far greater than men, they would probably have decided the terms of peace and extracted whatever tolls were due after the conflicts ended. But they didn't. That's not patriarchal. Or sexist. Or even remotely racist, since all races acted similarly. I'm pretty sure the Sioux and Cheyenne will have my back on this one.
Now on to America's white patriarchal society.
From the perspective of history books, which includes subjects such as war, treaties, councils, politics, economics and the occasional sex scandal, human history has been written from a patriarchal perspective. No one argues that point. Stories from history are almost exclusively told from a male point of view, same as American history has been told from a British rather than Spanish historical point of view, even though the Spanish got here first. In the case of American history, the British fought the Spanish and won, so the British got to write the books. Duh. Life works that way. That's why you learn about William Bradford and the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock rather than Cabeza de Vaca's exploits in Texas, which happened much earlier. In the case of Man v. Woman, the men hunted for food and fought the wars. So, right or wrong, they got to write the books. Pick any point along the spectrum of history and you will find that to be true. I have yet to see a documentary about the famous Samurai Geishas of 13th Century Japan, Femmes vs Zulus in 17th Century sub-Saharan Africa, a YouTube special on Amazons Annihilate Carib Warmongers in Pre-Colombian South America, or a book entitled Geronimo and His Fierce Chiricahua Conchitas. I'm probably beginning to sound a bit like Donald Trump at this point, aren't I? Let's call it the Trump Effect. Anyway, history is what it is. Patriarchal themes dominate recorded history. And most of that can be explained by biologists and evolutionary sociologists. Conversely, I've yet to meet a man who claims in private that he really is head of the household. Sexual supremacy works both ways, yet differently, and in the end it evens out. I heard of one husband who claimed authoritatively that he had his wife on her hands and knees. What he failed to mention is that she was screaming, "Get out from under the bed, you coward." Other women have gotten out of the house to lead countries (Thatcher, Meir) and global companies such as Hewlett-Packard, or else make millions fighting MMA style. I don't invent history. I merely report it.
Ah, but that's not taking into account the economic impact of historic discrimination, I am told. Economic disadvantage is the real discriminator. Whites make a disproportionate amount of annual U.S. income. And they are disproportionately under-represented in jails. And whites have so much more of the world's goods than non-whites. To whom more is given, more is required, or so the sermon goes. And it's not a bad sermon, properly understood. Only, somehow, the sermon gets misinterpreted by the time it filters down to the social justice warriors. Excuse me for fast forwarding, but somehow SJWs take it to mean we should expect less moral behavior from anyone who makes less, and on a sliding scale. The poorer you are, the less is expected of you, unless you happen be be white and poor. Wanna' loot and burn down inner city Baltimore? Or Ferguson? Have at it. I'm the mayor and I'll order the police to stand down and look the other way while you do your thing. Snag a few TVs along the way. Are you working in this country illegally and receiving benefits while not paying taxes or else receiving tax credits for dependents who don't exist? Yes, by all means, let's not allow school children to wear T-shirts with emblems of the American flag. It might offend someone who is not American but who has learned how to game the system.
In my best Adam Beale voice, let me repeat: I'm white as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more.
Now on to something more anecdotal. I made a research trip to Nicaragua and El Salvador back in the 1980s. I was interested to learn what role Christians played in the revolutions going on down there, particularly among the Sandanistas in Nicaragua. Lots of shooting was going on. And lots of poor people. Poor dead people. You could make the case that poor Nicaraguans had been economically disenfranchised since the days of Spanish occupation in the 16th century. Especially among the mestizos or half-breeds. They've had a hard life. It's been that way for generations. Almost all of them are now Christians, mostly of the Catholic and Moravian variety. Back in the '80s, I was interested to know if they supported the new nationalism of the Sandanistas and were willing to take up arms for the cause. Anyway, one afternoon I walked alone through a poverty-stricken section of Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, which was now under Sandanista rule. On either side of the street, burnt-out concrete structures served as homes for many poor and disenfranchised families. An earthquake and various civil disturbances created those conditions. I recall one particular building with charred streaks on the outside of the structure, the obvious result of fire. A child emerged through the front entrance. I would normally say he came out the front door, only there was no door and there were no paned windows. Just empty holes. Apparently the little boy could tell I wasn't from the neighborhood. He ran up to me on the street and we playfully chatted. He wore a faded T-shirt and ragged shorts, with tanned skin and bare feet. The child's mother came out and stared at us for a moment. She carried a broom. After watching us for a moment longer, she began to sweep dust from the dirt entrance. Don't ask me why. Then she poured water into two little flower pots that adorned her front entrance, then disappeared back inside. It made me think of inner-city America. And how different people are. Neatness mattered to this boy's mother. She took pride in her humble dwelling. And she watched over her son.
I wonder if the irony dawned on Obama when he announced on Comedy Central that the legacy of racism in America has not ended. Does he not appreciate that his mother was white? Does he not recall that he didn't need to cross a picket line to get into Columbia or Harvard or to gain access to the White House? Does he understand how many non-black Americans voted for him in both of his presidential elections?
Or maybe he was just playing fast and loose with language. Pointy-head academics do that all the time. So do politicians who have skin in the game, so to speak. Then again, maybe Obama was aiming for ironical comedy, which is best performed with a straight face. I choose to take it for the humor it is. Much like the audience of Comedy Central, I watch the show to laugh and be entertained. So I'll take his comment as tongue-in-cheek. He does keep a good straight face, though, doesn't he?
Obama came from nowhere to become President of the United States. How? Maybe because he enjoyed the benefit of his parental heritage, black and white. And moreso because he applied himself in school. And was curious and ambitious. And driven to succeed. And no one -- institutional or otherwise -- stood in his way, though quite a few helped him along the way. Did non-black Americans attempt to impede his progress? If so, I wish he would cite the experiences in detail, list the obstacles thrown in his path, and explain how he struggled to overcome them. Somewhat like Ben Carson had to do, and Condoleeza Rice, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Herman Cain. Or Martin Luther King, to go back a ways, and George Washington Carver. Otherwise, Obama's lament sounds trite and sycophantic. And also arrogant, as though he succeeded only because his genes are superior to most other black genes, but I don't think he wants to go there, nor should he. Barack, how many crosses were burned in your front yard? How many of your friends were lynched, or driven from the restaurant counter, or taken through the back door as if they were Benjamin Netanyahu, or had face-to-face encounters with masked men such as Hamas and Hezbollah? Please tell us. And also tell us how much better poor inner-city whites and hispanics and asians have it because they are not black. Does one poor man's dollar buy more than another poor man's dollar? Please explain. Once you head down that road, we also will expect you to tell us why such intransigent racism still exists. Specifically why. No platitudes or skewed generalizations. And no appeals to disparate impact. We'll be asking unscripted questions afterwards, some of which will make sense to everyone but you, so be cautious what you say.
Ugh. The notion of disparate impact -- which claims that only equal outcomes can define whether an adverse impact exists -- is such a stupid legal premise. Some may not realize it, but Jews and Japanese are disproportionately non-black, the NBA is disproportionately non-Swiss, the NFL is under-feminized, no Tibetans have won as many gold medals in track as Hussein Bolt, and the disparate impact adds up to billions of dollars annually. What do you propose we do about that, Mr. President of All Americans? Please hurry up with an answer. The Olympics are but three years away. Lots of training is needed if we're to upend Hussein Bolt's stranglehold on world records and the wealth it brings him.
Since when did white become the new ugly? Why is it racist to have a skin color that happens to be labeled white? Those folks did well to raise the value of everyone's life in America, last time I checked. More whites died for that conviction than have ever died for any other cause that Americans believe in. It's called the War between the States, 1861 to 1864, if you need to check. White Americans started that war, and they fought alongside black soldiers to end the tyranny of slavery. They fought to improve the civil rights and economic prosperity of all citizens, despite their race or heritage or economic status. They also created eleemosynery institutions such as the world had never seen before. And adopted abandoned children and fought against alcoholism and yet died for the freedom to be free. Those are bad things? Pro Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown doesn't think so. I don't either.
We have come a long way in 250 years. Obama insists that structural racism still dogs this country and is the reason for so much poverty and strife among minorities, yakkidy yakkidy yak, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Give it a break, Barack. No one beyond your echo chamber listens to that tiresome diatribe any longer. It's not their fault for not listening. It's yours. You never quit riding the wave you rode in on, even after it hit the shore and washed back out to sea. We do not live in the racist country of your imagination. We're getting tired of reminding you of your privileges -- which you largely earned, by the way. So kick back, roll another doobie and enjoy retirement at your beach house, as we know you will. No harm, no foul. You worked hard and got the rewards that came with it. Armed guards will have your back. Big paydays are in store. And your children will enjoy the benefits of your efforts. Good for you and them. Call it the benefit of privilege. It's there for the taking. All you have to do is reach for it.
To quote Jim Brown in a recent CNN interview, "The thing about America, if you get off your butt and apply yourself, you can be successful."
Okay, I feel better. I'm not mad as hell anymore. Thank you, Jim Brown. And you, too, Adam Beale.
R. Stephen Bowden blogs at the Steve Bowden Journal at bowdenbeat.blogspot.com.