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Bizarro Gen-X Ted Cruz
Bizarro Gen-X Ted Cruz

by Allan Branstiter

During Marco Rubio’s triumphal bronze medal speech in Iowa he used the word “generation” seven times in less than a minute. I couldn’t help but wonder what generation he was trying to speak to. Rubio’s speech was more or less the rehearsed “New American Century” schtick he’s been polishing since last year, but last night speech was notable to me because it was an odd Frankenstein of Boomer sanctimony, Millennial idealism, and (more importantly) Gen X cynicism.

Boomer v. Millennial gets a ton of airtime these days (see: Weber, Meacham, Nentl, et al.), but this leads me to wonder if we are overlooking Generation X’s more silent influence over the 2016 Republican primary campaign? Let’s make the (wholly unscientific) case.

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Uncategorized

by Allan Branstiter

[X-Posted from Agreeing Loudly]

IMAGE: BRANDI SIMONS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

This past Tuesday, half-term governor Sarah Palin endorsed fellow reality TV star and demagogue Donald Trump for president of the United States of America. That same day, her son Track, an Iraq war veteran, was arrested for drunkenly assaulting his girlfriend with an AR-15 and attempting to prevent her from reporting it to the police. At a press conference the next day, Sarah Palin addressed “the elephant in the room” and used her son’s alleged domestic violence incident as a platform to blame Obama for not supporting the troops, especially those with PTSD.

“My son, like so many others,” she explained, “they come back a bit different. They come back hardened, they come back wondering if there’s respect for what it is their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military have so sacrificially given to this country.” Remarking that she could “related with other families who can feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness our soldiers do return with,” she then turned to Obama as the root of the victimization of American veterans. “It starts from the top,” she concluded, “the question though, that comes from our own president, where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we have to go through?’”

In the days since, many veterans have rejected Palin’s statements. Liberal critics wuickly condemned her overtly partisan manipulation of veterans issues, while others (like Bill Maher) argued that Track’s actions were the product of poor parenting, not combat trauma. Some [see 1, 2] have even gone as far as to argue that Track Palin never saw combat and, therefore, is lying about having PTSD (recent studies have shown that 31% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD, including many who never saw combat). While the response to Palin’s remarks has been almost exclusively negative, she is tapping into a perception among conservatives that Obama and Democrats neither care or understand the military or veterans.

Whether or not Track Palin suffers from PTSD remains unknown. As a veteran who has been treated by the Army and the VA for anxiety issues in the field and at home, I’d hate to attempt to diagnose Palin from afar. However, there are some lessons to be garnered from Palin’s statements that have not been addressed by most observers, namely where her statements come from and their effect on public perceptions of veterans. Most people on the left side of the aisle have dismissed Palin’s remarks as a bald-face and shameless attack on Obama. And yet Palin is tapping into several less obvious ideological and cultural strains regarding the role of veterans in American life.

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Wrestling

"Macho Man" Randy Savage gets bit by Damien
“Macho Man” Randy Savage gets bit by Damien

“During one broadcast, Jake the Snake captured Macho Man, dragging him into the ring. Jake tied him to the ropes and menaced him with a cobra which sprang and bit him on the forearm. The camera was jostled from side to side by people racing to Macho’s assistance and panned abruptly trying to follow his hysterical wife as she ran in horror to ringside. A reaction shot shows a child in the audience reduced to tears by this brutal spectacle. Yet, at the same, the camera refused to show us an image ‘too shocking’ for broadcast. Macho Man’s arm and the snake’s gaping mouth were censored, blocked by white bars…A few weeks later, the ‘uncensored’ footage was at last shown, during a prime-time broadcast, so that viewers could see ‘what really happened.’

…Such campy self-acknowledgment may be part of what makes male spectators’ affective engagement with this melodramatic form safe and acceptable within a traditionally masculine culture which otherwise backs away from overt emotional display….The plots of wrestling cut close to the bone, inciting racial and class antagonisms that rarely surface this overtly elsewhere in popular culture, while comic exaggeration ensures that such images can never be taken seriously.

-Henry Jenkins III in “‘Never Trust a Snake’: WWF Wrestling as Masculine Melodrama” (51-52) <x>

Seriously, though, check out the reactions in the audience.

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