I do send out some odd email, and receive equally odd email in return.
Here I will print some of it, with, now and then, my responses. Before I post anyone's writing, I will
ask your permission to post your comments and whether I should use your name or not, or use an alias you wish to use.
Received recently --
Two voices from the heartland,
Allen Schwartz and Bill Nichols. The first is a narrative that shows something good at the core here in America, and
the second is a cultural analysis that ends with a question I cannot answer.
Allen Schwartz is someone I know from
undergraduate days, at Denison, a small college in the middle of Ohio. I was there from September of 1965 until June
of 1969 - an interesting time to be a college student.
There was the Vietnam War. And there was
this revolution and that, some political, most cultural. The White Album came and went. We had the idea we were
going to change the world. And things were happening around the world. In the spring of 1968 there was the student
uprising in Paris, but in August the Soviet tanks rolled into Prague and that Velvet Revolution was over. There was
Woodstock, but then there was Altamont. The Beatles broke apart. We observed a decade of assasinations.
And we all went on to do what we went on to do.
Here's Allen on now, not then.
In these dark times I am always looking for evidence
that we, as a country, have moved forward in my life time, the happy inference being that perhaps our years of 60's rooted
cultural activism have done some good, and perhaps some good will come. I was recently invited to be on the founding
board of a community development foundation in a small town in Southern Ohio. While the town has a strong and prominent
history of pre-civil war abolitionism, and one of the few places where Blacks and whites worked together on the underground
railroad, it is in many ways a small southern town, in which there are two communities, white and Black; race mixing takes
place as children and then separates, and the two communities live often separate existences.
At the meeting there were three "outsiders" and four
locals. I had noticed when I was invited that all the invitees were white and I came prepared, as I have many times
before in my life, to explain why it is important to get Black folks included on the ground floor, but about midway through
the agenda a young man who owns the local gas station and car wash said, "I don't know how to say this any way but directly.
We need some Black folks on this board."
Another local spoke up, "You know ten years ago we
never would have even thought of that because we have no discrimination in this town. We are colorblind."
At the end of a long ten seconds in which I was feverishly
trying to figure out what I could say, and what I had the right to say, the local druggist spoke up and said,"You know, that
is just wrong. We are not colorblind in this town. We have two coexisting communities, and yes, we need to get some
Black representation right away"
The resolution to find that representation immediately
and unanimously passed. Aside from my vote, the discussion proceeded without me.
Some things have changed. There IS a god.
Bill Nichols wrote the following for the
Granville, Ohio Sentinel. Yes, Granville is where Allan and Bill and I went to college - that is where you
will find Denison University.
In a previous issue there was some discussion
on the "male" versus "female" elements of out political culture - see 26 May 2003 Reviews in the Books column on the left. Here Bill gives his thoughts, and a good summary of the current situation.
And I have no answer to his last question. I wish I did.
Is the New Machismo Triumphant?
Machismo hasn't found it's way into my "Oxford English Dictionary,"
and its shortened form, the adjective macho, is defined there as a fish found off the Pacific Coast. If we've been slow
to adopt the word into English, it's probably because we've considered the aggressive masculinity it describes as something
found mainly south of the border. But like killer bees and cocaine, machismo has found a solid a foothold here in the U.S.A.
When linebackers beat their chests and crow after a tackle, we cheer them on. Basketball has become a variant of wrestling
in our time with players occasionally breaking loose for a jump shot or a slam-dunk and topping it off with some in-your-face
trash talk. We love it.
When Annika Sorenstam decided to play in a PGA tournament at the
Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, she probably thought dominating the women's tour for a few years gave her the right to
see how she could do against the big boys. A few years ago she might have been right, but that was before new machismo
came to dominate our culture. Now you get the feeling from the sullen comments made by great golfers that she would
have been better off asking to use the Men's room.
But if you want to see indisputable evidence of the new machismo's
apparent triumph in our society, consider our response to the war in Iraq. We've found no weapons of mass destruction,
the ostensible reason for the war. For all we know, Saddam is now hanging out with Osama although the two of them didn't
used to get along very well. Our government made no provisions to protect priceless art works in Iraq, and they've been
stolen from under our noses.
Our leaders seem to have completely misjudged the task of restoring
electricity and water in Iraq and, most importantly, order. Or we simply didn't prepare for it. When General Jay
Garner arrived in Baghdad in late April to begin rebuilding postwar Iraq, he could not be reached by telephone, had no access
to email, no transportation, and no interpreters. After a few weeks of understandable floundering, Garner was replaced
by L. Paul Bremer III, who seems genuinely surprised by the predictable chaos in Iraq. (And we seem to have turned our
backs on the chaos in Afghanistan.)
In the meantime, the acts of terrorism our bombs were supposed to
obliterate have increased, and there is growing evidence of successful international recruitment by terrorist organizations
like Al Qaeda. Our insistence on making war in the face of worldwide opposition will almost certainly foster more terrorism
for our children and grandchildren to confront, and we seem to be further than ever from addressing the hunger, economic injustice,
and health crises that feed the hatred required to sustain terrorists.
If these colossal failures in foreign policy were not enough to
cause a crisis in governing, we have an economy in shambles here at home. Public schools in the Pacific Northwest have
shortened the school year to save money, a desperate response not required even during the Great Depression. Growing
numbers of people are unemployed, and the main remedy proposed by our leaders is tax relief for the wealthy. It is now government
policy to squander our forests and pollute air and water for short-term corporate profits. To top it off, we are being
told to give up some of the very freedoms our young men and women are supposedly defending in Iraq.
But if we can judge by opinion polls, there is no crisis.
President Bush is about as popular as a president can hope to be. In a society shaped by the new machismo, it is seemingly
enough to be able to claim military victory, no matter how hollow. The trick is to roar onto the carrier's deck and talk trash
to international terrorists. If our leader's poll numbers begin to fall, I imagine he'll parachute presidentially onto
a red, white, and blue trampoline at Ground Zero. And we'll probably love it.
How do you solve a problem like machismo? I honestly don't
Published with the permission of Bill Nichols. The
Granville, Ohio Sentinel has granted him use of this text in his book. He in turn allowed me to reprint this.