Are We Great Again Yet?

Kirk Douglas in a still from the 1951 film, “Detective Story”.

There’s a scene in the 1951 film noire classic “Detective Story”, which stars Kirk Douglas as a hard-boiled Irish Catholic inner-city police detective, that pretty much sums up the way I’m feeling about America right now. Douglas, upon learning his wife isn’t quite the angel he’d imagined her to be, emphatically tells her, “I’d give my soul to take out my brain, hold it under the faucet and wash away the dirty pictures you put there tonight!”

That’s right. This isn’t the country I imagined it’d be just one short year ago, when Donald Trump, promising to make America great again, was elected president. It’s become something much more, shall we say, naked in its depravity. Our trash-tweeting commander-in-chief doesn’t deserve all the credit for this, but he’s certainly set the table for our increasingly degraded national dinner conversation.

Consider the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, which began as a shot fired in the culture wars by Trump-supporting right-wing media outlets across the bow of “liberal” Hollywood elites and a supposedly cowed “liberal” mainstream media that would never ever dare report the salacious details involving one of its own … unless of course it was good for ratings. Thus the Weinstein fiasco has quickly metastasized into a career-killing cancer (for Weinstein) that now features accusations from more than 40 women, including a potential rape charge in New York.

The cancer is now spreading and the homophobic hard-right is no doubt delighted the latest “liberal” celebrity to succumb to it is homosexual actor Kevin Spacey, who finally came out of the closet, on Twitter, after he was accused last week of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy, an aspiring actor, some 30 years ago, when Spacey was 25 and just hitting the big-time.

As two-time Oscar winner Spacey quickly discovered, now is not the time (and Twitter is definitely not the place) to discuss what constitutes an age-appropriate relationship between a drunken adult man and a teen-aged boy. Several more accusers, underage and adult men, have stepped forward to say they, too, have been sexually harassed by Spacey and that his proclivities, right up to the present day, were generally well-known to the theater people surrounding him in London and New York.

Which begs the question: Where were these people a decade ago, when at least one of the men’s glossy magazines went to great lengths to “out” Spacey as gay, and failed? The most likely answer is, the people around Spacey, even those who may have been sexually harassed by him at the time, stood to benefit from his ongoing financial success as one of Hollywood’s leading “straight” men, and thus protected his secrets if asked.

That’s the same power dynamic that’s been playing out in all of these highly publicized celebrity sexual assault and harassment cases, from Bill Cosby to Bill O’Reilly to Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey. But it goes much deeper than that. If the tens of thousands of mostly women who responded to the #MeToo social media campaign are any indication, it permeates work-space relationships here in the United States and around the globe, from top to bottom.

The problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Reporting such depravity usually comes at great risk, including the potential loss of job or career, which is why abuse victims often wait years, until they’re financially independent from their abusers’ wrath, before coming forward. The public shaming of Weinstein and Spacey, both of whom will surely never work in Hollywood again, may serve as a slight deterrent to such behavior, but the same power dynamic will continue to prevail in Tinseltown and throughout the world.

Perhaps the most depraved aspect of the whole depraved controversy is that no group is more ill-suited for addressing this issue—which above all, is a women’s issue–than President Donald Trump and his remaining Tea Party/Alt-Right base, misogynistic to its core.

Poor White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders! Forced to defend the pussy-grabber-in-chief and declare his more than dozen accusers liars. Is she all that different from the various assistants who’ve enabled Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey over the years?

Not really.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Detective Story”, the Kirk Douglas film I cited at the beginning of this piece, understand that his character, a hard-nosed, bigoted detective, had just learned that his supposedly virginal wife had once been a gun moll, and that the relationship had ended with an aborted pregnancy, information she’d withheld from him.

Unable to cope emotionally with these transgressions—to erase the dirty pictures of the modern world from his mind—he proceeds to commit a series of tactical policing blunders that end with [spoiler alert] his banal death at the hands of a petty thief.

The moral of the story is you can’t wish away the horrors of the modern world, which I suppose I was trying to do when I started this piece. The Hollywood casting couch has turned out to be far more prevalent than we ever imagined. We can thank former Trump adviser and Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon for bringing the topic up.

Don’t count on him or the God-Emperor to do anything about it. At the rate they’re going, America will never be great again.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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29 Responses

  1. cheyenne says:

    About thirty years ago I had a cancerous tumor discovered in my mouth. I had surgery to remove it and obviously it was successful. While I saw many doctors I was told about how others with the same type of cancer ignored it or sought non traditional cures. In the end those who waited or avoided died from their cancer. This is what America is going through. We have had a cancer growing for quite awhile and now the question is did we wait too long to remove it? Being an Optimist I have to say that the removable operation will be successful and America will be stronger for it.
    And that was a great movie RV.

    • S.F Murray says:

      Another nice bit of writing RV. It may be too late for us Cheyenne. There is no one in congress that will stop Trump. They are complicit in this ongoing tragedy. In my cynical view Trump is trying to provoke Kim Jong Un into a first strike somewhere in the world (for Trump’s purposes the United States) allowing him to suspend the Constitution . This will be the final nail in our collective coffin. There will be no powerful Repubs that dare to speak out for fear of their voters who will still be on board the Trump train. This must all happen before the mid terms, where hopefully for our way of life one of the houses of congress will flip party in power. We’ll see.

      • Common Sense says:

        There is no one in Congress that will stop Trump?….Well until the Tax plan gets pushed through I might agree with you. Then…if his numbers keep declining….they will turn on him to save their own bacon come mid term time!

        As I have mentioned for quite a while now…..Half the American Voters were sold a bill of goods. They were duped…..and many of those fine folks are doubling down right now…..There were 5 More Sealed Indictments added to the Federal Doc…..that’s FIVE More High Profile people to be Indicted and Arrested here Shortly!

        That Nothing Burger….It’s getting awfully Thick right now….with lots of Meat and Cheese on it!

        • Marc Carter says:

          In February, in front of reporters, Trump said unequivocally that he knew of nobody from his campaign who was in contact with Russians during the election. Attorney General Sessions told the Senate the same thing.

          That Nothing Burger is really starting to smell rancid.

      • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

        I don’t know what to make of the “moderate” Republican exodus from the Senate. It’s not clear whether Democrats can take those seats in a general, so that means any crazy person can win.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      It is indeed an awesome film. Kirk Douglas kicks ass.

  2. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    The movie line that most resonates with me, regarding our current political and social decay?

    “I’m too old for this shit.” — Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), “Lethal Weapon”

  3. Dan says:

    Don’t worry, if you look hard enough, every period in history has problems. People are people, and they tend to muck things up over and over throughout time. Just be grateful we enjoy a somewhat orderly social fabric in 21st Century USA. The wife and I like to watch historical dramas and have decided that we will take the 21st century over the 9th, with Viking raiders, or the middle ages with the black plague and fragmented waring city-states like Italy with the Borgias. Time to re-subscribe to a hobby magazine, go fishing, and turn off the national news. Life is short.

  4. Mimi Moseley says:

    Although I agree with most of your article, I don’t believe we can pin every bad thing happening on Trump. I get your point about the media’s choices, too, but Hollywood’s once golden boy issues needed to be exposed and those men are responsible for their actions and I hope it exposes more and more who have victimized men and women for their own gain. There are plenty of things to blame Trump for, but this one is on these men and I am so glad they can’t hide or pay off anyone any longer.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      Well, I did hedge a bit at the start. Trump has set the tone, and he is indeed a creature from Hollywood, and it’s men who think about women like he does that are doing these assaults. I do hope the high-level exposure of this behavior will lead to its decrease.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I didn’t take R.V.’s article as blaming everything on Trump. I took it to mean that Trump is what you get when everything is going to hell in a hand basket. He’s our crazy Nero as Rome goes to seed.

      Forbes today issued their annual list of the world’s 20 most powerful people. Rather pointedly, Trump was #2, behind his mentor and #1 on the list, Vlad Putin.

      As our previous president told an audience of Italians in May: “You get the politicians that you deserve.”

      • K. Beck says:

        You need to look at the Clinton and Obama policies, and what they did to this country. If not for them we would not have Trump today. Sorry, but really. The Dems need to go back and be Dems again. This country doesn’t need the Republican Party and the Republican-lite party, which is what we have had since Clinton was elected. I worked on both of his campaigns, door to door canvassing, phone banking, etc. Since then I spend a LOT of time kicking myself for that. I didn’t vote for Obama the second time after he let the banks steal everyone’s houses. I didn’t vote for anyone for President in 2016, either. All my voting life I have voted for the lessor of two evils. In 2016 there was no lesser. This country could not take another 4 years of Clintonomics…look where we are with the 16 years we already got. So, please, no pining for Clinton and Obama. They are a huge part of the problems we see today.

    • Common Sense says:

      Indeed….as these 12 Ladies have said…..there are plenty of things to blame 45 for!

      Funny how he wants everyone to believe Franken’s accuser but not his 12?

  5. Robert Scheide says:

    This is all wrapped up in the 80 year cycle..We seem to go through these kinds of times every 80 years or so. Yes we are now looking at the Great Depression statistics. 37 years of trickle down economics raise havoc with our middle class bringing loads of formerly doing well families down to just making it status. So that the already rich can get richer and richer.

    I have always thought that the rich always had the drive to richer and richer status, but they would allow me to build a comfortable life in a middle class life style.. and for most of my 80 years I have done just that.

    But now the path I took is unavailable to most. From a start in the nuclear sub force to a career operating hydro power plants and 16 years in the Naval reserve , have earned me a comfortable retirement..

    Today , the sub force is smaller, hydro operators are fewer in numbers , the reserve is still there if you can find a pay billet and don’t get into a billet that gets called to active duty.

    Jobs that were once available to anyone who worked hard and applied themselves to their craft , earned a good lifestyle are no longer there. Today , even with a college education , kids are coming into the job force to find the careers they prepared for no longer exist and end up flipping burgers or pouring coffee at your local Starbucks.

    Globalization and outsourcing has killed the middle class jobs we use to have all in the name of more bucks for a few wealthy people and the conglomerates they control. We lost some 8 million blue collar jobs do to companies moving production to other countries to up their bottom line. Even white collar jobs we thought might be sage sailed overseas. Corporations have no sense of country they only look at their pensions…

    Can we bring it back, yeah sure.. First you gotta bring back an FDR type and get rid of a bunch of conservatives, install tariffs on all imported goods at levels that will bring production back to the US . Even that will bring back about half the number of jobs they use to produce do to automation. We need to rebuild our infrastructure , roads, bridges, trains, schools, health care and much much more. We will not do this with these Trickle Down Folks in power.

    We need to change direction and fast.. before these war crazies start something that will end us all..

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      Did you notice that for the first time in 13 years, we have 7 aircraft carrier deployed, including 3 near the South China Sea?

      • Robert Scheide says:

        Yep I knew they were deployed, exactly how they are is the question. Somebody is getting screwed out of some down time.. Over working them for show off stuff causes accidents..The other thing that worries me is the question are they no more than a vulnerable target?

    • K. Beck says:

      I agree with most of what you say, however, those jobs are simply never coming back. Most of them have been automated. I think we need to drop the idea that is ever going to happen. Many of the white collar jobs have been decimated by the H1B visa program (The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H) which allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations), championed by our very own DiFi. The big corporations yell and scream they don’t have enough qualified workers, bring in people with the H1B visas, and then turn around and lay off the high paid workers who were doing those jobs. This was going on 12 years ago when I worked in Santa Clara Co., and it still goes on today. I once asked a tech engineer why he was training his H1B replacement. He told me because otherwise he would not get his severance pay from his employer of numerous years. Talk about adding insult to injury! Those visas are supposed to expire in two years, and I suppose they do. However, no one ever checks to make sure these people go back home. We had some of them working for FREE in the lab I worked in! while they looked around and figured out how they could get a green card. The standard 3 bedroom family home in Sunnyvale or Santa Clara now houses 6 – 8 adults, that is the only way they can afford the rent. The whole thing is a scam. All those so called “illegals” are here for a reason. Big business makes a financial killing off of them. I keep wondering why no one digs into the Trump Empire. How many illegals does he employ in his hotels, at his golf courses, maids in his residences, construction workers building his Empire…now there would be a story.

      Computerization will be taking over everything. We need to be thinking forward, not backward.

      The trucking industry is currently chopping at the bit, they can’t wait for computer driven vehicles so they can get rid of all their drivers. Think no more bus or taxi drivers. USP and FedEx drivers might be OK because they still have to unload the trucks, however, if Amazon drone delivery pans out they might be sitting home twiddling there thumbs too, or living under an overpass.

      Sorry, tariffs are, generally, a really bad idea. We do tariffs, they do tariffs to retaliate, on and on, no one benefits from it.

      As an aside, who wrote and passed NAFTA?…wasn’t the Republicans, although I am sure they were applauding loudly.

      The one thing that would help immensely is to return the tax structure the US had BEFORE the Reagan Revulsion (that is not a misspelling, or a spell check mishap, of revolution). That is the real reason we are in the mess we are in…do I think there is a snow balls chance in Hell of that happening???? What do you think?

      …just glad I am on my way out and not on my way in. Futures in the US look bleak indeed.

  6. Beverly Stafford says:

    Your use of “yet” in the title of your piece reminds me of a t-shirt I’ve seen in catalogues. It’s a picture of President Obama with the caption: Miss me yet?

  7. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Great article R.V. About 25 years ago, business and schools started taking sexual harassment and abuse seriously. I’ve attended mandatory sessions at different jobs that informed all workers what harassment and abuse is. Despite eye-rolling and snorting by some of the attendees, every person in every workshop learned that they a) didn’t have to put up with offensive behavior and b) knew that there were steps to take to stop the behavior. I won’t bore you with my early experiences with sexual assault in the work place. A lot of what was considered normal then, is no longer tolerated, especially if there is a disparity of power between those involved. A couple of years ago, I had lunch with a group of professional women. The majority of them had been sexually assaulted in their lives or sexually harassed at work….a long time ago. Most young people have safer working conditions because of the importance many business and all schools place on protecting workers from harassment and abuse. Things have changed. A lot of young workers have a hard time believing what went on at work even just 25 years ago.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      Apparently, one workspace that didn’t get the sexual harassment memo is our statehouses across the nation. There’s been a whole bunch of stories about it since the Weinstein scandal broke.

  8. Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Yep I knew they were deployed, exactly how they are is the question. Somebody is getting screwed out of some down time.. Over working them for show off stuff causes accidents..The other thing that worries me is the question are they no more than a vulnerable target?

  9. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    Sexual harassment is not a right-left political issue. A great many conservatives decry the mistreatment of women, and powerful men from both sides are guilty of abuse. Let us not frame this issue along divisive lines. Better results will come from exploring common ground, as abhorrent as that is to extremists.

  10. Terry says:

    Not to mention that Sinclair Broadcasting now owns Channel 7. Uh, 0h. How can we fix what’s wrong if we don’t get facts?

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