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November 4, 2022

If you want to know what Republicans are up to these days, look at what they accuse Democrats of doing.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

It used to be, not so long ago, that mom and dad — my Mom and Dad, anyway — told the kids that there were three things you don’t bring up in polite company: sex, politics and religion.

So why is it now that politicians of a certain bent won’t shut up about sex and religion?

It’s because in polite company, you talk sense: You don’t masturbate in public.

It used to be that members of our two major parties sought common ground, for the good of the nation.

So why is it today that politicians of a certain slant holler at us rudely that there ain’t no sech thing as common ground?

It’s because they ain’t got no ground to stand on.

Want to make people go wee-wee in their shorts and grab their guns for no reason?

Talk about the way other people have sex. 

Talk about any religion at’all. 

We all know this. It’s been talked to death at high volume, with no bass (sic) to it.

Yet I have not seen anyone point out during these recrudescent attacks on affirmative action that the people hollering the loudest dare not apply their arguments to themselves.

News sources of all persuasions agree about two things in our politics today: that the millions of Americans who form the “base” of the modern Republican Party tend to be white Evangelical Protestants, above all in rural areas and small towns; and that they feel they have been “cheated” of something — or if not cheated, then left behind — and that one method of cheating them has been affirmative action.

In other words, government “carve-outs” have been rigged, to give an unfair advantage to people who are Black, or Latino, or immigrants, or women: all of this to the manifest harm of white men.

And that these government policies — in education, hiring, job retention, wages, whatever — allow people who are Black, or Latino, or immigrants, or women to prosper unfairly: in short, that “those people” rely on the government to survive and feed their kids, rather than on their own hard work. 

And, this argument goes, “they” should not be allowed to depend on the government to overcome the shortcomings in their own lives. They should do their own homework, and depend on their own hard work.

In this way, “they” “cheat” people who do not depend on government in their daily lives: the Good White Men and Women.

That’s the argument, as I see it. 

But it’s got a hole in it.

Could it be that right-wing white Evangelical Republicans feel cheated and left behind because they did not do their own homework, and their own hard work?

And that all the years they were not doing it, they were depending on the government?

Could it be that our formerly chosen people (White Evangelical Protestants) spent way too many thousand hours watching stupid TV shows — and letting their children watch them — rather than reading books?

Could it be that they have only themselves to blame? And that they’re just a bunch of whiners?

Here’s an experiment I’d like to do:

Ask 100 randomly chosen right-wing Republicans how many of them have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” (Little, Brown, 2011)? Brother Malcolm claims that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master any complex skill, be it playing the ’cello or carpentry. 

(As is to be expected in our free-for-all society, numerous objectors wailed/whaled on Gladwell for this. But let’s consider the proposition.)

Be the number accurate or not, Mr. & Mrs. Left-Behind White People, can you think of anything you’ve done for 10,000 hours in your life, besides sleeping and eating?

And if so, what was it, and are you good at it? And if so, how good?

And if not, when will you be good at it, and what good will it do you?

Ten thousand hours comes to about three hours a day every day for 10 years.

Ever done that?

I did. I practiced clarinet and saxophone more’n that, and I got good enough to make a living — but not good enough to “succeed” the way I wanted to. So I did something else.

And what about you, Mr. and Mrs. Left-Behind? Have you spent 10,000 hours at anything besides sleeping and getting ready to eat?

If you did, I bet you got pretty good at it. Good enough to make a living, I bet.

And if you did all of that, and then a Black guy, or a woman, or a Mexican, or a gay guy got promoted and you didn’t, did you ever think that it was because they were just better at it than you? Or worked harder, and longer hours, or had more talent?

I have no resentment at all against any of the hundreds of sax players in New York alone who blew me off the stand, or of the kids in Lewisburg today who can do it. I love them. I love to see them work — even though they got the gig and I didn’t.

And what about you, Mr. and Mrs. Resentful White People? 

Could it be that you didn’t work hard enough? 

Or don’t have the talent? 

Could it be that you have no one to blame but yourself, White Man?

And what are you going to do about it?

Run to the government and whine about it?

Like so many times before?

And what are you going to tell your kids?

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