By Lynn Ashby 18 July 2016
WASP Without a Sting
How are you doing with your guilt trip? Have you even packed yet, because you’re carrying a lot of baggage? I must confess that I am having trouble with this voyage, and I feel terribly guilty about it. My problem afflicts millions of Americans: I am an Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, a WASP, and thus am responsible for most of my nation’s ills, if not those of the entire planet. And I am a bumbling idiot. I will give you a quick example: TV. The butt of jokes, situations, plots, is the white male. If it’s a family sit-com, Dad is the fall guy, whose job it is to look both chagrined and silly while the sound engineer turns up the laugh track. Wife: “Honey, did you go to the grocery store and bring home celery?” Dad: “Is that what you said? No, I went to the bank and brought home my salary.” (This is followed by the father’s hangdog look and the booming laugh track.)
In films, the best example are the National Lampoon movies, where Chevy Chase and then Ed Helms are the most helpless, hapless dummies on the screen. The women are the steady, sane characters. In drama and action films, how often do you see a minority as the villain? The safe path is the WASP. Count the good white folks in “Roots” and “Glory.” Very few. In the past we could tell jokes based on another race, religion or looks. Al Jolson built his career on black-faced songs, jokes and routines.
Particularly in today’s tense times, we can’t publicly make jokes about minorities, and how many politicians (George Allen), movie stars (Mel Gibson) and sports personalities (Jimmy the Greek) have gotten into trouble or ruined their careers by saying or even emailing a politically incorrect statement? The only safe target is the white male. (For purposes of feeling victimized, I’ll expand this category to all white males, not just WASPs.) You want to commit social suicide, propose White History Month. Of course, such a move would be greeted with: Every other month is White History Month.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt panicked after Pearl Harbor and sent between 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps, and we are reminded of it to this day 75 years later. Then I came upon this: “When we moved out on the march, again some of us just couldn’t make it. They lay on their sides shaking with chills or burning with fever….” Others tried to help, but the guards clubbed them away. “Two or three guards were left behind. They soon came trotting up, wiping their bayonets with rags.” – Texan and UT grad Vince Taylor, survivor of the Bataan Death March. Japan has yet to apologize, and some still honor their executed war criminals. What’s the connection? None. But I feel guilty about those internment camps. I never owned a slave, never shot an Indian and never blew up a mosque, but it’s still my fault. I never tried to keep Tejanos from voting, never insulted gays, never teased a Yankee about his accent. OK, two out of three ain’t bad. As a journalist, I never plagiarized, during the best of times and the worst of times, not even four score and seven years ago, but ask not what your country can do for you. Who signed this treasonous document? “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” A bunch of slave-owning, wig-wearing pols. We must hope none of them got their pictures on our currency.
Now for a moment of defense, or a sop to mine enemies. All you Irish and Mexicans can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. Poles, Germans, Greeks, Serbs and Chinese, live it up on your selected holiday, or any other day, for that matter. America is not so much a melting pot as a cafeteria line. Incidentally, Texans are safe targets, too. But if you want to see an excellent display of Texas’ diversity, next time you are in San Antonio find that big Hemisphere needle. Near the base is the Institute of Texan Cultures, featuring where we all came from. It’s enough to give multiculturalism a good name. Again, these are tense times and not the best days to bring up the matter. On the other hand, when is a good time? Probably never. However, it is socially acceptable for one group to joke about that same group. Some of the funniest Aggie jokes were told to me by Aggies. Remember that line in “From Here to Eternity” when Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) says: “Only my friends can call me a little wop!” So it’s probably a good idea for us gringos and honkies to keep our ethic and religious jokes to jokes about gringos and honkies, for we are the only safe target left.
Protestant make up 46.5 percent of America’s population, but there is not a single one on the U.S. Supreme Court, and none is on the way. Speaking of Washington, the D.C. area is festooned with markers and monuments to renowned leaders, men on horseback and people you never heard of. There is the National Fire Dog Monument complete with life-size fireman (no equally big firewoman) and dog. Plus plaque. There are 49 monuments to women in the Washington area including Seated Yucatan Woman, the Spirit of Haida Gwaii, Crown Princess Martha of Norway and Olive Risley Seward, the foster daughter of William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state. I am sure they are all most deserving, but couldn’t there be a plaque or concrete celebration, not even on the Washington Mall, crowing about the sacrifices, achievements, glorious remembrances of our small and ever-shrinking sect? If only there was some kind of reminder of the average Joe who served his country, paid his taxes, obeyed the law. Oh, yes, there is one. It’s called Arlington National Cemetery.
Ashby whines at firstname.lastname@example.org