American narration still belongs to men. To believe in it, you have to smoke crack or kick some kid on the way to school.
If someone asked me with whom I would not switch identities, I would say with a young, white man in Washington. Sand, ice and cocaine are three things from which castles are built in the big city today.
As a young, white man you don’t have friends in high places? There’s no money coming to you from Texas? The tea party doesn’t inspire hope in you at the moment because who else, if not you, would represent the Republicans in 2020? You don’t speak Farsi or Pashto, so you aren’t worth much in the American war in the Middle East? The Israeli ambassador wasn’t present at your bar mitzvah, simply because you didn’t have one and the only religion to which you are faithful is a belief that “America is the greatest country”?
One year ago, Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen made the movie “Bully,” which shocked Emily Bazelon, from Slate so much that she wrote “Sticks and Stones,” a brutal documentary about growing up in America. Both [works] represent the culture of aggression and oppression among American teenagers. It is a culture that proves that identity breakdown among the young generation is nothing new — we observe it through the media and Internet which, at our own request, register our social life 24/7.
New Reality Creates New Forms of Social Justice
For three months, there has been news about the various interventions of Anonymous hackers in cases when children are physically or emotionally abused by their peers.
Two weeks ago, everyone’s attention was drawn to Steubenville, where a group of boys from the high school football team raped an unconscious teenage girl. It was recorded and uploaded on Facebook and Twitter. Local authorities tried to cover it up, but Anonymous threatened to spread the hacked information. Thanks to that, the trial was held on March 17, 2013. The boys were found guilty of rape. In the opinion of locals, the sentence was too harsh and ruined the lives of two young football stars — Trent Mays, 17 and Ma’lik Richmond, 16.
Steubenville is a small town not far from Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania. Its population does not exceed 19,000 people. In the elections, Rich Santorum won its votes, which suggests that its population is polite, conservative, cares about family and values religion. It is a place where there is nothing to do and no jobs, but also where “America is the greatest country in the world.” Every boy dreams of becoming a football star (see Tom Brady) and then settling down, preferably with a Brazilian model who would leave her socially diverse country with relief and gratefully accept the role of mother and wife in her new home (see Gisele Bündchen).
The worst that can happen is that these hopes come true and that the boy gets an athletic scholarship to a good university, on which his intellectual capacities usually have little bearing. It is a selective university, and he will wake up from the dream of football with incomplete studies, but he will still have a need for competition. What will happen next? If there is a war, he will join the army to gloriously fight for “the greatest country in the world.” If he is lucky, he will return as a veteran, visited by many friends patting him on the shoulder. Beer and barbeque. And then?
He will need to leave Ohio for somewhere he can get a job, maybe Philadelphia, New York or Washington. After he leaves, he will realize that with his B.A. and average grades he can’t do much. He can always try, though. In the meantime, he could get a job at a bar, since a bartender must be white and have no accent — that is the tradition. Joining the culture of Ron Paul, striking a balance between fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, he shrugs upon hearing the question of whether gays can marry because, ultimately, what does he care, as long they do not marry him. After all, the idea is to save enough money to go to the Caribbean, Hawaii or Costa Rica and teach local children American football or open his own bar.
In Washington, cocaine is the cure for aggression and identity problems. It is cheap enough for a politician or bar manager to buy it, or even a boy who just came from Bolivia to clean floors in a bar. On the other hand, it is expensive enough to lock you into the drug world for the next 10 years. It is as hard to save money for a “better life” as it is to get your fingers far from the white stuff.
There are no job opportunities in Washington. Washington is the only American city where someone (i.e., the government) hires people. Businesses fall apart like sandcastles. A few days ago in Miami, Obama spoke about the great number of jobs created in the construction industry, and the thousands of others needed to restore the infrastructure. According to Reuters, in March the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, which would be the lowest level in four years. However, nothing changed on the streets.
Ten years ago, public transportation was supposed to be a “socialist” project meant to help the poorest. You can see white faces on buses today as well. When there is no money, customer service turns out to be a mirage, an oasis in the desert. No one cares about lollipops and kindness at banks or a free dessert in a restaurant on your birthday. American children no longer get EVERYTHING for Christmas. Their parents work below their education and ambition. At the same time, America’s tough narrative does not change — if you work hard enough, you’ll see results. We are the “greatest country in the world.” But to believe in it, you have to smoke crack or kick a child on the way to school.