What WASPS Look Like

I grew up in a bubble.  

It’s true.  Pikesville, MD (just outside northwest Baltimore) was so predominantly Jewish that clever (non-Jewish) people called it ‘Kikesville’.  Get it?

My public high schools — Pikesville Junior High & Pikesville Senior High — were so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off because they knew — school was going to be a ghost town.  Virtually all of my friends were Jewish (not all but close to it).  We tribalized inside the bubble based on which of the major synagogues your family belonged to.  Most of us were reformed or conservative Jews.  The orthodox among us were the outliers. Wait — you don’t eat steamed crabs?  What the hell is wrong with you?

In Baltimore, there was a strong Irish Catholic presence.  Evangelicals hadn’t taken hold yet so the Mainstream Protestant pool was bigger.  Most Protestants aren’t WASPS.  WASPS aren’t just followers of some variation of the Protestant faith, in their minds, they’re its originators — their families go that far back. WASPS are as insulated a culture as Jews can be with one huge difference.  Lots of Jews seek to assimilate.   WASPS don’t ever.   To them, they’re the thing everyone else wants to assimilate INTO.  To them, they are the Gold Standard.  They ARE White Culture.

My closest brush with WASPs & WASP culture was when I got accepted to the Gilman School — where some of Baltimore’s WASPiest WASPS sent their progeny.  I begged my parents not to send me.  Gilman was an all-boys school (a very, very GOOD school) and that seemed an impossibility to me.  I wanted to take my chances with public school like all of my friends (fortunately for me, the Baltimore County School System was pretty good).  WASPs were an alien culture to me even then.

When I arrived at Vassar College, WASPS were among the first shocks to my system.  We’re not talking big, knock-you-on-your-ass shocks, we’re talking ‘the-world’s-more-complicated-than-you-thought’ shocks. 

Quick sidenote: The other culture I ran into that shocked me as I had NO concept of it whatsoever was California Culture.  My first college gf was from Marin County and her wild high school escapades were actual wild high school escapades with naked hot tub parties and drug dealers that made our high school escapades look… well, like high school escapades.

WASPS did everything differently. They thought about food differently for instance.  If my housemates and I were throwing a party (I lived off campus most of my time at Vassar), the Jews in the house always overbought food while the WASPS always overbought liquor.  Who cared if there was nothing to eat so long as the booze kept flowing.  THAT was foreign.

WASPS prayed differently, of course.  And they spoke differently.  They stood differently and engaged with you differently.  In ‘Annie Hall’, Woody Allen nailed the differences between WASP families and Jewish families perfectly with a split screen of two families (one each) at dinner.  The WASPS are all very well-mannered, quiet, always speaking in turn while the Jewish family talks over each other like a tic.  Something of that deep-seated English fear of embarrassment remains at the core of most WASPs.

Being an outsider, I found WASP culture fascinating — especially its latent (as opposed to its blatant) Antisemitism.  The Catholic Church’s history of Jew-hating was a flashing electronic billboard of cruelty, brutality and blood lust.  WASPs on the other hand — at least where I grew up — kept their Antisemitism a little cleaner.  It was so hard-wired into their culture that you could miss it.  But it’s there — even with your friends.  

Look — we’re tribal creatures, every last one of us.  Strange as it may sound, I don’t mind my friends being Antisemitic if, at least, they own that it’s there in their makeup.  Jews making jokes about Jews is one thing.  Someone else making jokes about Jews — just cos they can count Jews among their bff’s — that’s always going to be a dicey, ‘it was in the tone of my voice’ proposition.

After college I shared a cute little carriage house in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn with two dear friends, both WASPs.  A few days after I moved in, we had an Easter party for lots of our friends — and I made the ham.  I was genuinely touched when my two WASP friends and housemates praised my Easter ham for its authenticity.

I had assimilated successfully into them, you see — at least, as far as I was going to be allowed to assimilate…

 

Fer F*ck’s Sake, America — They’re Just WORDS!

George Bernard Shaw put it this way — ‘The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.”

Not that every Brit is Shakespeare — that would be a slight over-statement — but regardless of how profane they are by nature most Brits are a hell of a lot better at using the language to express themselves; it’s a subtle thing — having to do with not only word choices but just a general facility with the language itself.  Britain’s is a more literary culture by nature and history.  On the surface, its obsessions seem fuddy-duddy & Old World.  Colonial even.  And British culture is all those things — for better and worse.

One of the better cultural obsessions is the language.  Brits are no match for the French when it comes to compulsive defensiveness regarding their language — the French have ‘L’Acadamie Francaise’ overseeing the language, literally allowing or not allowing (the most usual outcome) new words in.  English (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) has 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 ‘obscure’ words in more limited use.  French, by comparison, has 100,000 words — roughly half as many.  But (this is significant), each French word has an average of 3 definitions!  Words are less descriptive by nature and more (my French professor at Vassar put it) “analytical”.

English literally grows every year as new words are added or coined.  French doesn’t do that.  Instead of inventing new words (or bringing foreign words into its vocabulary), it adds definitions or puts old words together to form a kind of French Language Pretzel.  Even so — the French are simply proud of their language and see it as part of their cultural bulwark.  That pride translates into not just a love for the language but an overall sense that how they say things is part of who they are — as individuals and as a culture.

Boy, was that long-winded.

The point is — The French and the English (among others) are far more connected to their languages than Americans are to English.  We almost seem to speak English for lack of anything else to speak.  Consequently, we Americans always seem more at odds with English than at peace with it.  It’s more an obstacle to expressing ourselves than a tool.

If George Carlin had been English, he would never have conceived of ‘The 7 Dirty Words’.  It wouldn’t have been on his radar.  Yes, true, you couldn’t say any of those words on the BBC either, but it wasn’t because they quaked at the sound of them as we seem to.  Even in public spaces, words that shock Americans get aired regularly.  The broadcast moratorium on them is decorum and not the threat of legal action.

Here in America though, those words are always an issue.  An example — I refrain from using the word ‘F*ck’ here on this blog.  In order to be part of any possible ad revenue stream (such as there is one), one has to avoid using certain words.  The title of this blog puts me in a hazy zone of quasi-acceptability.  For all our ‘freedom of speech’, Americans sure seem intimidated by certain words.

And that’s the point (finally!)

Americans are intimidated by their own language.  It goes beyond ‘swear words’.  To a degree our sensitivity to oppressive words (the ‘n-word’, ‘kike’ (being a Jew, I get to use the word — how it is), et cetera is appropriate; it recognizes how certain words become weaponized.  Those words are always aimed at specific groups — they are weaponized — and need to be seen as weapons.

We’re not talking about those words.  It’s like comparing sex and  rape.  Not the same things as similar as they are in form.

Americans — being less comfortable and at home with their own language — have a terrible habit of using English to obscure truth rather than reveal it.  Want to know what I mean?  Listen to anyone in Congress yak away for 30 seconds.  On average, they’ll use about 50 words when 10 would have sufficed.  All those extra words add fog to the mix and not clarity.

When a Mitch McConnell is forced to answer questions, Mitch is a master at using words to completely misrepresent what he’s really saying.  He gets away with it easily because so few Americans — including and especially our news media — are comfortable enough with the language to blow past its chaff to get to its wheat.  If, after Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or Devin Nunes or Jim Jordan or Mike Pence or (especially) Donald Trump overtly lied to the public the media called their lies ‘LIES’ as opposed to ‘other points of view’ — we would begin to strip these people of their power to misuse and abuse the language.

Our cultural discomfort with sex-related words flows straight from the repressive religious prigs — the Pilgrims — who came here less for religious freedom than because their religion was just plain wacky — and the Church of England wanted them gone.  It seems to be a constant among humans:  intense religious feelings and sexual repression are soul mates.  They go together like peanut butter and jelly, yin and yang, republicans and corruption.

This twisted unease with sexuality expresses itself in perverse ways.  I think I ‘got it’ about American culture when I was a kid.  I don’t mean that certain words and images were ‘restricted’ — I mean that those restrictions were symptoms of a deeper, darker dysfunction.  A vivid memory from my youth:  I’m in high school — a huge Kurt Vonnegut reader.  ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ is a seminal book in my development.

Back then, the media stone age, there were 3 networks:  ABC, CBS, NBC.  That’s it.  On the night in question, CBS is running the last night of its multi-night mini-series ‘HELTER SKELTER’ — the story of the Mansion Family and the Tate-LaBianca murders.  NBC counter-programmed the premier broadcast run of the film version of ‘Slaughterhouse Five’.  Two ‘events’.

I didn’t care about ‘Helter Skelter’.  I cared about ‘Slaughterhouse Five’.  But I did flip back and forth a little — because the last part of ‘Helter Skelter’ is the most compelling:  the murders themselves.  Here’s where it got weird — and where we, as a culture, revealed ourselves.

On CBS, if one watched, one could experience a dramatized but nonetheless horrifying version of an actual event — murder, bloodshed, unspeakable cruelty.

On NBC, if one watched, one experienced a profound anti-war movie that spoke directly to the human condition.  I am absolutely not making a judgement about one story good, one story bad.  Both were excellent, valid stories that needed to be told.  But one revealed the very worst of us and one wanted to speak to the best in us.

At the end of ‘Slaughterhouse Five’, Billy Pilgrim, the hero (he’s ‘unstuck in time’ — able to travel between various moments in his own life including his own birth and death) visits a time in his life when he’s a ‘prisoner’ in a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.  There, he’s been put into a comfortable enclosure that he shares with a well known adult performer Montana Wildhack; the two are meant to breed — which they do.

While ‘Helter Skelter’ climaxes with chaos and mayhem, ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ climaxes with Billy Pilgrim imagining a terrible war crime — the Allied bombing of Dresden, German during WWII — being reversed:  the firestorm goes out as the bombs that caused them fly back up into the Allied bombers that dropped them.  The coda to this vision is Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack in their enclosure — Montana having just given birth to their baby.

Montana puts the baby to her breast and feeds it.  She breast-feeds her baby (a hopeful symbol — feeding the future).  But, because the shot involved actress Valerie Perine’s naked breast, it had to be CUT.

So — on CBS:  murder and mayhem in horrifying (but valid) detaili.

On NBC:  Breastfeeding babies is verboten.

That, right there, sums us up.  It sums up our culture.  It sums up our attitude toward language.  You can describe in all the detail you want on the American public airwaves ways to kill people.

Don’t you DARE however, describe all the ways you’d like to LOVE people.

What the f*ck is the word for ‘that’?

Americans Need To Kick Their Addiction to BABY TALK

All over America, talking heads are swooning. Rashida Tlaib — one of the new Democratic Reps — called Donald Trump out for being the mofo he is. You’d think she’d called him a traitor. That would have been a far dirtier word…

Understand — by ‘baby talk’ I do not mean anything remotely ‘gaa-gaa-goo-goo’.  I mean Americans need to speak like grown-ups when speaking about grown-up subjects.  Like Racism.  Or Bigotry.  Or Treason.

But Americans — the talking head class anyway — have a terrible habit of baby-talking everything — of talking down to the audience as if the Cold Hard Facts would be more than our tender snowflakey white sensibilities could handle.  That may be true for the Snowflakes in the audience but the rest of us have a few scars and welts on us — that cured us of any possible baby talk addiction.

Using the word ‘wee-wee’ in place of, say, ‘penis’ is dubious practice with a 5 year old.  Right off the bat it sets certain words apart.  These are dangerous words.  The subtext travels right along with the word as it burrows into our minds.  The culture’s discomfort becomes our discomfort.

Hello, ‘baby talk’.

The epitome is comics having to work ‘clean’ when on broadcast television.  The baby talk gets laughs — uncomfortable laughs — because it sets off all the alarm bells baby talk is meant to set off:  We’re talking about something we shouldn’t… we’re not ‘adult’ enough.

Yeesh!  When someone lies to you — they’re not dissembling or hedging or ‘yes-but-ing’, they’re lying.

Let’s start there.

It is unconscionable that it took so long for a few of the MSM to call Donald Trump out on his lies.  Now — if only they could do it to his face.  Sometimes, just the refusal to say something — to speak the truth (especially to the world’s biggest man-baby of all time) is the baseline equivalent of Baby Talk.

The first time or two, no doubt — Donald Trump will bristle and react like he’s just been zapped in the bloated orange nutsack.  But then he’ll adapt to it.  He’ll say:  “Yeah — I’m lying.  What of it?”  He’ll expect us to shrug and say nothing.

Or — he’ll expect us to baby talk him — as everyone does.

Historically, Trump can’t deal with being opposite smart people.  They make him feel every bit as inadequate as he actually is.  Adult talk is not only anathema to Trump — it’s his kryptonite.  Adult talk – focused Adult talk – is to Donald Trump what salt is to a slug.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s try it out…

American Culture Has A White-Christian-Male Bias & It Needs To Go

How many guilty Catholic priests does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Better question — How many guilty Catholic priests (guilty of SCREWING children) does it take before a Culture opens its damned eyes?

That blind spot isn’t the Catholic Church’s alone.  The man who sexually assaulted me worked for a synagogue.  Jews do it too.  And Protestants and Muslims.  I suspect other religions do it, too but I’m not too well-versed in their cultures; I know from Abrahamic religions — they all flow from the same toxic male bias.  The religious elements are all really just ‘overlays’ of male self-aggrandizement.  If you really, really look at them, Abrahamic religions have a nasty habit of making its male believers believe not so much ‘in’ a god as that ‘THEY THEMSELVES’ are gods.

They are not made in Yahweh’s image (Yahweh’s his name, god is his job description), Yahweh is made in theirs.

When you start out — deep down — thinking YOU are ‘the gods’ — and if YOU have control of the Culture (made much easier when you tell everyone that YOU and YOU alone can communicate with ‘the gods’) — things like ‘bias’ just sort of flow naturally.  Like toxic waste from a turd factory.

What we Americans need to grasp is that we begin every conversation or debate about who we are with a heavy bias that distorts our image.  We are NOT that thing the Culture insists we are.  We are not predominantly White-Christian-Male — and never were.

But, when you jealously guard the means to tell stories to the widest possible audience, you risk fooling yourself first and foremost.

White-Christian-Male Culture wants us all to believe their excrement smells like roses.  It doesn’t.  They know better than anyone.

They’ve stacked the deck best they can to keep hold of their Ivory Tower.  Problem is, they’re surrounded — by the rest of us.  We need to overtake them — remove them from their tower and then remove their tower, too.  It all needs to go.

It will start — shortly — with our votes.

An Ode To ‘Broads’

Full Transparency — I love ‘Broads’.  I love the ‘idea’ of ‘Broads’.  I even like the word ‘Broads’ to describe that particular kind of woman…

Of all the words used to describe women, “Broad” has had a virtually unique journey.  It went from having purely negative connotations to having almost completely positive ones.  At the web site todayifoundout.com, Dave Haskey has a good post about where words like ‘broad’ came from.  He finishes the section on ‘Broad’ with a quote from A Dictionary of Words About Women, by Jane Mills:  “…A broad is defined as “a woman who is liberal, tolerant, unconfined, and not limited or narrow in scope.”

“Unconfined” is important.  So is “Not limited or narrow in scope”.  Broads have perspective.  It’s hardwired into them.  It’s what gives them that ‘Honey, I’ve seen it all, heard it all, done it all’ quality.

Broads are steel built on a foundation of heartache.  She liked the look of ya, so what?  She saw the rest of you coming from a million miles away.  You can knock her down all you like.  She’s already back on her feet.  She may want you but you?  You need her — and that’s gonna be harder on you.

Bette Midler is a ‘Broad’ —

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Season 22

One of Bette’s idols — Sophie Tucker (“Last of the Red Hot Mommas”) — was the ‘Uber Broad’.

sophie-tucker-getty-hero

If you’ve never seen The Divine Miss M’s tribute to her idol —  you owe it to yourself:  A Broad Paying Homage To A Broad…

 

Helen Mirren is a ‘Broad’ — you could see the ‘Broad’ in her even when she was a young actress chewing up the RSC.

But, finally, the quintessential ‘Classic Hollywood Broad Moment’ is delivered by Hollywood’s Most Classic Broad — Lauren Bacall.

One thing ya never do — men especially?  Is try and top a ‘Broad’.

 

 

If You Hate Donald J Trump, You Hate White, Christian Male Culture; There’s Hope For You…

Trump cos more trump

Let’s define our terms first: The reason we’re in this damned mess is that the republican party (uncapitalized because undeserving), seeing a great demographic Black Hole and Extinction in its future, deliberately and knowingly conspired with RUSSIA to seize power from the American Electorate in a soft Coup D’Etat.

Election 2016 was Illegitimate probably from Top to Bottom.

When I say ‘republican party’, of course, what I mean is ‘WHITE, CHRISTIAN MALE CULTURE’ — a ‘culture’ built almost entirely ON BULLSHIT.

White, Christian Male Culture (WCMC) believes that White People are superior to all other people on the planet, that White People are smarter, better looking, better suited to succeed, better athletes, better everything.  They believe White Music is better (ever hear a racist rail against jazz?).  White Literature (hilarious cos White People don’t read).  White Religion.

Especially White Religion.  White Religion sits at the core of White Male Culture — the belief not that ‘god’ is White but that each and every White Person is ‘GOD’ themselves and therefore omnipotent.  What they say goes.

Problem is, it doesn’t.  Because when White People enter an environment that isn’t just ‘Other White People’, they bump into something that disconcerts the hell out of them:  DIVERSITY.  They find they have to COMPETE with people who haven’t had to compete practically EVER.  At least not with people who weren’t White.

America is diverse and has always been diverse.  DIVERSITY is what makes America ‘EXCEPTIONAL’.  Diversity IS ‘American Exceptionalism’.  All other countries evolved over long periods of time with scattered tribes slowly coalescing into a National Tribe with distinct National ‘characteristics’.  The French ‘evolved’ into being French, the Germans into being Germans, the Swiss the Swiss, the English the English and so on.  In the 1500’s, if you were to step into any of what became those countries, the national character we now think of as those countries was already well-formed enough to be reflected in the historical record.

And, then, all those DIFFERENT national characters started arriving in a ‘Neutral Environment’ — America (made a whole lot more ‘neutral’ via ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’ (to borrow the title of Jared Diamond’s excellent book).  None of those peoples who arrived on these shores were ‘American’.  They became American by being here — while their Culture met (perhaps for the first time) and mingled with other Cultures and began to ‘cross-breed’ with them.

The result of all that cross-breeding is us — America — and all the dynamism and actual Greatness that flows from us.  We are The World mixed together.  We’re the lab for what happens genius from one culture meshes with genius from another culture to produce genius from a third (our) culture.

And it works.  God-damn, it WORKS!

That, apparently, gives WCMC a sad.  It makes it feel scared.  Threatened.  Unqualified.  It isn’t of course — WCMC is no better or worse than any other culture; it, too, has produced great things.  It just has the wrong idea of itself — it thinks it’s better than everyone; good thing that’s fixable.  Ask Germany.Cult

Donald Trump is the literal FACE of WCMC.  It is White-White-White-WHITE.  It is Christian — it does not believe a word of the faith it professes (having never read the actual texts their faith is based on) but claims to be among its most ardent followers.  It is Male — oh boy, is it Male; nothing makes it happier than waving its dick in your face or, worse, sticking it in you against your will because IT feels ENTITLED to.

So, yeah — Donald Trump IS White, Christian Male ‘Culture’.  If you voted for it?  You WILL deserve everything that befalls you.

Think of it as ‘getting cultured’.