For Dawn, and that guy at the New York Times who published these ideas first.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why the American world seems so nuts right now. Why is there so much irrationality and fear , particularly about the government, in this country right now. Mother Jones did an article about a “patriot group” that was preparing to “guard the constitution” with guns against the government’s “intrusion” into our lives. The Tea Party people are reactive about health care and the potential deficit. There is near hysteria about “the government” and “the debt” from people who supported the previous administration’s policies that got us into this debt in the first place and no one was screaming then.
Forgetting the possibility that these people might be right about the deficit, or health-care, or government enfringement on our rights, even though a solid majority of people voted for it this very same government, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m not saying anything about their opinion. They have the right to it.
But, as a psychotherapist, I’m trained not just to look at the content of what people say, but the way in which they say it. I’m also aware that people on the far-left can be just as vitriolic when they talk, but there are far fewer of them (by all press reports) than the right-wing Glen Beck crowd. In any case, it seems like a large proportion of people are YELLING at or about our government without engaging in meaningful dialog. They seem TERRIFIED in their presentation, and that alarms me. So what the heck is going on?
You may have noticed that we have a Black President. Now, before my friends have a conniption fit, I am not saying they’re racist. I’m saying that he’s different than we’ve had before, and that symbolism isn’t lost on a lot of folks.
Look on TV and there are (were more last year) gay folks everywhere. Watch the news and there’s a lesbian teen who disrupted her school’s prom. It’s not enough she’s having sex as a teen, but lesbian sex! And she disrupted all those “normal” kid’s all-American privilege! And she’s represented by the ACLU! That’s a lot of people-who-consider-themselves-to be normal upset at one time. She’s a she, she’s gay, she’s a teenager, and she’s represented by (whispered in the background) Jewish Communist Lawyers.
Colleges, seminaries, corporations have more women than men. The list goes on. Everywhere you look, there’s somebody ELSE who’s not a WASP running things or at least showing up on your TV screen. “Octomom” has women lawyers. That Catholic Pope is involved with a sex scandal. Aaaarrrggghhh!
The fact is that America has changed, and is changing, and will continue to change. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s bad.
As a nearly 50 year old man (EGAD! Not THAT!), I remember “soul” music and “Black is beautiful” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud”. That is the part of America I want to see more of. Now, though it’s changing some, we have “niggas” and “pimps and ho’s” and violence — rap. No, since it doesn’t really have a melody, I don’t consider it music. Thud, Thud, Thud, doesn’t do it for me. I watched the video to Rihanna’s new song with Lady Gaga the other day and I thought, “I don’t need to know this”. What part of Black culture did the rest of White America glom onto? Rap. Not soul. Rap. What’s up with that?
“Camp” used to be an odd way of looking at the world. Batman on TV in 1967 was “campy” and the first show to be so. Nowadays, drag queens get to complain about some famous woman’s dress. I kid you not, one of those “complain about stars’ dresses” articles had a drag queen as a panelist. Love between two people — male/female, male/male, female/female — is a good thing. It makes the world a better place. This, too, is a part of America I want more of. But, personally, drag queens somewhere between irk me and freak me out. Do I get to hear about gay folks in love and being nice to each other? Not really. Do I get to hear from drag queens on my TV? RuPaul, anyone?
There are part of hispanic cultures I don’t like, either. They’re a little too hierarchical for my blood, but they’re a part of the new America, too. Would I miss great Mexican food if they weren’t in California (there is no great Mexican food in the East)? Darn right I would.
Joe Lieberman (the Senator from my state) is a Jew, but I really dislike that he’s a Republican who pretends to be a Democrat.
My point to all of this is that for every change, I think, we get some good and some bad. Do I think America’s a worse place than when I grew up? Yes, I do… well, I did. Between Obama’s rhetoric and the youth (mere “kids”) in the classes I teach, I’m actually very hopeful for the first time in years. People want to do the right thing again — like care for each other, and be satisfied with what they’ve got.
Are there incredibly bad things out there? Oh, yeah. Are there incredibly good people out there? Oh, yeah. It IS the end of the world as I knew it. But it’s the beginning of a new one. Not all good, but not all bad either. Maybe the end of the Male WASP as “majority” is coming. Maybe it’s already here.
Some people — particularly people who are used to being the majority and in power — are FREAKING OUT. That’s what the health care irrationality is about. It’s not about health care. It’s about change, and loss. People that never want things to change always run into this problem, because the world changes every day. People die, people are born and it’s a new world. It’s the way it is.
As a Male WASP, I don’t really want to be in power. I don’t want to run women’s lives, or Black folks’ lives, or gay folks’ love lives. I’ve got enough to do already. I want my say, but I don’t want more than that. I like Mexican food, Italian spaghetti, Reggae music, and Ladysmith Black Mumbazo from South Africa. I also think that Anglo-Saxon men did a pretty good job making the world better. The Magna Carta’s a great idea and our Founding Fathers were, in fact, fathers. I like being a man. I think that heterosexuals are, more often than not, great people.
But my maleness is not threatened by a woman’s femaleness. My heterosexual family is not threatened by the gay couple I go to church with. My White rock music is still pretty cool next to a human beat-box, but it’s seldom as cool as the Blues. It is what is.
Do I grieve over my way of life and my values disappearing? You bet I do. It’s hard knowing I’m not the norm anymore. (Those who know me may say I was never “the norm”). It’s hard competing with women for jobs. But it’s hard competing with the women I actually compete with because they’re smarter than me. It’s hard competing with the Japanese in industry (except for Toyota right now) or the people of India who answer my tech questions by phone. But it’s hard competing with them because they’re willing to work for $100 per week or month or whatever and I spend more than that for coffee every month.
So America is changing and we’re a little nutty right now. Cut us some slack, but don’t believe for a minute that we’re actually mad that people will have health care. As I tell my clients, when you do something that’s this big and you get a response that’s 5 times that size, it’s not about what it’s about. It’s about something totally different. This is what I think it’s about.