Move Over, Gramps

I’m barely hanging on to middle age and by some measures I might have passed it.  So I can say this without impunity.

Old people that cling to power and long to bring us back to their glory days with quick or violent or exclusionary wars or “fixes” are doomed to failure.

We see it in 70-year-old Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s crazy train, unprovoked invasion of his Democratic neighbor, Ukraine, this week.  A last-ditch attempt to topple a free country and force it to unwillingly abdicate its freedoms in order to become a part of his planned Old/New Soviet Union.

Here we go…

We feel it in 66-year-old Sen. Lindsey Graham’s hysterical mid-week tweet proclaiming the nomination of the first Black female to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a woman he enthusiastically voted into a federal judgeship two years ago, now means the radical left has won.

And we can even notice it in the decision of the Motion Picture Academy and ABC to suddenly cut EIGHT Academy award categories (Note: A full one-third) from being handed out live during its Oscar telecast, an anxious Hail Mary pass to somehow reclaim the big money, outsized ratings and audience of its pre-streaming, pre-pandemic past.

None of it will work or ultimately change anything in their favor.

You got that right

Because nothing can bring something old to heel like the massive power unleashed by a series of unfavorable tweets, videos and interconnected social commitments calling out all the unjust, desperate wrong-headed moves by the old-guard powers-that-be.

Recent history has shown us this with everything from the Vietnam anti-War movement of the sixties, to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the eighties and, now, to the current Black Lives Matter movement.

The supercharged comingling of actions and thought that technology and social media has wrought has especially helped most recently.  A young person actually filmed George Floyd being murdered and that one horrifying post gave birth to thousands of others until the break towards justice became inevitable, if still all too slowly undeniable.

Remember this when it feels long

See, it’s not that our ancestors didn’t organize well back in the olden days.  It’s more that they didn’t have the means to begin to topple their oppressors using their virtual powers in the name of justice with such dizzying speed.

And no, the revolution has nowhere near concluded.   In so many ways that we right now can’t possibly see, it’s only just beginning.

As the world closes in on Russia, freezing its assets and access, Putin thus far remains seemingly steadfast in leveling to the ground the very country he is trying to take over.

He may have sent in 150,000 troops (approximately one-third of Russia’s heavily armed forces) but he didn’t count on the massive resistance of a young country of approximately 44 million led by a feisty leader almost half his age who used to be an actor – and a really good one (Note: As opposed to an aging real life Bond super villain).

Won’t back down

Meaning, it’s really hard to convince the world you’re trying to topple a neo-Nazi regime when that much younger than you president is Jewish, handsome and posts daily videos from his war-torn streets proclaiming he and his cabinet will never surrender or leave and that every Ukrainian who wants a gun will be given a government supplied military style weapon to defend themselves.

Certainly you can wipe out thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in traditional warfare, but what do you do when millions more citizens keep springing up from all sides armed from not only their country but the growing majority of countries left in the global community? 

The horrific story that stood out most to me this week on social media was the one about the 13 Ukrainian border guards stationed on the country’s 40 mile Snake Island, who died defending it and will now all be awarded the country’s highest military honor, Hero Of Ukraine, by Pres. Zelensky.

As an invading Russian vessel approached that tranquil island, a voice bellowed:

This is a Russian warship.  I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths.  Otherwise you will be bombed.

To which the Ukrainian soldiers responded, after a brief pause:

!!!

It’s not that I know for sure the thousands and thousands of young people, old people, middle aged people and very elderly people I have since seen on Twitter and Instagram pointing, holding and aiming military style government supplied weapons are all a direct result of this now viral story.

It’s that I’m not even barely convinced, not one scintilla, that it is NOT related.  Or that it isn’t indicative of something a lot larger.

The whole world is watching

When educated young people especially are forced into hiding below ground on subway platforms and in bomb shelters, watching pregnant women give birth and premature neo-natal care units trying to revive infants struggling to breathe with makeshift respirators to the intermittent sounds of bombs, the actions of one short, withering 70 year old billionaire madman isn’t quite the deterrent he believes it is.

As a college professor I remind myself weekly, and can reliably tell you, that when you’re in your twenties you don’t have logic.  What you have is passion.  And anger.  The energy to act no matter what may happen with the belief it will only happen your way.  #UkraineLives

Meanwhile, here in the United States we sit as the majority of Republicans in Congress have predetermined they will not vote for the first female Black nominee to the US Supreme Court. 

We needn’t go through Justice Jackson’s decades old, top drawer resume – from former Supreme Court clerk to the Justice she’s replacing – Stephen Breyer – to prestigious legal defender of the downtrodden – to esteemed judge on the state and federal court level.

What much of their current objections really come down to is the fact that a little over two years ago this woman, then merely in her late forties, had the temerity to rule against seventy something Pres. Donald Trump and his legal team in their plea to ignore multiple subpoenas from Congress to answer the more than many questionable goings-on in his White House.

In a 188-page ruling that agreed with every previous court opinion on the subject, Justice Jackson noted that Presidents aren’t kings, and that this one’s closest advisors had no right to ignore the concerns of another co-equal branch of government under our Constitution under the guise of executive privilege.

Yes!

Though, well,  it also didn’t help that this judge was Black.  And female. 

Nevertheless, it’s not hard to imagine the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg smiling from the Great Beyond when this new Justice is sworn in some months from now.  When asked after her own confirmation at what point there would be enough women on the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsberg simply and famously replied:

When there are nine.

Which brings us, in quite a strange way, to the Oscars.

Chair takin’ us on a roller coaster ride today!

Here’s the thing. 

Do you know how many people tuned in to see the finale of the TV series M*A*S*H in pre-streaming, pre-cable 1983?

105.9 million.

That’s a huge number that nothing can reach these days.  Not even the 2021 Super Bowl, which topped that year’s ratings at 92.8 million.  And not the AFC Championship game, the #2 show that year at 42.5 million.

But do you know what show didn’t even make the list of the top 100 TV broadcasts in 2021? 

The OSCARS. 

Yep, we all know it

Its ratings cratered and didn’t even come close, at 9.85 million.  That was a gigantic drop-off from the 23.6 million that tuned in the year before. Forget about the 48 million who watched the Oscars in 1983 AND may or may not have watched the M*A*S*H finale..

Nevertheless, cutting the live presentation of awards for best editor, production design, short films, makeup and hairstyling, musical score and sound from live TV in favor of god knows what kind of comedy sketch, song and dance, or flat, feeble attempt at an Insta/TikTok moment of relevance from a bunch of people over fifty or sixty or beyond, won’t bring this year’s 94th Oscars back to 1983, or even 2020 levels.

That’s what the kids say… right?

The fact is, 2021’s best picture winner, Nomadland, was about half as exciting as the 2020 winner, Parasite.  And this year’s battle between The Power of the Dog and Drive My Car, will probably be that much less, well….spellbinding.

Yet when Black Panther was in the running in 2019, 29.6 million people were miraculously watching. 

Hmmmmmm.

Though QUESTION: Can anyone think of perhaps ONE other reason for all that viewership in 2019 (and further back) aside from Black Panther?  ANSWER:

……….THERE WAS NO GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WE WERE ALL ACTUALLY GOING OUT…TO SEE MOST MOVIES…IN MOVIE THEATRES………..

Oh right… that

What the Oscar producers and ABC fail to see is that time has marched on.  They might not like the facts of this pandemic, of movies debuting on streaming platforms or even the subject matter of the many nominated films, but that is what 2022 has wrought.

So instead of penalizing that young or middle aged person who has worked like hell and actually gotten even a short film off the ground that could speak to an international audience, perhaps they could figure out a way to get….creative…and given them a moment or a shot?

Embrace the unplanned, the glamour, the irony, the history and the reality of these filmmaking times. 

Nope… this is better

Because nothing turns off younger people more than older people or organizations trying to pretend they’re hip and young.

This is why in a classroom of college students I never attempt to act like I truly understand how to navigate our widescreen television from HDM1 to a streaming platform to DVD (Note: The latter a giveaway) and back again without severe anxiety.

Instead, I simply embrace the obvious, make jokes about myself while I’m struggling before them and then, very likely, grovel and beg for their help.

How to admit you’re old without having to say you’re old

They appreciate anything and anyone older than them admitting they don’t know everything and are not necessarily superior simply because they have lived longer and are less supple.

Moreover, they really like it when those in command willingly give in some to generational change instead of turning away or silencing the voices of those less powerful and far more…taut.

Sheryl Crow – “A Change Would Do You Good”

Debating the Hunt

I want what I want when I want it and HOW I want it.

Well, sorry.  That’s not how it happens.

This weekend I binged the first three episodes of the wildly imaginative and riveting new Amazon series, Hunters.  In it, Al Pacino plays a wealthy NYC Holocaust survivor who leads a secret ragtag band of avengers out to exterminate a small organized army of Nazis and pro Hitler youth bent on creating a Fourth Reich.

Think X-Men meets Inglorious Bastards told through the eyes of a Gen X’er in the late 1970s.

Sounds good to me!

Mixing fact and fiction, as dramatists are wont to do, Hunters is a crazy ride through a cross-section of imagined superhero type adventures (Note: Sans supernatural powers) and serious, sometimes gruesome reinventions of Holocaust atrocities.  The latter are quite difficult to look at and yet impossible to look away from.

As a somewhat diminutive Jewish boy from NYC who also felt powerless in my younger days, especially when it came to Nazis and bullies, I found myself LOVING every moment of Hunters, especially for the dramatic and sweet comic revenge the series offered.

Still, this hasn’t stopped its inevitable condemnation from a large and loud group of detractors.

Twitter 2020

Those include any number of Jewish groups who’ve chastised the series and its creators for inventing Nazi cruelties in a reimagined Grand Guignol type setting.  The same type of setting many of them also applauded in the above-mentioned, and Oscar-winning, Tarantino film.

Other virulent critics and social media observers were a lot more Guignol in their characterization, dismissing the entire affair as Jewsploitation.

One organization, dedicated to preserving the site of the Auschwitz camps as a memorial and preemptive warning for future generations, even called it dangerous foolishness.

It is on Amazon Prime, not PBS. #getagrip #wait #amibeingtooharsh?

Never mind the series’ 31-year old creator and show runner, David Weil, is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and used his grandmother’s stories as a jumping off point for many of the ideas in the program.

Now taste is taste and certainly no one is obligated to love, like or even tolerate something if it is not to their sensibilities.

On the same token, one can safely assume that none of us, critics or boosters alike, are fans of the Holocaust or disagree that the return to power of Nazis and a new Fourth Reich would be a heinous, dangerous thing.

I think we’re all on the same page here

In other words, we are all in 100% in agreement on the overriding need of getting the word out on that specific dramatic message.  It’s simply the means by which we get there that we disagree on.

Another way to put it is that when it comes to the most important stuff, we are all on the SAME team, if not page.

You might see where I’m going here.  But in case you don’t, here goes:

I believe the United States is right now on the verge of our own modern day Holocaust: of democracy, our core values, our safety and our liberties.

I believe the determining factor on which way it goes will be whether we reelect Donald J. Trump to the presidency later this year.

I believe the overwhelming majority of Democrats, and more Republicans than many of us imagine, agree on this. Certainly the majority of registered voters in the country agree.  As they did in the last election.

Get your surfboard #bluewave2020

Yet here’s what I’ve witnessed among my own intimate group of fellow friends, associates and Americans, many of them Democrats, in the last few weeks:

– The condemnation of comedian John Mulaney by numerous like-minded Dems for daring to say he’d like to play Pete Buttigieg if they ever made a film about the candidate’s life. (Note: FYI, Mulaney has not even endorsed Buttigieg).

– A massive social media backlash against show biz icon Bette Midler for tweeting that Mike Bloomberg is our best choice to dethrone Trump. (Note: Several fans screamed that they’re done with her forever even though Midler has been a vociferous and almost daily anti-Trump voice on Twitter for over a year).

Do NOT come for our Bette!

– Very personal rantings from a bunch of close male friends against Elizabeth Warren because she dared to confront Mike Bloomberg very directly about his past treatment of women during the last two presidential debates and, as the logic goes, ruined his chance of election.

– The vow to SIT OUT the election entirely and NOT VOTE from a powerful small group of wealthy Dem donors I know if Bernie Sanders winds up being our party nominee.

– The vow to NEVER VOTE for any moderate Democratic nominee – especially Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and, yeah, Bloomberg – from any number of younger Dems that I know.

You’ll only get real talk from the Chair

– The thorough CONFUSION of many of the people closest to me on which Democratic candidate to vote for in the primary due to the fear that if the if they choose the person they TRULY SUPPORT they are wasting their vote because that person CAN’T WIN or WONT BE THE NOMINEE and they will thus unwittingly help nominate another candidate they loathe, dislike or generally would be quite reluctant to vote for.

Talk about SELF-SEWING American discord according to Russia’s plan.

Not to be scolding, but, well, now is the time for us all to grow the f-ck up.

What this means is: vote for whomever you REALLY want in the primary.  ANYONE.  And then unite behind the major party candidate your party nominates in order to rid our country of the Nazi in OUR House.

Yeah I said it

This might seem like hyperbole but in my mind it’s not.

This might seem like a difficult choice to make but if you don’t overcomplicate it, it isn’t.

See, on the big issues of Reichs and Nazi-like behavior, the objectives that unite as are pretty simple and a lot stronger than any which divide us.

Or should be.

Blondie – “One Way or Another” (Live)