Saturday, January 24, 2015
America: A Paradise Lost?
I admit that I get a lot of emails and articles from individuals and groups from all over the world. Most of it is your ordinary stuff...things they found interesting and forwarded on it me with their comments. Some are suggestions for future articles. Of course, I get a lot from special interests groups---some from the Left and some from the Right---hawking this or that cause and expressing their thanks for my "continued support" for "our victories" (though I may never have heard of them or their cause before), and always asking for money to "continue the fight" lest some dire event transpire.
Today, there's not much we trust. We automatically assume government is either lying or hiding something. We've become so cynical of the news, most of us watch it just to for the weather...and then look out the window to be sure. We used to hold up sports players like Johnny Unitis, Mickey Mantle, Wilt Chamberlin and the like who played as a team for the love of the sport. Now, all we see are a bunch of self-centered overpaid media driven primadonnas interested only in themselves. Take movies for instance. I still love watching films from the 1930's and '40's, as well as recent ones, but it's mostly the oldies that I enjoy most. Who could not love Randolph Scott or John Wayne in a Western? Who could be any tougher than Edward G Robinson, James Cagney, or my favorite, Humphrey Bogart except, perhaps, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas or Robert Mitchem. Maybe Clint Eastwood if you're lucky...punk. You want sex appeal? You can have your Brad Pitt. I'll take Errol Flynn. George Clooney? Shh...a pale comparison of Cary Grant. Then there's Paul Newman, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, and way more. You like bad boys? There's few today who could match James Dean, or the aforementioned "In like Flynn" Errol Flynn, the "Rat Pack", but the baddest and savviest of all is still Steve McQueen.
As for the ladies of Hollywood, if you like 'em sassy, how about Katherine Hepburn, May West, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and my favorite, Lauren Bacall? Want classy? How about Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn (a real life WWII spy too), Dorothy Dandridge, Ava Gardner or Claude Colbert? Sexy? The Grande dame was May West, but let's not forget Marilyn Monroe, Clara Bow or Veronica Lake, Bettie Paige (the quintessential "pinup" girl whose style is still imitated today) or even Pam Grier? These were gals who could turn it on with grace, style, and could act, sing and dance like they meant it. Most actresses today, including musical performers, depend on to much skin, blatant sexual innuendos, gimmicks and not much else; certainly not talent. That's not to say all of them lack talent. Several actually are, but still, they depend on to much T&A. I'd put up Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rodgers, Donald O'Connor, or Cyd Charisse against just about anyone performing today. Style trumps shtick any day in my book.
While the politicians of those bygone decades weren't any more honest, they were at least more entertaining and ultimately they had the people's interest at heart, especially if they could still make a buck. Heck, even the criminals were way classier...Al Capone, John Dillinger, Frank Costello and Joe Bonanno. America, as a country, seemed to have dreams too. We believed all things were possible. We still believed we could and would do better; that our children would have a better quality of life than we did as would their children; we had good jobs (thanks in no small part to strong unions); We felt proud of who we were as a nation. We weren't doing "world apology tours". We believed in American values of an honest day's wages for an honest day's work; personal honor; looking out for your neighbors, and fair play. We really felt that God was on our side.
We had our ideological arch-nemesis, the USSR (cue sinister music). They were the "CHAOS" to our "CONTROL"; they had "SPECTRE" while we had "Our Man Flint". Yet, they drove to excel in technology, in medicine, and in space. We went from catching up to Sputnik to landing on moon so many times it almost became routine in just 15 years. That "bad guy" image turned out to be largely of our own creation just as the "bad guys" today are of our own creation. I guess it's just part of our American psyche that we thrive on competition.
But with all this came a certain hubris too. We thought that our way was the only way. We felt that we knew best and we weren't afraid to impose our will---be it with economic domination to the point of exploitation in places like Cuba or overthrowing governments we didn't like in places like Iran, Vietnam, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and others. In almost all these cases, it was done, at least partialy, to benefit certain US corporations, and almost always we installed or helped to install military dictatorships---very brutal and nasty military dictatorships, not to mention numerous political assassinations we engaged in...both overseas and at home. Little wonder we were and still are hated in parts of the world. The phrase at the time, as I recall, was "the Ugly American". Of course, other countries, notably France and England, engaged in their own "regime changes", but not to the extent we did, and this isn't about them. This is about us. Finally, it's worth noting that with all the so-called nation building we engaged in and all the billions of taxpayer dollars that was spent, not a single country chose to emulate ours.