Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dysfunctional Nature of American Culture 2013

Going back to Franklin Graham’s photo-op trip to Russian Mission Alaska to “feed the poor”, I must say the then Gov. Palin’s remarks about Native American culture in Alaska were ignorant – they were not malicious – they were insular and insensitive. While many would try to make Sarah a monster, she is the typical stay at home mom type who has let her man rule the roost so to speak. 

Running a cracker jack town like Wasilla was no doubt in the part time and President of the local PTA league of things. She was close to being a stay at home mom, refusing to stay at the Governor’s mansion in Juneau and commuting back and forth by plane to work. As such she becomes an icon or a hero to all those clinging to the once familiar dad works and mom stays at home to cook, clean and take care of the kids scenario.

Working moms as a large piece of the population has peaked during wars but the idea of two working parents became a necessity in the seventies with inflation making it impossible to live on one salary. Enough said on that. 

I go back to a book on pop psychology “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” in the early seventies that said many things unpopular with the professional shrink community. I do not have an exact quote but I remember reading how a dysfunctional family might have its roots in events going back generations. When this book was written I don’t think that child abuse and such were even greatly talked about. 

Using that pop psychology idea as a model I look at United States history differently. Outsiders see one United States. There are fifty states and maybe a dozen commonly functioning regions. The original idea of putting a name on a map, of dividing a land in a distant capital is part of the present day dysfunction of America in places. 

One of the things on U.S. maps is how in a past function setting, mountains and rivers became logical lines on maps in that surveying was an impossible or costly matter. 

In modern times you see a vibrant city like New York, Philadelphia or St. Louis and because of a waterway, a line on a map, the regional potential of these cities shifts in other directions. As a result you have Newark, Camden or East St. Louis disconnected from a sister city’s prosperity and progressive function. Some cities and areas of the U.S. do prosper in a regional functional setting. Each must be taken on a situation by situation basis.

The outsider if they see the United States they will say that the U.S. was spared the direct horrors of war and destruction in WWII. True. But if one looks at the history of the U.S. you begin to see hot spots where battles between states in the Civil War has left it mark on the psyche of a state or a region. In fact Americans in the Civil War were guinea pigs for European munitions’ manufacturers' observations and design. The horrors of WWI and its anti-human technology scales got its initial designs tested in the American Civil War. 

What we may be seeing in these lean economic times are some dysfunctional aspects of America Culture that gets sidelined by mainstream historians in prosperous times but become blatantly evident now. 

Since this is a blog and not a history book I will mention a few things I have observed of late about guns, race and religion. 

One, that the obsession of guns with Americans may have started with the Indians. The original settlers from Europe pushed the native population further and further back not so much by killing the enemy so to speak, as much as over populating a region. The overflow of the European culture pushed the natives back who were not assimilated into the greater white culture. 

With guns, Americans fought the British and threw them out. History will say that the loyalists or royalists went out on ships from New York city in 1781. No. Only the well to do or the lucky got shipped out. The rest lost their lands in the east coast and walked to Canada or walked out west. I cannot talk about Canadians here but I believe that paranoid obsessions of Americans in the present day has to do with Loyalists on the run and with only guns to protect themselves. What I see when I observe a fanatical NRA member is somebody still looking over their shoulders centuries after their ancestors lost in the Revolutionary war. 

When Jackson made it official federal government policy to forcibly transport Indians out west, he did so with a racist bent. Jefferson wanted Indians to live in peaceful land ghettos (apartheid) trading with the white culture. Jackson saw Jefferson’s assimilation working too well in that assimilation meant racial mixing. What’s next after you have a sizable population of mixed Indians with Europeans? Next step is mixing with Africans which were slaves. America on all levels and in all regions of the country is still dealing with the side effects of the abolition of slavery one hundred and forty four years later. 

Jackson’s idea to send Indians out west was obsolete from day one – the “Trail of Tears”, in hindsight, was unnecessary. The federal government did not get all the Indians in the east and shipping them out west would not solve anything with the railroad only a generation away from shrinking the world. 

The same way that descendents of loyalists gone out west are looking over their shoulders, you have fundamentalists that are still locked mentally into 16th and 17th century European religious warfare. The push out west was in a way, in some cases, having one past disfunctionality overlapping with another. One of the things I see most in the hotspots of American fundamentalism are places with tons of violence associated with them in American history with territorial wars, the Indians, Civil War and land grabs. 

Surely, the bible belt across the south is a place where Jesus is a code word for Robert E. Lee, the coming messiah, and such. The south along with the loyalists lost - and got lost - along the way in history.

Kansas and Oklahoma, diamonds on the fundamentalist tiara, have extreme histories of violence before, during and after the Civil War. And within the context of a population always moving on. In a way a lot of people in Oklahoma, were put there by Jackson and the invisible prison bars are still keeping them there. 

Look at history differently. When I hear these hack southern politicians, GOP and blue dogs, their thinly veiled rhetoric is something out of Gone with the Wind – which of course is code talk for the good old days of majority white rule. Majority white rule is obsolete. It goes the way of all dysfunctional matters in the next few years. 

The good future for all of us - will be for those of us who do not look back on the present dysfunctional state of the American Political, Economic and Belief establishments.

(November 19, 2009)