The Man on the White Horse

People keep looking for a guy with simple answers who will solve all our problems. It usually doesn't end well.

The Man on the White Horse
Don't worry. I won't let him ride you. 

I am continually perplexed, which leads to those Tucker Carlson “dog watching a magic trick” expressions on my face. The cause of my frustration is the contention that somehow, some way, white people, particularly white men, are being oppressed, canceled, replaced or in some form or fashion, discriminated against.

Wait, where did the ball go? 

My answer to this is a resounding, “what?” When confronted by this idea in discussions, online or in my past life, on the air, my usual response is that to the best of my knowledge, we still run the joint. Business, both big and small, politics, from the school board to the White House are all predominantly white and male and have been since the country began.

I got mine, good luck to you. 

Our treatment of minorities from slavery to Jim Crow, from the Trail of Tears to the reservation system, from the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882  to WWII internment camps, has been pretty much abysmal. Women didn't get to vote until 1920 when the country was 144 years old, for crying out loud, and they had to fight like hell for that. And anytime an attempt is made to make amends to said groups, level the playing field or even compensate for our hideous past, it is met with cries of “Reverse Discrimination!” Try to share that history honestly, warts and all, and you are distorting a glorious past in the service of some “woke” version of Critical Race Theory, which is otherwise known as history.

OK, let me get this straight...

Let's take the military, for example. You are a general or admiral and are looking at a list of equally qualified officers for promotion: Is it reverse discrimination, all qualifications being equal, to think about the fact that the US military is 31% African-American, Hispanic and  Asian along with 14-20% female depending on the branch, so maybe it's time to broaden my thinking? Maybe it's time for a General Colin Powell...

Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, the winner of a Purple Heart, 5 Bronze Stars and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses, for whom Ft. Hood has been renamed...

Or Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, winner of 3 Legion of Merit awards and 2 Distinguished Service Medals and the first female 4-star General in US history. That happened in 2008.

So, if said general takes into consideration the morale of a huge chunk of his troops in seeing themselves represented as command officers, and as I said, all other qualifications being equal, is he an anti-white, anti-male,  or “woke” snowflake? If you think so, take it up with this guy...

Excuse me. Woke?

I'll just be over here watching while you do that.

The same scenario could be painted in the private sector as a CEO looks at his employees and makes similar decisions. No one wants to promote a person who will hurt the company. He, and it is predominantly a “he,” also wants his employees to feel their contributions are valued and opportunities the same. It's not as simple as, forgive me, black and white, well, unless “he” is a complete jerk.

So, where does this paranoia and misplaced sense of white privilege come from? Well, let's start with the fact, and it is a fact, that the United States started and has essentially continued to be, a white, male enterprise. Correct me on that. I'll wait.

Founding Fathers of the United States - Wikipedia
Let's just table the slavery thing for, oh, 75 years or so. 

Now, look, I'm a white male and very happy about it. But should I whine when a black colleague is promoted? I have worked for and with women and men, black, white and brown, and frankly could find no pluses or minuses in any of them attributable to race. Two of my favorite producers were black, and two of my favorite bosses were women. By the way, a couple of the worst fell into those categories as well, along with a lot of white guys. I don't draw any conclusions from that except that there are no conclusions to draw.

She was among the best...
And on the other hand. 

A sense of racial superiority is not new either here or in Europe. Ironically, Europe was pretty late to the civilization game in world history. The Middle East, Asia and even Meso-America were miles ahead in science, mathematics and invention while Europe was still pooping in the street. And even if we are to pretend there are objective measurements of advancements, Europe wouldn't make the top of list of regions in that matter until modern times. The Muslim world created mathematics as we know it and accepted Germ Theory centuries before Europe did, Polynesians built ships that could sail the high seas centuries before Europeans did, China had gunpowder centuries before Europe did, native Americans developed concepts of universal human rights before Europeans did, Africans developed heat-regulating housing centuries before Europeans did, etc.

European dominance of these cultures came through war and then colonization. Be as proud of that as you want, but let's not pretend that melanin is the determinant of worth.

But that feeling persists and has led down some interesting paths. The latest being extreme nationalism and it is not confined to the US. History is replete with examples, and along with race, religion is often the sideman in this orchestra, said religion being Judaism.

You can start with the Bible, and then to Mussolini...

OK, does this photo make me look crazy? Be honest.


I may have the wrong Hitler here. 

And in Britain, the fascist leader Oswald Mosley...

Don't worry, you'll learn to like this salute. 

and in the US, Charles Lindbergh...

Hey, that Goering guy is aces with me. 

And a host of segregationist politicians, all generated fear of the “other,” the other being a smorgasbord of races, home countries and religions, black, Jewish, brown, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Jews, Catholics; whatever the problem is, it's their fault. I lost a job opportunity to a black guy. My snowflake boss promoted a woman over me. I didn't get into Harvard because I'm not Asian. Or, of course, the Jews run everything. We have plenty of excuses for things most people just take in stride and move on from.

So, what solution do we seek? It's the “man on the white horse” theory. There must be someone who can right these wrongs, restore my rightful place in the natural order of things, and run the show with a strong hand. We are seeing it now and it's not confined to America.

Italy just elected Giorgia Meloni Prime Minister. She leads a party, the Brothers of Italy,  that grew from the ashes of Mussolini's fascist movement.  Vladimir Putin sent her a congratulatory bottle of vodka upon her victory.

I'll make the trains run on time. 

Then there is Marine Le Pen,  member of the National Rally; previously the National Front. President Macron barely eked out a victory over her but her popularity has grown, perhaps due to statements like this... “For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it's about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory ... It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply ... There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents.”

I won't even watch an Omar Sharif movie

Even India is facing this. There is a hard core sect of Hinduism, far-right Hindu nationalism, also referred to as Hindutva. Professor Audrey Truschke described it in an article in the Huffington Post. "It is a political and extremist ideology that advocates for Hindu supremacy and seeks to transform a secular and diverse India into an ethnoreligious Hindu state. Hindu nationalism has been around for over 100 years and was initially inspired by ethnonationalism movements in early 20th-century Europe, including those in Germany and Italy. Champions of Hindutva have viciously targeted religious minorities including Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, and have sought to silence critics such as academics and activists. One member, Gopal Vinayak Godse, was the man who murdered the Mahatma Ghandi."

This isn't exactly what I had in mind.

We could throw in Bolsonaro in Brazil or Victor Orban of Hungary, both of whom are darlings of the right in the US. But, you could go back to the Caesars to find examples of a populace who desire a strongman to simply take control and run their lives. It seems counter-intuitive, but it runs through history. It begins with someone who can solve the nation's problems, but then inevitably descends to simple dictatorial control.

Workers unite! Well, under me, of course. 

Part of the problem is that we have allowed ourselves to be misinformed enough that as long as it's the other guy, it's socialism or fascism or something. So the natural solution is our guy.

It's a matter of safety.

Authoritarianism gives the impression of strength. People who are fearful of something or other are attracted to the idea of strong leadership because it suggests that they will be protected.

On the other hand, authoritarianism also threatens any dissent, so it’s a solution that creates its own problem. Want to be safe? Don’t resist.

Nice empire you have there. Be a shame is something happened to it. 

As a friend said to me on Quora, "The challenge of life is what am I going to be next week, next year 20 years from now, and at the end of my life? Those are difficult questions. And the inevitable comparisons to other people creates envy and resentment. Having authoritarian leadership solves all those problems. You give up opportunities for a mediocre life."

This is some sort of wall an authoritarian leader thought would last.

I saw this when covering the reunification of East and West Germany. The West German Interior Minister told me that at first, East Germans expected the luxuries of the West immediately, a nice apartment, a new VW, a great job. It took a while for the joint economies to stabilize and that led to nostalgia for a past that was miserable, but predictable. I had a job that sucked, but it was a job. I pretend to work and they pretend to pay me.

Throw in the racial and religious components and you get what we are seeing now. It doesn't matter what the leader's past might be, an army corporal in Germany, an army deserter in Italy, a law clerk in Russia, a career politician in Hungary or, well, complete the list yourself. The man on the white horse may be unqualified, or frankly too fat to ride, but as long as he is confident, a percentage of our neighbors will trust him. And once you are set on that path, misstatements, morally offensive behavior or dishonesty simply don't matter.

He's your guy and he'll take care of all those other guys. And here we are.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.