Mike Ditka took to the airwaves Monday to straighten out the all the misinformation about supposed oppression in America. His comments were a masterpiece of the drunk uncle genre and I wrote about them at Forbes. There are dimensions to that interview that most reports glossed over. His comments are interesting not just for the usual whitewashing, but for the subtly insulting tone he took. He deployed a whiny old rhetorical tool commonly used during the civil rights movement, suggesting that the whole subject is just a fascination of certain people who concern themselves with these otherwise meaningless questions. I’m surprised he didn’t use the word “agitators.”
Beyond the comments though sits a much more depressing reality. America’s iconic tough guys have virtually all proven worthless. We once imagined that gritty figures like Clint Eastwood or Mike Ditka were part of America’s uniqueness, symbols of a national reserve of character, strength and independence that helped assure that “it can’t happen here.” Faced with a real threat to the survival of the American project, our tough guys have folded faster than Superman on laundry day (thanks for the reference, Bart Simpson). All that supposed strength meant nothing when they were faced with a bigger bully. Now, like a bunch of whining nancies, they cry about political correctness and complain about how badly they’re being treated by the media. There may be nothing about our era quite as depressing as watching our icons of grit and candor break down into neurotic whinging over their insecurities.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of talking and writing about race. Unfortunately, that issue is now the bottleneck behind which every other element of America’s 21st century agenda lays stalled. We are now going to reach consensus on whether America will be a pluralist country, or a country in which all of our institutions are slanted to give special protections to white people, particularly white men. Starting with the Tea Party and continuing with Trump, aging white America has decided to hold the country hostage until they get assurances of their special status. None of the other matters facing the country will get a hearing before we resolve this question. And our supposed symbols of American strength are all AWOL when we need them.