A Palpable and Misplaced Sense of Anger in America

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There is a palpable anger in America revealed by the alt right’s anthem-like embrace of things like Jason Aldean’s Try That in a Small Town, the increasing (although perhaps disingenuous) ticket sales from the movie Sound of Freedom, and the whitewashing (no more à propos name was ever invented) of the history of slavery by the Florida Department of Education.

These trends all stem from a false nostalgia for America in another era.

Aldean sings.

Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it's cool, well, act a fool if ya like
Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you're tough [Chorus]
Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
'Round here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town…

I’m not sure about Aldean’s definition of a small town. He came from Macon, Georgia, with a population of 157,000. Not exactly the size of a small town, but I guess size is relative. Now before Aldean fans rush to his defense, I think he is a talented guy and perhaps never intended the song to be compromised by the alt right, but there it is. So far, all he’s done is re-edit the video to take out the most offensive parts.

Either way, it has been my experience the big or small towns have people who care about each other, steal from each other, help each other, commit crimes against each other, in other words exhibit the whole gambit of human behavior.

Aldean is merely tapping into the false nostalgia about small-town America and history. It is as if he believes towns like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon actually existed.

“Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Garrison Keillor

Speaking about history. I thought based on the education provided by the Cumberland School Department in the 1960s—which then might have been considered a small town — that slavery lasted a few years, Lincoln ended it but not before Americans killed 400000 of their fellow Americans, many from small towns, and the slaves lived happily ever after with all the rights and privileges of being an American citizen.

Then, with the flaming cities of the 1960s from violence over continued racism and discrimination staring at us from the nightly news, doubt about such a sanitized version of history raised its ugly head.

The truth in all its ugliness gradually came to light.

Now, the Department of Education in Florida has found a way to put the genie back in the bottle and return us to that glorious time when our history of slavery, while never a good thing, had a silver lining, job training skills for the slaves.

Some of us recall the days in school where teachers might use a bit of physical persuasion to corral reprobate students. Turns out slaves had it worse at the end of a whip, but the intent was still the same, teach them skills to survive.

Who knew?

Then we come to the real biggie. One that combines the misconception of the US being a Judeo-Christian nation—although I bet a significant number of the more fervent Christians would excise the Judeo part—and the moronic Q-Anon theory by cleverly disguising it with the real tragedy of child sex trafficking.

The movie “Sound of Freedom” is allegedly based on a “true story.” But everyone knows the facts of any story never interfere with the things shown on the screen. Whenever one reads the line “Based on a true story” you should know the story bears as much resemblance to the facts as an acorn does to an oak tree.

Yes, the tree came from the acorn, but they are entirely dissimilar.

Propaganda, no matter how important the subject of the story may be, is still propaganda. And while the subject of child sex trafficking should be the priority focus of all law enforcement agencies—instead of some of the more questionable priorities—appealing to god is the least effective way to make a difference.

Whether or not intentionally—and I would clearly lean toward intentional—the director’s well-known contention of the existence of a deep state controlled by certain liberal politicians and running a child sex slave business from a pizza parlor lurks in the background. The contention is farcical. As is the “pay it forward’ ticket scam, where ticket sales may not accurately portray actual movie attendance.

But the important thing is to see it for the propaganda that it is. All disclaimers to the contrary, the movie is nothing but a high-tech disinformation scam.

And I would ask those fundamentalist Christians who embrace such ideas, profess a sincerity in their concern for children, and see a unified Christian nation as the ultimate goal of the country, one question.

Why does your god allow it to happen in the first place?

It would seem this god can’t stop it, making the claims of omnipotence void, or won’t stop it, making the claim of a loving God equally questionable, or is ignorant of it which demolishes the idea of omniscience.

Which brings me to the palpable undercurrent of anger. Those who see everything in the past as a more perfect time suffer the delusion of nostalgia. Memory is not a fixed phenomenon, but fluid and adaptive. It buries the unpleasant and amplifies the good memories. It is not a reliable form of evidence.

Memories are not the recording devices of history. Memory serves to aid and protect us. Thus it “forgets” or alters the harmful memories and mitigates them by enhancing the pleasant. Memory is like a long-lasting but imperfect analgesic for the soul.

Imagine being told that…now that’s true and justified anger.

Joe Broadmeadow

Yet this misconception—encouraged by twisting the realities of the history of slavery, ignoring true nature of life in the towns and cities of America, small or otherwise, and embracing fictionalized accounts masquerading as documentaries—rebels against the truth and attacks those who would insist on it.

They cling to a warped sense of justice. A twisted view of history. And a misplaced trust in an unseen and unproven deity. One whose only claim to fame is they are the preferred deity of a significant number of Americans.

But not all Americans.

Whether there is a god matters little to our life here. To lash out at those who one perceives as casting doubt on your memories of the past is to ignore reality. To demand a single approach to faith as the answer to all the problems we face is to ignore the breadth and depth of human experience and philosophy.

To allow this anger to direct actions against those who you see as different is inhumane.

And if you want to understand anger, try putting yourself in the position of a young black person who has faced mistreatment simply because of the color of their skin. Their family filled them with pride about how their slave ancestors arose from the chains that bound them and found their way in America. They thrived, had children, educated them, and tried to live as law-abiding citizens despite the continuing discrimination.

Over time, the young person’s ancestors made progress. Saw legislation passed which outlawed Jim Crow laws and housing discrimination. Saw a black man elected President and a woman of color elected Vice-President. Saw a Voting Rights Act passed with assured them the right to vote.

This pride sustained this young person. Gave them hope that change, while slow, was inevitable.

And then, the State of Florida decides to “teach” this young person that slaves received benefits from their captivity. They learned skills. They learned things to help them after they were free. It wasn’t all that bad. We did them a favor, saving them from a harsh life in Africa. If they succeeded it was because their slavery was foundational to their success.

Imagine being told that…now that’s true and justified anger.

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