When one thinks about old-school images of American culture, what generally comes to mind is a rock-hard sense of self-reliance, an at least semi-informed understanding of the nation’s history (by which I mean history beyond Vietnam going back to the Revolution) and perhaps the works of artist Norman Rockwell.
What doesn’t come to mind are the terms “trigger warning,” “Pop-Tart gun,” and “zero tolerance policy.”
At least, up until recently.
For whatever reason, America has gone from a nation reaching for the moon, to one afraid to leave the house for fear of offending someone. Classical literature whose violence and graphic depictions of same have been accepted as inherently part of their time periods’ literature are now to be censored for those same reasons (and again, for fear of offending someone). Competition which was once seen as a needed motivator to improve either oneself or one’s products is now downplayed in youth sports and over-regulated in the marketplace.
This sudden loosening of standards has extended into basic fitness as well. It is no secret that preschools and elementary schools have cut back dramatically on recess and other physical activity to make room for teaching to standardized, one-size-fits-all(-for-some-reason) tests. In adulthood, we have seen the recent trend known as the “dad bod,” in other words not fat, but most definitely not trim. (It doesn’t help that anyone in even moderately decent shape is almost instantly accused of being a narcissist or on mountains of mostly-legal steroids.)
None of this is good for the country. There has never been an individual, a family, business, or non-profit organization that has been improved by lowering standards or by becoming overly reactionary. This is slowly being understood, and we are finally beginning to see resistance to it.
This year, we look at all of it. The problems, their impact, and most importantly, what can be and is being done about them. We look at how the country can find its backbone once again, and why doing so is vital to its survival.
1.) Colleges: Baseline. At one point, colleges were seen as a place to test new ideas, to learn multiple viewpoints, and to basically evolve past the relatively closed world of high school. No topic was off-limits, and virtually any topic was subject to deep study and perhaps intense ridicule if it was beyond logic.
That isn’t the case today. In an era where anything less than scheduling kids down to the minute is seen as bad parenting, where trophies are given merely for participating (which says a lot by itself in that showing up is worthy of recognition), and virtually nobody may be offended or lose a game; college has become a locked-down and politically correct echo chamber.
Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld say they themselves have either been told or simply refuse to perform at colleges because they are so easily offended, even if they don’t know what it is they are offended about. (As Seinfeld notes, “they just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.'”
Even Chris Rock has backed away from colleges for the same reason. Actor Steve Martin has said that the politically correct climate would prevent his 1979 comedy The Jerk from being greenlit were it to be made today.
Colleges are, of course, also the home of two of the most childish yet strangely symbolic terms in history; the terms “triggering” and “trigger warning.” Described loosely as something that may offend. This includes classic literature, “microaggressions” (an intentionally vague term, so everything can be offensive) and even the American flag.
2.) History. Let’s put aside the Confederate story for a moment. It is hardly worth re-treading this story as it has been wall-to-wall across all news networks for weeks now. Besides which, the best way to highlight the need to make history “less offensive” is to go well beyond the Civil War.
Let’s go back to Roman and Greek mythology. According to Reason Magazine, Columbia University’s student-run Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board called on professors to be careful teaching the material, because it “contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom.”
Keeping in mind that Roman and Greek mythology are inherently violent and graphic, and that their depictions of violence were a major aspect of the era.
3.) War. Violence in classic literature needs to be censored, so it goes without saying that fighting war in the present day can only be more difficult with a culture in that sort of paralysis. The modern aversion to virtually all forms of violence (even legitimate violence in self-defense) has extended to how we perceive modern war. Even legitimate violence is cause for public outrage simply because it is violence.
Put bluntly, as author Patrick K. O’Donnell told Breitbart, “America is no longer able to win wars.” We don’t have the drive to do it, we don’t have the spine for it, and we’re willing to end a war without having once defined what a victory would look like. As Mr. O’Donnell also notes, we are more than willing to pin troops to the wall if we can. (There is perhaps no better example of our need to tar and feather our military than the plight of Task Force Violent, who saw their reputations destroyed by both the military and the public at large.)
Today, less than .5 percent of Americans are in the military. That .5 percent has to suffer through horrid rules of engagement, a lack of public support on any level, horrid prospects when they return both in terms of employment and medical care, and the possibility that the slightest mistake will see them plastered across the news networks as monsters.
A small percentage of people who do have the spine to fight; hunted, mocked, demonized, and generally betrayed by a sizeable (but not total) percentage that doesn’t. (We’ll get to those who can’t fight for whatever reason but support the military regardless later in Blowback.)
4.) Impact. The simple fact is this aversion to violence is not a good thing, and a case could very easily be made that it is harmful. As has been discussed way too often in the Midnight Run, the only legitimate violence is violence in self-defense. It is that very statement that requires one to understand that there is the chance of being attacked.
As we celebrate the 4th, we must also note that one of the major story threads leading into Independence Day is the possibility of a terror attack in a major city. Terrorism, at present, is something that is largely distant from the American mind. “It’s over there,” we assure ourselves, generally saying that events like the attacks at malls in Kenya and Mumbai could “never happen here.”
We say all this fully aware of the fact that we have quite a few malls around here, and none of them have any decent security. While at present the best we’ve had are constant threats, the reality of terrorism must be acknowledged, and its potential impact accepted.
In addition, an attack doesn’t necessarily have to be based in Islamic terrorism or on a grand, nation-breaking scale. We saw this with the church shootings analyzed back in Midnight Run: Newtonian. Violence that is not in self-defense can have any number of motivators.
It is, perhaps ironic that the church shootings that demonstrate this aversion to violence better than anything. Because after the attacks, the discussion was not on the concept of security (save for Newtonian and a handful of other sources), nor on mental illness, nor on what motivated him.
It was about a flag from the Civil War, the mere sight of which had to be erased even if it meant pulling classic TV shows off the air.
The best response we had was to hide a flag and to call laws to make cold-blooded murder more illegal than it was beforehand.
Violence happened in our own backyard, and we can’t be asked to study it correctly.
5.) Fitness: Baseline. Humans were never designed to be as stationary as we are. No mammal was designed to sit in one place day-in, day-out. Whether it was to hunt, to find a place to live, or to simply improve an organism’s ability to adapt and survive, mammals were designed to be in near-constant motion.
Put differently, the only organisms intended to stay in one place are the ones who grow roots so they can survive there.
And yet, the average American doesn’t move much, if at all. A study in 2009 found that Americans spend about 56 hours per week seated. A survey taken this year finds that Americans have never been more sedentary.
The health effects of this really don’t need to be stated. But just because a message is sent doesn’t mean that it was received. Obesity remains a problem of epidemic proportions, what little physical activity children got in schools is slowly being cut from the schedule to make room for more class time, and our eating habits have gotten considerably worse.
In our ongoing theme of being unable to tackle much of anything (which would require movement), we’ve been able to justify it through the creation of the term “dad bod.” Not obese, but not trim, as discussed briefly in the intro.
The irony is that, more than any of the above topics, this is perhaps the easiest to fix. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the Designed to Move project focused on getting children to engage in more physical activity. Devices such as the FitBit have made fitness itself a game between friends. It isn’t that hard to at least maintain some level of physical fitness. It just takes a bit of energy.
6.) Mindset. It’s the other aspects that may be harder. We, as a culture, are addicted to outrage, as Jim Norton describes it. Even the smallest slight is enough to become so offended that you can’t be asked to think about the situation rationally.
But we are starting to see that break. While it may lead to something a lot more difficult, the outrage mob is in the process of eating its own to keep that outrage going. It is even starting to shake a few college professors seeing the damage the mob has been doing in the past.
In two op-eds this week, one for the Macon Telegraph and another on Townhall, Atlanta’s Erick Erickson said that he believes the current outrage/hysteria culture is like a wildfire. It may indeed get worse before it gets better, but eventually wildfires run out of fuel and have no choice but to die out.
7.) The Individual. It is also worth noting that self-reliance has come back into a majority of the culture. We have discussed numerous times in past Runs the incredible surge in popularity self-defense as a whole and guns in particular have seen. Millions have taken self-defense/firearm classes, applied for permits (where they have to, anyway), and of course bought firearms to take their safety into their own hands. Polls are starting to suggest more Americans see a gun as a tool of safety rather than an engine of death and destruction.
The rise of the self-defense culture has been picked up by NRANews anchor Cam Edwards and reporter Ginny Simone.
8.) Parenting. It is almost depressing that this paragraph is even able to be written, but let us continue this response to mediocrity with a look at the “free-range parenting” movement. Free-range parenting is described as allowing children a little freedom of movement. This was the norm up until the 90s, when neurotic parenting, the need to prevent any injuries at all, and the inability to take a loss with class took over. Of course, at that point it wasn’t called “free-range parenting,” just “parenting.”
There was a case in Maryland asking essentially whether or not letting kids play alone was neglect. The court ruled that it was not, of course, but it’s worth considering that children cannot be left alone without the police being called because “of what could happen.”
9.) Come what may. Which brings us to the whole point of the response to this neurotic approach to virtually everything. Americans at one point prided themselves on being able to handle themselves. We didn’t see leaving children to their own devices as neglect, we didn’t look for things to get angry about, and we didn’t fear every possible danger.
That is what needs to re-emerge in this country. We should not see outrage in every “viral” story, or be so easily distracted that a discussion about a mass shooting results in the full-scale elimination of a barely-related flag instead of the shooting itself. (The victims in the Charleston shooting have been almost completely forgotten.)
There are considerably more pressing issues than what this week’s outrage meme is about.
This year’s Blowback is surrounded by a major county defaulting, Puerto Rico possibly defaulting, tensions in the Middle East, and the possibility of terrorist attacks.
Let me close by focusing on the idea of terror attacks. Our response to terror has thus far been to call for tighter surveillance of virtually everything, seeing possible terror in everything and acting on that, and generally being afraid of the possibility of an attack.
As we discussed in Newtonian, it is impossible to prevent violence, only mitigate it. Unprecedented Mediocrity proposes a far better solution than being afraid of a terrorist threat:
So yes, they might succeed in that because America does have crazy people and your Facebook feed likely proves that. You simply cannot outsource every aspect of your personal security to government.So yes, ISIS might attack on the 4th.
But fight back America and remember what the 4th is about to begin with. When our forefathers signed the declaration of independence, they pretty much said it is liberty or bust and some crazy jihadist who thinks he is tough because he follows ISIS on twitter can’t destroy it. In conclusion America, if ISIS attacks on the 4th, I just want you to know this one thing. You’re All Americans, Act Like It.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.