Category Archives: Culture

Dickhead Follow Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.24.27 AMHi friends! You might recall a recent post where I offered some results from a social media survey I conducted concerning who among the many was the biggest dickhead in United States history. Many of you who had not participated were pretty surprised that the King Dickhead of America turned out to be George Custer. I feel your pain, what with the competition and all…Custer seems in the ballpark, but a long-shot nonetheless.

Here’s something else that I probably should have anticipated, but didn’t: glazed-over fanatical ideologues from both sides of the political spectrum will seize any opportunity to ram their political agenda down your throat. The most heinous offenders, in my best estimation, are unfamiliar with the term “dickhead” (such as, the guy who takes up two parking spaces on street-cleaning day) and didn’t read the post anyway – OR – they are so god-damn angry that their brains are about to hemorrhage and they are thus compelled to denounce ObamaClintonBushTrump with the usual (and let’s face it…pretty useless) zeal of an Internet troll. Either way…chill the fuck out people. These surveys were conducted in the spirit of levity.

With all of that out of the way…here are a few more contenders. I may have to conduct another general survey once these settle in.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.46.57 AMCorelius Vanderbilt – being a capitalist business magnate might make you an asshole…but adding “Commodore” to your name for no real reason most certainly catapults you to the front of the dickhead line.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.49.19 AMRichard M. Nixon – he taped all his Oval Office conversations while he dropped the n-bomb along with a lot of other stupid shit. And anybody known as “Tricky Dick” should be suspect from the start.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.51.30 AMJoseph McCarthy – are you now or have you ever been a complete dickhead? Yes and yes.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.52.49 AMRoy Cohn – assistant dickhead…see above.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.54.29 AMBenedict Arnold – a Revolutionary dickhead…he didn’t play well with others and really craved wealth and social status – so much so that he married into a loyalist family during the war, lived well beyond his means, and sold out the Continental Army.  Get over yourself, dickhead.

 

Well…that should round things out a little, and perhaps inspire further contribution. But please, unless you want to prove to be a dickhead yourself – refrain from the political rants.

With compliments,

Keith

Who’s the Biggest Dickhead in United States History?

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 9.49.03 AMIt’s not the easiest question to answer, really…what with all the possible contenders. But I asked it anyway – on the usual social media suspects. A couple of interesting things happened. For one, I learned that a dickhead is a special kind of historical actor. Sure, many a human abomination occupy the pages of our historical literature. But you can be a dickhead without being utterly despicable, though it doesn’t hurt. Many candidates were both total dickheads and complete assholes to be sure. Also, most nominees were Civil War soldiers. This may be because many of my social media connections are somehow involved in the study of Civil War history. But it also might be because desperate times call for a lot of dickheads.

So, who topped the list? George Custer. Not only his arrogance,  hyper-inflated ego, and sense of self-importance – but his unparalleled hubris during the Indian wars earned him the title of biggest dickhead. Congratulations, general.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.21.38 AMGeorge McClellan – another nineteenth-century military figure – ranked highly as well. Also an megalomaniacal and insufferable twit, he built one of the greatest armies the western hemisphere had ever seen – and then sat on it. What’s worse, he referred to his commander-in-chief (Abraham Lincoln if you’re following along) as the original gorilla…in public. What a dickhead. Other Civil war era  historical dickheads include Oliver Otis Howard – who showed disdain for his own soldiers in battle, and  JEB Stuart – another ego maniac who seemed more inclined to get his name in the papers than do his job. As an honorable mention,Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.22.40 AM  Andrew Johnson earned the title of Reconstruction dickhead. And to round out the nineteenth century, Andrew Jackson got a few nods. His Indian policy alone could have done the trick but it helped that he was a sociopath who would shoot a man over even the slightest provocation.

I’m a little surprised that the twentieth century didn’t get more play. My vote was for George Wallace. Standing in a schoolhouse door to symbolically defy federally mandated integration? It’s a Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.24.02 AMschool, you dickhead. George Patton was surely a dickhead of the highest caliber. I mean…who humiliates a wounded soldier by slapping him around in front of his fellow wounded comrades? And he did this TWICE! Dick. Head. And Bull Connor? Fire-hoses? On kids? Come on. Finally,  I am not sure precisely why, but I have always thought Nelson Rockefeller was at least half a dickhead.

At any rate, there you go. What I have learned from this experiment is that there are a lot of historical dickheads out there. And a lot of them were named George.

With compliments,

Keith

Hands Off!

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 8.02.18 PMThese days all things Confederate are under fire. This last week at Gettysburg illustrated to me that would-be Rebels are making yet another stand – this time to preserve what they insist is nothing more than their heritage. Though the controversy has captured America’s attention for the time being (the Kardashians are having a slow week) I would like to point out that attacks on Confederate symbolism are nothing new.

At the base of the Virginia State Memorial on Seminary Ridge is a weather-beaten plaque admonishing potential vandals who might try and stick a proverbial bayonet in the still-defiant Confederacy. Though there are other southern monuments on the field (few in comparison to Union monuments and with only a couple of exceptions, all state memorials) this is the only warning sign. And judging by its aged appearance, it looks to have been there a while.

Defiant to the end.
Defiant to the end.

This suggests to me that both in a modern context and for quite a while, Virginia – and by extension, Robert E. Lee, whose likeness (and Traveller’s) sit atop the monument, specifically represent the Confederate nation and its ideological underpinnings. Why else would this particular monument – as opposed to North Carolina’s or Alabama’s – be singled out for potential vandalism? The Virginian Lee is Confederate ideology and nationalism personified. This was true in the 1860s  and has been true ever since. Those who choose to attack physically Confederate ideology (particularly racial oppression in the form of  chattel slavery) would naturally set their sights on the nation’s most salient symbols: Lee and the Old Dominion – and thus the Virginia memorial seems in especial danger…and has been for some time.

With compliments,

Keith

 

 

The Unchanging Sea

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 6.47.19 AMI have been looking closely these days at the personal life and filmography of D. W. Griffith – and I’ve come up with some book-worthy ideas (to be revealed at a later date when I iron a few things out). Today I want to highlight Griffith’s culminating effort of his first California Expedition with Biograph in 1910: The Unchanging Sea starring Mary Pickford. Analysis aside for now, I am taken by the scenery. Griffith shot this entire film – all thirteen or so minutes of it – on location in Santa Monica. A century ago this was not the sprawling beach community it is today. But with a little imagination you can almost see the buildings, the pier, the traffic, the crowds…

Okay maybe not but but I will say this: the hillside and beach haven’t changed much at all. Enjoy the film – inspired by Charles Kingley’s poem: The Three Fishers.

With compliments,
Keith

The Americanist Independent

Do Americans lack a historical consciousness?

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 10.21.46 AMWell, I am starting to think so anyway – at least some of them do. Lately, I have been going full throttle with reading, writing, and discussing American history. Why not right? I went to college for a million years, why not do what I was trained to do?

At any rate, I am especially interested in engaging the public – to find out what they know…what they want to know…what they think about US history.

Twitter has been absolutely wonderful for this. Real time conversations with real people! Imagine that!! Who knew just a few short years ago that this would be how we interact?

But here’s what I have discovered – people say the darndest things. Oh sure I have had some great conversations with some very knowledgeable folks. But I have also run across a sort of alarming theme. Many Americans have no sense of their own history.

Case in point: I recently stumbled upon an Obama critic who claimed that the president was the “most divisive POTUS in American history.”

REALLY??? Say what you will about El Presidente but let’s see, I can think of at least one time in our history when things got just a tad stickier. You know…when Abraham Lincoln was elected, eleven states seceded from the Union, war broke out, and roughly 820,000 people died. I would say that the political climate of the mid-nineteenth century was just a hair more fractious than things today. But I tell you what – if more people knew about the issues that unfolded during the Civil War era, they would certainly better understand the divisions of today – whether they be racial, sectional, political, whatever.

The Civil War Trust suggests that the war is the “central event in America’s historical consciousness.” Now, I love the CWT but I think they have missed the mark – at least for those Americans whose historical consciousness extends only as far back as their own lifetime.

Well anyway – I called the Twitter guy out and he just got all angry and defensive. Whatever – choose your battles, right?

So – that’s my observation for this morning…Off I go to engage the public. The good news? I would be willing to wager that most of my readers are on the stick when it comes to historical consciousness. Maybe all is not lost. Huzzah!

Peace,

Keith

PS – if you happen to read this and think I am full of crap – let me know! I welcome all comments and criticism. I know….tell me on Twitter