You exited this plane in 1979. But your impact on white masculinity can still be seen everywhere these days.
‘Sup, Duke. I’m just dropping you a line from your previous planet of residence.
Even though you died decades ago, your mojo lives on in 2021. The name “John Wayne” is still revered down here on Earth. According to present-day conservatism, you helped set the standard for traditional masculinity.
You are an icon to people, both rich and poor, who believe in the amazingness of trickle-down economics and the superpowers of rich white men. Every night, many of these Americans don their John Wayne pajamas before hopping into bed and falling asleep to this fake news channel called Fox News, muttering to themselves that ‘Merica don’t make men like they used to as they doze off. And guess what? You’re the fella they’re referencing, Duke.
World War Two and You
These days, conservatives on Planet Earth bring up World War Two a lot. Many of them can’t seem to shut up about the subject. When discussing WWII, they bow their heads in shame and cry that they, like the rest of America, have failed to live up to the standards set by the World War Two Generation. Boy: those folks know how to lay some big honkin’ guilt trips on themselves. Your fan club can go on and on and on about how they pale in comparison to your contemporaries who fought in “the big one.” The Right put that group on a pedestal and they cower at its base, wishing they were worthy.
In the eyes of your admirers, America could not have won WWII without ol’ John Wayne calling the shots in one way or another. According to those people, your macho-mega-awesomeness during these years provided the white dudes of today with a blueprint to use as they live their lives and teach their sons about manhood. When comparing their rhetoric to the truth, the Right’s devotion to you is weird. Then again…it isn’t weird. Once I learned about your actual WWII experience, I understood today’s conservative mindset even more.
In the late 1930s, the US began to realize that war loomed over the horizon. Many of your Hollywood colleagues enlisted to join the fight. Others used their celebrity status to bang the drum for war bonds so the country could finance the conflict. Entertainers toured the states performing for the citizenry to keep spirits high.
But not you, Duke. You went AWOL. You had more important things to worry about: namely, your own acting career and your mistress’ fidelity. From this military.com article: “Wayne’s reluctance to leave Hollywood may have been due to a torrid love affair he was having with occasional co-star Marlene Dietrich, according to writer Marc Eliot in his book, ‘American Titan: Searching for John Wayne.’ Longworth also said he may have worried how a long absence from Hollywood would affect his career.”
Duke, here’s the thing: your actions back then? So 2021 Republican Party. Were you concerned that your wife, the mother of your children, would sleep around if you left town to help with WWII? Fuuuuuuck no. You skipped out on Dubya Dubya Two because you needed to keep tabs on your side-booty. And that reeks of 2021 GOP awesomeness right there.
Add this to the fact that you supported the war, but also wanted to boost your professional standing and saw the lack of competition as an exploitable opportunity—these days, this type of shameless opportunism is embraced by folks who think you walked on water just like the blonde, blue-eyed fella walked on water 2000 years ago after giving a speech about how righteous it is to hate poor people. The Republican Party of today is all about seeing how much a fella can get away with. (A white fella, I mean.) The Tucker Carlsons and Rush Limbaughs of the world would call your brash maneuvering “ballsy.”
Again: once I learned about your actual WWII experience, I gained new levels of insight about today’s conservative mindset and their increasingly-fascist nonsense.
You and the Modern Right Wing
In 2021, the Right thinks it’s cute to lie. Doing so puts smirks on their faces. I call this smirk the “white man’s war face.” Duke, you helped to lay the groundwork for white man’s war face. After the 2020 election, the losing presidential candidate told his voters that the vote was rigged and his followers love to repeat his big lie, sporting white man’s war faces while doing so. Then, on January 6th, 2021, Operation White Privilege occurred. Almost immediately, Right-wingers smirkingly blamed this Donald Trump-inspired riot on the Left.
Whether you’re talking about the richer ones or the poorer ones, the morally-bankrupt chickenhawks of today may be militant, but they are not really military. Their war cries tend to be performative rather than sincere. And Duke: you are a four-star General to these ammosexuals. Pretend soldiers need their leaders, too.
Rooster Cogburn, the National Rifle Association of your day existed to give hunters a voice. Not anymore. The practices of the modern NRA mesh with the Right’s philosophical migration. Now, the NRA only cares about protecting the stock prices of gun manufacturers—a tall order when you consider that gun ownership has been declining for decades. But…investors need new yachts and high-priced divorce lawyers. Since fewer people desire to purchase firearms, the NRA designed marketing plans to scare receptive gun consumers (white gun consumers, I mean) into purchasing even more guns. Messaging-wise, race-based fear mongering gets the job done. The present-day gun owner owns more guns than they did in your lifetime. Some gun owners possess arsenals and enough ammunition to outfit small countries’ militaries.
And wouldn’t you know it? Mass shootings happen more often now, much more than in your lifetime. Hmmm…I’m kind of sensing that there might be a connection somewhere.
To truly appreciate the NRA’s mutation, check out this story about its current leader, Wayne LaPierre. After a few mass-shooting incidents, LaPierre responded by hiding out on a buddy’s luxury yacht, a yacht complete with waitstaff and private chefs ready to cater to his scared whims. When the public demanded answers—or at least his perspective about how to curb the gun-violence problem—LaPierre felt too afraid to confront them and went AWOL on his friend’s big, pretty boat instead.
In the 1950s, corporate taxes made up around 28% of the Federal Government’s revenue. Today, corporate taxes account for less than 7%. And…contain your surprise…corporations only continue to demand more tax cuts. It’s not enough that roughly $1 trillion in taxes per year goes uncollected due to financial schemes and accounting tricks. They want more.
Down here on Earth, your old party still hates the Communists like they did back in your day. They know that the best way to fight those sissies is to give government handouts and loads of free stuff to the nation’s richest people and corporations. They love wielding the term “job creator” as some type of micro-aggressive threat. Yup, micro-aggression is the new aggression.
The inspiration for my blog series, Bros: America’s new Jews., came from watching rich white men simultaneously become more anti-Semitic and bigger cheapskates at the same time. These men base their hatred of Jewish people on unfair, awful stereotypes that have existed for centuries. Anti-Semitism also serves as a smokescreen to cover the 1%’s own devolution into penny-pinching, sniveling shysters who constantly look over their shoulders to make sure people haven’t caught on to their financial trickery.
Your fan club gets itself off by twisting and manipulating truth. Dishonesty titillates them. Since racial inequality allows them to get away with reconstructing reality, they can’t resist doing it every chance that they get.
It only makes sense that the Right would transform you into some kind of warrior. Only…let’s peel back the B.S. and look at the truth: Duke, they love you because you said the quiet part out loud. You promoted and rationalized white supremacy. But they’re afraid to state this as the reason for their love because they’re deathly terrified of being labeled “racist.” So they manufactured a super-duper-military persona for you instead.
You Know It: Propaganda Works
The average person on the street thinks that John Wayne contributed to the World War II effort in one way or another. And many Right-wingers believe that you’re the man who shot Adolf Hitler through the back of the head at point-blank range after whispering, “Game over…punk…”
(Of course, every smart person knows that Harpo Marx is the one who put the bullet in Hitler’s skull. Only we don’t talk about this fact very much because Harpo wrote all those books about Marxism and Cultural Marxism after WWII ended.)
Duke: you are a war hero—even though you ducked out of the war—to fellas who never gave serious thought to serving in the military, but believe that every waking minute of their lives are like being in the military. You’ll appreciate this: the nation’s 45th president once said, “I always felt I was in the military” because his parents sent him to an expensive military school after he misbehaved one-too-many times. Like you, he and many other Right-wing thought leaders weaseled out of serving in a war that they also supported. Men like Donald Trump, Dick Cheney and John Bolton dodged the draft for Vietnam, even though they supported the country’s involvement in Vietnam. Talk about being a chip off of your metaphorical block.
But wait. It gets better. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump ridiculed John McCain, a former Vietnam POW. Trump’s statement, “I like guys who weren’t captured,” resonated with many Republicans. A guy who ducked out of a fight disrespected another guy who suffered for years during the fight—then dealt with ongoing pain the rest of his life—and the presidential candidate’s fan club embraced him for it. You played your part in making this happen, Duke.
Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bob Kerrey said, “Trump sees all of us who went to Vietnam as fools. We were the suckers. We were the stupid ones. We were the ones that didn’t have the resources to be able to get out of the draft.” The modern Republican Party is the party of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about.
I’m sure you weren’t too nice to conscientious objectors during the Vietnam days, but that crowd skipped out because they didn’t believe in the war. Unlike other military-aged males who wanted the US to send more troops to Vietnam—even if they themselves wouldn’t be among these troops—the conscientious objectors felt a moral objection to the whole idea. To be honest, I very well could have been one of those men, had I been alive back then. Whatever this says about my mindset, it’s also why I harbor this desire to call bullshit on today’s Right wing chickenhawks who carry on about imminent civil war. I’m a non-warrior and I can smell my own kind.
“Alpha Males” and “Sheepdogs” Love You
We got this curious phenomenon going on in 2021. There’s this new-school thinking about how words matter more than actions. Bragging about one’s exploits isn’t frowned upon like it was in earlier times. Can’t walk the walk? Who cares! Talk the talk. Your skin color is soda-cracker-white, bro. Fake it until you make it.
To be truthful, I don’t truck with concepts like “alpha males” and “sheepdogs” because each and every one of us displays these qualities at different times. They aren’t all-or-nothing traits. People—and not just males—can be alpha in some situations and beta in others. And this is perfectly okay. No: it’s normal. With that said, I still laugh at fellas who use these terms to describe themselves.
Bros: back in John Wayne’s day, one never referred to oneself as an “alpha male” or a “sheepdog.” One simply did alpha-male shit and sheepdog shit and did that shit so brotastically that bystanders pointed him out and exclaimed, “Holy moly—look over there! That guy just alpha-maled the shit out of that shit and then sheepdogged the shit out of that other shit! Gooooooo, bro!”
Duke, your spiritual descendants like to repeat the phrase “Make America Great Again” and not-so-subtly imply that things were better in earlier times. But the “America” they speak of isn’t the America of your youth. It isn’t the time when rich folks and corporations paid a lot more taxes. Their “America” is the one seen in the ’80s T&A flick Porky’s.
Wall Street Wants To Be You
The stock market took off since you kicked the bucket, which probably fills your soul with happiness. Undiagnosed gambling disorders and systemic white privilege…what a combo.
Those fellas learned a thing or two from you, Duke. Your influence over them can be seen in their approaches to investing. For starters, look at the act of investing itself: investing is inherently risky. Speculation naturally implies that returns are not guaranteed. Back in the Old West, a setting for many of your movies, those rough-and-tough types took risks speculating for gold and silver and other minerals. They put it on the line.
Fast-forward to 2021: risk-averseness is caucasianally masculine. Actually, it’s caucasianally masculine and masculinely caucasian at the same time, yes, it’s that cock-and-balls. This type of fear is seriously bad-ass these days. The fellas grow terrified at the thought of losing even one penny, but in 2021, we’re led to believe that such behaviors are signs of their manhood.
Duke, it’s manly to be risk-averse now—as long as one can present oneself as rough-and-tough in some way, that is. This ethic spread beyond the investment markets, too. In many industries, the people who thrive are the ones who do not rock the boat—but goddamn do these people know how to rant and rave, pretending that they’re rocking the boat. And if the business-type can figure out how to fill his or her rhetoric with warlike imagery, all the better. The business world loves military terms and sprinkling battle references into their language.
Now that the get-rich-quick scheme called rentier capitalism has gained steam, the fellas don’t play to win. Instead, they focus on ensuring that they don’t lose. Such behavior does not warrant the levels of respect that these fellas receive from the American public and the corporate media. Our nation’s richest citizens should pay a lot more in taxes…like at levels seen in your days, Duke.
Then again, I can see how the antics of the high-net-worth crowd tie back to the “big lie.” Their game plan is to act like a…for lack of a better term…a pussy while everyone shouts that the rich fellas are sporting humongous man-penises and ginormous sets of man-cojones. That’s how it works in the 2021 Republican Party.
You and Trumpism
Donald Trump owns your Republican Party now, Duke. A syphilitic tax-cheat who can talk others into spending their money should hold power over the Right. They deserve him. One of Trump’s cronies, Steve Bannon, set up a fake campaign to raise money for a wall on the US-Mexico border and conned broke-ass xenophobes out of their rent money. And Bannon got away with it. (Like I said, modern conservative masculinity is all about getting away with things that the fellas shouldn’t.)
In your life, Duke, you championed conservative causes, railed against communism, worshipped capitalism, trashed whimpy liberalism, demonized the long-hairs, normalized racism, criticized the educated womenfolk, praised Trickle-Down Jesus—and today’s Right wing mythologizes you, bigly.
Whether you look at the chickenhawk who gets huffy over women serving in the military, or the chickenshit rich guy who wants to gamble without gambling, or the rage-filled dork who thinks that saying “No poor man has ever given me a job!” makes him sound authoritative, it’s easy to see how the modern Right has mutated traditional masculinity. And the wealthiest individuals got even stinkier-rich in the process. They capitalized on this bullshit and stashed that money in tax shelters. The 1% pay enough in taxes to start wars, but not enough to finish them.
Your mojo runs rampant in your old political party, Duke-dude. The modern Right wing sees you as its spiritual godfather. To a group of Americans, your testoroniness still lingers.
It is fitting that the actor Ronald Reagan studied you, also an actor, to figure out his political brand. He learned from your mannerisms and speech patterns, using these to craft an image of the masculine manny-man-man, chock-full of manliness and ready to get all manly in order to battle the sissy Communists. Along with his cronies, he reset the course of the GOP.
And here we are today. You and Reagan have moved on to the Great Beyond. I’m betting that a newly-arrived angel, he goes by the name Rush Limbaugh, has approached you and Dutch like a groupie who just snuck backstage at a cock-rock concert and propositioned the both of you for sex at least a few times.
Just keep batting him away. He should settle down, eventually.
Some earlier posts:
• Harpo Marx: hi from Earth.
• Alan Berg: hi from Earth. Part II.
• Jonas Salk: what a pussy.
• Chevychasing it.
• Bury Rush Limbaugh in Arlington National Cemetery. Own the libs.
• Understand the “America” in “Make America Great Again. Watch the movie Porky’s.
I also write fiction. I have two dark comedies available, Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2), as well as Revolutionizer Alpha, the first book in a sci-fi series.