Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The GOWGs Hang On

Before explaining today's odd title, it's worthwhile to ponder a pair of questions asked by four and five year-old grandchildren during our recent family gathering. I don't know if he's a future physicist, but one of the grandsons wanted to know "Why does ice cream melt?" The hard part there would be, I think, matching the answer to the level of the question. The other one still has me puzzled. "Why do rattlesnakes have rattles?"

Now, as to what a GOWG could be, let me first observe that they were a large part of my younger life. They dominated the schools, ran the towns and owned and operated factories while doing as little as possible to protect our air and water. They presided in the churches and coached all the teams, using phrases that were meant to inspire the players like "This, girls, is a football". As coaches they were all strictly "old school" because there was no other school at all.
The GOWG outlook on the world was simple - be suspicious of all others. The less those benighted folks looked and acted like "us", the less they could be trusted. Even our own leaders were suspected of being "too soft" or "too green" or "too anxious to appease". This way of thinking was constantly reflected in editorial cartoons in which other countries, especially the old Soviet Union and China, were seen as firebreathing menaces looming over a cowering Uncle Sam.
Have you figured it out yet? I'm surprised that I seem to be the only one who has thought up the term - "Grouchy Old White Guys".
The GOWG heyday is now past. Women, often better trained than the GOWGs, compete with men for jobs, and youth now get more than one way of coaching. Churches have learned that sneering at their younger members is a dangerous practice when membership trends downward. Businessmen, at least the smarter ones, understand that every kind of enterprise comes with its own set of government regulations, and that these rules, while adding to their expense, also keep the field (whatever it is) more free of cut-rate, fly-by-night operators.
But we'd be wrong to think that GOWGs don't hang on in our society. I was sure that my old school would gradually change from its strict reputation to become more intellectually open, but the place seems to have new strict rules every year, extending to things like unauthorized group singing! GOWGs and their successors are easy to find in Congress (yes, they are largely Republicans), and turn up on editorial pages every day. Bill O'Reilly, arguably the current King of the GOWGs, writes in today's paper. The cause? Defending Dick Cheney with the offhand (and factless) dismissal of a charge made aginst the former Veep by investigative reporter Sy Hersh. Cheney himself is so GOWG as to earn lifetime status, but then, you knew that without even knowing the term.


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