Thursday, January 7, 2016

Railroading at the end of the Golden Era

I spent a good deal of time this afternoon (January 7, 2016) watching train videos. My love of railroading has been reawakened by transfer of some rolling stock from my late father in law to me. 

I watched an extended commercial for Santa Fe's Super Chief from around 1950, a slightly earlier film from The Milwaukee Road about their luxury train, the Super Dome Olympian Hiawatha, and short films about the North Shore and South Shore Lines operating out of Chicago.

What struck me was how oblivious folks were. At one point in the Milwaukee Road film that announcer describes the copper mining in Montana "soon the tops of these mountains will cave in," (not those words, but pretty much that meaning. It was as if that were a good thing. 

The people in the films were all white. Native Americans showed up as exotics at Albuquerque, sell souvenirs to the white folks on their way to Los Angeles (which he pronounced as Angle ees). The only black folks were the porters and waiters. Culture was white, white, white. Women were decked out in hats and gloves and taken care of by their big strong masculine men.

Since we don't live in that world it's no wonder that some white people are befuddled by the world we do live in and angry that it can't ever be like that again. You actually have to be mindful about your communication.

This is what many conservative politicians seem to be objecting to in their opprobriums against "Political Correctness." Why can't it be like that simpler time when everyone knew and no one questioned the propriety of "white" being normal. It was so much easier then.

It was also destroying our environment, locking significant sections of the population out of participation, and in general distorting our view of the world. In fact, it seems to me that part of the reason for our failed Vietnam effort was precisely that we had no idea that there were people in the world who didn't want to be white, didn't want American culture, didn't care to fit in with us. 

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