With the current state of the world in a collision course with destiny, which makes no particular sense but nevertheless seems always to be the case, it is time to put the television remote control down and spring to action. And by “spring,” I mean for you, dear reader, to jump up out of your over-stuffed La-Z-Boy® recliner with the built-in vibrating massage feature and two cup holders, and yell at the old white guys who’ve dealt you such a bad hand in what might well be your only lifetime.
Unless you answer telephone inquiries in India, there are no do-overs.
I will take it upon myself to point out to who ever is listening (or, in this case, reading) that not all of the world’s problems have been created by old white guys. Granted that many have been, probably even most of them, but certainly not all. Right now, I just can’t think of any that weren’t.
The same can be said about the solutions to those problems—they’re not all the doing of old white guys, either. Most of the ones that have been, however, have done little more than create new problems. It’s only fair to point out that solutions offered by, let’s say African-Americans, women and immigrants, typically are dismissed out-of-hand by old white guys who are desperate for approval from each other.
I am an old white guy and I take particular umbrage at being blamed for everything that’s gone wrong. As I reflect on the years it took me to become an old white guy, the only thing I believe I’m much responsible for is getting old. Staying white, or a guy for that matter, really weren’t options, just like those people with the “NATIVE” bumper stickers. Face it, Mr. and Ms. Native, your placement on this earth was an accident of birth and no, there are no specific entitlements just because you happened to be in the same room as your mother at the time of your birth. And unless you are an indigenous people, you’re not a native anyway.
So get rid of that bumper sticker and replace it with something meaningful like, “Great Music Isn’t As Bad As It Sounds” or “Die Packers.”
My position in the world has been to offer relevance to the irrelevant. Or something like that. Maybe. I don’t really know. What has been my role has pretty much been to stand alone on the sidelines, acting the part of a Greek chorus to offer comments—some of them rude, unwarranted or without merit—about the world. Nonetheless, it is imprudent to blame the messenger for the message. Although in my case it’s not because I write the comments I offer from the sidelines and am wholly responsible for their content which is intended for the sole private use of my audience. Any other use is strictly…oh, never mind.
For many months now, there has been circulating a picture of a bunch of old white guys sitting around a big table in a room adorned with American flags and the very same patriotic bunting they use at Yankee Stadium for World Series games. Notice that there are no ashtrays in sight and that everybody is drinking water from single-use plastic bottles. The significance of that is that the old white guys in question care deeply about their own health (no smoking) and not one whit about the planet (plastic). They’re all wearing despotic dark suits from the Soviet era and tariff-free Trumpian power ties from China, and each has that knowing smirk on his face that says to all the world, “white privilege.” Except for one guy off in the corner whose smirk seems to say, “bite me.” According to the picture’s caption, they’ve just made a big decision regarding women’s reproductive rights and are now discussing the meaning of the word “draconian.”
I’d like you to look closely at that picture. Take your time. Do you see me there? Of course you don’t, and it’s not just because I no longer own a dark suit or power tie.
In all manner of self-defense, I am just an old white guy without the wherewithal to tell anybody what to do with their dinner leftovers let alone their bodies. I learned that lesson the hard way when a woman I used to know asked if I thought she looked fat in a particular dress and I answered honestly.
How we got to this sorry state has a pretty clear history, actually. Some white guy, probably in Mesopotamia or Omaha (as it turns out, this part isn’t so clear after all, but there was a river and some rocks and gang-like graffiti), told somebody with darker skin to do something and the darker-skinned guy said “OK,” in a language that is no longer spoken. The white guy, whose name was Moshe, then asked somebody with long hair and a curvy shape to make him a sandwich, which she did, but not before putting out a tip jar. As he sat outside the entrance to his cave eating his corned-brontosaurus on rye (with a little side of creamy cabbage slaw and a crisp dill pickle) he determined that he was in charge of all things.
Nobody argued with him because nobody else wanted the job, which gave rise to the popular phrase that we still hear today: “Let Moshe do it.”
But just to make sure that his newly found position in life would be secure, Moshe, whose name has become synonymous with “old white guy” or in Yiddish alte kaker, hired a bunch of his friends to create something engraved on stone tablets that would keep everybody in line for the next few millennia. If you were ever curious about the origins of religion, well, there you have it.
While there are countless examples of old white guys being, in the vernacular, old white guys, I like the example shown by the subway train that ran late. It’s a parable for our times.
It wasn’t the engineer’s fault that the train ran late, even though the engineer was an old white guy with a debilitating meth addiction. Well, it was actually his fault but that messes up the story and we all know that facts should never stand in the way of a good story. More to the point—remember, this is a parable—is that it’s the fault of a whole society of old white guys who created the policy that was supposed to provide efficient urban transportation so people who work for old white guys could get to their jobs and not cause the economy to collapse, which would force old white guys to find jobs that entail actual work.
See? Me, neither. Symbolism only goes so far, and that “meth addiction” part really throws a lot of people off. So does the concept of morality.
I’m also not sure if what I wrote was really a parable. It might have been a fable. Your call.
Well, my time is about up and I have no idea how to close out this week’s observations of life in these United States. Alas, there are so many things to worry about and so many actions we can take, yet the burden seems so heavy, the effort so tiring, the results so iffy. Woe is us!
There are at least 749 people of various sizes, shapes and colors vying to move into the White House and fire Trump’s interior decorator. So far, they’ve all promised to wrest control of the world from the clutches of old white guys, including Bernie and Uncle Joe who are, you guessed it, members of the Fraternity of Old White Guys themselves.
Even Beto and Mayor Pete have weighed in on the issue by reminding potential voters that they’re not yet old.
My take on the whole thing is just to “let Moshe do it.”
Photography by Courtney A. Liska