With the election over, we are struck by the amount of whining that follows the results. And we note that, in our experience, most of the noise is coming from folks who fit a tidy demographic: aging and white.
To sum up the complaint: The country is doomed. The traditional America is gone. Parasites have destroyed a once-great and gilded nation.
While losers in elections often blame the loss on others, noting the damage that will be done by the victors, this time the complaints are pathetic.
The “traditional America?” Is this the America in which slavery was legal? Is this the America in which Robber Barons ate oysters while the poor huddled in tenements? Is it the America that suffered through the Depression, with migrants seeking a hard living in unfamiliar places? Is it the America in which “we” had the ability to achieve and acquire what we desired, while “they” were denied access to education, to jobs, to opportunities? Is it the America in which people who did not toe a doctrinal line found careers and lives destroyed in vile congressional hearings? Is it the America in which those by birth unable to conform to conventional standards, were vilified and ostracized, frequently brutalized for who they were?
Parasites? By that do we mean anyone who collects Social Security payments, veterans benefits, Medicare? Do we mean those who are granted unemployment benefits, allowing them to seek other work? Do we mean those who desire a decent public education and higher education, when warranted, at a cost that does not burden them for their entire adult life? Or do we simply mean anyone (presumably of color) who receives some form of welfare?
This kind of nonsense is propelled by an aging group of Americans who’ve enjoyed a standard of living unparalleled in human history, graced by an ease unknown to all but a few in previous societies, blessed by the accident of birth with privilege greedily maintained so long as the group retained a majority in a democracy — a democracy they hoot and holler about when their cause is triumphant, a democracy that causes flags to wave and bands to play when they are dominant. A democracy that has failed, that is dead when the advantage is lost.
The truth is that the American system is alive and vital— absent problems with the toxic intrusion of big money into the political process. The reality is that, yes, things are changing. The age, skin tone and gender of many of the nation’s political leaders is changing, a spectrum of colors replacing lily-white light.
For those who whine as they walk down the last hallway to open the last door, a way of life is in decline. Their lament for the demise of America reflects the demise of their comfort, the end of dominance for a familiar class. It is a way of life that has not existed for forty years, if at all — one in which Wally and The Beaver return from school to be greeted by June, clad in a frilly apron, bearing just-baked snacks. Ward arrives, the family sits down to dinner; Ward smokes his pipe and dispenses “wisdom” thin as gruel.
But, Wally and The Beaver have left the building. And those who whine the loudest are close on their heels.
The real world of Bill Gates has replaced the imaginary world of Ward Cleaver. America has been changing all along. The dominant myths fall away — to be replaced by new ones. The projection of personal decline and mortality does not signal the end of America, merely that of the whiners.