It seems to me as if Ameican society, or at least a vocal and politically-potent part of it, is turning back to the mindset of the Middle Ages in Europe. Knowledge and science is suspect, superstition reigns.
I pass by the highway signs that warn vaccinations are bad for your health. As far as I know this belief is based on some kind of pseudo-science or just plain ignorance.
But like in so many things, I depend upon the word of scientists and doctors, formally educated, rather than politicians or self-appointed experts who permeate the airwaves in so-called political or public issue talk shows or weekend infomercials. And the term “infomercial” is strange in that it connotes a message with information. There is a difference between being informed and being propagandized. Propaganda or a sales pitch for snake oil is not informative in the sense that it provides truth. It just provides claims, always unfounded or twisted.
Information from a credible source can be wrong but usually because of inadvertent error or haste or the discovery of new information that had not been available.
Most people go about their daily lives not terribly worried about the macro economy of the United States or its foreign policy or even the details of its domestic policy, well perhaps except in times of crisis. All that historically has been left to what is sometimes called the “intelligentsia”, made up of political scientists or commentators and college professors and politicians and such. In other words, people who have nothing better to do than think about things, who are not encumbered by the day-to- day struggle of survival or manual labor or working in a cubicle or at a counter, or driving a truck, for instance.
When things are humming along this all seems fine. But when certain segments of society become uncomfortable they begin to look for scapegoats. Watch out intelligentsia.
Society begins to look at all those know-it-alls who are so big on book learning but not so big on common sense. I cannot define common sense, I just know that if one makes a mistake he or she is often accused of lacking it.
Another aspect of cultural upheaval and a revolt with the aim of going backwards is a change in societal morals. I was born in 1949. I would say while it was an ongoing process, society really changed beginning in about 1967 when I graduated from high school. In reality some of this change began after the end of World War II when soldiers came back from far away places. Or actually the same thing happened after World War I in 1918 as in “how you goona keep the boys down on the farm after they’ve seen ‘Paree”‘.
But the 1950s was still the Leave it to Beaver decade to me. While everyone did not live like the household depicted in that TV sitcom, it portrayed a fairly typical middle class household of the time. Mom stayed at home and in the kitchen. Dad was the breadwinner, and the children were respectful if a little rowdy at times.
And here’s one I repeat too much, but a true anecdote: I was about 10 and my mom and I were in a small grocery store. A man, a working man judged by his attire (you could actually tell back then — people dressed in what seemed appropriate to the work) was apparently frustrated with something and let fly a curse word (not directed at anyone in particular). Then he looked up, seemingly embarrassed about using a profanity, and told my mother: “Sorry mam.” Almost no one would be embarrassed or ashamed nowadays. That would have been in about 1960.
But again the big change, in my view, came in 1967. That was the summer of love and the hippies in San Francisco. They were all about fun and games and smoking weed and doing drugs and not working (some were college students and maybe living off mom and dad if they were of that class). They were also against the Vietnam War.
In my backwater it was still seen as patriotic by most to fight for the country and that is what we were being told Vietnam was all about. Already, though, the news from there seemed to be telling us different. The draft was in effect and boys were being sent over to a far-off land as cannon fodder to fight battles that had no point. Take ground and then let it go back, fight hard but not too hard because that would be something called “escalation”. It was a new kind of war. No front lines no real concrete objective, such as going for complete surrender by the enemy. They say Korea was kind of like that but even there geography played a role. We did expell the invading North Korean communist forces and the Chinese communists from the south.
Leave it to Beaver eventually gave way to “All in the Family” which poked fun at all the hypocrisy of 1950s society and revealed its built-in racism.
Over a decade or two we went from not allowing the word “pregnant” to be used in the sitcom I Love Lucy and demanding that husband and wife be shown sleeping in twin beds to programs with explicit references to sex and sex acts, and the use of four-letter words.
While almost all of society has gone along with all of this either actively or just passively, some people look back to what seemed the good old days, and I do not belittle this. I do it myself at times.
We lost the Vietnam War in that we packed up the gear and came home after the majority of the American electorate came to the conclusion in was hopeless and nearly 60,000 American troops were killed and thousands maimed.
But we were now a disillusioned society. I hate to pick on poor president Jimmy Carter, but his inability to respond effectively to the taking of American hostages in Iran did something to the American psyche.
Meantime, some conservative California Orange County Republicans backed their boy, grade B movie star Ronald Reagan, and managed to get him into the White House after serving a stint as governor of California. He was elderly, handsome, and well spoken, that is he knew how to memorize and deliver a script. And he said things to make a disillusioned society once more proud to be Americans (I’m generalizing here and elsewhere of course).
Democrat Bill Clinton slipped into the White House after two Reagan terms thanks to Ross Perot playing spoiler with his third-party candidacy. But Clinton was popular.
But Clinton’s sexual shenanigans that led to his impeachment but not conviction in turn led into a successful strategy by the far right to attack Democrats on morals and excessive government spending (even though their people once in office often do the same — yup, they have illicit sex and spend like there was no tomorrow).
Let’s look at the presidencies of Bush Sr. and son W. They were essentially politically middle of the road Republicans disguised as conservatives.
Economics is what did them in, even though W served two terms. He left the economy in a shambles.
Enter the Democrats once more. Barack Obama became the first black American to win the presidency. I think that deeply angered many conservatives, especially among the lower class or uneducated working class (not all of course). I don’t think they were all as vocal about it as they might have been in the past. They knew that new laws and norms could result in sanctions and job losses if racial bigotry was openly displayed.
Conservative political operatives jumped on this and other things. Even though most of society operates on a new morality that includes single-parent households, more sexual liberation, and less religion, and drug or marijuana use, and I’m talking professed conservatives among all of this, there are those who longed for someone who would just tell it like it is without all the niceties of political correctness or policy speak of the intelligentsia.
Along with this is was the phenomenon of a radio disc jockey who while blabbing on a small radio station in Sacramento discovers that if he insults liberal know-it-alls he can get good ratings — Rush Limburger Cheese (ok my nickname for him). He sindicated and became a god of the Republicans.
Eventually using the same tactics, a New Yorker born with a silver spoon in the mouth, schooled in the world of questionable real estate dealings, uses some of the Rush tactics and some of his own and abandons some liberal positions he had previously and jumps into politics and the first office he wins is the presidency.
He is educated or at least attended college, records indicate, but he spouts off things like climate change is a leftist political hoax, as fires rage in California and the polar ice caps melt. And with this by executive order he reduces or eliminates environmental safeguards. And he promotes racial strife.
And you know, the intelligentsia or TV and movie stars or whatever you call them do not help the situation of distrust of the elites when they bribe colleges or otherwise pay to have their little darlings go to the most prestigious institutions by cheating and providing false information.
The conventional or established news media is under attack by people who don’t want you to know the truth but also by its own collective greed and the resulting changing of news into show business. This is primarily among the electronic media, which prevails nowadays.
Yes there is blame to go around.
But I go back to those signs on the highway that tell me vaccinations are bad for me and our children. So I should follow the directives of a sign someone posted or the rantings of someone on the radio rather than educated scientists and doctors.
And I should believe that global warming or climate change is a hoax. And this is based on what?
I can only hope that in reality that there is a vast silent majority who has better sense.
We may find out in next year’s presidential contest.
I should not add to this long screed, but I want to inject this too: The American military is involved in hostilities is several Middle Eastern countries at present and the U.S. is supplying weapons and war material in general in places where we are not engaged. If we are honest, I doubt most of us fully comprehend what the purpose or use of all this is. We may “support the troops”, an ambiguous statement, but many of us are ambivalent as to the value or need of the whole effort. This only adds to the distrust of elites who have put us there. Correct me if I am wrong but the U.S. has not had an actual military success since World War II when we helped save the world from the enslavement of fascism and militarism or possibly Korea when we saved South Korea (one could ask was it our job to save South Korea, though). That is not a put down of the military or anyone. It does add to the distrust of those who put us into the situations.
And if you really want to make your head spin, read this article about the resurgence of the Klan and how some people who consider themselves patriotic have become Nazis or joined forces with them: