Monday, February 28, 2011

American "Manhood"

I am around a half-century old, and as such, was probably in the last cadre of Americans saddled with the notions of American manhood that would have been recognizable to DH Lawrence:

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted.

I have come to realize that the notions I was raised on and which I absorbed from a million TV westerns and adventure shows was a fraud, and a terribly destructive one.

I have done so much in my life in an ultimately fruitless attempt to live up to a species of manhood modeled in a million ways in my youth - I hunt deer, drink scotch, volunteered for the US Army in my youth like all the generations of men in my family did, and so on.

I got a hint that what I was searching for was an illusion during my tour in the Army.

When I was fresh out of basic, I had a Sergeant I’ll call Sergeant Williams, who had been in Vietnam. I was telling him one day about my eagerness to see action and so on (I was an especially clueless human being when I was young.)

He looked at me a moment and then said, “Let me tell you a story.”

He then told me a story from when he had been a much younger man, and was out on a patrol in the boonies in Vietnam.

His unit took fire from a treeline, and a couple guys were hit. Amid the noise of the firefight, his lieutenant came to him, handed him the radio, and said, “we have fast-movers [an air strike] coming in – talk them in.”

Williams marked their position with smoke, and guided the planes in…and they dropped napalm on that treeline. He then spent the next few minutes (minutes he would give anything to forget) listening to men about his age — just as scared as he was, loved by their mothers just as much — burning to death.

Because of him.

“That day gave me some idea of what Hell might be like” said Sgt. Williams, eyes fixed in the middle distance.

Clueless me said, “Yeah, Sarge, burning is a tough way to go…”

He looked at me sharply then, and, stabbing his finger into his chest, said: “No, Talbot. I’m talking about the way I felt that day.”


John Wayne. John Wayne. John Fucking Wayne.

But the thing is, John Wayne himself couldn't live up to his own image - he smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day, and pounded down enough scotch to put a bison into a coma. He couldn't do it either. John Wayne himself couldn't be John Wayne.

Well, I'm done with that. No more.

That mythic American manhood doesn't really exist. It never did.

My God, but I'm tired of chasing ghosts.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blue Islands in a Sea of Red

For all Meteor Blade's justifiable anger concerning Broun's irresponsible failure to condemn his constituent's nutty comment, I think there's a deeper question that needs to be addressed, and that is this: Why are so many working-class white people, in the south and elsewhere, so angry?

This is a question that it would be good for progressives to explore in some depth. Be prepared to be surprised.

You know, this reminds me of the Question Everyone Made Sure To Forget after 9/11/01: "Why do they hate us?" People forgot that because everyone who did ask it was accused of "wanting to give the terrorists therapy" and so on. But it was a good question - and our failure to seriously explore it as a country has severely hindered our response to that event.

And so it is with the eliminationist rhetoric oozing up from the right. To say "well, Rush and Savage are ginning it up" is facile but not really satisfactory, in my view; a hard question that progressives would do well to ask is, "in what sense is their anger justifiable, or at least comprehensible? Why do they hate us?"

Look at a county-by-county breakdown map of the 2008 presidential election results:

See all that red? I see that as a problem. Yes Obama won, and convincingly, but blue islands in a sea of deeply alienated red is not a recipe for the survival of the United States as a cohesive whole. We need to give the folks in that sea of red reason to vote for the "D" on the ballot, or the US will sooner or later cease to be viable as a unified, cohesive entity.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fascinating stuff

Sam Rocha, one of my co-bloggers over at the Catholic Blog I contribute to, Vox Nova, gave an amazing talk about race and identity at the college where he teaches. Well worth the time to watch it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hilarious Blog Found.

She actually seemed to like throwing up. To the simple dog, throwing up was like some magical power that she never knew she possessed - the ability to create infinite food.

Good for hours of convulsive laughter. Go read it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"A Precious Thing of Terrible, Unfathomable Beauty

Will Wilkinson at the Economist {Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan]

The surge of overwhelming bliss that has overtaken Egyptians is the rare beautitude of democratic will. The hot blush of liberation, a dazzled sense of infinite possibility swelling millions of happy breasts is a precious thing of terrible, unfathomable beauty, and it won't come to these people again. Whatever the future may hold, this is the happiest many people will ever feel. This is the best day of some peoples' lives. The tiny Dionysian anarchist on my other shoulder is no angel, but I cannot deny that there is something holy in this feeling, that it is one of few human experiences that justifies life—that satisfies, however briefly, our desperate craving for more intensity, for more meaning, for more life from life. Whatever the future holds, there will be disappointment, at best. But there is always disappointment. Today, there is joy.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mother Teresa Had It Right

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow human beings throughout the world who and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.


-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Note to self: Listen to that little, nagging voice next time.

Yeah, so...I notice this afternoon that my toilet won't flush, even after repeated plunging with the toilet plunger.

Then I get the brilliant idea to use water pressure to clear the jam, so I get one of those hose-attachment drain-unplugging thingies from the hardware store, and come home to my apartment and put it into the the toilet, then go outside and downstairs to the hose valve and turn it on full blast, thinking the harder the better.

Coming back in the front door, I hear an ominous sound from the bathroom. I brace myself, look into the bathroom, and see a fountain of sewage erupting out of the bathtub drain. At great force.

My bathroom looked and smelled like the aftermath of a Category 8 eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano of poop.

I think the Roto Rooter guy is going to have PTSD after looking at the place. I'm just wondering if I should tell the landlord about this.