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. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.

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