Another Day in America, July 18, 2017
You Can’t Get to the Future If You Can’t Get Out of the Past
The day began as it does all summer. I walked out into the still cool, humid air and down the seventy feet of the driveway to pick up The Boston Globe. It’s ironic that every morning I get an email telling me that the Globe will be delivered late, but here on the Cape it is always there early. Of course, this edition was probably run off at 9 PM the night before, and therefore anything that was done, or Tweeted, overnight will not be reported. Therefore, this morning’s paper made no mention of Haney Ramirez’ 15th inning, game ending home run that had occurred at 1 AM. But I already knew about that from my phone.
As soon as I read the stories on the front page I knew that there would be a lively discussion at breakfast this morning. One of my wife’s longest standing aggravations was right there on the front page, a big story about how The Charles River Golf Club was being sued because they had just built a men’s only bar in the men’s locker room. “It’s just like Mad Men,” someone was quoted as saying.
My wife’s parents had been members of a country club when she was growing up — well, to be more precise, my wife’s father had been a member of a country club, as women were not allowed to be members, only the spouse of a member. The members, were given the best tee times, and that included almost all weekend and Wednesday, when the doctors were off. How many people remember when most doctors didn’t work on Wednesdays?
That was in 1958, before the changes that began in the 60s. My wife was part of those changes. There was what was called a “Women’s Movement” that had something to do with lots of White guys being vice-presidents who hardly knew what their company’s products were, while their female “administrative assistants “ did most of their work for 30% of the money, and they also had to endure looks, comments and touches, (if not a lot more) as just part of their jobs.
Things were brought into a clearer focus in 1991 when Anita Hill spoke up at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. That raised the issue of unequal treatment to a new level and provoked a lot of laws suits and policy changes. But now we see that Clarence Thomas is still with us, and so is the attitude of many men about women.
These men don’t want to fight about it, They would certainly agree that women should have equal rights, and probably equal pay, and every other benefit of being a citizen, but they just don’t want to be bothered by them when they are sitting down after five hours following a ball, having a good scotch, talking about how difficult it is to get their puts (putz?) into the hole.
Now, I’m not here to give lectures, or to try to explain, again, why this kind of attitude is if big drag on the hopes for a bright American future. I realize, and appreciate as much as anyone, that men and women are different, in many different way. I often go out with just a group of men, and we have a lot of fun in ways that are very different than when women are in the group.
Thankfully, just like golf clubs themselves, and even golf as a game, the elitist, special attitude that rich White guys are somehow special and deserve to be waited on by women and Black men, or, in the case of many golf clubs, Pilipinos, is slowly coming to an end.
Yes, it can feel great to come in when the endorphins are running high after dragging a sixty-plus year-old body around the arduous obstacles of a golf course, and have someone make you a nice stiff drink, and treat you as if you have conquered India, But India is a free country now, and even more than America, it suffers from a huge divide between the rich and poor, and we don’t want that to be our future.
My point here is to show how difficult it is for anyone to change an attitude that has been part of their culture for so long that they don’t realize how much they benefit from things being this way, and how it causes other people to suffer. The idea that men have certain powers in their relationships with women has been part of many cultures for thousands of years. The orthodox sects of world’s major religions still see it as a basic tenet of their teachings. Just ask Mike Pence.
So now, when so many Americans would like to believe that the America of the 1950s, with the Yankees winning all of those World Series, is the way the world ought to be, there seems to be Ok to try to bring all of that discrimination back into our lives.
So even though in my later years I have developed into a mediocre golfer, I am still uncomfortable at private golf clubs, when some guy even older than I am will take my bags out of the trunk of my car, and call me sir, as if I’m suddenly something special. I hope the day is not far away when many of these courses have been transformed into drone race-tracks, and that women are recognized for their skills as pilots as well as any man, and they can all drink their Red Bull laced Mountain Dew together.