Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Susan Faludi 'The Terror Dream ' Recurring Myths & Fantasies of Fighting For Hearth & Home

Anyway I really want to recommend Susan Faludi's book The Terror Dream:Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America. Her method is similar to other historians who dismantle American mythology as opposed to historical truth. Of course to the true believers what some refer to as Myths is for them the actual truth. America is for them the Home of the Brave where manly men fight evil villains or devils such as Indians and freed black men. Whether it is the US cavalry or the Klan or the marines these are supposedly the true heroes who protect hearth and home including the innocent , virtuous white women and their children .

But the War against the Indians was not entirely justifiable. Instead of making honest genuine deals with native Americans white Americans cheated and later betrayed the Native Americans' trust. Since These white male Christians argued and believed the Native Americans to be not quite human, as savages, brutes, not much better than animals as being devil worshippers or bereft of any form of moral sense they the whites that is were not committing any wrong doing or offence or sin by lying, cheating or even killing Native Americans or other lesser forms of humanity such as African slaves etc. therefore cou Millions of Native Americans along with millions of African slaves ( & numerous marginalized non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants from the Irish to Easter Europeans to Asians including Chinese and Japanese etc. ) paid the ultimate price with their lives and freedom all for the Puritans, Pilgrims and Pioneers deadly dreams of conquest of a dark dangerous and mysterious land filled with ( according to their bigoted, superstitious, small minded perception ) Non-Christian i.e. souless Native Americans. It was the white Americans who more often than nought who broke these treaties and would slaughter entire villages based on some rumor of a massacre or the rape of a white woman. Today the Americans still believe that international treaties and laws are not necessarily binding on America because it is an exceptional nation under divine guidance and providence. The slaughter of Native American men , women and children including toddlers and infants was necessary in order to build a Purely Christian White dominated nation as "The City on the Hill" or " The New Jerusalem " .

So Susan Faludi illustrates how the story of the real life Daniel Boone for instance was rewritten and embellished to suit the accepted male dominated captivity-rescue narrative of frontier pioneers experience.

An American male pioneer could not be captured and then humiliated by Native Americans and being helpless as a captive who is further shamed by being rescued by other white european men or worse with the help of other native Americans or even with the help of white women .

The stories of White women even if true who were captured by Native Americans who managed to escape using their own intelligence and strength were ignored in favor of a version of the story which showed the captive woman as helpless and hysterical or passive and overwhelmed by the ordeal. No one was interested in the truth. It was the myth which Americans wanted to hear retold using more current ordeals . The people desired an embellished over-rought fable of heroic manly-men against evil savages and barbarians . So the deeds of the manly men were altered and exaggerated while the savages were shown to be more and more brutish and barbaric in their actions. This helps explain why Americans have little interest in an honest and genuine and sincere anaysis of historical incidents especially those where myth has completly overwritten the truth and the historical facts. Americans do not want anyone to dare question their elaborate National Mythology. George Washington therefore could not tell a lie and all of the Founding Fathers were Bible thumping Evangelical Christians and that the 13 colonies bequeathed equality and freedom to all . But they still contined with enslaving human beings while butchering the Native Americans under various pretext and rationalizations which they could come up with while denying even white women equality or the right to vote etc. while propertyless white men also were not given full rights as citizens.

And so Daniel Boone becomes the Iconic character of the heroic American man who fights Indians and other supposedly bad guys including African Americans who according to this mythology can't help but lust after the angelic and beautiful white virtuous woman. And so if there is no real enemy then what is the manly American man supposed to do to prove his worth. My own view is that one needs to invent enemies and evil doers for the virile American male to fight otherwise the nation becomes soft and effeminate and destined to fall apart or be conquered by foreign nations . So Americans go from fighting the Indians to fighting AfricanAmericans to fighting Anarchists and Communists and Trade Union organizers to fighting the Anti-War protesters ( Vietnam, El Salvador , Chile, Iraq etc.) and Civil Rights marchers to Feminists and Gay Rights advocates or Immigrant Rights advocates etc.

Daniel Boone: 'Cowboys & Injuns'

" Captivity followed by self-liberation would become the manly American rite of passage in so many subsequent accounts,real or fictional, about white men seized by Indians." (Faludi p. 261)

" For the "new man " of the West to prove himself more than a degenerate desperado, the vulnerability and need of the weaker sex had to be placed front and center- and would have to be dire.

What was good for Daniel Boone was good for the country: his coronation as rescuer of captive girls reflected a culture-wide desire to measure national male strength by female peril. Such a formula, when applied in insecure times, would demand that women be saved from more and more gruesome violation to prove their saviors valor. Ultimately , as with Jessica Lynch, no rescue drama could be sufficient without the spectre of rape. The Boone legend would become a proving ground for this ultimate refinement of the American security myth." p. 262

"The American masculine archetype that emerged by the end of the nineteenth century was a detached figure of the frontier, with no wife or children, no companions beyond a subordinate Indian sidekick , and no possessions besides his gun. He populated the " penny dreadful " cowboy novels that dominated the late Victorian marketplace- juvenile potboilers with mind-numbing rounds of Wild West shoot-'em-ups and maiden rescues. ..The hero of these interchangeable plots was a loner who could handle torture and, when necessary, deliver it. He had one calling above all others : to shield helpless girls from the monster of grown-up male sexuality. Which is to say, the American hero had become a boy engrossed in a prepubescent cartoon fantasy...The myth was now in final form-and ready to be reactivated whenever a homeland threat might call for it protective services." (Faludi P. 276)

D.W. Griffiths Birth of A Nation : Rebirth of the KLAN - The KKK did not just represent a few ignorant , illiterate back woods poor white trash but in fact represented a cross section of American white society including the wealth and the well-heeled- that is the Middle Class and the upper classes, teachers, lawyers, doctors, generals, University Professors and deans and intellectuals etc.Some five million Americans were certified members of the KKK in the mid 1930s. But most Americans even teachers and professors and historians and the media will claim these facts to be lies or will just refuse to speak about how brutish and barbaric American society was until very recent times and many would question whether Americ has left its past of racism and injustice behind. Just look at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and the the million dead in Iraq and the tens of thousands in Iraq who have been detained and then abused and tortured in the name of American Security & Prosperity.

"One of the earliest and most searing of these deployments would arise in the climate of the defeated South. Shamed by their inability to protect their homeland from incursion and destruction and their homes and families from harm, the region's guardians refashione longstanding racial hatred into a morality play of dark invader and chivalrous white male protector, with an imperiled white maidenhood caught between. The cause of action was one James Fenimore Cooper could have penned: the "horrid alternative" of rape of white women by "savages". The solution was lynching, a ceremony that, however imaginary the particular crimes it redressed, conferred a robe of knighthood on humiliated masculinity. That drama, as retold in a postwar proliferation of racist " plantation novels " and infamously reenacted in real life by the whie-robed men of the Klan, recapitulated all the elements of the captivity and rescue myth in a black-white context : heroic Sothern gentlemen on horseback came to the rescue of the virginal young women, terrorized by marauding troupes of "barbaric" black freedmen amassed at the "lonely, isolated farmstead" door. " The Southern woman with her helpless little children in a solitary farm house no longer sleep secure," the president of the University of North Carolina declared typically in 1901. " The black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast, a monstrous beast, crazed with lust. His ferocity is almost demonical."
(Faludi pp. 276-277 )

To bolster her argument Faludi goes on to recite the history of Lynching in America:

" Thousands of black men would be lynched in the years following the Civil War, cresting at the turn of the century and persisting into the 1930s-and the number one justification offered was rape of white women. Never mind that less than 25 percent of lynching victims had actually been accused of rape or attempted rape ( and many of that group were either falsely accused or "guilty" of no more than a consensual relationship or a friendly greeting to a white woman). Never mind that inter-racial sexual assaults were far more likely to run in the other direction, perpetrated on black women by white men. " ( Faludi p. 277)

Susan Faludi - The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America part 1 the rest is on YouTube
pdxjustice Media Productions
1 hr 3 min 59 sec - Oct 19, 2007
Added: March 31, 2008

9/11 as pushing Feminism off the map
Wild West images
a return to wild west myths -

see: Democracy Now! Interview of Susan Faludi Oct.4,2007


Overview of The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi

In this, the most original examination of post-9/11 America, Susan Faludi shines a light on the country's psychological response to the attacks on that terrible day. Turning her laser-sharp observational powers on the media, popular culture, and political life, Faludi unearths a barely acknowledged but bedrock societal drama shot through with baffling contradictions. Why, she asks, did an assault on American global dominance provoke an almost hysterical summons to restore "traditional" manhood, marriage, and maternity? Why did our media react as if the hijackers had targeted not a commercial and military edifice but the family home and nursery? Why did an attack fueled by hatred of Western emancipation lead to a regressive fixation on Doris Day womanhood and John Wayne masculinity, with trembling-lipped "security moms," swaggering presidential gunslingers, and the "rescue" of a female soldier compulsively recast as a "helpless little girl"?

The answer, Faludi finds, lies in a historical anomaly unique to the American experience: the nation that in recent memory has been least vulnerable to domestic attack is also a nation haunted by a centuries-long trauma of assault on its home soil. For nearly two hundred years, our central drama was not the invincibility of our frontiersmen but their inability to repel invasions of non-Christian, nonwhite "barbarians" from the homestead door. To conceal the insecurity bred by those attacks, American culture would generate an ironclad countermyth of cowboy swagger and feminine frailty, which has been reanimated whenever the nation feels threatened. On September 11, Americans were once again returned to an experience of homeland terror and humiliation. And, once again, they fled from self-knowledge and retreated into myth.

Brilliant and important, The Terror Dream is ultimately concerned not with what 9/11 did to women or men but with what it revealed about all of us—granting us the opportunity to look at ourselves anew.

and see:

Review of Susan Faludi's ' The Terror Dream ' at International Herald Tribune/By John Leonard,Oct. 12, 2007

Susan Faludi, a relentless reporter, an unapologetic feminist and a brilliant scourge, begins her CAT scan of our traumatized psyche with a demurral: "The Terror Dream," she says, is about only "one facet" of the American response to the hijacker bombings of Sept. 11: the cover story and screenplay promptly confabulated by our government ministers and news media heavies, a "security myth" and a "national fantasy" starring John Wayne and Dirty Harry as the Last of the Mohicans. But after escorting us briskly from witch hunts in Puritan New England to regime change and Manifest Destiny on the Great Plains and lynching bees in the Old South, from hostage-taking by Barbary pirates to sleeper cells in the cold war all the way up to a patriarchal White House and a quagmired Iraq, she concludes with a curse: "There are consequences to living in a dream." We've sleepwalked into hallucination, regression and psychosis.

As in her best-selling "Backlash" (1991), which roughed up Robert Bly and Allan Bloom while debunking news media myths about "the man shortage" and "the infertility epidemic," as well as her underappreciated "Stiffed" (1999), which construed the baffled manhood of laid-off Navy shipyard workers and McDonnell Douglas engineers, Citadel cadets and Charleston drag queens, porn stars and Promise Keepers, so in "The Terror Dream" a skeptical Faludi reads everything, second-guesses everybody, watches too much talking-head TV and emerges from the archives and the pulp id like an exorcist and a Penthesilea. Sept. 11 may have been as infamous a day as Pearl Harbor, but "the summons to actual sacrifice never came," she writes. "No draft ensued, no Rosie the Riveters were called to duty, no ration cards issued, no victory gardens planted. ... What we had was a chest beater in a borrowed flight suit, instructing us to max out our credit cards."

What we also had, after a hijacking of the meaning of the event by chicken hawks and theocons, were the Culture Wars redux. On the one side, all of a sudden contemptible, were grief counselors, sisterhood, "femocracy" and anything remotely "Oprahesque," plus "girlie boys," "dot-com geeks," "Alan Alda clones," "metrosexuals" and what Jerry Falwell called "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians," as well as such uppity critics of American foreign policy as Susan Sontag, Katha Pollitt, Barbara Kingsolver and Naomi Klein, all of whom were instructed to return immediately to their assigned seats. On the other, triumphalist shore, making a Rocky/Rambo comeback, were traditional gender roles and rescue fantasies, traditional medieval torture and the "alpha male" and "manly man": Duke in "The Searchers"; Rudy with his "command presence"; "Rumstud," the "babe magnet" secretary of defense; and New York City's firefighters, "Green Berets in red hats."

How, Faludi wonders, did smoking out Osama bin Laden in his Tora Bora tunnel somehow morph, on the home front, into a "sexualized struggle between depleted masculinity and overbearing womanhood"?

Answering this question takes her from ground zero to the Oval Office, the op-ed page, the Hollywood studio, network television, '50s sci-fi, "penny-dreadful" Davy Crockett westerns, the daydreams of James Fenimore Cooper, the nightmares of Increase Mather, and the captivity narratives of brave and resourceful pilgrim and pioneer women. Along the way she interviews Jessica Lynch, who was written up first as a heroine of the war in Iraq and then as a victim, although she was neither. (A useful bookend here might have been the Pat Tillman story, about a young man who quit pro football to volunteer in Iraq, only to die from friendly fire that the Pentagon lied about.) She debunks such wishful news media thinking as the post-9/11 rush to matrimony, "patriotic pregnancy" and a baby boomlet that never happened (not to mention articles in this newspaper, less factual than fanciful, about well-educated women opting out of high-powered careers and deciding to be moms instead). She disinters the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, whose abduction at age 9 by Comanches in Texas in 1836 had to be improved upon by Alan Le May's novel and John Ford's film version of "The Searchers," since Cynthia Ann seems to have ended up preferring her Comanche husband to her Anglo relatives. (In Le May's novel Faludi finds the original "terror dream" - "the fear of a small helpless child, abandoned and alone in the night ... an awareness of something happening in some unknown dimension not of the living world."

and so it goes,

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