Saturday, November 17, 2012
I confess! I’m an angry, old, white man.
I’m not alone — there are a lot of us out there and there’s no shortage of reasons why old, white men might feel angry. Mostly, we get angry when things change. We tend not to like change. However, many of the changes are long overdue and we should welcome them.
Some of my friends asked me to write about this stuff, so I’ll start with my own inventory.
I’m angry that young people are using technology to isolate themselves from the immediate world around them. I’m talking about iPhones and earplugs and the way text messages divert their eyes and earplugs drown out the chance to communicate with them in person.
I’m happy, however, that, all day long, they’re writing and telling stories. I’d guess that they’re texting more words per day than us old, white guys wrote in a month when we were their age. The same goes for reading. Even though they’re not looking us in the eye, they’re reading and writing and learning how to tell stories.
Unfortunately, many old, white men are angry that some people fall in love with people of the same gender — and that they’re allowed to get away with it.
I’m thrilled that I got over my homophobia a long time ago and realized that love is love and that anyone else’s love is not my business.
I’m angry that words and phrases that were never necessary in day-to-day conversations are invading every conversation. If you didn’t notice them, just listen to how many times people needlessly use “right?” and “go ahead” in their speech. “I got to school late today, right? And the teacher — my 10th-grader teacher, right? She’s all, ‘Go ahead and take your seat.’ So I sit down, right? And she’s all, ‘Go ahead and open your books to Chapter 12,” right?”
Go ahead and listen for a day or two, right? The clerk will tell you to go ahead and put your pin number in. Go ahead and take a seat. Go ahead and step back. What? Right?
Just omit "go ahead" from just about any such command and it still work. "Take a seat. Step back. Punch in your pin number."
I’m happy, however, that “right?” has somewhat replaced “you know?” and “Nome sane?” Know what I’m saying?
I’m even happier that people are more careful about using racial slurs. I’d be happier if they were changing their vocabulary for the right reasons. Many old, white men have cleaned up their rhetoric, but they complain about “politically correct.” Hint. When you bitch about “politically correct,” you’re probably a racist.
I’m angry that, in the last 30 years (ever since ATMs came along), people feel that they must stand two paces behind the next person in any line. OK, so I’ll stand back so you won’t think I’m stealing your pin number or hearing you ask for your Viagra prescription, but why stand back two paces when you're in line at McDonald’s? God forbid I hear you order your burger with "secret sauce." And, damn it, people are even doing it in the drive-thrus. If it’s the rule on foot, does it have to be the rule in the car? I’m angry when cars are backed up on the street because some idiot won’t come within ten feet of the car in front of him. AAAARGH!
I’m angry at parents driving their fat, lazy kids four blocks to school — and then they race down our alley because they don’t want to wait in line to make a left turn. Walking is good. Kids get exercise, they talk to each other. It saves gas. It makes it easier for parents to get to work on time. What? The streets aren't safe for your kids? B.S.! They're more likely that their teachers will molest them than the people of your neighborhood.
I’m happy, however, that people aren’t driving under the influence as much and that the majority of people have reclaimed fresh air space by making it illegal to smoke in public places.
I’m angry, however, that the laws are not even more strict — and that more kids are smoking and nobody can do anything about it. I’m angry because I’ve seen what happens to smokers when they get older. My mother was 40 pounds when she died of emphysema. Her second husband suffered from lung cancer. Her father killed himself because of his emphysema --- an he smoked until the day he shot himself.
Many old, white men are whining and bawling and bitching because their neighborhoods are no longer bastions of whites and Christians. They miss “the good old days” when they were able to insulate themselves from seeing the poverty and hatred that was going on in neighborhoods in which the poor or the people of color were forced to live. Out of sight, out of mind.
I’m happy that my friends and neighbors are Asian and Latinos, brown and black --- from Colombia and Mexico and Armenia and Egypt. I’m happy that I came to love all forms of Latin music and that I taught myself how to speak passable Spanish. I’m ecstatic that I met and fell in love with and married a wonderful woman from China.
I’m angry that so many old, white men have never traveled outside the United States and, as a result, have never seen how people outside the U.S. have to live.
I’m happy that I did my homework and learned that our “good old days” seemed that much better back then because we were exploiting the poor people in many parts of the world. We exploited them so that we could have their resources, their fruit, their sugar, their oil, their gold, their diamonds and their labor for far less than it was worth.
I’m angry that our corporations and our leaders were able to invade, intimidate, bribe, occupy or overthrow the governments of countries when it was in “the U.S. interest.” U.S. interests have killed millions of people outside the U.S. U.S. interests have helped to keep brutal dictators in power and have prevented the poor from owning or farming their lands so that they could feed their own families.
I’m happy that I have been able to travel to more than 30 countries (mostly third-world countries or developing democracies) and have been able to see with my own eyes the truths that are rarely spoken within our country.
I’m angry that old, white men are so damned afraid of things that are not a threat to them, and that they are so quick to blame immigrants, Democrats, scientists, foreigners, the needy and people of different religions. I’m angry that it’s so easy for them to believe uneducated assholes and liars such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and just about everybody on Fox Television. I’m angry that these scared, angry, old, white men can be so brainwashed that they glue their eyes shut and stuff their ears with putty if any other voices or ideas come near them.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t budge on certain items. Never!
I refuse to talk to a computer at the other end of the telephone. If it isn’t a real person in real time, I won’t participate.
I refuse to purchase anything at an automated machine at a grocery store or hardware store. I’ll set down anything I intended to buy if I can’t look a clerk in the eye and say, “Hello!”
I’ll never use one of those GPS units to tell me where to go. I prefer to use a map (online is OK) to learn where I’m going and know that I’ll never be lost or at the mercy of a machine.
I refuse to ever own a luxury car or a gas-guzzling, fat SUV. I'm not impressed. I have no reason to try to impress you.
I’m happy that I have a cell phone, but I don’t have a smart phone. Mine is smart enough to make calls and allow me to answer them. Texting? No thanks! I can still speak. And besides, nothing pisses me off more than sharing my valuable time with someone and then realize that they’re texting or Internet searching while we’re talking. Nope. Not me. I respect one-on-one humanity
I’m angry that so many of my old, white men friends have taken the bait and now have smart phones. At the very least, they can feel young as they do the same rude and disgusting stuff the young people are doing.
I’m going to give a talk to young journalists next week and I’ve decided that I will refuse to continue sharing the great stuff I share if any of them are even touching their mobile phones or other electronic devices. They don’t realize that I can teach them more journalism — real journalism — in three hours than they’ll get in six months of school. Damn it, I’m worth paying attention to (even if I end sentences in prepositions).
Mostly, I’m angry at the old, white men — and many of the old, white women who married the old, white men — who can pretend that they’re not racists when they oppose absolutely anything President Obama does, says or stands for. I’m angry that they didn’t call for the impeachment of other presidents who suffered setbacks on their watches. I’m angry that stupid, angry, old, white men are so frightened that they’re willing to set their own logic aside.
I’m happy that I see the light. I’m happy that Barack Obama is my president and not Mitt Romney or any Republican I’ve seen since Dwight Eisenhower.
I’m not happy with everything the president is doing, however. I’m angry that he hasn’t stood up to Wall Street. I’m angry that he doesn’t call every Republican representative into the Oval Office and kick their butts the way President Lyndon Johnson did.
I’m angry with him for not bringing more sunshine into the processes of government.
But he’s hundreds of miles ahead of anybody else right now.
I’m happy that my friends have asked me to write about this stuff. I hope my angry, old, white men friends will wake the hell up and take an inventory of their own worlds.