The Lie of the Great American Hero

Author: June 30, 2011 11:47 am

This week, Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann stuck at least one of what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of feet in her mouth. On the day she officially announced her run for the Presidency, Bachmann, who spent her childhood in Waterloo, Iowa, told Fox News, ”I want them to know just like John Wayne is from Waterloo Iowa, that’s the spirit I have too. It’s embracing America. It’s sacrificing for America.”

Of course, the media, always ready to shoot the biggest, slowest fish in the barrel, immediately caught on to the fact that it was the serial killer, John Wayne Gacy and not the actor, John Wayne that was from Waterloo. The actor lived in another Iowa town. The media labeled it a ‘gaffe’ and fun was had by all, at least for a day or two.

It turns out that her potential voters really didn’t care about the John Wayne mistake. Her poll numbers are actually up. I can’t say I blame her fans. All in all, her gaffe wasn’t a big deal. It could have been one of those family stories that gets misunderstood, misremembered, passed down and twisted. My family has a couple of those. I would imagine most do.

The problem with her statement wasn’t a Michele Bachmann problem. It was a Republican problem. Let’s deconstruct Bachmann’s statement in another way.

“I want them to know just like John Wayne is from Waterloo Iowa, that’s the spirit I have too. It’s embracing America. It’s sacrificing for America.”

The one question that was never asked of her was “What is this ‘spirit’? Who was John Wayne and why do you admire him?” I can only imagine that her answer, if given, would have included the words “great American”, which is how Republicans generally refer to their idols.

John Wayne was not a hero. He played one in the movies, but he was not a hero. John Wayne was an actor. His studio got him out of serving in the military.

John Wayne was racist:

“With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

He was a proponent of McCarthyism, which targeted many of Wayne’s own colleagues in Hollywood. Granted, in later years, he became a known for his support of the US Military, but mostly because, you’ve got it…he played military heroes in the movies. I am not trying to portray John Wayne as a bad person. He was a product of his generation. He was successful and famous, but he was no hero. He was no one who should be emulated, even by people who agree with his very conservative politics.

This sort of idolatry is common in Republican circles. A B-actor who also played movie heroes catapulted himself into becoming a conservative icon by being a mediocre President with a pleasant speaking voice and demeanor. Like John Wayne, Ronald Reagan was not a military hero, although unlike Wayne, he did serve. Like Wayne, Reagan’s young life was as a Democrat, but he left the party because, among other things, the emerging civil rights movement.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” and “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.”

Again, despite vast policy differences between Ronald Reagan, and me I see no reason to vilify the man. He seemed kind hearted. He seemed genial. Like Wayne, he was simply a man. He was flawed. He was no hero, but he did play one for the Republican Party.

More recently, another big screen hero was elected to a high office in Republican politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Early in his term as California governor, there was talk of amending the Constitution so a naturalized citizen could become President. Schwarzenegger had never served in the US Military. He had never fought a fire. He had never arrested a real criminal. He was simply a man who played a hero in the movies and for Republicans, that was good enough, at least for a while.

When faced with a real American Hero, John Kerry, the Republican Party recoiled. Kerry is a Democrat. It is expected that he would be attacked on his policy positions. But no, Kerry was attacked as a war hero, the very thing that Republicans claim to respect more than anything.

Why was the real war hero reviled while the fake ones were revered? Well, to start, of course, Kerry is a Democrat. He also came out of the war and testified to Congress that it was time to get out. But it’s more than that. Kerry isn’t handsome, at least not in the Ronald Reagan sense. He isn’t charismatic. Kerry doesn’t look or sound like an American Hero should, and when it comes down to it, that’s all that matters.

Republican idolatry doesn’t end with the American Hero mythology. Republicans love symbolism. The American Flag is more important than the people over whom it flies. The word ‘freedom’ has more meaning than actual freedom. They love ‘Mama Grizzlies’ and ‘Mavericks.’ They love the symbolism of guns.

Republicans might argue that Barack Obama is a symbolic President, that he would not have been elected had he not been an articulate, handsome, charismatic black man. There might be a grain of truth to that, but only a grain. If a President could be elected for simply being African American, handsome, charismatic and articulate, we would have had a President Jesse Jackson. Many Democrats love Barack Obama. He is admired, but nearly all of us at one time or another have experienced frustration during his two and a half years in office. Unless a lot of meaningful legislation passes, it’s doubtful that after 2016, Democrats will be carving a place for him on Mt. Rushmore or designing new dollar bills. This is not to say that he’s not doing a good job and arguably even a great job, given the disaster he was handed and the obstacles called Congress. The contrast is that Democrats are able to recognize the difference between a man and a symbol.

That is why Mitt Romney will have a hard time winning the Republican nomination. He is symbolic of nothing. Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and the rest of the male Republican lineup, are not symbols of American Heroes. They don’t swagger. They don’t wear cowboy hats. That is why the Republican base loves Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. They have the swagger. They have the good looks. It doesn’t matter that they are ignorant to their own history. It doesn’t matter that they have little grasp of the Constitution they are vowing to protect. All that matters is that they play the part, and they do that very well.

Article from; http://thepragmaticprogressive.org/wp/2011/06/30/the-lie-of-the-great-american-hero/

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9 Comments

  • You know what this current crowd of GOP liars want is to turn the United Sates into China, where only a few giant corporations run things, they own the factories, the apartments, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the newspaper and magazine publications, the radio stations, the television stations and you pay them and they get all the benefits, and if you do not like it go jump off cliff. Well some Chinese workers seeing that as individuals that they cannot progress have done just that by committing suicide. The current crowd of GOP liars want to abolish Medicare from the elderly, they want to abolish a woman’s right to choose and have control over her own body, they want to abolish collective bargaining rights for our Unions, and on top of it all they want to blame the poor, the middle class and the public sector workers for a recession that the GOP created (Thanks to the Dullard “W”), while their beloved “Fat cats” continue to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits. Yes this is the GOP “Radical Right-Wing Social Engineering” that they dream about. The win in New York was the beginning but the next will be Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and later the other states of our nation, watch out we are coming for you!

  • Douglas Fenner

    Ronald Reagan was not only not a hero, he spent WWII in Hollywood making money. Unlike George Bush Sr, who served and was a hero. Oh, and his son George W. Bush is well known to have spent Vietnam in the National Guard, that got him out of that war. Like Dan Quale. None of their kids were sent off to serve, either. Quite a contrast to British royalty, where there is a tradition of service in the military that continues to this day, all the men serve, though they don’t have to.

    • As usual a bunch of blaming other people for our problems. I enjoy the sight though it was formed to bash republicans. Not to tell the truth. Sad

  • Stephen Trusas

    Maybe Michele Bachman can help Sarah Palin get the Brown Crayon that’s stuck up her nose out with a pair of tweezers. Ya’ll know that’s where she learned how to be a “brown noser”!
    sniff, sniff, sniff ….

  • Why bother with facts and reality when ideology and a big man in the sky is on you side.

    Beside, I think she does have the spirit of John Wayne Gacy in her, but she will be a slow serial killer as President, killing women by banning safe abortions, killing more citizens with inadequate health care and killing more Iraqis, Afghans and US soldiers with the continued wars. In that way, she will be like almost all US presidents.

    Peace,
    Tex Shelters

  • This is a very compelling post and true as well. Your absolutely correct, Wayne was a racist and Reagan was not really a hero at all. You at least make allowances because they were people of their time. I don’t tend to do that at all, because there were other people of those times who were a little bit more circumspect in their beliefs.

    You make a good point about hero idolatry. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that is probably what has swept so many military men into the position of the presidency. Right now, most of us are trying to figure out why palin and bachmann are so popular, in maybe you’ve hit up on it. They’re actually coming across as stronger in their beliefs than any of the men are, even if the stuff they’re saying is ridiculous. Maybe that was the power of Bush, which would help explain how come he kept winning. Very good post.

  • Well if Bachmann is playing a role… I hope she breaks a leg!

  • All hail to Astroturf TeaBparty Queen (ATQ), Michele Bachmann. Isn’t she the one that who rails against the Federal Government while every year she benefits from Federal Medical Clinic Payments, Federal farm subsidies, and adopts kids to work them on same farm. Oh yeah she is also a self-proclaimed historian on the US Founding Fathers and US history. The sad truth she will lie to get her way, what honor is there in that? But if you manipulate our US history and double down when you are found out, well don’t go crying to Fake News when you lose. Kind of like the Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (Most recent quitter of her Bus Tour to restore America). We remember what happen when after “W” manipulate Florida (w/ the help of brother Jebb) to win the presidency and his failure to win any of the two wars he started that devastated our treasury and ruined our economy for the next 50 years. If the GOP thinks that Michele Bachmann is the answer, good luck with that. After her “John Wayne” mishap and Tom Petty, calling her a thief, well you know, same old Bachmann, you have a winner GOP.

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