An Old White Man Reflects

June 25th, 2019 by Max Allan Collins

My band Crusin’ had its first gig of our season (which is mostly summer). Though we were well-rehearsed, we were rusty and it mostly served as a reminder of the things we need to do prepping for next week’s Ice Cream Social at the Muscatine Art Center (a fantastic facility). Read about that upcoming event here.

The event Saturday afternoon at the Village of Seaton in Illinois was pleasant but windy – outdoor gigs always have a downside – and the people were very nice. Right now we only have five gigs scheduled for 2019 and, while I will always consider offers, we really aren’t looking for any more.

We only played two hours but I admit to being tired at the end of the gig (loading in, loading out, setting up, tearing down, loading out, heading home, unloading – all adds to the tiredness for a 71-year-old rock and roller…and I’m not the oldest one in the band) (right, Bill?).

So I have a real sense that this is probably my last summer gigging, although I plan to do a new CD (“album” in old fart-speak) this winter and do a handful of gigs in the summer of 2020 promoting it. We have been working on the original material, but our bass player, Brian Van Winkle, is dealing with a health situation at home (his wife Lisa broke two legs!), so the CD project has been postponed. Also, we have had to cancel a gig at Arnolds Park. Maybe next year.

Another upcoming gig is at the Missipi Brewing Company in Muscatine on July 4. We start at 6 pm and play till the fireworks start.

* * *

I am going to talk briefly about something and will do my best not to turn it into a rant. But as a Democrat, I was angered by the treatment Joe Biden got from some of those running against him. Several smelled blood in the water and got all self-righteous, losing my respect and interest.

Biden is not necessarily my choice – I am still, to a degree, shopping…though the cynical candidates who attacked Biden have fallen off my shopping list. Still, he’s a credible opponent to go up against Trump. I also like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, who were critical of freewheeling Joe but in an even-handed way. The popularity of Mayor Pete shows Democrats not understanding that the Heartland still has a nasty streak of homophobia in its blood (his problem with a shooting in South Bend will be another factor). But it’s early. I do wish the field would quickly narrow to half a dozen.

What struck me – personally – is the increasing contempt for old white men. This is particularly grating considering how the young left is adamant that everybody else be respected. But ageism is okay. And so is sexism, as long as it’s aimed at old white men.

Look, hating everybody over thirty is nothing new. I had plenty of contempt for older people when I was young (as Eric Burden said). Each generation seems to think theirs is where the human race has been headed all these years – finally evolving into perfection of thought and attitude. I have lived long enough to see that the Woodstock generation wasn’t any better than my dad and mom’s – we were worse, really, because that crowd weathered the Depression and the Second World War. Yes, some of us went to Vietnam and that was no fucking picnic; but most, like me, managed not to.

What we have today is a disturbing hypocrisy. Everybody has to be respected except old white men. Hey, I have contempt for plenty of old white men, and I am frequently an idiot myself, though I suspect age has little to do with it (being white does). But somebody like Biden, who has given his life to public service, shouldn’t be beaten up for his attitudes in, say, 1980 not lining up with a Millennial’s attitudes in 2019.

I only wish I could live long enough to see this enlightened generation get kicked in the ass by the next bunch. On the other hand, we are leaving them a world that will punish them far worse than the next generation ever could. Climate change alone gives them a right to be pissed off.

I admit that some of the reviews for The Girl Most Likely have gotten me thinking about this subject. Somebody asked me at the Centuries and Sleuths signing why I paid attention to reviews, particularly the Amazon ones.

I haven’t read any Amazon reviews for Girl since after the first month, though I do search each week for blogs and review columns about all of my stuff (you’ve seen me provide the links). The thing is, Amazon – or rather Thomas & Mercer, my publisher there – pay attention to those reviews. So it does affect my ability to keep going.

If you’re not in the upper reaches – like Stephen King or Harlan Coben or Mary Higgins Clark – a fiction writer is a freelancer, depending on gigs. So reviews count. That’s why I provide advance reading copies here from time to time. And you thought it was because I was such a nice guy!

I admit I don’t understand why a handful of negative reviews are taken seriously when the positive ones don’t seem to be (Girl stands at a 4-star average right now with 100-some reviews). But to some degree I’ve been up against young women who obviously resent an old white man writing about, yes, a young woman; and also a handful of nasty responses from male readers (damn these old white men!) who are furious that I wrote about normal people this time, and not the anti-hero likes of Quarry or Mike Hammer or Nate Heller.

I share these thoughts so that you, the readers who care enough about what I’m doing to check in here, might understand what kind of waters I’m navigating.

Old white men have lived an unquestionably entitled existence. But many of us have also worked hard over our lifetimes, usually partnered with a good woman (or another good man), to give our children and our society the benefit of our efforts.

On the other hand, Joe Biden needs to take care. Looking back at how he got things done in a world of racists may seem like a good thing to talk about, but not in this climate.

And, Joe – don’t hug anybody, either.


12 Responses to “An Old White Man Reflects”

  1. Thomas Zappe says:

    Max, we are the same age. Many years ago my mother warned me about my open disdain for old white guys. My late father had been one of them.

    She apparently had some insights which had not yet trickled down to my age group.

    I also tend to rant about them youngsters who know nothing of history, pay no attention when they take your order at the drive-thru and neglect to look both ways when crossing the street.

    Who taught these kids?

    God help us if they ever do a deep dive on Thomas Jefferson.

  2. Thomas Zappe says:

    Then again, I got kicked out of a reading tutoring program at a close-by parochial school when I informed my second grade student, who loved dinosaurs, that the world was a whole lot older than 5,000 years.

    Is there some kind of immunization shot for stupidity or, as the old saying goes, is it that some things just can’t be fixed?

  3. Bryan K McMillan says:

    I used to be a democrat but I cannot line up with the current crop of Ds. For precisely the reason(s) you describe. This is THE issue I vote on. Mass conditioning along “woke” lines has been going on too long and whenever anything comes to light the tactics worsen, the denial gets more violent, and the rhetoric angrier and more reactionary. In short, the left has been projecting its own behavior on the right for far too long – and getting away with it. I’m glad there is dissension in the ranks and I hope the Old Left (of which I still consider mysef a part, albeit a deeply cynical one at this point) that is, the side that cares for equality under law, content of character vs. demographic, historical context vs. blind spots/memory-holing-by-desing, acquits itself of the “new” left, which is just reactionaryism and actual racism masquerading as progressivism and antiracism. The media-academe has got far too many of these characters entrenched throughout and they are doing great damage. (Google “a man can” vs. “a woman can” for example; this is the sort of narrative framing and conditioning that proceeds apace and under covering fire of D politicians.)

    Rant over, but good God, join the club is all I’m saying. In the words of Captain Kirk to the old robot in “What Are Little Girls Made Of,” “You can’t! Protect! Someone who’s! Trying to destroy you!”

    So when people ask “How Trump?” I can only say good lord, you drove me to this. Stand up against these bigots and reactionaries, and I’ll stand with you. Rationalize and appease them and abet them by consuming their media, and no way in Hell can I call you (the royal/ metaphorical/ universal you) an ally.

    Anyway: I’m only 44 but it’s been increasingly obvious to me over the past 20 years that while Republicans are not my friends, the enemy of my enemy can be my ally, and my enemy in this case is all the above: we have politicians who will sell the country for a handful of magic beans so long as the right word salad accompanies the sales pitch, and they have far too many allies in social media/ media-academe.

  4. Bryan K McMillan says:

    With regard to the reviews for Girl Most Likely (which I regrettably have not read yet) this is also a well-advanced tactic at this point: ownership of narrative/ demographic.

    It’s disgusting, frankly. ‘Nuff said. They are actively creating a new Separate But Equal, but the “but equal” part has been weaponized.

    I only wish I was exaggerating. (Hell, I HOPE I am totally, irrevocably wrong. That would make me happy!)

  5. Bryan,

    I was careful not to express an opinion about Trump, but I admit find it difficult to see how a longtime Democrat could put up with such things as (just today) our leader saying a rape accuser was not his “type”; could house immigrant children with such cruelty; could cozy up to Putin and the Middle Eastern killers of a journalist; could line his own pockets as president; and on and on. I understand Republicans who grit their teeth because they feel so deeply about certain things — abortion for example — that they will do a deal with the devil. But I think that kind of ends justifies the means thinking is really, really dangerous. For years I considered myself an independent, saying I was too smart to be a Democrat and too cool to be a Republican. I have said it many times and I will say it again: the place where the far right and far left meet is a book burning — they are just bringing different books.

    I have too many friends who are Trump supporters to allow this blog to become consumed by politics, and my post today was a risky one. I will not “go there” again. I ask, respectfully, that we curtail this discussion after this post. The topic was not meant to be politics, but the sexism and ageism visited upon Old White Men generally. If you disagree with or dislike Biden, for example, don’t do it on a basis of his age and sex, or his inability to thirty years ago predict what he should have been thinking by current standards. Take him on, based on who he is today — what he says and thinks (and within common sense, non-self-righteous bounds, that can include his comments about working with racists). That was supposed to be the point.

  6. Gary Bush says:

    At this point in my old white man life, I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat. I’ll vote for a yellow dog before I vote for a Republican. Or as one of my friends said, “I’ll vote for a yellow dog three days dead before I vote for a Republican!”

  7. Bryan K McMillan says:

    No worries on curtailed discussion, but can I at least ask you to vet some of these things you’re bullet-pointing under his “how can you…”? It’s a dangerous time and narrative is trumping reality too often (no pun intended.)

    Sexism and ageism visited upon white men is not an accidental by-product of certain trends in media-academe over the past 20 years, is my only point, and it’s what drives people away from groups who are actively calling for violence, bigotry, and antisemitism.

    Anyway! No more from me, I promise.

  8. Bryan K McMillan says:

    (Also, thank you for not biting my head off, sincerely.)

  9. Bryan,

    Just today he made the “not my type” comment — I heard him. I have seen the conditions, and listened to the heartless rhetoric, fueling the treatment of children and the separating of families. I heard him in a recent interview say he would look at campaign information provided by a foreign power. We’ve all seen him fawn over Putin and invite Russian mucky-mucks into the Oval Office to brag about curtailing Comey. About Saudi Arabia, he recently said, “Look, Saudi Arabia is buying $400 billion worth of things from us. That’s a very good thing.” So what if they chopped a journalist up into kibble! His hotel in D.C. is just one of the ways he has lined his pockets, a minor one. He’s put his hapless children in the West Wing. Please don’t make me do this. I damaged a friendship I prize just by pointing out to a Trump supporter friend how many positions in government are currently unmanned or filled by “acting” this and that.

    I don’t want to talk politics here. I only wanted to point out that not all white old men are evil.

  10. Thomas Zappe says:

    Us folks here in St. Louis, MO have been celebrating the Blues win of the Stanley Cup. It has been great fun, even for those of us not into hockey.

    Just step back quietly and don’t make direct eye contact.

  11. Bryan K McMillan says:

    Won’t get into it with you, then, no problem. But look: when Joe Biden suggested in 2012 that Republicans wanted to put black people back in chains, and that all Republican voters are racist, etc. that such rhetoric and the media-academe environment which rationalizes and rewards it leads both to things like people going to Trump (arguably) and also (inarguably) the demonization/ unfairness you were calling out (and that ironically is biting him in the butt in 2019.) It just seems like you’re not seeing the irony there, but honestly, no problem and I apologize if I’m misreading or annoying you.

  12. Mike Doran says:

    It Is Necessary To Be Personal:
    1968 was the first year I was technically eligible to vote in a presidential election.
    – Except that my birthday was so late in the year (September 30) that I missed out on registering.
    So I missed out on voting for Hubert Humphrey (the Best President We Never Had).
    Those Were The Daze …

    In the 50+ years since then, I guess you can say that my political outlook has always been disillusionment.
    My Dad was a Union Guy: he always said that he would never vote for any Republican – ever.
    The last Presidential vote that he ever cast was for Mr. Humphrey (that I’m sure of; he might have voted for Clinton in ’92, the year before he died, but I’m not certain of that).
    For my part, I’m a registered Democrat in the State of Illinois, because in order to vote in primaries you have to declare one way or the other (once I skipped a primary – and that was the year that the LaRouchies sneaked a couple of their guys onto the Dem ticket, thereby robbing Adlai Stevenson III of the governorship … but that’s another story).

    Over the years, I have rarely voted for a Republican for anything on more than a local level – and I really had to be down on the Democrat to do that.
    For years, I lived in the Lipinski family district: first Bill the dad, than Dan the son.
    Suddenly, after the 2010 census and redistricting, my Congressional district was represented by Bobby Rush, the Black Panther emeritus.
    Thank you, Gerrymandering – I didn’t even have to move! (And yes, I still vote for Mr. Rush; A ‘D’ is a ‘D’, after all.)
    (And besides, Mr. Rush usually runs unopposed – as did the Lipinskis, comes to that.)

    As to That Man In The White House *tm*:
    I happen to remember that in ’92 and ’96, That Man was a major financial contributor to both of Bill Clinton’s campaigns.
    He wasn’t a Liberal Democrat then, and he’s not a Conservative Republican now.
    Throughout, I try not to kid myself about things.
    Instead, I pay attention.
    My belief, arrived at by paying attention, is that both the Dems and the Reps are fragmenting from within.
    The Basemen (Leftists in the Dems, Rightists in the Reps) are driving the middle people (Old White Guys (and Gals) away from the polls – and perhaps into outright splits.
    Perhaps as early as 2020, we might see a three- or four-way Presidential contest – and the Electoral College is only set up for two parties, which means that we may be looking at a House Presidential election as early as next year.

    I urge anyone who reads this to get Presidential Lottery, which James Michener wrote in 1969, and which I didn’t even learn about until last year.
    Thing is, it might already be too late to stave off an Electoral hot mess that will make the 2016 one seem almost benign.
    But people ought to know what’s going on, at the very least.

    I can hear you, MAC: No Mas! No Mas!
    But I just had to get it out.
    Apologies all around.
    *We can still be friends …?*