Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Manly Man

How do you handle a hungry man? The Man Handlers.

That was from my generation.  Then we had the Marlboro Man

So many great ways to know and identify what defined a MAN.

I prefer this type of man:

The other day I read an article in The Atlantic by TaNeshi Coates called, The First White President,  about the focus if not obsession on the working class mantra that dictated the last election and Clinton's failure to address their issues from lack of work to the opioid crisis.  And as a result the reliable voter contingency of blue collar workers turned red collar and voted Trump.

He makes this salilent point:  To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus. In this rendition, Donald Trump is not the product of white supremacy so much as the product of a backlash against contempt for white working-class people.

And last Friday night on Bill Maher "conservative" Op-Ed writer, Bret Stephens, who continued with this dogma by insisting that comics and pundits mockery of the rural white poor and working class were part of the reasoning behind Trump's election  and he cited an episode when he was a Guest and in turn that was when Maher made  fun of Joni Ernst, a Representative from Iowa, was mocked for her running on a platform that included her own personal history of having to wear bread bags on her feet as galoshes as she grew up with only one pair of shoes.  Maher had no recollection of the story and his mockery but he, as I have done, questioned the legitimacy of the story.  He, however, did not attempt to reconcile it with stories of other Immigrants and families who do  the same now regardless of color and considering his recent run in over the use of the "N" word might have been a good time to offer that up as an analogy. Instead, Stephens,  white man continued with his story about his own Immigrant mother having no money and her influence to him to become well Educated and in turn a writer for the Wall Street Journal and now The New York Times. 

Mr. Stephens exaggerated his history as this is his family dynasty, sounds really grim:

Stephens was born in New York City, the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico. His parents were both secular Jews. His paternal grandfather had changed the family surname from Ehrlich to Stephens (after poet James Stephens). He was raised in Mexico City, where his father was born and worked. In his adolescence, he attended boarding school at Middlesex School in Massachusetts. Stephens received an undergraduate degree in political philosophy from the University of Chicago before earning a master's degree in comparative politics at the London School of Economics

Note that Mr. Maher did not challenge him on his supposed background and the supposed hard knock story that he lent to the belief that it is this liberal disdain for the hard working poor who make it on their family connections with their bread bag shoes is why Trump won.  Right okay then.  Then two lies make a truth apparently and this may also be why Trump won as he lies, his background down to Immigrant family history, name change and pedigree degrees has nothing to do with his "truthiness."

And while we  have some odd nostalgia and revisionist history when it comes to the working class of America, what we neglect to mention that without Unions the equality of income and benefits for both White and Black Workers would never have occurred.  And today without Spanish speaking Immigrants we would have no food supply as despite the faux nostalgia by another Senator who also led to the Bill Maher kickback of late (Ben Sasse) who seems to think he grew up tasseling Corn and working the farm while going to a Prep School is just another aspect of the creative writing skills that do dominate the Republican party.

We have a serious disconnect. As on that same Maher show with Mr. Stephens was the writer Salam Rushdie and Fran Leibovitz.   When bringing up the issue of age and later with regards to appearance as Tim Gunn joined the panel the two writers seemed utterly clueless on both and Ms. Leibovitz said simply she did not care as she did not need a job nor a man. And that sums up the reality of those in the "elite" class regardless of their party affiliation, they don't care.  Some just pretend they do and that is what matters.

And just has Mr. Coates does in The Atlantic he too looks at the world through the lens of a Black American.  He simply seems to think that he is unable or cannot or willing to understand  the issues that surround Immigrants, Women and those of alternative Sexuality.  Each group has their own story and in turn we cannot hear each story and in turn address each minutae that dominate their history.   Sorry folks can we find the common issue and focus on it. The first is clearly wages and work.  The well paying jobs of the past, the Middle class ladder rungs are gone.  So yes you are going to work in the Hospitality trade or in low end Medical care related jobs so how about getting the wages risen to enable those to support families.  Stop contracting trucking jobs or finding better ways to work in this new gig economy that secures income and job protections.

It is not just about jobs it is about a place in a society that is increasingly become diverse in ways that are not easily classified nor compartmentalized.  We had a two tier economy and in turn classes that existed within those sub groups.  Middle class blacks were briefly on par with their white equivalent but that was due again to immense social pressure, political influence and in turn the use of Unions to equalize the workplace through economics.  When it becomes a matter  of social political economics you have what we have today and we have Trump.

The article below is from the UK Guardian as a writer hitchhiked in the Rust Belt he met very few faces of color and only one woman. And for what it lacks it shows that we are not even clear on what we need or want but we know we want the same thing - the elusive American Dream.  e article

In search of the American man: why I hitchhiked across the Rust Belt

The state of American masculinity is in flux as blue-collar jobs vanish.

 Drew Philp travels the midwest and Appalachia to find out what that looks like

UK Guardian
Tuesday 19 September 2017

We had been waiting for hours on the side of the road, thumbs in the air, when a woman in a modest blue car finally stopped. She rolled the passenger window down. “I’m going about 20 minutes south,” she said.

“Is there a truck stop there?”

“I think so. I know there’s plenty of traffic.”

I looked at Alexandre, the photographer. He nodded, so we hopped in. No matter how many times you’ve done it, getting into a car with a stranger knowing you will soon be barreling down the freeway at 70mph is exhilarating.

I introduced myself as a reporter and told her we were writing about the connection between American masculinity and blue-collar work. I turned on the recorder and she said her name was Chrystal. Like others in this story she only wanted her first name used to avoid future distress – whether from the law, a boss, or in this case, her ex-lover.

“My son died about 15 years ago,” she said. “He was beaten to death by his father. I was almost taken with him, five months pregnant.”

We’d been in the car less than 10 minutes.

“When I saw you on the side of the road I literally just visited his grave. I try to come as much as I can but being 15, 20 miles away sometimes it’s hard.”

She was silent for a moment.

“I have been in three different states because [my ex-husband] keeps finding me. And I’m like, ‘Dude, just leave me the hell alone.’”

I asked if she’s scared.

“I am now because I saw him the other day. So I’m kind of a little more careful about where I go, how long I stay in certain places.”

Because the conversation was so short, I never got the chance to ask her why she had picked us up. I have to guess that two male strangers, to her, represented more temporary safety than her former partner. Then again, maybe she was just feeling kind.

“The cliche is I’ve been raped, beaten, left for dead – but that’s the truth,” she said. “You just deal with the cards that you’re dealt.”

With that, she dropped us off.
Chrystal, a nurse, picked us up after visiting her son’s grave in Ohio.
Chrystal, a nurse, picked us up after visiting her son’s grave in Ohio. Photograph: Alexandre da Veiga

Alexandre and I initially set out to hitchhike the midwest and Appalachia to see if the American idea of manhood was changing.

In the US, a man’s value has long been based almost solely on one thing: his ability to put food on the table via his paycheck. With blue-collar work vanishing, underemployment rampant and the gig economy ascendant, the nature of traditional work is changing.

It follows that this is also altering the American idea of masculinity.

Precisely because people are often so forthcoming with hitchhikers, we thought it would be a good method to discuss the softer, more vulnerable side of American manhood – a topic often hidden behind innuendo, bravado and posturing.

Over dozens of interviews, we found people struggling heroically under the relentless grind of American capitalism. We found there are jobs to be had, but few that pay a living wage or offer time with family. As one man put it: “There are jobs, but none of them pay good.”

We left from my home town of Adrian, Michigan, on a grey summer morning. Like so many small towns scattered across the industrial midwest, Adrian was once relatively prosperous and staunchly middle class. The decline of these bucolic hamlets tracks almost exactly with the decline of American manufacturing. Problems once relegated to large cities, like heroin addiction, are growing and the town had two murders this year in a population of just over 20,000 – unthinkable when I was growing up.

Two types of people pick up hitchhikers: those who want to listen to your stories and those who want you to hear theirs

Our first ride, from a 27-year-old man, flirted with such challenges.

“I would have been gone years ago,” that man named Adam said, “if I wasn’t growing weed.”

There are basically two types of people who pick up hitchhikers: those who want to listen to your stories and those who want you to hear theirs. But, at least in my experience, it is almost exclusively people who have physical jobs – nurses, roofers, repairmen, factory workers, waitresses – that stop. Everyone that picked us up on this trip made money working with their body.

Adam’s Chevy truck was nice without being flashy. He drove us south for 40 minutes, offering his knowledge on the marijuana business.

The best he could make in a factory working 40 a week was $12 an hour. Growing marijuana, he made approximately $70,000 last year, minus a couple grand in expenses and with lots of free time. He used the extra time to work on a house he had inherited from his grandmother, and to play tabletop games.

His business was legal by state standards, but marijuana is still illegal on the federal level – and much like hitchhiking, the burgeoning business lives in a gray area.

He dropped us off, and when I left my water bottle in his truck he turned around to return it.

After waiting less than an hour, our next ride came from a truck driver. A decade ago, half of my rides came from truckers, but the law and the regulations of trucking companies are now making it more difficult.

Charles instructed us to hide in the rear of the cab so no one would see us through the windshield: “If the highway patrol stops us, I’m fired.”

He had been a driver for a couple of years and before that he’d done the blue-collar shuffle: in and out of factories and shit jobs with cruel bosses that paid little. He’d also been a clown in a dunk tank in a traveling circus before he had a family. He wore a keyring bearing a picture of his daughters and wife, attached to his seatbelt.

He told us something we’d hear time and again: that just to pay the bills, he was forced to work so often it was keeping him away from defining family events.
The job no one wants: why won't young people work in logging?
Read more

When he received the call his wife was in labor, he was sitting in an empty truck in Missouri, waiting for a load that wouldn’t be ready for at least 24 hours. To dispatch another driver would have cost the company excess time.

When he called his company and asked if he could head home to see the birth of his daughter, they said no.

He drove back to Arkansas anyway, defiantly telling the company, “You can come pick the truck up.” He knew he would be fired, and he did what he had to do. He made it in time for the birth.

“Kids are expensive as shit,” he said. “But they’re worth it.”


After a handful of quick hops we met Isaac Smith, who had an eighth-grade education and owned a roofing company. He had grown up Amish, an American Christian sect who shun modern conveniences like electricity and automobiles. He left, in his words, “to find God”.

Growing up, he said, the annual household budget for his family of nine was less than $5,000. They made their own clothes and grew their own food but it was only because of the community surrounding them –to help out with chores and child rearing and farming and the like – that they were able to do so.

“Everyone now is taught to go get computer jobs, and make $50 an hour, or $50m,” he said. “Nobody is taught to go in the trades any more. All the baby boomer tradesmen are dying out.”

I asked him if it made him feel like a man to see what he had accomplished.

“I take pride in it,” he said, straightening his spine. “When you work a hard day’s work, you can stand back and see what you did. And it lasts a long time.”

He beat his chest slowly and said the world would be a better place with more Amish values.

After offering us the names and numbers of some friends near Cleveland who could help us if we were stuck, he dropped us off near Vandalia, a small town in Ohio along I-75, where we once again waited.

But this time we waited. And waited. And waited.

We waited all day.

After seven and a half hours in the sun, we decided to call it. But at our motel for the night, we did end up meeting one of the most fascinating characters on the entire trip, a true hillbilly Shakespeare.

David Linze explained what it meant to be a blue-collar man in America right now, while sitting in a fold-up camping chair outside his shitty room, in terms so crystalline as to be poetic.

Alex and I stayed in these $60-a-night motels because this is where men live. Away from their families, often for weeks at a time, these nondescript and depressing little nodes warehouse the people that keep the power plants up to date, the ditches dug, the consumer goods moved.

David was a truck driver for 16 years, but he had vowed to never step in a truck again. Being away for so many years ruined his marriage. “Time off isn’t counted by the days and the weekends,” he said. “It’s in hours.”

At the moment, he was staying in the hotel a few miles from his home while he and his wife took some time apart – a separation caused, David said, by his job’s demanding schedule. Scraping a buck knife his father had given him along a sharpening stone – something he did when deep in his own head – he summarized his thoughts.

“What I’m looking at right now is a metaphor for my entire life. Just over that bridge,” he pointed to the highway overpass, “lies my family, you know, where they’re laying their heads down. And in between us was the job that took me away from them for so long.”

“This is it now,” he said gesturing to the camp chairs and the beer cans and the fluorescent light, and the nondescript beige everything of the motel. “It’s not anyone’s fault but my own. That’s part of our journey, isn’t it? Finding ways to accept responsibility and not pass it off.”

“When you’re an over the road truck driver, you miss more than what you’d ever think. Birthday parties. You miss the significant things in your children’s lives, and your wives’ lives. They’re doing 99% of the raising, and you get to hear about it on the telephone,” he said, scraping the knife. “I heard about my son’s first steps over the phone. My daughter’s seventh birthday, for whatever reason that sticks out. I missed it.”

“It was too much for me when I came back and I saw the devastation I’d wreaked. It was overwhelming. I stepped out of a truck in August and never got back in. I didn’t have any desire to. When you come home and look at those wrecked faces, it’s hard. It’s devastating, as a man, as a person who believes in taking care of your family first.”

When you’re a truck driver, you miss more than what you’d ever think. I heard about my son’s first steps over the phone
David Linze

He said it was all summed up by a country song, The Dollar by Jamey Johnson. Country music, a genre often derided as being low class, tends to feature strong men talking about their emotions. It is something of a cultural rarity.

The song tells the heartbreaking story of a son who asks his mother where his father goes all day and why. She tells him it’s for work, because he must get paid. After thinking for a moment, the son runs upstairs and returns with a quarter and four dimes.

He asks: “Momma, how much time will this buy me?”

Heading in his black SUV towards Cincinnati, Terrence Thomas said he had lived in Singapore for four years with his wife, who had moved for a job. “One of the main reasons I liked being over there was that I escaped all the stereotypes of a black male,” he said. “Over there I was just American. I didn’t have to worry about people looking at me in the store like I was going to steal stuff – and I really enjoyed that.”

I asked him how his race had affected his sense of masculinity in the US.

“We grow up having to think about a whole bunch of things other people in other races don’t have to think about – when I go in a store I make sure I have a receipt,” he said. “Everything has to look on the up and up. I try to make people feel safe around me. Like, if there’s a Caucasian woman or something, I try to put distance between us so she’s not scared … it definitely shaped the person I came to be.”

This was the last ride we would get on the highway. Once we’d cross the Mason-Dixon line, the historic dividing line between north and south, slave state and free, which Cincinnati nearly straddles, we’d spend two more days on the highway, almost 16 hours. Nobody would pick us up.

I am white and Alex black. And although there is no way to quantify it, right about when the Confederate license plates and stars and bars bandannas began, the looks began as well, the gazes of utter disgust. There is a special type of hatred reserved for white and black mixing in the US, and we were running up against it.

“You can see disdain in some of their faces,” said Alex, who is originally from Portugal and has done some hitchhiking before. “You see a black guy and then a white guy hanging out with the black guy, and it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re one of those traitors.’”

Richwood, not quite 20 miles south of Cincinnati in Kentucky, was the first time I’ve ever had the police called on me while hitchhiking. The deputy, a sturdy man, asked us for our identification and I explained the premise of the story.

He said he “didn’t care” that we were hitchhiking, but “someone” had called and he was required to stop and check us for warrants, at least.

And then it hit me: Trump is a weak man’s idea of a strong one. He’s the warped American ideal of masculinity

When not getting arrested is the extent of your good luck, it means your luck wasn’t very good in the first place. After a discouraging two days of largely making it nowhere, this was the worst. The sun just would not quit and even with a long-sleeved shirt, a cowboy hat and sunscreen, after nine hours in the cloudless sun I was sunburnt, dehydrated and doubting the nature of man.

Standing in the sun all day with your thumb held out leaves lots of time to think, to wonder why people aren’t stopping. The world owes neither me nor any other hitchhiker anything. But I’d never, ever, had this much trouble getting a ride before.

After nine hours on the highway with the sky growing dim, Alex and I decided to travel north and try again in the morning. The Uber driver who picked us up, Ben Heninger, said he had had a much easier time hitchhiking more than 30 years ago.

“[In the 1980s] I’d hitchhike 90% of the places I went. Probably within five minutes I would get a ride,” he said.

I asked if he would pick up a hitchhiker now.

“If I saw them on the side of the road, probably not,” he said. “I’m from an era where people trusted everybody. When I was in my 20s I didn’t even lock my door. But not any more. I lock my door when I’m going around the block.”

Later on I called Elijah Wald, an avid hitchhiker and the author the hitchhiking tome Riding in Cars With Strangers, for his thoughts.

“My feeling on the culture of fear is that a lot of it is generalized rather than specific. The perception that nobody will pick you up, that it’s a much more frightening world, seems to be pretty universal … though in my experience things haven’t changed all that much.”

He explained hitchhiking is a complex exercise in perception.

“I don’t think people are by and large more scared of individuals, or less trusting of their ability to judge who looks like an OK guy. At the same time they are more convinced that the world in general has gotten much more violent and scary – which is also not true. The murder rate was way higher in the 1970s.”

After a few more hours on the roadside with no rides the next morning, Alex and I began our long way back home.

Coincidentally, our trip was perfectly bookended by two speeches by Donald Trump, both pointed towards a certain type of rough American masculinity associated with taming the west. The first one was to the Boy Scouts.

On the day Alex and I left, Trump addressed the Scouts. It’s an organization that attempts to inoculate young men against fear: fear of the wilderness, sharp objects, themselves, responsibility. I was once a Boy Scout, and remember the most exciting part was earning a card that let me carry a pocket knife my grandfather bought me.

Between regaling the young men with stories about Manhattan parties, the president mentioned fear by name.

“You will become leaders, and you will inspire others to achieve their dreams they once thought totally impossible, things that you said could never, ever happen are already happening for you,” he said. “And if you do these things – and if you refuse to give into doubt or fear – then you will help to make America great again.”

The second was during our last lunch at a truck stop. We turned our heads to the big TV playing Fox News. Trump was about to give a speech to a group of police on Long Island about the MS-13 gang.

It was a veritable symphony of fear.

“They like to knife ’em and cut ’em, and let ’em die slowly because that way it’s more painful, and they enjoy watching that much more.” Trump said. “These are animals.”

“They kidnap, they extort, they rape, they rob. They prey on children …”

“They have transformed peaceful parks, and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields …”

“One by one we’re liberating American towns …”

“We will bring back justice to the United States …”

And then it hit me: Trump is a weak man’s idea of a strong one. He’s the warped American ideal of masculinity, supposedly fearless and supposedly strong, but in actuality little more than bluster.

Trump was never out there on America’s highways, trying to make a dollar for his family while they struggled at home, never dealt with racial prejudice, never built anything with his own hands, never tried to patch things up with his wife while living in a shitty motel.

What we saw on this trip was a lot more wounded, a lot sadder – a masculinity trying to make a life from the scraps of capitalism.

“I don’t know when I started feeling like a man, but I know the moment, the second, and the day that I knew I had to be a man,” said Linze, sitting outside his temporary room, scraping his knife.

“When my son was born, the games were over.”

No comments:

Post a Comment