July 31, 2021

OLD GLORY, NEW ANGER:

The odd election of 2020 does not sit well with a great many Americans. They are not in the mood to engage in the equivalent theatrics of Ben Cohen’s mockery of Bush or the pussyhat feminists’ sneers against Trump.

President Biden is, in their view, a hollow figure not even worth mention. Their complaint lies far deeper as they see the purposeful destruction of American values by an elite that bullies and derides them.

What will come of this? How might revolt manifest itself? I hope it will be a successful recapture of key institutions, perhaps beginning with the schools. But the political elite that prefers to scorn the common people for wanting a say in their government is playing an awfully risky game. Despair breeds wrath and that fire, once ignited, will engulf us all.

From Peter Wood, the author of the 2007 book on America’s increasing anger, A Bee in the Mouth, which included (among many other anecdotes) a brilliant interpretation of the legendary scene of Jack Nicholson’s character accosting a waitress in the 1970 film, Five Easy Pieces: Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea “isn’t really a working-class guy. He was born to wealth and was successful as a concert pianist, and his work as an oil rigger is just his personal quest for authenticity. The waitress, however, is the real thing: a woman with few other options trying to make a living at a tough job. So the restaurant scene really offers a privileged elitist who has the freedom to float among whatever social roles he pleases, raging against someone he regards as beneath him because she is so bound to the conventions of her job. She is a resident of the working class; he is merely a truculent visitor. But the movie essentially invites us to see things his way. We, the sophisticated audience, are asked to share in Dupea’s contempt for meaningless conventions, even if we squirm a little at his cruelty to the waitress.”

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