This Silly Season

The 2023 silly season turned sinister PDQ, didn’t it?

At its genesis, “the silly season” referred to that time of year – summer – when our urges for frivolity overtook much of anything serious. It’s the heat. The longer days. We want to vacation, loll, not be troubled by any thoughts deeper than a teacup saucer and just as fluffy as cotton candy.

Probably why our entertainments during these months are instantly disposable once Labor Day ends and reentry into substantial life resumes. Or as we prefer believing. Looking back on human epochs demonstrates a great many consequential events have interrupted our idylls.

Among these exceptions, both World Wars starting during summer, mankind’s entry into the Atomic Age, and Nixon resigning. Otherwise, news through the carefree months generally entertains, confounds, amuses with its insignificance. What happens during this 90-period really doesn’t tax mental prowess. Ephemeral as summer days and nights are, don’t we look back upon them fondly, if not sometimes wistfully? If at all.

Probably why A Summer Place (1959) is one of the best movies encapsulating this time. A Summer Place, not A Place in the Sun.

Starring 1950s heartthrobs Sandra Dee and Troy Donohue and featuring a particularly curmudgeonly Arthur Kennedy, with Percy Faith’s earworm melody generously weaving throughout the movie, A Summer Place isn’t so much escape as breathy immersion. What sugary element doesn’t it contain which emphasizes lack of gravity? A perfect movie to spend an hour and a half in darkened surroundings under air conditioning gorging on popcorn and soda. And once the closing credits run, really what impression remains other than the now inescapable theme music?

Who disagrees the entirety of Summer 2023 will be far more substantive? Events which have occurred and will occur won’t evaporate when summer yields to autumn.

It is clear this June-September stretch may remain with us deep into 2024. It is clear this summer will boldly affect 2024.

By itself, the furor middle-aged right-wing males have heaped upon the Barbie movie ought to qualify as the season’s silliest diversion. Somehow the film does not fit their image of Barbie, an accessory-larded plastic doll marketed to prepubescent girls.

About this isn’t it right to ask how Barbie became so integral to the lives of those men? After all, hasn’t Barbie always been an aspirational model for girls? Sure, initially she existed as a clotheshorse. But as time proceeded her creators edged her away from being servile and shallow figure into one who could open up professions previously off limits to females. Ones made as difficult as possible by men to breach. Underlying all this to girls – who would grow up into women – is “If Barbie can make it, I can make it too!”

Doubtlessly that countered how plenty of men regarded the doll. They watched their daughters or other adolescent girls playing with her. Know-nothing men believed Barbie’s mania for attire, the domestic responsibilities instilled through keeping her playhouse clean and orderly, would transfer into the next generation of flesh & blood females. Indoctrinated as such, wouldn’t they find contentment and reward in being nonthreatening housewives as had their mothers?

Those guys were numb from the neck up. How did they miss CEO Barbie or Doctor Barbie or astronaut Barbie? None of them was pushing a vacuum cleaner. Instead, they pushed boundaries. And little girls understood.

For right-wing men hoping for backlash, a Barbie sequel appealing to them – nah! Glad that mess won’t happen. If the same film crew reunites to further explore Barbie and women’s roles independent of narrow-minded patriarchy, that flick won’t be titled Under My Thumb.

Although summer has pretty much reached its midpoint, can we all agree that after Barbie the season’s other silliest eruption has been reactionaries declaring slavery benefited blacks. Oh. The same way Anglos distributing smallpox infected blankets improved the North American continent’s indigenous populations.

“We had to slaughter those Indians to make them better Christians!”

No joke. There are adherents of white nationalism who’d find nothing reprehensible in that position.

As of the end of July, there’s been one good result of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’, a k a The Citrus Caesar, and his Gator State’s education department’s supine agreement to the stupefyingly absurd notion of slavery having benefited enslaved blacks. No, not the justified outrage of people astonished at such calumny. But having been presented so adverse a conjecture to what America claims it represents, of having awareness of their heritage, Republican Party house negros and running dog lackeys have awakened to an enemy – one to which they’ve epoxied themselves.

It’s a shame that right-wingers and their fellow travelers have gotten so comfortable in the open under sunlight. Feckless, they’ve become so fearless we’re allowing them now to propagate such outright lies as righteous beliefs.

One must wonder if such naked boldness stems from Americans’ general disregard of our own history. Our nation has bought its myths. Our nation prefers its myths to what verifiably happened. So comfortable with them, we look to discard facts.

Much of what we ought to recognize as similar to our past’s erasure and its redefining owes much from the Stalin Soviet Era playbook. I can only hope being compared to Marxists infuriates any right-wingers reading this. While absolute opposites on the ideological spectrum, the pair’s methods behind remolding history are mirror processes.

Yet there are differences. In Soviet Russia, the narrative needed to be hammered in order to establish then enforce the ruling order’s utter unquestioned predominance and smash dissent. If that required making an “un-person” of someone occupying eminence just the week before, well, so be it. Ordinary soviets learned quickly not to comment on clear contradictions.

By the way, this trait has held over into present-day Russia. The government can lie with impunity. Russian citizenry is aware of the discrepancies. But having no confidence in their society and themselves so weak the idea of confronting authority is a stillborn urge. Too bad. Giving birth to that impetus might’ve spared untold numbers of Russian troops who’ve been needlessly sacrificed in Ukraine.

Americans’ deliberate confusion of facts emerges then mutates from what the more simple-minded among us might’ve called “the best of intentions.”

Under the guise of making free speech mannered (Yes. That’s an oxymoron.), too many of us wish to proscribe what can be said, to whom, how, and where. This nonsense started on college campuses then sprouted like mushrooms on a manure pile after a heavy rain throughout every aspect of our society.

The spores behind “trigger words,” “trigger subjects” ought have been dismissed with disinfectant when each first contaminated our language. Their contagion is mental Covid.

Rather than place usages and words off limits, a serious society seeking to develop into greater maturity would’ve debated these, not quarantined them. By doing so we’ve given credence to one of the worse phrases imaginable: “You can’t say that!”

The follow-up always ought to be, and as it always should be, “Why not?”

Making convincing arguments countering assertions found offensive is the most effective remedy, not stifling them. Otherwise, the other side has no need to defend its position. Its point has been made. In its mind, the rash dismissal means there’s true substance to the “irritation.” Instead, undermining “hurtful” words or concepts through responses which expose their fallacies weakens them. Forbidding these utterances air out of hand only further encourages those regarded as offensive.

Beating non-no’s down rhetorically should compel them back into their caves.

However, right-wingers have coopted what’s “permissible.” If the left can be “triggered,” so too can the right.

Frankly, I had an indecently good laugh upon hearing some school curricula under siege because Anglo students felt guilt-tripped when the subject was black subjugation in the United States. Too bad they couldn’t have shared what those under that lash experienced. Then they really would’ve known pain! And while those now thwarted lessons may not have developed empathy, the recalcitrant scholars certainly would’ve been informed of the some of the deepest clearest disparities in America.

Ones which linger in the open and increasingly fester today.

Perhaps dispelling that ignorance could’ve created empathy in the students the right exploits as straw men. After all, in the real world into which they’ll eventually graduate self-deception won’t be highly valued nor carry them far.