In the Broadway and movie (Broadway) version of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserable, there was a song sung by character, Jean ValJean titled “Who Am I?” He had been in prison for stealing a loaf of bread because his family needed something to eat. The song was about the number he was assigned in prison and his real name. In the end, he had to shed the self-hatred and guilt imposed on him, due to the fact he stole a loaf of bread.
There is much more to this show than this. I bring this up because even though we are not criminals, we often wonder about, “who am I?” This impacts the LGBTQ community, but also impacts people of colored skin, too. For society places us into a position of having to be in denial about who we are. Society groupthink and groupspeak puts a horrid pressure on us and if we don’t obey, then we are frowned upon and perhaps even worse.
The truth will set you free. So, when I came out of the closet in 2005, the truth did set me free. I was the same person as I always was, but I felt more free to express myself. I am not speaking about expressing myself with regard to sex, but with regard to who I really was which I had kept hidden and kept all of it hidden, out of fear of retribution. I am actually a kind and generous person who has always had a faith in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. But in those years before, I was not able to express this faith because I was a confused guy in this respect.
I also had a good sense about being proud to be an American, too. In 1977, I was so proud to be an American, that I turned down a teaching job I was offered in Nova Scotia, Canada. People think they know so much about me that if I tell them that job was the result of my Scottish family in the USA, they question me about Scottish things and then jump to some kind of conclusion based on their own individual knowledge as to why I don’t know as much about the Scottish. What they don’t realize is that my Scottish great-grandmother died in childbirth in 1903 and my great-grandfather ended up marrying two other women later. The second wife also died in childbirth, but the third one, of English decent, was the one we knew as our great-grandmother. In essence, we had little exposure to our Scottish ancestry, with only the surname, MacLennan, and research on our great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather in the MacLennan line, which proved the immigrants who came here to America from Scotland. In the case of other ancestors, they had married English women with English names, so when we examine the name of my great-grandmother of the MacLennan clan, we find her given name, Angeline (or “Angie”) might not be Scottish, but of English origins. I have no idea and have not researched this further. But those who have no idea come to false conclusions about “how I am faking it by saying she is Scottish.” That irks me, but that is what happens so much more frequently in America these days. People jump to conclusions based on their own knowledge and never bothering to think about other aspects, nor asking me questions so they can LEARN. No learning in America these days and apparently the fascists who are attempting to gain power and control don’t want the people to learn, do they?
This past Friday, I was at a concert at the Newark Valley Depot. In the summer, there are concerts each Friday night and we have enjoyed them. We missed them in 2020. They were all cancelled due to COVID-19.
Rich Wilson was the singer. He had some good songs by Elvis Presley, the Righteous Brothers, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell, the Platters, and several country singers whom I have no idea who they were because country or bluegrass or several others of these are not on my own personal playlist. I do have an eclectic interest in music of all kinds. As a college professor, I taught students about having an eclectic interest. But again, due to the sense of insecurity which predominates too damn much in this nation, people just wish to grab on to what they like and put down anything someone else might like because it makes insecure people feel better, don’t you know? This attitude predominates much more, in my humble opinion, from the Baby Boomers to the younger ones. I did not find this to be the case with as much predominance, driving a strong groupthink with the generations before the Baby Boomers. Who am I? Just remember that I said, here, this attitude did not PREDOMINATE as much and never said it never existed in previous generations. Somehow those previous generations were taught better overall in America.
At the end of this Friday night concert, Rich Wilson sang “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. I do night like songs begging us to bless the USA, including Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America.” But I join in and sing both when I am asked to do so. What I despised this past Friday night was a groupthink which may have frowned on me, should I not have stood up as everyone else did. Peer pressure on me to do this when I find it very foul to do so. I will stand with the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. I also may salute like a soldier salutes, take off my hat, or place my hand on my heart during both of those songs. But not for God Bless America or God Bless the USA. I find such actions offensive, especially while viewing so many in the crowd – groupthink – hovering their right hands like a heil Hitler salute. I find that so offensive because that is not who I am.
I also do not get angry and throw myself with the lousy groupthink of those who get angry because of the black people who kneel during the National Anthem. Why? Because I recognize that black people are segregated in some organizations in America, in the name of some lousy “me, first” attitude regarding an insecurity of one’s self and the white race which has not been lynched, shot at as slaves, denied the right to vote, and denied being acknowledged for blacks who have ancestors who have served in the American Revolution and deserve to be a part of the DAR and SAR.
Rich Wilson sang a song by Neil Diamond. Why did he choose that Greenwood song, rather than Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America.” That song fits us all. The first Africans arrived on American soil in 1619. My family arrived on American soil in 1638. My Scottish ancestors arrived on American soil in the mid-1800s. Various other family lines prove they have arrived at other times, right up to the current time frame. “Coming to America” describes America, not “proud to be an American.” In fact, I was taught that having “pride” was a sin, according to the true Christian beliefs. Even in the case of this Neil Diamond song, I would never stand up as if to worship and throw my right hand in a Hitler-like gesture.
In fact, Neil Diamond’s song has a short section for “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…”
Why not sing, Ray Charles’s version of “America, the Beautiful?” It is a very moving song about the beauty of America which is even better than singing, “bombs bursting in air,” which emboldens those who carry weapons and creates a terribly violence and weaponry mentality of insecure people who want to feel better than others. There is also, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land.”
Or how about “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” … or … the Stevie Wonder song, “Love’s in Need of Love.” … or … “What the World Needs now is Love Sweet Love.” We don’t need songs based on the love for feeling insecure, with people seeking to put others down if they don’t fit the mold. Or to have humour based on “redneck” “red state” crap which attacks anyone who tries to put this nation together, like Joe Biden by The reason “pride” and “proud” are a sin is because they embolden those who feel insecure about one’s self and have to feel better by proclaiming how “proud” they are. So they push fear and intimidation on others by way of groupthink and groupspeech – peer pressure which becomes an autocratic sense of, “you better be as I say you should.” That does not sit well with me.
This past Friday, there was also the “sarcastic remarks” about political correctness. You know, there is a book I read in which I got an understanding of what some people feel about political correctness, so I understand. The book is written by a former Dept. of Education person under George W. Bush named Dr. Diane Ravitch, titled The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. The book acknowledges some of the concerns expressed with the sarcastic remarks about political correctness. However, how many rednecks are willing to learn more than just what is spoon fed to them by Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, Breitbart, Fox News, NewsMax? I suspect that none of them wish to do so, yet here I am listening to the sarcasm and put down from people who never do something the founder of IBM (Thomas J. Watson in Endicott, NY) impressed on his employees: “THINK.” Dr. Ravitch describes “pressure groups” and boy did one feel they were in the midst of a “pressure group” of rednecks with a white superiority complex this past Friday night.
I think about that situation. What would have happened if I decided I did not wish to stand up, in the name of liberty and justice for all, during the Greenwood song? What would have happened had I demonstrated being proud enough to wish to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I am proud to be an American. So proud that my being proud puts me in line to express my disgust at what happened by a bunch of thugs on January 6, 2021, and the lies forthcoming about an election where there is no proof of fraud. The whole world is watching and I am very embarrassed by an America which does not even examine closely what was done on that day in January and convict those responsible for it. I am so proud that I am embarrassed by it all with the liars like Trump, Giuliani, and others who have egged people on to show hatred of Democrats, calling us Dummycrats, and having a “f” Biden sign with a Confederate flag.
Rich Wilson was also supposed to sing at the VFW in Owego on Saturday night. My father was a lifetime member of the VFW and would also have had shame for what I observed on Friday night. The VFW gave my father a gun-salute at the Newark Valley Cemetery when he was buried. My father had VFW and American Legion magazines around his house in Florida when we cleaned out his house. I often sat down and read some of them, over the years. But my father also had newspapers and read them avidly each day. Today, Gannett denies us early delivery of newspapers here in Newark Valley, where my father would ALWAYS get his newspaper daily. Or, he would receive an early morning delivery of a Gannett Newspaper in Florida, each day. My father complained about how much Gannett condensed the newspaper in about 2008 or so, but he still had it delivered, in spite of sections which were cut out in order to eliminate it from being a news and information paper. I had many friends who stopped their newspaper subscriptions as newspapers condensed their newspapers down to snippets, eliminating details designed to teach people and provide correct information (not perfect at times, but as correct as possible). Those were the things which made me proud to be an American and they have all been tossed out the window.
My father also got along in life without what we call social media. Social media is a misnomer for what it truly is: social technology. Communications with no editors or moderators, as is the case with newspapers and the early days of the Internet with forums and other communication TECHNOLOGY for society to use. Moderators who did not censor, but checked for errors and to make corrections in errors.
As a result of this social technology today, we are being blasted with false information so as to fill the fascist dream based on Hitler’s Goebbels: “tell lies repeatedly and they become the truth.” And with these lies permeating our groupthink, we are forced to stand for a song because we feel like should we not stand, we might be dishonored. And it was not the National Anthem, either, for which we were to stand.