The American Tragedy (Today)


* An almost 69 year old, 

* Upper-middle class, 

* White male, 

* Me, George, 

* Up at 3:40 a.m., today, March 25, 2020

I initially took care of my personal needs.  I then fed Zoey, our mini-golden-doodle, took her out to do her business, came in, and got into my exercise gear.   I then did an intense workout. I stretched and did 60 minutes on my exercise bike, with an average heart beat of (probably) between 135 and 140 beats per minute.

Later this morning I will play duplicate bridge (card game) online with my partner J, playing against 300-500 or more fellow bridge players, mostly older, reasonably affluent white people, doing what we love doing.

I was, and am selfish, in sense.   I have my workouts, my lengthy walks with Zoey twice a day, and my duplicate bridge.

The Tragedy:

IF - my life was similar - during most of my day(s), I would be very similar to many Americans who live in the United States.   

We have worked hard throughout our lives.   We have (in our minds) earned what we now have.  Some of us feel lucky to have all that we have.    Others feel that we've succeeded in spite of obstacles that we believe that we have faced.

As men, we often live in an allusion that we are stronger than women.   Statistics on mortality tell a very different story.

AGE                  MALE             FEMALE
ALL 897.2 831.4
Birth-1 618.7 512.8
1--4 27.3 21.1
5--9 12.5 10.6
10--14 18.6 12.3
15-19 72.7 29.4
20-24 137.9 50.9
25-29 171.3 68.8
30-34 196.3 93.5
35-39 227.1 120.5
40-44 273.6 163.9
45-49 387.3 240.6
50-54 604.4 375.5
55-59 919.5 563.4
60-64 1,328.30 795.4
65-69 1,831.80 1,154.50
70-74 2,668 1,809.50
75-79 4193.7 2,963.60
80-84 6,901.60 5,123.90
85+ 14,689.20 12,966.50
Deaths per 100,000-2017

You will note, if you look at the data above, that we males die more frequently than our female counterparts from birth on.   As teenagers, our rates of dying begins moving up far more rapidly, than those of teenage girls.    "Masculinity" is probably most notable  here.  We become testosterone driven risk takers.  We race our cars, challenge each other to "be a man", and in other ways act "crazy".   

"Being a man" is being a distinct individual.    We are NOT looking at the values of sharing and caring.  We are not looking at being well rounded human beings.   Being ourselves is often toxic.   We are much more prone (than women) to being abusive - to women, children and fellow men.   We fight to defend our honor.   We need to "be The man" and control "our" (sic) woman/women.

Often as upper-middle class white men we are not "crude" like "those other men".    Our toxicity is less visible in terms of its (obvious) violence, though it can still result in hurting others, and in the death of far too many people.   We employ others as "consultants" and squeeze them, so that they can barely make a living and can not afford healthcare.   We pay very low wages, playing off immigrants with native born residents, or People of Color with poor white people.    

We pay younger, often poor women for their favors, while we neglect our primary partners  We buy them off or simply isolate them from others.    We use our connections to get our sons or ourselves out of scrapes, while belittling the supposed failures of others.   We help those in our (white, upper-middle class) communities get jobs and other things of value, while belittling affirmative action as being "reverse discrimination".

We white people live comfortably in our worlds.  We are apart from poorer folks, who often are Of Color.  We live in particular suburbs or neighborhoods, because they have "good schools".    We donate plenty of money to help our own schools be better, while those lacking our wealth often have insufficient money to properly educate their children.

We donate to charity, but much more of our money goes for our children's sports teams and arts activities.    We say that we care, but our actions bespeak tokenism and a failure to recognize that racism is systemic, not primarily a problem of individual actions and being.

Slavery ended here in 1865.   We consistently ignore the fact that for the next 100 years there was totally legal discrimination.   We also ignore how defacto discrimination continues through the present.   A great example of this is described by Paul Tough in his excellent book:  The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us.

We pretend that we live in a classless society, seemingly believing the Horatio Alger type myths that anyone can get ahead if they try hard enough.   We also talk of the importance of the "capitalism" that we live in, while ignoring the growth of monopolies and small oligopolies such as Amazon, Facebook and Walmart.   Nobel laureate, former head of the president's council of economic advisers Joseph Stiglitz addresses this most clearly in his excellent book: People, Power and Profits.

We also live in a world where religion is used in various ways as a political weapon against immigrants, non-heterosexual people, working class people and People of Color as well as many of us.   While American Jews are commonly viewed as the core of the massive support of the Israeli government's (horrific to me) treatment of Palestinians, the far biggest support comes from the Christian Right, most notably through John Hagee's, Christians United for Israel with its 7.1 million members.   Arlie Russell Hochschild convincingly addresses the rise of Donald Trump and the "new right" in her wonderful book:  Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

Today's disaster with the Corona Virus dominating our lives has certainly been significantly aided by President Trump.   He still has the support of the Republican Party.   Denial prevents an effective effort to minimize the damage done.   Economics (and "Voodoo Economics" for the most part) prevails over public health.  Well more than a million potential victims will likely lose their lives as a result of continued deceit, ignorance and horrible, horrible priorities.

What we face today is largely a result of the triumph of the "individual" in our country.   While South Korea has stemmed the growth of the pandemic during the identical period of time that the U.S. faces an increasing catastrophe that is a clear result of the power of the "individual" here.

Charlene Carruthers perhaps best addresses the need for radical change in our country.   While her words are disturbing to many of us in our middle-class white complacency, they speak to a changing world of:  younger, less-male, less-white, less upper-class, less heterosexual people.  They recognize the need to work together collectively, rather than as "traditional" individualists.   Such people don't simply write off all of us "normal folks" as we generally do with them.   They listen,  hear and take the best that some of us (like Saul Alinsky) have given in their/our work.   They see the importance of connecting with others, and working together towards a better world.

I hope that out of this disaster more of us will open up our ears, and learn from our mistakes.   It won't be easy!   It is very necessary!


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