“Nu, Alan, tell me, do you think these guys were the good guys?”
We had just finished watching Trumbo, the historical drama about Hollywood writers and the McCarthy era.
“Dalton Trumbo and his crew.”
As we all know — well, maybe not — during the Cold War, in the late 1950s, the best screenwriters were blacklisted as communists.
And they were, indeed. Communists, I mean.
Being a Marxist at that time was practically a synonym for being an artist, an intellectual, a person with higher values and an elevated sense of justice. It was also a crime of treason in the United States, a “threat” to homeland security.
During those “happy times,” the world was practically black and white. There was no space for doubt or debate: Although they were persecuted, accused of criminal involvement with a forbidden ideology, it was perfectly clear to everyone with a reasonable IQ and level of erudition who the good guys were, which relegated the government to the role of keeping people apart from the finest artistic creations, a kind of “prohibition of ideas.” For their own “good,” for their own “protection.” Fascists.
Today, in my opinion, we are not so lucky. For every issue there is a myriad of interpretations, for every idea a thousand memes in quick propagation. Moreover, we feel deceived most of the time (I know I do), led to believe that everything is the opposite of what it appears to be.
Take the liberals, for example, usually associated with the Democratic Party and traditional higher ideals, such as freedom, equality for all, health care, help for the poor, etc. The speech is still the same this electoral season, although dislocated to the far left represented by Bernie Sanders, whose ideas, let’s face it, would have been more than enough to justify living under a smoke screen back in the 1950s. It is no wonder the 74-year-old is carrying today’s youth along on a wave of unprecedented idealism, by his hopeful promises of free this and free that, including tuition and health care. And let’s not forget, everything multiplied by millions through 24/7 sharing on the social media.
Has the world changed, or have we? Yes, we were also that way, not so long ago. (By “we,” I mean Bernie’s contemporaries, like Alan and me, well, more or less, as I’m only 64). We’ve lived a lot. We must know better.
The problem is the liberal agenda, eager to guarantee that all citizens were treated equally, not by the force of reason but by the force of law, has locked the so-called “majority” into a room in the back where all freedom of expression is under constant watch. Instead of banning some prejudiced ideas, it banned instead the words that represented them — a “prohibition of the lexicon.” Take for instance the “N” word, the “G” word, the “F” word — which, by the way, a few years ago nobody reasonably educated would ever say in public. The result is, in my opinion, that everybody is befuddled, intoxicated with information, not knowing what they can or cannot say. Or think. Or do.
Who are the fascists now?
People today suffer from a complete lack of historical perspective. This week, for example, poor John Kasich of Ohio was massacred because he said in an interview that he had been helped in his state senate campaign, many years ago, by “women who left their kitchens to support him.” Hillary, of all people, jumped down his throat immediately — let’s face it, Hillary is the instantaneous poster girl for any cause that might boost her campaign, no matter where it comes from, or what it implies.
But, people, come on: Kasich was talking about something that happened in 1978! This is ridiculous! I wish I could tell you what percentage of women had full-time jobs at that time, but I found no data. They were stay-at-home moms for the most part, yes, they were, and not ashamed of it. It was just how things were.
Don’t get me wrong. As far as I’m concerned, all I ever wanted was to have a career, to be out in the world like anybody else. Still, I was raised by my mother to get married and have children, nothing else. The concept of double shift most of us now take for granted, or as a normal obligation, was utterly unknown back then, and I grew up through this ingrained conflict.
I believe this to be one of the reasons why I feel so detached from people in their forties with whom I work closely today: They were born in the mid-1970s, on the other side from the complete reversal of social expectations that had taken place over the two previous decades, that people my age have witnessed (and suffered) all through our childhood and adolescence. More or less like it’s happening today, for those who were born in the 21st century.
On the other hand, I feel constrained, suffocated by the political correctness of our days, the need to respect a kind of diversity that we didn’t know while growing up in a world that was, as I said, mostly black and white. With only one model of telephone and only one phone in the house — if we were lucky, with a coiled cord long enough to carry it into our bedrooms, in order to have some privacy. Teenagers being urged by their parents to “get off the phone” and free the (land) line were the norm as well.
There might be a lot of people like me out there, among the not-so-silent majority holding signs behind the Trump phenomenon, hair and all (the hair issue forgotten by now). At any rate, he might have an answer after all, a solution for our anxious, our somewhat undefined feelings, as we can see an ever-growing gap between what is said and what is done, or what is accomplished in real life. But I have to confess, I was truly frightened by the enthusiastic mob’s tone during Trump’s speech in Atlanta this week, and also by the candidate’s bombastic style, his very effective manipulative skills:
“We’re gonna win! We’re gonna win so much that you will beg me, ‘Please, Mr. Trump, let’s stop winning, we are tired of winning all the time’.”
So here I am, with no candidate in hand, fearing, and at the same time secretly rooting for Donald Trump just a little bit — and for that I feel forced to apologize — just to see if his bluntness and openness, along with the enthusiasm of his followers, can bring some radical, effective change, the change we hoped for in 2008, and that has failed us ever since. And I don’t mean a change in the style of the White House, but in our personal, highly watched, and socially censored daily lives. Which, by the way, is the exact opposite of everything we might have dreamed in our own radical revolution, back in the 1960s.
A change for the better, I hope. Better for all.
Ah, okay. At least I did not lose my mind to the point of affirming that “Trump’s campaign is going to end with the candidate’s assassination,” as tweeted the other day by a NYT columnist. He later apologized and deleted his tweet, so I guess everything is all right. Right?
You surely could ask why don’t I support Sanders. Well, I’m old enough to know what lies behind any alleged sincerity with very scarce chances of coming true: a cold, frustrating, all-encompassing void. It has not worked in the past, and will probably not work now. Not to mention his background denial, not a good proof of character, in my opinion. Polish ancestry? Give me a break.
All these reflections, of course, would be only valid in a world that has not lost its mind entirely, mostly due to how easy it is to express an opinion nowadays. Then change it, and just delete it.