Monday, December 27, 2010

Frank Rich Misses the '50s

Frank Rich wants to know: “Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?” Link here.

It’s a bit too easy to say that Frank Rich himself belonged to the hit squad that brought down Disneyland. It’s like blaming a cheerleader for the football team’s bad season.

If Rich is neither the quarterback nor the coach, he is more than a cheerleader. Playing for team New York Times, Rich has exercised his considerable influence undermining the American, and the Disneyland, dream.

It’s more than unusually ironic, bordering on hypocritical, to see Frank Rich waxing nostalgic for the Eisenhower years. As Byron York pointed out, Rich into high dudgeon fifteen or so years ago when Newt Gingrich dared to say something positive about the ‘50s. Link here.

The young Frank Rich saw the ‘50s as a hotbed of injustice, oppression, and repression. The older Frank Rich sees the ‘50s as a time when people could get ahead by hard work, when they strove to improve themselves, and where a thriving middle class was still welcoming new members.

Strangely enough, Rich seems to have reached a conclusion that resembles my own. America has lost its work ethic.

In my, not his, view, the work ethic was a casualty of the ‘60s counterculture.

The counterculture was a full frontal assault on American values. It did not want to reform America by improving on its strengths while overcoming its weaknesses. It wanted to tear up the culture by its roots. Taking its cue from the radical leftist thinkers who were all the rage at the time, the counterculture saw America as an ongoing criminal enterprise whose successes that had been built on the backs of the underprivileged, the oppressed, and the disadvantaged.

To the counterculture “bourgeois” was a term of contempt. The Middle Class was colluding with the military-industrial elites to promote its program of colonialist, imperialistic, warmongering ... the better to oppress the world's people.

In books and movies, the Middle Class was also portrayed as a sham enterprise behind whose walls lay a cauldron of spousal abuse and child molestation.

While Rich waxes poetical about a child whose MMM slogan won his family a trip to Disneyland, let’s remember that our intellectual elites were up in arms about the organization men who kept the corrupt capitalist system humming.

Of course, politics also played a part in the cultural transformation. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty represented a massive expansion of government into the private markets. While some pieces of legislation were essential and long overdue-- the civil rights and voting rights acts-- many of the others were attempts to engineer social justice, to produce equality from the top down.

Yet, the best laid plans… oft go astray, and the law of unintended consequences often undermines our best intentions. You can declaim all you want for economic equality, but if your programs produce inequality, then you should have enough humility to recognize that they have failed.

If we date America’s decline from the post-Eisenhower years, then we must acknowledge that increased and expanded government must have played a large role.

When government interferes in the markets, when it chooses winners and losers, then people are likely to conclude that hard work is not very important.

As it happens, Frank Rich seems to believe that capitalism is at fault, as though the Great Society programs caused government’s control over private enterprise to diminish.

Changing the culture requires more than big ideas. You need to have an attractive face, a person whose life embodies the new values you are seeking to promote.

America was transformed from a can-do culture where hard work was rewarded and where people strove for greater success, into a decadent culture where pleasure trumped effort, and where everyone felt that they were entitled to a level of prosperity that they were unwilling to earn.

Whose face most closely embodies that cultural revolution? My candidate is John F. Kennedy. In my view he was the problem, not the solution. More so, considering that the nation continues to hold him in the highest esteem.

In the last election America thought that it was voting for someone who embodies the values of John F. Kennedy.

In fact, it was, but not in the way it thought.

As long as the country does not come to terms with its mindless idolatry of John Kennedy and its blind faith in the myths of Camelot, it will not get out of the predicament it is in.

For reasons that escape me entirely, most Americans still consider John Kennedy a great president. Besides getting us involved in Vietnam, making a mess of the Bay of Pigs, and provoking the Cuban Missile Crisis, John Kennedy accomplished very little during his brief time in office. Oh yes, he did lower taxes on the rich!

He brought a class of Harvard educated elites into the government, and these men, the best and the brightest, steered the nation into Vietnam, while he was alive and after his death.

Vietnam is a fundamental part of the Kennedy legacy.

John Kennedy may have promised, as Rich says: “… a New Frontier that would reclaim America’s heroic destiny, and do so with shared sacrifice and a renewed commitment to the lower-case democratic values central to both the American and Disneyland dreams,“ but that was not who John Kennedy was.

JFK did not earn his way. He did not work his way up from the bottom. He inherited wealth, and wore it as an entitlement. He was not especially qualified for the presidency when he ran, and won because he was charismatic.

The Kennedy clan has often been called a new American aristocracy. And the label fits. In their liberal politics they embody the values of noblesse oblige. But they also embody the values of entitlement.

Like titled aristocrats the Kennedy family received its wealth through inheritance, with a feeling of being entitled. With the exception of Joseph Kennedy, the family did not have to work for its wealth. The Kennedys did not get ahead by following a venerable work ethic. They did not have to earn it. They just received for winning a genetic lottery.

In the realm of concrete achievement, JFK had achieved more than Barack Obama at a comparable stage. Yet, he won the presidency even though he not a great legislator, a great statesman, a great diplomat, or a great general.

He was certainly not someone who earned his way to the top.It should not be too much of a surprise that the policies this liberal family has always supported value entitlement, not a work ethic, as a way of life.

JFK transformed the culture in another way. He lived at the intersection of politics with Hollywood celebrity. He embodied the values of fame, glamour, and celebrity. His father paved the way by having an affair with Gloria Swanson. Like father like son... JFK bedded Marilyn Monroe.

It also makes sense that JFK would have found celebrity culture so appealing. Who else but a Hollywood actor or a rock star would understand how ti felt to make so much money by working so little?

One of the major psychological issues for Hollywood stars is their feeling that they are being compensated out of all proportion to their work or their social value.

Isn’t that what it feels like to inherit extravagant wealth?

Many Hollywood celebrities work. Wall Street bankers and traders work very hard. But still, isn't there a gross disparity between how much they work, what they contribute to the common good, and how much they earn?

Keep in mind, that Wall Street is no longer a Republican club. It’s greatest earners were mostly staunch supporters of Barack Obama in the last election? Was it because they understood viscerally what if felt like to receive largesse out of all proportion to what you have earned?

If the meaning of your life is your feeling of being entitled, wouldn’t it make sense that you would want everyone to have similar feelings of entitlement? And wouldn’t it make sense for you to have no real interest in the good old work ethic. An entitlement culture makes you feel entitled, as though you have a title. It's a little like Disneyland where everyone can feel like a prince or a princess or a Kennedy.


David Foster said...

Frank Rich reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents and then demanded mercy on grounds that he was an orphan.

It is specifically the "progressive" worldview espoused by Rich and those like him that has done so much to undermine American prosperity, in dozens of different ways.

Anonymous said...

A W E S O M E, sir.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: I Like the Way....

....this guy put it....

The [greater] danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency. It will be easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgement to an electorate willing to have such a man for their president.

The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails us. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince.

The Republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.


[Obama white washed their brains with ‘hope’ and ‘change’. Now all they can feel is their own shame.]

P.S. I blame the vaunted American public education system.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

So do I, but with a significant assist from the media.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: The 'Media'

Yes. They're part of it, but an educated populace could (1) tell what the media is up to and (2) bring such media 'down' by walking away from DROVES.

Case in point....

....last time some telemarketer called me asking if I wanted to subscribe the the New York Times, I told her, "The New York Times can go to hell."

The shocked sound on the other end of the line was unmistakable.

If more people responded to outfits like the NYT and CNN the way I did, fewer people would be telemarketing them. Or, as you might put it, their sense of 'shame' would cause them to find some other form of employment or work environment, e.g., telemarketing Disney cruises.

As I think I've indicated elsewhere, I agree with the idea of shaming people whose work and efforts are damaging to the United States. That includes the so-called 'progressives' for what they really are....communists. May as well include the so-called 'teachers'. And I'll see a LOT of them next month when the high school forensics tournament season begins in earnest. The distaff and I are judges of such events and listening to some of the teachers who 'coach' the students is, on occasion, absolutely appalling. "My children", indeed. They aren't their children. They are their STUDENTS. Furthermore, they aren't 'children' at this stage of their education. They're young adults. Some of them are even adults in the eyes of the Law.

Pardon my 'spleen'....


[Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; Easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. - Lord Henry Brougham]

P.S. Guess what a crummy education does....three guesses....first two don't count....

Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. And whereas it is against my strongly held religious belief that it is not part of my 'duty description' to tell PEOPLE to "go to hell". [Note: That's His 'job'.] It's perfectly legit for me to tell a corporation to do so.

How so? English law.....

They [corporations] cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed nor excommunicated, for they have no souls. -- Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of England, 1628

David Foster said...

Re the Frank Rich article...set the time machine back to 1975 and consider the following individual. He runs a small and growing manufacturing company in the Midwest. He makes a good income, but isn't rich yet...takes his family to Disneyland, which he and they enjoy in a totally un-ironic fashion.

Now consider another individual at the same point in time. He lives in NY or DC and works for a "public interest" law firm devoted to increasing regulations of manufacturing businesses..he doesn't make a whole lot of money, but has a small family trust and plans to eventually go to work for big $$ for a large law firm. He is very hip, and the only way he can imagine going to Disneyland is as an experiment in some kind of irony or campiness.

Question: Which of these two individuals would the NYT editors..and their core readership..have judged as being most worthy of admiration and emulation? Answer: pretty obvious.

Anonymous said...

With all his faults (and sicknesses), JFK was (to me) a polar opposite of our current entitled Elites.

A disabled vet who pulled strings to get his 4-F status changed - whose older brother died on a WW2 suicide mission.

A true patriot, believed in America, inspired his country.

Our current Elites?

Please see Samuel Huntington's last book, "Who Are We? - a cri de cour about the current rot. -- Rich

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Anonymous
RE: JFK vs. Today

With all his faults (and sicknesses), JFK was (to me) a polar opposite of our current entitled Elites. -- Anonymous

I disagree. JFK was the precursor of today's political elite. They've just 'expanded' on his 'example', promiscuous/adulterous sexual activities on government property, nepotism, piss-poor planning. I could go on and on, having lived through it.

Where were YOU in '62?


P.S. I did NOT enjoy the Cuban thingie, living at Ground Zero—SAC HQ, Offutt AFB, NE—when THAT went down. I distinctly remember the bags packed by the door. If my Father, a combat crew commander in an ICBM squadron 'got the call', we were all to hit the door running. He for his battle position. We for the family stomping grounds in northern Wisconsin.

In my personal and historical-studies based opinion, JFK will go down in history as one of the 10 worst presidents this country has ever experienced. NOT necessarily because of his immediate impact, but more because of the moral degredating path he led the Democrats down.

Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. Did I forget to mention Senator Ted Kennedy?

And his 'relationship' with Mary Jo Kopeckne?

There seems to be an interesting parallel between her demise and that of Marilyn Monroe.

One MIGHT be inclined to construe 'murder' with that promiscuity business I mentioned above. And THAT would correlate well with all the dead bodies at the feet of Bill Clinton: Vince Foster, Ron Brown, four Secret Service agents, Airman Womack, etc., etc., etc...... see....JFK can be construed to be the first step on the proverbial 'road to perdition' that the Democrats have decided to go down.....

Harry Truman—the last good Democrat president—would not have done such as the Democrats after him seem to have done.

Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.P.S. About those four secret service agents.

The information I collected indicate that all four were (1) former body-guards of then Governor Bill Clinton, (2) all four died of during the initial assault by the Department of the Treasury's BATF on the Davidian compound at Waco and (3) all four died of 'head-shots' during that assault.

As a professional infantry officer, I'm 'impressed' with the shooting skills of a bunch of rank amateur religious cultists in the face of a semi-professional combat force. And in their first ever live-fire combat operation too boot.

And those four dead were the ONLY dead in the entire operation. How VERY 'odd'....

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Yes, JFK did serve during WW II, and had to overcome a 4F classification to do so.

But that does not prevent him from representing a cultural and political force the empowered intellectual elites and believed in expanding the entitlement culture.

True enough, he and his family dedicated themselves to public service, but also to the belief that many of society's rules did not apply to them.

And besides their father Joseph, most of them have not worked for a living and have not had a lifestyle that was commensurate with their government salaries.

On all of these points, regarding JFK's cultural and political influence I agree with Chuck.

I would add that if he had not been assassinated his influence would have been lesser.

The question behind it all was how it happens that Kennedys and Rockefellers tend to be leading the nation toward an entitlement culture.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Blaming the 'Cheerleader'

It’s like blaming a cheerleader for the football team’s bad season. -- Stuart Schneiderman

Whereas you are talking about Rich, I'm talking about JFK.

JFK and his 'mentality' about government—booze, sex and sultry Hollywood singers is the downfall of the Democrats and, if not turned around by more rational people, this country.

The Democrats hold up Kennedy and the alleged 'Camelot' as their idea of 'utopia'.

And here we are today....


[History repeats itself. That's one of the problems with History.]