The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

CANDY IS DANDY BUT LET’S TALK MISANDRY

If you’re not familiar with the term “misogyny” you have probably missed the fact that the “feminist” movement started a few eons ago or you aren’t tuned in to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to overcome it in what she and others describe as the “War on Women”.  Misogyny is, of course, defined as a hatred of women.  What you probably don’t know (because you’ve likely never heard it) is that there is a male version of this term, “misandry”.  So, you may ask, what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Fair question.

I decided on the title of this post because I just came across an old copy of Ogden Nash’s poetry which included his famous, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” poem.  And, of course, misandry rhymes far better with dandy than does mysogyny.  And I love introducing my readers to arcane and otherwise obscure bits of vocabulary.  But beyond all this, there is a method to my madness which has less to do with politics than it does with living in a civilized society.

It’s a good thing that mysogyny (and I guess misandry) exist – or at least are perceived to exist.  If it weren’t for them, those who talk the most about the subject(s) would be utterly tongue tied and have nothing to say.  As it is, they have, in my opinion very little to say – but they still insist on saying it at great length.  Thank goodness for freedom of speech.

But if misogyny exists is it, perhaps, inherent in our vocabulary itself?  Maybe this is the reason that the left considers one of their major objectives to refine, sanitize, delete and alter our language so that it conforms to their view of how the world should be, rather than the way it is.  I first noticed this “purification” process beinning about twenty years ago when I was watching the Kentucky Derby.  Suddenly, I was struck by the singing of Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home.

The original of Foster’s work read:

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay.

One lawmaker in Kentucky found the words “darky and darkies” to be offensive and got a bill passed which altered the author’s original work to read “people”, replacing these two terms throughout the song.  On the surface, as attitudes and speech have changed since the mid-nineteenth century when the song was written, this might be more reflective of the way we think and speak today.  Although one can hardly imagine what the verbage of this song might look like if it fell in the hands of what we euphemistically describe as “rap artists”.  While they were at it, one can only wonder why they didn’t also alter the term “gay” to read straight and LGBTQ – but it’s hard to rhyme those terms I guess.

Unfortunately, like so many things that people who are self-described as “politically correct” missed is that they didn’t understand what motivated Foster to write this song.  Most people, on hearing My Old Kentucky Home envision a song about the idylic pre-bellum South with ladies twirling parasols as they are escorted on the family manse by the young beau who is courting them.  In fact, the song is a lament sung by a slave who has been sold from his Kentucky birthplace to a new master in the deep South who will make him work in the sugar cane fields and probably meet an early death.

But returning to misogyny for a moment in view of the dedication of some to expurgate our language so that only permitted terms can be uttered (and I suspect their theory is that if we can’t say it we won’t think it), a recent sad event occurred which seems to have gone under the radar of the “Thought Police”.  That tragedy was the shooting of NYC police officer Randolph Holder and remarks made by film actor and director Quentin Tarentino’s comments at what might be best described as an anti-cop rally held in NYC a few days after the officer’s murder.

Police departments and associations throughout the country called for a boycott of Tarentino’s forthcoming movie and any further projects in which he might be involved.  I happen to be vaguely unfamiliar with Tarentino’s works.  The last one that I saw was Pulp Fiction which was released in 1994.  When I say that I saw the movie it would be far more accurate to say that I saw a bit less than one half hour of it before I walked out.  Some friends dragged me to the movie but I found the language and violence to be way over the top – so I left.  Fortunately, there was a bar across the street so I enjoyed a few single malt Scotches until the movie let out and my friends joined me.

Now we return to political correctness.  While I thoroughly support the police in their effort to show their displeasure by withholding their hard earned dollars from flowing directly into the coffers of a director who obviously has high disregard for them and the job they do, isn’t their effort in organizing a “boycott” inherently misogynistic?  Why isn’t it called a “girlcott” or the more inclusive “peoplecott”?

As most of those on the left are hoping that they can change the world into what I view as a miasmic fantasyland, I think I’ll just call it an Epcott.

FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

 

When my parents took me to see “The Wizard of Oz” my mother shushed me for speaking out after the above scene was shown on the screen.  I didn’t understand why Dorothy went around the road at its circular beginning instead of just starting at the part of the road where it straightened out.  I think Mom believed she had released a hellion on the world.  Maybe so.

This, of course, brings me to she of our time who is the queen and diva of convoluted thinking , Nancy Pelosi.  Possibly of all time – although I haven’t reached that conclusion quite yet.

Leader Pelosi has categorized the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, granting that company an exemption from the Obamacare mandate on providing abortifacients as just one more bomb in the war on women.  Furthermore, she categorized the five male Justices as being participants in that war, if for no other reason, because of their gender.  Well, everyone is entitled to her opinion – however warped it might be.  But let’s see where this kind of thinking on the part of the liberal left, of whom Ms. Pelosi is an outstanding example, logically leads us.

For purposes of this conversation, let’s assume that Ms. Pelosi is correct.  A man simply cannot properly adjudicate an issue that is related to women simply because of a difference in our sexual apparatus .  But the “logic” of this argument would suggest that having a different experience de facto disqualifies a person from making judgments about others whose experience is different from their own.

Certainly if it’s true that a man should have no involvement in questions regarding women, it should be equally true that women should have no involvement in questions regarding men.  While I have never heard anyone on the left make that statement it does seem logical enough to me.  But should we stop there?

Let’s take the case of a man who is accused of rape.  Obviously, a woman should not serve on a jury adjudicating this case as her lifelong experience has been different from that of the male rapist and therefore it is impossible for her to come to an objective determination because she lacks the mindset to do so as a simple result of her gender.

But if that is true, then might we not go further?  Should we not restrict the jury pool not only just to men, but to men who have themselves also been accused of committing rape?  Would they not be the best  equipped to understand the mind of the accused rapist – far better than the general population – and therefore be better able than others to cut through all the legal jargon and actually penetrate to  the crux of the matter?

It disturbs me that someone who holds a position of “leadership” in our government and at one time was third in line of succession to the presidency does not understand that it is not the role of the Congress to critique the Supreme Court but it is the role of the Court to critique the laws which Congress enacts.  More disturbing is that Pelosi will win re-election by overwhelming margins until she dies or retires.

But perhaps there is hope.  I have dropped her an email explaining that the Yellow Brick Road on the way to Oz begins just off of San Francisco near Fisherman’s Wharf and submerged only about thirty feet under the Pacific’s surface.  Perhaps she will lead a brigade of her supporters on a journey to Oz, thereby making the country and the world safer for the rest of us.  Bon voyage!

HOLLYWOOD’S WAR ON WOMEN

While I hate to reveal my own ignorance I figure that if you’ve been following along for awhile it’s already abundantly clear to you.  As you know, I seldom go to see a movie in a theatre designed for cinematic display and selling junk food.  And because my interest in the latest tripe that comes out of Hollywood is nil, I don’t keep up with who’s who or who’s doing what in that liberal paradise.

It just happened that I saw a news story yesterday about a law suit that is proceeding that involves one Bryan Singer.  I didn’t recall even vaguely ever hearing that name so I had no idea who he was or what he did.  I read the story.

I learned from the story, Mr. Singer is a movie director.  Without going into the somewhat sordid details of the lawsuit, suffice it to say that Mr. Singer has allegedly apparently been employing a version of  the casting couch but has transformed it into an after-parties venue where friends and associates apparently recruit young gay men who want to mingle with the rich and famous director.

Okay, this isn’t a post about morality.  But I was curious if Mr. Singer had ever directed a movie that I had seen.  As it turned out, while he has many credits in his portfolio which I have not viewed, one of his efforts, “The Usual Suspects” was a movie that I saw several years after its release when it appeared on cable.  I rather liked it but remember it as being a little strange.

But it occurred to me that as unfamiliar with Hollywood directors as I am, I would do a little investigation into who directs the movies which cause hearts to flutter every Friday when something new is released.  And I was very surprised.

In the entire history of the Academy, there have only been four women nominated for the Best Director Oscar.  And of those, only two – Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow – were Americans.  None of the four won the coveted award.

So here we are, in the absolute epicenter of liberalism and is there a more discriminatory, anti-feminist environment in which a woman could find herself?  Let me be blunt.  In Hollywood, women are getting screwed right and left (and yes I did intend that pun).

I’m really hoping that the Huffington Post (which I’ve affectionately renamed the Huff and Puff Post) will carry a story soon in which the Democrats create a stink over the “War on Women.”  I plan on using some version of this post when it appears.

Of course I will have to do a bit of editing – first to get it by the censors and then to conform to their comment limit of 250 words.  But inspired by Hollywood, I will be able to pare this down to size, leaving the excess on the cutting room floor where it will keep company with the hearts and hopes of Hollywood’s female directors who are ignored and overlooked while their male counterparts talk about how life has been so unfair to them and others of their gender.

“ANNIE GET YOUR GUN”

It was the first movie that I ever saw.  Mom, grandma and I were in Carmel, NY and dad was on the road.  It was summer and we had rented a little cabin for a week’s getaway from the city.  There was one theater in the town with one screen and the movie that was playing that week was the classic, “Annie Get Your Gun.”  The film, loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, starred Betty Hutton and then film idol Howard Keel.  I was too young to remember the film but I’ve seen it several times since and find it a charming, musical bit of fluff.

Sadly, today there probably would be little market for a film of this type.  To begin with no one was killed in the movie.  Worse yet, no cars exploded – because of course there weren’t any in those days – but they might, at the least have detonated a couple of horses.  They didn’t.  And worst of all was that our heroine was a gun toting sharpshooter who was able to get the best of her male counterparts.  Shock.  A woman being the champion rather than the victim.  That simply doesn’t fit the current narrative.

 

 

“I worked out of desperation. I used to hit fast and run in hopes that people wouldn’t realize that I really couldn’t do anything.” – Betty Hutton

If I didn’t know the source of that quote I would have thought that it came out of President Obama’s autobiography.

Under the heading of “Never let a good non-issue die” we have former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg now engaged in yet another assault on gun ownership – purportedly to the tune of about $50 MM.  That makes the Koch brothers look like small time pikers.  Apparently His Eminence is going to direct these funds from his personal treasury to developing anti-NRA ads.  This might prove to be yet another instance where in the interest of “doing good” the mayor might prove to benefit those whom he views as the source of all violence in America – legitimate gun owners.

There are a number of our incumbent Democrat senators who ware running against the gale force wind that Obamacare is blowing through the nation and who happen to represent either purple or red states where the electorate has long ago decided that legitimate gun ownership is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the Constitution.  The mayor’s efforts to coalesce anti-gun voter sentiment might very well backfire in Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas, to name a few states.  So Bloomberg may be doing the GOP a great favor.

One of the (phony) arguments about guns is that their presence in a home significantly increases the likelihood that domestic violence is more likely to become fatal than if a gun were absent from the premises.  But what we have seen over the last twenty years is a significant reduction in the number of fatalities due to firearms at a time when gun ownership has increased dramatically.  Notwithstanding the less than riveting revelations that have been forthcoming from the Oscar Pistorius trial, there seems to be little to give credence to that argument.

Are women at risk in our society?  Well, I hate to inform the uninformed, but life is a risk and we all drink from the same punchbowl – male and female.  I cannot give you an exact figure, but of the women I know, probably at least half of them carry pepper spray in their purses.  If they felt secure would there be any reason for them to buy what is clearly a self-defense weapon?  Would they be more or less safe if instead of a spray they were armed with a small caliber weapon which they were trained to use, should the need arise?

It’s nice to believe that we can depend on our paid police forces to keep us safe from harm.  That is if you don’t live in Detroit where the average response time for an emergency call (when their 911 service even picks up) is currently over an hour and a half.  By that time your body has already begun to cool and the murderer is long gone.  But Detroit is not an isolated instance where the police are so overwhelmed that they can’t act in an expeditious manner.

Las Vegas’ Metropolitan Police Department recently announced that due to the volume of calls, officers will not be dispatched to the scene of a traffic accident unless there are people who suffer bodily injury.  If the police are currently so occupied with more serious issues than car wrecks, what level of safety might the ordinary citizen expect if something really serious, say a power outage, were to occur?  In that event were I a store owner, I’d want to have some protection in my shop from the mobs which might seek to take advantage of the situation.

It would be excellent if we could rely on our law enforcement agencies to keep us safe from evildoers – and for the most part they do their best to fulfill their responsibilities and protect us.  But in the event of something catastrophic, former Mayor Bloomberg (who has a paid, armed security detail attached to his person) might realize that – “Anything they can do, we the people might do better.”

CRISIS

As a child, my parents and my teachers encouraged me to read.  Some of those books were pre-selected by them.  But my folks also took me to a wonderful local book store on Lexington Avenue in NYC that had started a children’s book and discussion club.

It was a warm and inviting place and to a child all the wonderful books with their hard covers, nestled in their assigned places, looked like a vast universe of story telling that were waiting to be discovered and devoured.  I loved the Worthington Book Store and Mrs. Bramley who owned the shop.  Somehow, she just seemed to be the exactly right person to own this wonderful place.

I think that it was a combination of her gray hair rolled into a bun and fastened with bobby pins and the beautiful but simple home made sweaters that she had knitted and wore in the store that conveyed that impression most strongly.  And she had a wonderful smile that welcomed all of us little visitors to join her in the quest for knowledge.

In 1956, Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel, “Time For The Stars” was published.  On one of my Saturday visits I happened to see it among the stacks of books in the fiction section.  Science fiction was pretty much in its infancy at that time, despite the earlier contributions of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

The dust cover caught my eye.  There was a picture of one of the “torchships” that Heinlein described in his novel.  I’m not sure why but somehow I knew I had to read that book.  I’m glad that I did, finishing it in two sessions.  That book started me on a lifelong interest in both astronomy and science fiction.

Later I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  They offered an introductory membership for ten cents.  In return they would send me any five books listed in their extensive catalog.  The synopsis of each book also made mention of the number of pages the volume contained.  So I chose the five longest books that they had listed.  I was determined to get my money’s worth.  That was a great investment.

As the genre grew a following, Hollywood got involved.  Science fiction movies began to proliferate.  At first, movies were made of the classics.  “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”; “The Time Machine”; and “The War Of The Worlds,” were among the first, but certainly not the last.

Perhaps it’s a reflection off our way of looking at ourselves and the universe, but in most books or movies in which mankind makes contact with other species, the aliens are almost always portrayed as hostile invaders, bent on the destruction of humanity.  So for purposes of conversation, let’s assume that should actually happen.

Well, as one would imagine, suddenly our petty spats which we politely call wars would cease as we focused our attention on the greater threat of total annihilation by the invaders.  And, the United States, with our certain military superiority would lead the effort to save mankind.  That’s a frightening concept.

In making that statement I do not refer to the invasion but to America’s ability to respond should we encounter those invaders while President Obama is at the helm.  Consider how this administration has conducted business over the last five years.

Prior to the 2012 campaign, I asked a slue of Obama supporters why they were going to vote to retain him in office, based on what he and his administration had done in his first term.  While most of the answers avoided citing a specific achievement, the few people who came up with an answer considered Obamacare as a great accomplishment.  That was their reason for voting for a second term.

So today we have ten days worth of Obamacare under our belts with the rollout of the exchanges and the initial enrollment in the health insurance portion of the law.  I realize that any new computer program is likely to have some “glitches”.  That is normal – but minimizing those is usually done in beta testing before the product is released.

The initial bill for building this system was $57 Million.  However, in excess of $637 Million actually was spent.  A reasonable person would think that with all those extra dollars being thrown at this (those dollars belonging to you and me), the result would be spectacular.  And it has been – a spectacular disaster.  Even the administration is admitting that there are some “minor problems”.  For a group of people who seem to specialize in rhetorical hyperbole, that statement seems to be a bit understated.

This “signature piece of legislation” is proving in its implementation to be nothing short of a total disaster.  Considering the fact that the financial and healthcare assumptions made in writing this law are unrealistic, with such a bad start it is encouraging that there are a few dedicated members of Congress who have made it their mission to get it off the books.

But while this is the most threatening law ever enacted to restrict personal liberty, it is merely the outgrowth of an administration filled with cronyism, scandals, a CIC who is both petty and whose ego is inflated by hubris.  Our President is a man who has demonstrated a total lack of leadership.  With someone such as Obama as head of the ship of state, one can only hope that should the skies suddenly fill with hostile UFO’s, the Pentagon has stocked a large supply of white flags.

Even in my most imaginative moments, I don’t really expect us to be contacted by alien civilizations.  Why would they bother with us as we are little evolved from our primitive forebears?  And I’m sure there are other spots in the universe that are every bit as interesting as Miami or Laguna Beach.

If we as humans face a truly serious crisis, it is less likely to be launched by visitors from another planet than it is either by ourselves or by Mother Nature.  Tsunamis, epidemics, terrorists – these are not science fiction but historical fact.  And it seems that as we further devolve into our more primitive nature those that are going to be inflicted by men on his fellow man are likely to increase both in frequency and virulence.

Let’s postulate for a moment, that a serious viral or bacterial outbreak occurred which affected the food or water supply or both.  Whether it was a function of something that nature brought on us or whether terrorists were responsible is immaterial.  How much confidence should any American have in the Obama administration to handle this situation effectively?

Setting aside partisan politics and merely looking at Obama’s track record, I have to say that my confidence level in his skills suggests that if I am not prepared to try to cope with that sort of situation by taking my own steps to safeguard myself and family, I am doomed to be one of the many victims who will fall by the wayside.

And what will become of those who have entrusted themselves and their lives, given up their personal responsibility to take care of and fend for themselves to what they believe is a beneficent government?  As they lay dying, they will wonder why no one is answering their 911 call on their free, government provided cell phones.

STOP TALKING AND START DOING

I was listening to Fox News yesterday and today.  There was a late breaking story about liberal actor Matt Damon which aired yesterday and was expanded on in today’s broadcast.  In essence, the clips which had been put together showed Mr. Damon at a public school teacher’s rally in Los Angeles in which he told the assembled throng that, “We’re behind you all the way.”

Of course, the point of the story was that Mr. Damon had decided that he did not want his children educated by the public school system and was enrolling his kids in a private school.  Shocking.  The hypocrisy of at least one member of the liberal left exposed on national cable television.

So as we all sat there in our self-satisfied way and said to ourselves, “See, see,” our fingers pointed at yet another blatant example of the “do as I say mentality,” I thought to myself, “All this lip beating and finger waving is such an unfortunate waste of time.”  Other than it may make us feel a bit more self-righteous.

Let me be frank.  Pointing out the peccadillos of a Matt Damon or the rest of the Hollywood gang may be an amusing way to pass some time.  But it accomplishes exactly nothing.

Having seen that snippet I am not any less inclined to my conservative views – and if those who consider themselves liberals had seen it, I assure you that in no way would it have affected their political view.  Other than occupying several minutes of broadcast time, airing the story was pointless.

In this conservative/liberal battle, both sides have identified their opponent.  We know who we are fighting.  But we conservatives need to develop an effective strategy moving forward if we are to attempt to restore our Constitutional form of government.

That means one thing and one thing only.  Electing people to office who believe in the same principles which we espouse.  And electing people in today’s world requires raising a great deal of money and spending it effectively.

I read an interesting survey this morning.  It was prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  To be honest, I was so shocked at the survey’s results that I questioned that it could possibly be accurate.  The survey dealt with the ACA (Obamacare) – and stated that 42% of the adult population surveyed did not know that this had been enacted into law.  Have these people been hiding under a rock for the last four years – or longer?

Now someone who is now an uninformed voter is someone who, to my mind, is a potential conservative voter.  It is easy to dismiss them, as did Romney, by saying that there is “no way we are ever going to convince them to vote for us”.  If we take that attitude, we are going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And the only way to convince them is through the effective implementation of targeted, well-written ads which are widely disseminated on television and through the social media.  And the time to start that educational process is now.

Are we going to “convert” hordes of the uninformed?  Probably not.  But in elections where slim margins make the difference between winning and losing, we don’t need mass defections from the liberal camp – just a small percentage of what they consider their sacrosanct power base.

Not only do conservatives need to make an exceptional effort at fund raising and intelligent spending of those funds, there is something else in which we can engage which will hurt the other side’s ability to do the same.  That something is boycott.

Since the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Damon has made fifteen pictures.  Those and his previous films are undoubtedly the reason that he is able to send his daughters to a private school.  And to donate to the “Obama for America” campaign.

My question to my conservative friends is how much have you indirectly contributed to liberal causes by spending your money to go see Mr. Damon and his like-minded acting colleagues?  And are you planning on continuing contributing to them so that they can help fund candidates for public office whose mission is to undermine the American democracy and bring about a socialist state?

If only ten people who read this post were to contact ten friends and pledge not to attend any movies, concerts or any other events which star liberal-thinking and liberal-contributing performers, and those ten similarly contacted ten, etc.,  by the time the seventh mailing went out, we would have reached ten million people.  And if you don’t think the absence of that many moviegoers as picture after picture was released would not be noticed by Hollywood, I think you are extremely mistaken.

Of course, this concept could (and should) be extended to other purchasing decisions as well.  But the reason I reference this particular example – as a starting point – is that choosing to purchase a movie ticket is a strictly voluntary and totally discretionary choice.

For those of us who are (or were) movie junkies, making this decision will involve some amount of sacrifice.  But it’s only a small sacrifice when compared with the likely chaos which will ensue if we continue down the path on which our liberal friends have taken the country.

PULLING THE PLUG

When it is scientifically clear that a patient has no chance of ever again functioning normally and is on life support for his existence, those who have loved him for a lifetime have a terrible choice to make.  Do they continue to administer the support to keep him breathing, even though there is no brain function, or do they make the decision to let him go?

I never expected to be in the position to have to make that decision but that is exactly where I found myself.  I gave the order yesterday to pull the plug on my Cable TV subscription at 11:37 a.m. PST.  The patient was pronounced dead by the time I returned home a half hour later.

It might be difficult for those who are young and have grown up with hundreds of channels of television and enough remotes to control their viewing pleasure that would sink a small battleship that there was a time when there were only a few channels from which we could choose.  And those broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC actually took a break and went off the air – allowing us to get our needed rest.

Although the choices we had were limited, the content of those programs was far superior and more entertaining than what we are offered today – at least in my opinion.  And we enjoyed that experience together, as a family, watching those shows which my parents thought were appropriate for me to see.

Our old Dumont television was housed in a chinoise-style cabinet.  Generally, the doors to the cabinet were shut, hiding from our eyes the small television that blankly stared with its blind eye until we turned on the power and waited a minute or so until the cathode ray tubes had heated up to the point they provided a black and white picture and monophonic sound. 

For me, Grandma, not the television was the babysitter.  And of course there were other things to entertain me like homework and books and my stamp collection.  By the time I was twelve I had read through A – K of my Encyclopedia Britannica, still had time for extracurricular activities at school and was halfway through the collected works of Charles Dickens.  I simply can’t imagine how I could have had the time to do all of that if I had been glued to our television from the moment I returned home from classes to the time I went to bed.

I remember coming home one day after one of my classmates had mentioned that his family had eaten their dinner on TV tables the previous evening.  I didn’t know what a TV table was, so I asked Mom.  Her response was, “That’s something that families who don’t have anything to say to one another use to avoid having a conversation.”  I admit that at the time that comment was a little over my head, but I got the point later in my life.  All I knew was that we didn’t have TV tables but we did have an evening meal together and we talked to each other.

In my mind, the Japanese concept of shibui certainly applies to television.  Perhaps the best definition of this word that describes the joy of minimalist aesthetics is, “less is more.”  And you can’t have less than none which is where I have now found myself in my television viewing experience.

I won’t miss episodes of stories about suburban housewives, the latest designs in tattoos, reality television in which the most pathetic examples of humanity parade themselves for all the world to emulate or 99% of the rest of the stuff that is broadcast to an unthinking public who considers the drivel that is offered as a good way to improve their minds.  Since I never watched that sort of thing when I was connected, I guess the producers of those shows would consider me as one of the unbaptized, unclean and uninformed.  So be it.

The way I look at it, the money I’m going to save over the next year both on television and the consequent reduction in my electric bill will allow me to purchase about fifty new titles to add to my classic movie collection.  Although I long ago finished Dickens, I haven’t re-read Dostoevsky for many years and I allowed my Encyclopedia Britannica project to lapse when I had only just started on the letter “T” – so there’s a project.

It was difficult for me to make the decision to pull the plug on an old friend.  But only one day into my new television-less brave new world I realize – it had to be done.

LIVING IN A ZEBRA STATE OF MIND

When Norman Lear gave America, “All In The Family” in 1971 it was an instantaneous hit, topping the Nielsen ratings chart for five years in a row.

America was ready for a show that challenged us to consider issues that were formerly taboo for network television:  race relations, homosexuality, abortion, and the war in Vietnam among others.  The principal character was Archie Bunker, a blue collar loading dock worker whom we loved to laugh at as he displayed all his prejudices on every topic for us in episode after episode.

But during the eight years the show was broadcast, Archie began to change.  Even with his limited education, the prejudices which held him so firmly rooted in his world view fell by the wayside as he saw that they simply weren’t true.  Even Archie, as frightened as he was of abandoning his lifelong beliefs altered his views when he saw the way things actually were.

As with many popular shows, “All In The Family” begat a spinoff,  “The Jeffersons”.  This sitcom was the story of a black family who had been Archie and his wife Edith’s neighbors, George and Louise Jefferson.  George was the owner of several successful dry cleaning stores and decided to move from the blue collar Queens neighborhood in which they lived to an apartment in Manhattan’s East Side.

The interaction between Archie and George was brilliantly written.  They were both bigots on the matter of race, Archie looked down on blacks and George looked down on whites.  If they had one thing in common, other than their mutually-limited views of the world, it was that they both looked down on Hispanics.

Archie had grown during the eight years of “All In The Family”, but interestingly George, in the ten years that “The Jeffersons” was broadcast never did.  He maintained his view that being a black person was the ultimate achievement and only condescended to the company of whites if he saw a business advantage in doing so.

During the course of the show’s run, George coined a word which he frequently employed to describe a person who was the product of a racially mixed union.  That term was “zebra”.  Being a “zebra” was as bad to George as being white – and he applied that term often to describe his future daughter-in-law, Jenny whom their son Lionel was dating.  Jenny’s father was white and her mother black.

The question of who is a member of what race has been ongoing since mankind discovered that the skin pigmentation of some of us is different from that of others.  In the deep South both before and after the Civil War the term octoroon came into use.  It described a person one of whose great grandparents was black – and it was sufficient for the racially prejudiced to call that person black and deny her the treatment one of her white counterparts might expect.

The topic of race has been written about in countless books and been the subject of many movies.  Edna Ferber wove a heartbreaking story about it in her classic novel, “Showboat” and the issue of being able to “pass for white” was beautifully and tragically explored in the movie,  “Imitation of Life” to name only a few works.

I write this post now because, unfortunately, the presidential race will in large measure be determined by people, who like Archie Bunker and George Jefferson will cast their vote not because of a candidate’s qualifications but because of his race.  These people are nothing less than bigots.

The black who votes for Obama seeing him as a fellow black man; the white who votes for Romney because he is a fellow Caucasian – those who formulate their opinions solely on the basis of a candidate’s race are exponents of the same narrow minds which both Archie and George exhibited.  And we spent years laughing at that pair as they made buffoons of themselves on prime time television.

Sherman Hemsley who played George Jefferson died earlier this year.

I would have been interested to know who he thought his character would have voted for if he participated in this year’s Presidential Election.

Would he have held his nose and voted for “whitey” or sucked it up and cast his ballot for “the zebra”?  While we will never know the answer to that conundrum, we should know whether those of us who are still here to participate made an informed choice or one dominated by bigotry on November 7th.

WE CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

I remember as a child, going with my parents to Washington to spend some time with my dad’s brother and his wife.  We made the trip by car and, like all children my age, I probably annoyed my parents by incessantly asking, “Are we there yet?”

Well finally we got there.  Or mostly so.  That is to say, we were in our nation’s Capitol – a city which, for the uninitiated, has to be one of the most confusing places on earth.

I have heard that the city’s circular design was, in part, intended as a matter of defense.  I would advise any foreign entity with aspirations of attacking
Washington by land that they had best bone up on the city’s layout before attempting their assault.

If there were one thing that I remember keenly about my father, it was that he had the most amazingly accurate sense of direction of anyone I have ever known.  Knowing where he was and understanding how to get where he was going was completely natural to him.  He had a built-in GPS system which was more accurate than the ones on which we rely today.

But apparently, there was something in the air in Washington which interfered with that ability.

My Uncle Howard, who at the time was an Assistant Director in the General Services Administration, the Federal agency which purchases most of the goods and services the government buys, had given my father directions on how, once we entered the city, we should proceed to get to his office.  Dad had pulled out the slip of paper on which he had written down these directions and was trying to follow them.

I don’t know if the instructions my Uncle Howard had given dad were inaccurate but we drove as my uncle had instructed and for some reason found ourselves back at our starting point, having looped around the city.  So dad tried again – with the same result.

Frustrated at his inability to do anything other than drive in circles, my father looked for a pay phone on the street so that he could call his brother at his office.  We finally found one and dad spoke with him.

I think my uncle must have sensed the aggravation in his older brother’s voice because he asked where we were, told us to sit tight and drove over to get us.  Apparently we had made a wrong turn somewhere and as my uncle explained, “You can’t get there from here.”

As it was now quitting time for my uncle, rather than going to his office we followed him to his home in Bethesda, MD.  To this day I don’t know for sure that there is a GSA building as I’ve never seen it.

We had a wonderful stay.  It is hard to visit Washington without coming away with a great sense of pride in what the American experiment had accomplished.

The buildings were more than mere structures.  They were shrines to the people who had worked together to show the world what could be accomplished by a rag tag volunteer army who fought and overcame what was then the mightiest fighting force in the world.  And all because of their desire to be free of oppression and to craft their own destiny.

I was especially privileged because my Aunt Rose was the secretary to the Director of the National Archives.  She received permission from her boss to bring me down to the Archives’ vaults where I was allowed to view documents that had been signed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

If you have seen Frank Capra’s movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” you will have a sense of the pride I felt viewing these – in much the same way that Jimmy Stewart was overwhelmed when he saw the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials when he first arrived in the city as a newly appointed senator.

And you will understand how, when he is falsely accused of attempting personal gain by a corrupt colleague and the attempt is made to expel him from the Senate, this naïve, idealistic man retreats to Abe Lincoln’s feet at the base of his memorial and weeps bitter tears, so disillusioned by the government in which he believed and the reality that he discovered.

Perhaps I also am too idealistic.  After volunteering in the political process for several decades it is difficult to hold on to that attitude.  Like Senator Smith, I have learned the reality that people in public office are far more likely to be concerned about their personal interests than the interests of those whom they were elected to serve.  Maybe that is just human nature – or at least the nature of many who choose to run for public office.

Unlike Senator Smith, I cannot shed my tears at Lincoln’s feet.  The next best thing that I can do is watch this outstanding movie and write this blog, hoping to reach at least a few other people who care about what is happening in the land.

This country was founded by people who were great thinkers and its existence was secured by people who were great doers.  It was that combination which made America great – and it is the absence of it which is the reason that we have stumbled, and stumbled badly.

If we want the prosperity and the promise to return to this land, we have to make a change both to our political leadership and to our own apathetic attitudes.  We have once again to begin doing – and we need to elect people who are common sense thinkers.

There is one thing that is certain to me.  With the current cast of characters running the show and most of the people who are sitting in the audience, we can’t get there from here.

THE CONSUMER

Have you ever played chess?  If you have then you realize the most important value of your eight “pawns” is that they serve as sacrificial lambs in your effort to checkmate your opponent.  American consumers are little more than pawns in the game of chess that our banking system including the Federal Reserve and  our politicians are perpetrating on the nation.

In 1988, John Carpenter made one of my favorite films, “They Live.”  It is a combination of science fiction and film-noire.  As it is probably a movie that most of my readers have not seen, here is a synopsis of the plot.

The film is set in Los Angeles.  Aliens have come to earth and they have allied themselves with the rich and powerful – titans of industry and those who are in political power – promising these people untold wealth and riches as they engage in their ultimate strategy which is to rape the planet of its resources before they move on to another planet to do the same.

The aliens have installed broadcast towers around the world which serve two purposes.  The first is to cloak the aliens from identification (Carpenter portrays their real form as Halloween ghouls) and the second is to allow them to put subliminal messages on advertising billboards which humans absorb but don’t actually see.  Those messages direct us to “Buy,” “Spend,” “Use,” “Replace”, “Throw Out.”  These are the ultimate consumerist messages.

The reason that the aliens want us to do this is that, even as they use us to help in their mission of despoiling Earth’s resources, they want us to work faster and harder and if we are perpetually nearly broke, we will have to continue on our unwitting assistance of their agenda.

A drifter, Roddy Piper gets work in construction and discovers a box of sunglasses which, when worn, reveal the aliens’ true form.  The sunglasses are later replaced with an updated version in the form of contact lenses.  Piper, who’s character is named “Nada” joins a movement of other humans who realize the truth of the plight of earth’s people.  Their goal is to tear down the broadcast tower which cloaks the aliens’ true appearance and emits the signal for their subliminal messages so that all people will see them for who and what they really are.

At the conclusion of the movie, the tower and signal are destroyed – but Nada gives his life in the process.  Presumably, humans learn the truth and the aliens will be routed, but that is a conclusion left to the viewer to reach.

The American consumer is responsible for  two-thirds of our Gross Domestic Product.  It is our buying, replacing, using and throwing out things that keeps our economy fueled.  We make purchases based on the latest fad and fashion and for many of those, the products are nearly obsolete as soon as they have been released.  These spending habits are why we have amassed the incredible amount of consumer debt that is on the books.

While we are cautioned about being in all this debt, it is really the only way that we can finance our need to buy and spend and use and throw out.  And the banks love it.  Lending money to the consumer at 18% – 24% while they borrow from the Federal Reserve at  0.25% is very profitable business.

And our politicians hope that we will continue on our present path – and accelerate our journey on the way since they depend on us to fuel the economy and their own re-election efforts.  A happy consumer is more likely to be a voter who will once again return the establishment to their places of privilege at the top of the food chain.

The motto of The Science Fiction Book Club is, “Today’s fiction is tomorrow’s fact.”    Some of Carpenter’s views in 1988 might have been fiction.  But if you look around you will see that a lot of that has indeed evolved into fact.

Is that because of alien intervention or is it because of our own foolishness and consumerism?  Does it really matter?  The results are the same.

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