I Want My Grandpa Back: Thoughts on the Emergence of the Angry Old White American Male

October 26, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , United States

NBC photo

 

By

Sarah Ito

 

 

Images shatter. Legends die. Reality bites.

 

First, it was Father Fitzgibbon, the elderly pastor in the iconic Going My Way movies, his kindly visage scarred by the pedophile priest scandal.

 

Then it was Dr. Huxtable, America’s Dad, being led away in handcuffs following his conviction as a predatory sexual offender, still defiant and raging in his dotage.

 

Now it’s Grandpa. Specifically, white American Grandpa. Elderly, angry, bitter and misogynist; lashing out at the world around him…That Grandpa.

 

The quaint Norman Rockwell-esq portraits of America’s Grandpas have gone the way of the Packard sedan, replaced by something unexpectedly ugly, mean-spirited, and misogynist.

 

Where has he gone, that pillar of the community, fountain of too-oft-shared wisdom, patriarch of the family, relentless spoiler of grandchildren? Where is he, that charming old curmudgeon with a heart of gold and a twinkle in his eye? Have long term care facilities morphed into internment camps, rounding up and effectively silencing all the nice old men in America? Has old age become an excuse for white males to abandon social convention, civility, and basic human decency? And why? It is as if a spore has laid in wait for decades, suddenly exploding into the atmosphere, spreading a malignant virus that seemingly infects only the elderly white male.

 

Angry old white men, newly computer literate thanks to senior center classes and techie grandchildren, have become an invading army of keyboard pundits, befouling social media with their vitriol and their bitterness. Angry old white men are fixated on every word that spews from Fox News and regard it as if from God’s mouth to their hard-of-hearing ears. From hatred of the “Commie Libtards” of the Democratic Party, to Colin Kaepernick’s perceived “disrespect” of veterans, to poor maligned Brett Kavanaugh, to the lying (fill in the blank with the slur of your choice) women who “set him up,” their tide of verbal sludge is never-ending. Angry old white men…Why? What has happened to you? Did you feel harmed by the presidency of Obama, by the presence of a black man in the White House? Are you still quivering in fear because a woman almost succeeded him? Or is this anger a new marker of being an old man in America?

 

This hatred of women became shockingly apparent during the recent Kavanaugh hearings, when potty-mouthed elderly white men, along with far too many older women, flooded social media with extremely disturbing cartoons of victims of sexual assault, along with liberal usage of the “c” word, the “b” word, and worse.

 

Old black men do not seem to harbor this unexplainable deep-seated anger and bitterness. Old black men seem much more centered, perhaps more comfortable in the skin of advancing age, than their Caucasian counterparts. Surprising, when one must assume that black men have had a much greater challenge negotiating the social climate during their coming of age years. Racism, segregation, unfair housing and lending practices, lack of educational opportunities, rejection by labor unions and professional sports teams, even existing into pre-integration military service, where a black man could die for his country but could not sit in the mess hall next to a white soldier. Older black men seem to have incorporated their life experience into a place of reason and acceptance, and are satisfied with their successes and acknowledge their failures, all while remaining, for the most part, gentlemen.

 

Not so, old white American men, who in recent years proudly tout their god-given right to be as loud, crude, and derogatory towards women as they wish, oblivious to wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters; theirs and everyone else’s.

 

Old angry white men now have cart blanche to denigrate not only women, but Jews, Muslims, Blacks, immigrants both legal and not, and render slavish devotion to the American president who made this all possible, one Donald Trump. Still, having an excuse does not explain why old white men feel the need to exhibit misogynist and anti-social behavior.

 

Old white American men have few reasons to harbor such animus and rage. These men, by virtue of having been born male in America, have been afforded all that white male privilege offers. They did not have to go to court to enter the military as equals. They did not have to file suit to enter our military academies. They did not have to sue to enter law school, medical school, and/or numerous professions. They did not have to fight for equal pay, nor the most fundamental right of an American citizen, the right to vote. If a white American male wanted something, he was free to pursue that goal, with no social conventions to stand in his way.

 

Old white American men would be better served by setting aside destructive anger and replacing it with a sense of pride: pride in having worn the uniform of a branch of our military, pride in VFW and American Legion membership. Old white American men raised families and built skyscrapers and turned out automobiles and airplanes that changed the landscape of our world. Old white men lived through social upheaval and difficult change and are the repositories of our American history, not to mention, all those memories. I want to feel comfortable and safe in the presence of an old white man. I want to know his unique story, his contribution to our country, our world.

 

Calling a woman the “C” word is not a contribution. It is a sign of weakness and of fear. If angry elderly white American men cannot accept the common humanity of those who are not mirror images of themselves, that fear will surely become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Ito

I am a novelist (GROWING UP GREENWICH, Outskirts Press), blogger and essayist, and occasional poet.

Editor review

2 Comments

  1. Bert Cisneros October 31, at 19:15

    Sarah, an addendum to my previous comments to you: it's always good to read your thoughts on any subject. but you forgot to add Hispanic/Latino men. We're part of the mix too, you know. After all, we are 2nd in the US as far as population. We outnumber our African-American brothers. No jealousy, however most people don't know we also suffer from the old white man's bigotry and have ever since the white man first set foot on our lands. Keep the good stuff coming.

    Reply
  2. bert October 31, at 19:02

    Sarah, as usual your eloquence is only surpassed by your clarity of thought. I am proud to know you and your heart.

    Reply

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