Explaining John Wayne
When I pick up my grandson at his school to bring him to our house for a visit and dinner, we usually talk about what he learned that day. He has been studying US history and just completed the section on World War Two. They seem to speed through history pretty fast but I can’t recall how much US history I was taught in the sixth grade. I do recall that when I was in the seventh grade in the old South I was taught that the Civil War was about states’ rights. It took me quite a while to unlearn that.
When he gets to my house he likes to read a couple of chapters from our kids’ books. Our current book is Great Battles for Boys, World War Two and today’s chapter was about D-Day. At the end of the chapter the author includes some follow ups to learn more about what we had just read. One of the recommendations was the movie, The Longest Day. My wife and I had watched The Longest Day not too long ago after wasting time searching Netflix and Amazon Prime for something uplifting to watch.
I told my grandson that this was a great movie starring John Wayne and many others. He did not know who John Wayne was. I tried to find the movie on YouTube but all the full length versions required a subscription or payment. We didn’t have time to watch the whole movie that day so we watched a few clips of the initial assault (knowing that he did not know who John Wayne was I did not bother to point out that the clip featured Robert Mitchum and other stars from a bygone era). My grandson will be spending a couple of nights with us next month, so we will be able to watch the full movie then.
But his ignorance of John Wayne surprised me. It shouldn’t have, Wayne has been dead for over forty years. After a few clips from the movie, my grandson wanted to watch a stop-action Lego version of the D-Day invasion. We then watched some videos of cars smashing into things and gamers blowing stuff up. You know, the kind of things 12-year-old boys like to watch.
This little incident might have passed with little notice and you may be wondering why I am bothering to tell you about it. But that same morning I had read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the decline of patriotism in America (America Pulls Back From Values That Once Defined It, WSJ-NORC Poll Finds, March 27, 2023). The decline in patriotic feelings about America was precipitous, from 70% in 1998 to only 38% in 2023. Worse than that, while older folks are still patriotic, only 23% of those under 30 felt that patriotism was an important part of their lives.
What would John Wayne think about this dearth of patriotism if he were alive today? What would he think if he attended an Oscar Award Ceremony these days given how angry he supposedly had been at Marlon Brando’s refusal of the award in a speech delivered by Sacheen Littlefeather? I can think of a few epithets he might throw in their direction.
But John Wayne is no longer here to inspire the patriotic feelings of young men (and maybe a few women too). It may be that this lack of patriotism and disrespect for traditional American values is an aberration of the pandemic coinciding with the Trump phenomenon. Add in the infection of the woke ideology of the progressive left in colleges across the nation and it is no wonder that support for the Enlightenment principles and middle-class values that made America so exceptional is so low. It used to be that Democrats were just as patriotic as Republicans (and independents), but those days appear to be over. Democrats want to transform America into something unrecognizable. So if you are in this new minority of people who are patriotic Americans you will have to do something about it.
One reason for the low level of patriotism in America’s young people is the type of left-wing ideology that is being taught in today’s schools. Some black people are complaining that white people and especially white supremacist Republicans have confiscated the black concept of being woke and are using it as a bludgeon to smear all sorts of left-wing ideologies, now known collectively as “woke” ideology. And that may be true to an extent. But it isn’t being done out of malice, it is being done because there is no overall philosophy guiding this progressive agenda.
Marxism is certainly part of it but it is Marxism that has morphed into Critical Theory and thence into Critical Race Theory (with a heaping of postmodernism) to come up with an ideology that blames everything wrong in the world on a Western enlightenment philosophy that they assert is nothing more than a stalking horse for white supremacy. That is the contention of the 1619 Project.
If this was just a bunch of crazy theories of demented radicals ranting on soapboxes in the park we could ascribe it to the dustbin of history, but this is what is being taught in schools today. It started in some elite law schools in the 1970s as described in Joy Reid’s interview of Kimberlé Crenshaw about a year ago as she sought to downplay the pervasiveness of this theory. But it didn’t stay there. It found a friendly home in the ethnic studies departments that were popping up back then but It also seeped into the humanities and especially the sociology departments. Students studying sociology were indoctrinated in this theory and took it with them when they got jobs in the human relations departments in the businesses and institutions where they were employed. From there they created the diversity, equity and inclusion administrations that are drowning unsuspecting workers with accusations of white privilege. It infected the teachers’ colleges and their teachers’ unions and, while there is a possibility that it is not being taught in some of our public schools, there is not a school district in this country that does not have a DEI administration populated by CRT activists. These are the people determining what our children are to be taught.
Criticism of their progressive theories is not tolerated. Opposition to their anti-racist training sessions is incontrovertible proof that a person must be racist, and racists are evil people whose opinions must be silenced. That intolerant attitude was recently made very clear in the near riotous disruption by Stanford law students of a talk by federal judge Kyle Duncan who had been invited to speak by the school’s Federalist Society. When he asked a school administrator to calm the students as required by Stanford Law regulations, the school’s DEI administrator berated the judge instead. The Dean of Stanford Law School’s apology to the judge was widely criticized by the left but the Dean clearly explained why such an apology was necessary in a letter to students.
So, were the young people in the WSJ survey self-censoring their patriotic feelings or had their minds been subverted by the deluge of postmodernism, Critical Race Theory and Marxism (otherwise known as woke ideology) . The cause of their responses to the survey question may be unknown but it does give us a target. But how to regenerate the patriotism of American youth?
America is special and unique even if our youth do not realize it. If you change the French government from a monarchy to a republic, the country is still France and the people are still French. France is on its fifth republic but it remained France throughout. But America is a country with people from all over the world. And they are all Americans. Because it is our Enlightenment principles and middle-class values that make a person an American, not their ethnic or racial identity. A country that discards those principles or loses those middle-class values cannot be called America and the people inhabiting such a country could not be called Americans.
The millions clambering across our borders, as well as those coming here legally, realize what our young people do not. It is the principles and values that make America. Change those principles and values and you create a different country. A country very similar to the ones the immigrants coming to America are coming from.