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Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Featured, Politics, Society | 5 comments


I can speak only about home territory, the state of Texas. But there may be a variation on the theme in every state of the union. One can only hope. [icopyright one button toolbar]

Here in the Lone Star State, the first thing you say about the new doggy or kitty your neighbor has adopted, after the “so cute!” comments is, “Has s/he been spayed/neutered?” A local vet here has a sign up reading “Balls! Who needs ’em!” Towns have fenced doggy parks… not open to pets that haven’t been neutered.

But presidents? Maybe we should ask whether the White House could impose a similar rule. Adam Gopnik examines the macho hysteria that has ruled our politics since god knows when. He cites political historian K. A. Cuordileone:

Cuordileone quotes Lyndon Johnson in his retirement on the catastrophe of Vietnam, when he was still obsessed with the idea that, if he had withdrawn, his enemies—by whom he meant, notably, Robert Kennedy, a founding member of the real-man cult—would know that Johnson was, in his own words, “a coward. An unmanly man. A man without a spine.” She goes on to writes that Johnson’s words show a “deep psychological investment in masculine self-image,” one that “has the power to subvert circumspection, logic, prudence, morality and even national self-interest in matters of national decision making, and create the illusion that there are no alternatives.” …Gopnik,NewYorker

The worst thing about this is that we are childish enough to believe that machismo makes a politician or an entire nation more “credible.” We operate that way around the world to the extent that nice people in other countries look at us and make that finger-in-throat gesture meaning, “You’re making me sick.” And it’s true. We are accused of spreading sickness wherever we go. And we do.

This business of looking manly even developed its own theoretical rationale, the concept of “credibility”: if we are willing to act violently in pursuit of a peripheral interest, everyone can be certain that, when a vital interest is at stake, we will be still more violent. “Credibility” is defined as the willingness to kill a lot of people now for a not very good cause to assure the world that we’ll kill a lot more people if we can find a better one. This is the logic that led to wild overinvestment in peripheral struggles like Iraq, and is, in the view of many of its proponents, too subtle for the feminine mind to grasp. …Gopnik,NewYorker

So when the right accuses Obama of being a girly-boy? Well, for a start, they’ve been insulting him since he first came on the scene. Sure, there’s racism there. But I think a lot of it is resentment. Many Republicans were clearly disillusioned by their White House. By the end of the Bush/Cheney debacle, they were showing real signs of embarrassment. Meanwhile, a well-spoken, handsome law professor was getting tons of applause and cheers during his campaign. It was about more than racism. It was a stab in the side of the right.

We’ve reached the point that we’re so bathed in resentment and fury that we’ve forgotten what we need and want.

We don’t need tough guys. We need wise guys. We’ve tried tough guys, and it always ends in tears. Tough guys you know right away because they’re never scared of a fight. Wise guys you only know in retrospect, when you remember that they quietly walked away from the fight that now has the tough guy in a hospital. Wise women do that, too. ...Gopnik,NewYorker

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather