Friday Ethics Dry-Off, 6/11/2021: Apple Pie, The Duke, “Lillibet,” The “Only If You’re The Right Kind Of Black Caucus” And Shut Up, Donald

It’s raining like crazy here, so…

1. And now for something completely stupid…Poe’s Law is getting a workout as The Great Stupid heads into its final stage, and I have to discipline myself not to write about too many episodes like this one, which once would have been regarded as parody because it would have been parody. Raj Patel, an apparent communist, explains in this unhinged piece by The Guardian about “food injustice,” that the apple pie is a symbol of American imperialism and white supremacy, like this…

Not that apples are particularly American….Apples traveled to the western hemisphere with Spanish colonists in the 1500s in what.. is now better understood as a vast and ongoing genocide of Indigenous people….

Not that the recipe for apple pie is uniquely American….By the time the English colonized the new world, apple trees had become markers of civilization, which is to say property….John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, took these markers of colonized property to the frontiers of US expansion where his trees stood as symbols that Indigenous communities had been extirpated.

Not that the gingham on which our apple pie rests is uniquely American….this war capitalism enslaved and committed acts of genocide against millions of Indigenous people in North America, and millions of Africans and their descendants through the transatlantic slave trade. In the process, cotton laid the basis of finance, police and government that made the United States.

Since this is quite a lot to acknowledge, it is easier to misremember. In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia.

This, though extreme, is the weaponization of the cognitive dissonance scale that has become a prime part of the strategy to unmake the United States, cancel its freedoms, and turn its values inside out. Consistent with Critical Race Theory, literally everything in our culture, including the best and most innocent of it, must be traced to something evil.

Even apple pie. Conservative websites are having fun mocking this article. They are foolish. Patel is deadly serious, and our children will be taught this perspective unless there is relentless resistance.

2. John Wayne died on this date in 1979. “The Duke” had the biggest impact on American culture and ethics of any performer; there really isn’t anyone close. And it was a positive impact; John Wayne (really Marion Morrison) the man is an interesting subject, but what mattered was his art. He dedicated his career to portraying the independent American male individualist with all his virtues and flaws, aided by some of the greatest film-makers in Hollywood history, notably John Ford and Howard Hawks. Even before Hollywood took its disastrous turn to the hard Left, Wayne suffered because of the enmity liberals and the academic elite held (and hold) toward the core American values that Wayne’s characters, often incompletely, tried to embody. Pauline Kael, much idolized as a film critic (I detested her), refused to do anything but ridicule Wayne’s performances out of pure political bias. For me, especially as I became more experienced as a stage director, Wayne’s acting impressed me more the more I watched him, and I have watched him more than I have watched anyone.

There has been an effort of late to “cancel” the Duke, but they’ll have more luck with apple pie. The John Wayne character remains strong, inspiring, and complex. Over 40 years after his death, Wayne’s movies are still featured on TV regularly; no actor made more great ones, and the good ones are still entertaining. My favorites? “Stagecoach” (of course), “Red River,” “Rio Bravo”, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers,” “Hondo,” “True Grit”, “The Quiet Man,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” with Hawks’ “Hatari!” as a special guilty pleasure.

I miss him. America misses him.

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