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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Recommended Reading

To this inanity we have come! See How Serena Williams’s baby shower helped those who want to make America great again: The shower's nostalgia for the 1950s encourages the restoration of the politics and hierarchies of the era, written by Karen Dundak and appearing in the August 15, 2017 edition of the Washington Post. Comments posted thereto have thus far ridiculed this "analysis."

For those of you without a subscription to the Washington Post, the entire ludicrous essay is below the fold.  My brief commentary is also below the fold.

Serena Williams’s baby shower embraced a cultural nostalgia for the 1950s that sanitizes the real history of the time and feeds the effort to revive the era’s politics. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
Serena Williams has excelled at playing the celebrity pregnancy game. When she released pictures of her baby bump, a) she looked good; b) those who grasped her pregnancy timeline immediately realized that she’d won the Australian Open while pregnant; and c) it just happened to be her disgraced rival Maria Sharapova’s birthday.

Game, set, match: Serena.

So it’s not surprising that pictures from Serena’s 1950s-themed baby shower took the world of social media by storm. They are chock-full of other celebs: La La Anthony, Eva Longoria, Kelly Rowland, and of course, sister Venus. Clad in the Fifties-era vintage style and posing with props on hand at Nick’s 50’s Diner in West Palm Beach, Fla., the women looked incredible and clearly had a great time.

There is something to be said for them appropriating an era, laying claim to the enjoyment of the lighter side of a time when many women, and especially women of color, experienced incredible discrimination and unbearable hardship. And in embracing the aesthetic of the 1950s while clearly living as modern, empowered women, they are making an unspoken but marked point about how things have changed.

Yet by glorifying 1950s culture in the political climate in which we live, these women, who assuredly would not want to return to Jim Crow-era Florida, unwittingly reinforced a dangerous nostalgia that obscures the era’s harsh historical realities. Although the 1950s were great for white, heterosexual Americans, for people of color and sexual minorities it was a time of racial violence and pervasive sexism and bigotry.

But Williams’s baby shower does not just promote a romanticized history of the 1950s. This very nostalgia itself has served as a cultural justification for restoring the politics and hierarchies of the era. One cannot venerate the culture of poodle skirts and sock hops without furthering the cause of those who want to Make America Great Again.

President Trump attracted fans with this slogan because a segment of the population has long imagined a triumphant return to 1950s America, an America not yet irrevocably changed by the New Left, counterculture and the civil rights, women’s liberation and gay liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

An America where “men were men” and “women were women.” An America where those men faced economic competition only among their own kind (that is, other white men), and thus enjoyed a certain kind of affirmative action. An America where those men’s breadwinner status cemented them as unquestioned heads of their households. A prosperous America, manufacturing the consumer goods citizens had done without as they had endured economic depression and wartime scarcity. A disciplined America, without the “bloated government” so despised by followers of Trump.

Nostalgia for the era emerged in the early 1970s and manifested itself through a yearning for 1950s culture: college campus visits by Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody (evidence that baby boomers would generate a massive nostalgia market in decades to come); a renewed hula hoop craze; and pop culture paeans to the era such as American Graffiti, Happy Days and Grease. In 1971, the New York Times published a story with the headline “Students Revive Good Old 1950’s” and noted that “today’s college student missed out on the college life of panty raids, clubs, and big weekends. They had politics instead … some students may feel they missed something.”

The rise in this cultural craving to return to the 1950s came from people dismayed by the political changes roiling society and the movements laboring to reimagine its cultural mores and hierarchies. Then, as now, the nostalgia came from those who had long been at the top of the pyramid — socially, economically, politically — and found themselves no longer certain about the world or their place in it. The disorienting effects of the Vietnam War, deindustrialization, Watergate, the sexual revolution, the energy crisis, women demanding equality and persistent racial unrest only served to make an idealized image of the fifties that much more desirable.

This cultural nostalgia, supported by the era’s popular culture and media narratives, fed an emergent political nostalgia. Conservatives such as Ronald Reagan employed sanitized celebrations of the 1950s to stoke this wistfulness and build support for their plans to return America to a better, more triumphant time before white Americans sensed theirs was a nation in decline.

In 1974, Reagan, then governor of California, spoke of the United States as a “city on a hill,” and recalled that in his youth “none of us knew that we even had a racial problem.” Thanks to “editorializing and campaigning” by people like him, he claimed, things began to change. He gave no hint of the dogged determination of civil rights activists or the violent resistance they faced. He belittled the Great Society, rattling off numbers of government programs to demonstrate government bloat, but giving no indication of the good they had done.

In 1980, with an eye to the “good old days,” Reagan, like Trump, campaigned on a promise to Make America Great Again. He aimed to make good on this pledge through deregulation, cuts to the social welfare state, a military buildup and efforts to undermine gains made by the social movements of the previous two decades. Many of those prospering thanks to these policies were Americans who had benefited from 1950s-style social, political and economic hierarchies. And even for those not benefiting, the appeal of triumphant rhetoric, of a great nation in which they could believe and be proud, has held strong.

All of this highlights the question: For whom were these good old days so good? The cultural nostalgia of the 1970s, one echoed in Serena Williams’s baby shower, was for a version of 1950s life enjoyed only by a certain privileged segment of the population — specifically, white Americans who embraced traditional gender roles and definitions of the family. The ways in which that privilege has been jealously guarded should give us pause whenever we catch a whiff of 1950s revivalism.

It can be great fun to indulge in the culture of the past, and some likely would suggest that such fun is harmless. But idealizing the culture of this earlier era, especially when done by popular celebrities, has troubling underpinnings. It legitimizes the politics and the hierarchy of the period and fuels a contemporary quest to restore them, a dangerous proposition for the many groups who found themselves shut out from those avenues of power. For that population, a return to the past would be anything but great.

Karen Dunak is associate professor of history at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She is the author of "As Long As We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America." [Twitter page for Karen Dunak]
Google-search results for Karen Dunak HERE.

It may be easy shrug off the stupidity and Trump Derangement Syndrome displayed in the above essay. But who wants to take bets that the kind of inanity displayed by the above essay will not appear this fall in classrooms all over the United States — inanity led by teachers and professors?

Believe me, most young people do not have the critical thinking skills to combat such inanity. What's more, teachers and professors hold the power of the grade book. Do you know how well nigh impossible it is to thwart such power?


  1. We who lived these years hit the lottery. It grieves me that there will never be another generation to experience it. As for the Blacks during this time, yes there was segregation in many places...but in many places they were accepted without questions. We had many in school and I never heard a racist comment. Just as I figured out there were exclusionary segments of society that I was not welcomed, so it was with others. I know, This will come across as someone who is/was clueless to their plight. My parents hired blacks in their business without a problem. So put me down as a callus bigot. I don't care. But I had nothing to do with any of it.

  2. Rage-bait for the softheads. The left excels at this.

  3. What she writes is largely accurate but she makes a huge leap to assume that all nostalgia is a desire to revive the past wholesale.

    So some celebrity holds a baby shower in a mock 50's soda shop.
    Hell, it makes me want to drive over to Colleen's in Medford square for a root beer float. I don't know of anyplace else they are served nearby and the chrome and neon fixtures are free. Don't know about idolizing it. That seems to be Ms. Dunak's construct.

    As for what appears in classrooms, the tragedy will be not being able to find a balance. If it were me, I'd point out that there was discrimination in the 50's and we've had enough strength in the culture to largely admit it and progress.
    All to the chagrin of both Ms. Dunak and the Leave It to Beaver crowd.

    1. Duck,
      As for what appears in classrooms, the tragedy will be not being able to find a balance.

      The lack of balance has already been accomplished. I am astounded to observe the recent "good reads" assigned by the public education system.

      Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see the article cited in this blog post to be used as classroom reading during the 2017-2018 school term.

    2. I'd be very surprised to see the article ever surface again.

      As for the "good reads" and why they are unacceptable, you'd have to point to a few.

      Caleigh's August readin so far has been:

      To Dance, a Ballerina's Graphic Novel

      Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq

      642 Tiny Things to Write About

      Serafina and the Splintered Heart

      ... not part of a school summer reading program. She picked them out herself.

    3. As always, there are none so blnd as those who refuse to see.

    4. Duck,
      Did she choose Serafina because she has been influenced by your interest in Appalachian music?

      How old is Caleigh?

    5. She's eight.

      I suggested the Serafina series because it's a bit different. She asked for the first and has been a fan.
      The kid just devours books.

  4. It was a friggin baby shower, for Christs sake.

    It was certainly no business Mzz Duncan Donuts.

    1. Warren,
      It was a friggin baby shower, for Christs sake.

      Hahahaha! Exactly!

  5. In the 70's I visited a couple, and back then there was a party (or get together) everywhere and every nite.
    we guys were gethered around the tv (but wasn't watching), and the women were around the coffe table yacking and laughing having a good time - and the husban of one of the women (the ones who lived there) would say her name Loudly, to get her attenion and start to ask her about something that he should not have in the moment. She would start crying and let him have it--"why do you have to ruin my good time, you do this every time we have company"!
    This article is nothing more than a warning not to stray off the Liberal/DemocRat Plantation-----or else she will be called "Not Black Enough".

  6. Pardon the pun, but this piece is a perfect SHOWER of SH-T –– a humorless, tendentious, sprawling bit of journalistic ineptitude. [Her vulgar repeated misuse of the word "incredible" when she meant "attractive," "desirable" "lovely," "fashionable," "chic," "charming," "engaging," etc. ALONE is but one example of many faults that betrays a poor vocabulary, severe lack of imagination, and a lazy, careless approach to the written word that could only be called "clumsy" and "amateurish" at best].

    My one word review of this Travesty of the Scrivener's Art has to be "BOO!"

    1. FT,
      Pardon the pun, but this piece is a perfect SHOWER of SH-T –– a humorless, tendentious, sprawling bit of journalistic ineptitude.

      I do not disagree.

      And now you have an idea of what I'm up against as a teaching of high school Composition. The students who feed into the homeschool group have a similar misunderstanding about good writing -- and parents today, for the most part, labor under the same misunderstanding.

      The dumbing down of America has been accomplished.

  7. Those with a nostalgia for the 60's Civil Rights era harbor a desire to return to the days of segregation and Bull Connor... when there were real causes to struggle for and not get stuck penning hollow journalism about celebrity wedding showers...



  8. I have spent years making fun of the left, but I am now seriously worried. The academic and media left are the thought-leaders and opinion-makers of our society (and to some extent, the world) and they are careening down an ugly, psychotic spiral.

    I watched the "horrible" news conference at Trump Tower. President Trump made perfect sense, invited everyone to look at the bigger picture and was clearly the sanest person in the room compared to the screaming sorority girls and man-child ninnies shouting questions at him. It was evident President Trump had watched the video and studied the entire situation, while the press was playing at PC advocacy thought-shaming.

    I now believe this mass psychosis is a result of Orwell's Speech-Thought-Speech loop. The leftwing minds have become narrower and narrower, and their ideologies more rigid. As thoughts, words and phrases are banished from the vocabulary, and other become obligatory, a free-wheeling conversation is damn near impossible.

    The left is on a psychopathic rampage, and they will bring this entire nation to the brink of something very dangerous.

    I don't know how we unscrew this...

    1. @SF,

      Yes, while Orwell was a little off in his timing (1984)his foretelling seems to be falling into place. This includes all of the requisite electronic surveillance technology to complete the circuit!

    2. Public education has become public enemy number one.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. It's just a newspaper column, Silverfiddle.

      Probably fewer people read it than read The Gateway Pundit.

    5. Silver,

      Once a flood tide of any undesirable thing [in this case insanity] has been released there can be no going back. The land must be inundated, the soil soaked, the buildings washed away, the cattle drowned, the tree roots rotted, the trees felled, the crops spoiled, those people who not drowned must be rendered homeless. Nothing will be left but the desolation of an endless vista of mud flats –– and despair.

      And then the long slow process of regeneration and societal evolution begins again till a thousand years later the cycle repeats itself –– as it has for countless millennia.

      The Brain, within its Groove
      Runs evenly –– and true ––
      But let a Splinter swerve ––
      'Twere easier for You ––

      To put a Current back ––
      When Floods have slit the Hills ––
      And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves ––
      And trodden out the Mills ––

      ~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

    6. Duck:
      "It's just a newspaper column, Silverfiddle.
      Probably fewer people read it than read The Gateway Pundit."
      It's not what she wrote, it's the groupthing behind it."

  9. @Mustang,

    "Public education has become public enemy number one."

    Yes, it all starts there and to think that our tax dollars are directly contributing to our own demise-GGAAGHHH!


    A little OT but what do think of this Online K-12 Public Education(?) that I'm seeing more and more touted and advertised on Denver TV?

    1. Jon,
      I don't know anyone who uses or has used K12.com. At that link, you can enter a specific zip code so as to get more information. I can't be certain what this program entails without having more information about the textbooks (if any).

      I do notice a lot of educational jargon on this web page. Often, such educational jargon with those bells and whistles is appealing but lacks real substance.

      My best advice is that parents access some of the lessons to see what's what.

  10. AOW, your comments on my blog today were perfect...thanks.
    Also, I thought you'd freak as well as I did when I read Bannon said this: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
    On the day of MY post subject? YIKES.

    1. Wouldn't be a stitch if he's jumping ship because of a leak from the Mueller investigation that it's in the fan in October.

    2. Yes, I'm sure Bannon doesn't sleep over the fear of Mueller and his merry DNC/Hillary fan group of lawyers. I laugh every time I consider any special counsel looking into a Democrat who had all Republican supporters on the committee and how fast the Left would get rid of that.

    3. Z,
      Honestly, I'm past getting freaked over most political doings.

      As for Bannon, let's see what he does and says from here.

      Also, I'm not sure what the exact circumstances of his resignation were. As I've said time and again, so much smoke and mirrors.

    4. Z,
      I also note these words:

      ..."It's the Republican Establishment," Bannon told The Standard. "The Republican Establishment has no interest in Trump's success..."

      At some point, I'll read all of what Bannon said.

    5. More about Bannon:

      ...“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on capitol hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon said Friday in an interview hours after his departure was announced by the administration....


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