Shattered Dreams of Back Row Americans
‘Fame is vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.’
— Horace Greeley
By Ladson F. Mills III
Donald Trump has succeeded where many others before him have failed. His election exposed what does not lie beneath the surface of the majority of America’s celebrity class. Their continued adolescent tantrums might be considered humorous if it were no so tiresome.
It has been observed that the current political unrest is not dissimilar to those of the sixties. This may be true, but the music back then was ever so much better.
The latest to join the unhinged is Stephen Colbert. His recent sexually suggestive remark concerning President Trump and Vladimir Putin while tasteless and vulgar was not surprising. Like most modern stylish liberal celebrities, Colbert seems able to embrace anything except those who do not embrace him.
I am old enough to remember the first tragic 9/11; September 11, 1974. That was the day on which Eastern Airlines flight 212 travelling from Charleston to Charlotte crashed on its final approach killing 72 of its 82 passengers. Among the dead was Colbert’s father and two brothers.
His account of the horror of that day and the painful aftermath which altered his life is a powerful and moving story. It makes his rise to stardom even more special for those of us who live in Charleston and remember that day all too well. But somewhere along the way he changed.
He is no longer the man who humbly shared a story about the time he brought home his obnoxious, arrogant Colbert Report persona. His wife informed him that person was not welcome in their house. It might be timely for her to intervene once again.He would certainly not be the first to succumb to the temptations that come from celebrity.
Several weeks ago author and humorist P.J. O’Rourke spoke to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. O’Rourke’s political satire Parliament of Whores is one of the funniest observations on American government I have ever read. During his talk, O’Rourke was not the least bit shy in vocalizing his disdain for Donald Trump and those who voted for him. He claims, however to understand why so many may have been concerned with the direction of the country.
He shared a story about a friend in the timber business which is arguably the most heavily government regulated business in the country. There are literally thousands of pages filled with regulations which grow daily. His friend confided the frustration of having to devote incredible hours to understanding and adhering to these regulations only to come home and find the nightly news dedicated to transgender restroom issues. This massive disconnect is undeniable.
O’Rourke was quick to point out his friend is not a deplorable but a decent hard working man. Yet he is blind as to why he would not vote for the candidate who promised to continue with the same old used up failed policies. The very same policies which have wrecked the economy and placed the world on the brink of a possible nuclear war.
What becomes clear is at the end of the day O’Rourke would rather support the status quo with his fellow celebrities than risk the possibility of real change.
Chris Arnade of The Guardian in his article ‘What I learned after 100,000 miles on the road talking to Trump supporters’ ought to be required reading for anyone who looks down on those who voted for Mr. Trump. He speaks of two America’s which he describes as ‘front row and back row America.’
Back Row America has become a place of shattered dreams where politicians occasionally drop in to seek votes that will return them to their lucrative careers. It is a place where good paying jobs have been lost and replaced by high toned rhetoric and empty promises.
It is a place where children will not grow up to be as prosperous as their parents. It is a place of an increasing under-class who are only acknowledged when votes are needed or their children are required to fight the nation’s wars.
These hardworking tax paying citizens are worthy of respect and they are not deplorable. They are the backbone of this country and they have experienced the failed leadership first- hand. What O’Rourke seems to handily dismiss as inconvenient theory is for them daily reality.
It might be helpful for those who occupy the front row to remind themselves that prosperity is a blessing and not a right. It is not guaranteed forever.
Stephen Colbert defended his behavior by stating, ‘… life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me a hero. I think we can all agree on that.’
No, Mr. Colbert we can’t ‘all agree on that.’
A true hero would have spoken out when Mr. Trump’s daughter was verbally assaulted on an airplane in front of her young children. A real hero would have never sat silently when a Saturday Night Live writer mockingly attacked the ten-year old son of the president.
They were defenseless. Your friends are not.
Perhaps we can ‘all agree on that.’
Ladson F. Mills III is a former Marine Corps Line Officer and Navy Chaplain. He is retired and lives with his wife on Johns Island, South Carolina. He is a regular contributor to The Covert Letter and Virtueonline.