All the hoopla over Pennsylvania Governor Rendell’s recent remark that the cancellation of an NFL football game due to blizzard warnings is evidence of the “wussification” of America creates an interesting question. Is it really true that America has become a nation of “wusses” or is it more like that designation belongs to a Governor departing office who no longer cares what people think now that he’s on his way out? Note: Further evidence on that topic is in evidence from a Jan. 9th “60 Minutes” interview in which Rendell throws an absolute fit complete with gnashing teeth and shouting as if he’s auditioning to become a patient in a remake of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
In an obvious effort to try to grab headlines prior to leaving office (and there at least, Rendell deserves tons of credit, because he did a great job of getting attention), the Governor told a Philadelphia radio station, “We’re becoming a nation of wusses.” Rendell clarified his comments by expounding on a completely unrelated theme (remember, this was about cancellation of a football game) to denigrate Americans based on his perception of an overall lack of toughness and, I assume, grit. “The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.” (Please excuse me for having to repeat his unfortunate ethnic stereotype).
Okay, let’s review the timeline on this one to give you an idea of how ridiculous and unwarranted Rendell’s remarks were:
1. Eagles game with the Vikings is scheduled for Dec. 26 in Philadelphia.
2. Weather advisory is issued for the greater Philadelphia area and much of the Northeast coast on the day of the game promising snowfalls of 1 to 2 feet. (I do believe government officials are supposed to respect and urge compliance with weather advisories, by the way).
3. Mid-morning on the 26th the game is postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday night, Dec. 28.
4. No one shows up to Lincoln Financial Field where the Eagles play since the game was officially postponed earlier in the day by the NFL.
5. Rendell does a Philadelphia radio interview in which he creates a firestorm by making the “wuss” accusation and then published his own column on the subject in the Washington Times.
6. Many in the press praise Rendell for his statements the following day and again during and after the broadcast of the rescheduled game on the 28th. A lot of media cover the story with admiration as if Rendell has now become the very icon of American toughness.
Overall upshot #1: Rendell blasted the nation’s lack of toughness based on the view that somehow the weakness of the American people played a role in a decision not to play the game. (And yes he did blame the NFL mostly for taking that option away from fans, but he essentially condemned modern-day Americans for “wussification,” lamenting that “we seem to have lost our boldness, our courage, our sense of adventure and that frontier spirit).”
Overall upshot #2: Most of the press, with the notable exception of a few columnists in the minority including Rock the Capital’s own Eric Zager, somehow found Rendell’s comments laudable, or at least worth laughing over even though Rendell’s word grab bag was essentially delusional. Why delusional? People can’t attend a game already postponed and it’s simply preposterous to accuse America’s masses of lacking fortitude and frontier spirit due to a unilateral decision made by a league that decided to protect public safety rather than play the game.
What you have to realize here is that Rendell was criticizing Americans for being soft or lacking heartiness based on the assumption that the NFL itself did this because there’s been some fundamental cultural shift that has turned us into a bunch of pansies. Rendell then lashes out at Americans as lacking some kind of intestinal courage. Why? Because he assumes that’s really the core of what this is all about rather than a question of whether the NFL simply decided it wasn’t worth risking people’s lives because of Philadelphia’s poorly designed, dangerous roads. Remember the game was postponed for reasons having nothing to do with an unwillingness by fans to take on the elements. It was a decision made by the NFL.
I’m still trying to figure out why Rendell thinks that it’s either smart or tough to get into these mini-mortgage investments on wheels that we call “cars” and go slip-sliding along Philadelphia’s lousy, decaying roads in hopes of getting the chance to participate in a human igloo festival at the Link. If you’ve ever traveled Philadelphia’s blue route (even in good weather), you know a trip down that pitiful highway could be the ruination of your car or certainly your tires and that if you get stuck you’re more likely to participate in grown-up bumper cars and getting to know the limits of your insurance policy than make it to the football stadium.
And why would Rendell blast people in this country for lacking toughness? Because, clearly, Rendell thinks it’s true. You see that’s the part that’s really disturbing. He views the American people as weak and unwilling to deal with adversity and used the ridiculous occasion of a postponed NFL game to make that very point when league officials alone made this decision. So somehow in 9 years or so, we’ve gone from being a nation that was regarded as unflinching in its ability to overcome great tragedy and loss (9/11) and bond together unforgettably to help each other out, rebuild and move forward in spite of the ever-present threat of another major terrorist attack. Since that time, the country has sent hundreds of thousands of young people to two wars in foreign lands to fight illusive, non-uniformed enemies resulting in nearly 6,000 deaths and tens of thousands of life-changing injuries.
Americans have no grit I guess in spite of everything innumerable volunteers, philanthropists and concerned citizens from coast to coast did and are doing to help rebuild the Southeast coast following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and deal with yet another major catastrophe with the BP oil spill.
But my guess is that’s not proof enough to convince Rendell that Americans have toughness. He needs to know that we would do whatever it takes to attend a football game. American citizens bailed out the banking industry and the American auto industry and are now suffering with the consequences of a federal government that’s so badly in debt that it will spend $4 trillion next year just to finance its interest obligations. (That would not have been the choice of a lot of Americans either, just as many of us would not have willingly begged out of attending a football game). I guess the fact that most middle and lower-income Americans can’t get mortgages — even though many of us indebted our children and grandchildren to help save the banking industry that largely finds ways now not to approve mortgage or small business loans — is really the citizens’ fault.
Likewise, I assume in Rendell’s version of things it’s all the people’s fault that there’s a shortage of jobs, that the “real” unemployment rate is more like 16 to 18 percent as opposed to the government’s 9.4 percent and that companies are unwilling to risk hiring significant numbers of people because of all the uncertainty created by an ineffective government. You see, it’s all of the other stuff that Rendell must be thinking of when he makes the claim that we’re all just a bunch of wusses.
We actually complain about this lousy unrepresentative government of ours and have come to realize we have sold out ourselves, the next generation, and maybe the next generation after that because we bought into stimulus packages that saved everybody else’s ass except our own.
Rendell’s irresponsible comments were bad enough but then some nitwit in the Eagles’ organization decided to pay homage to the governor by creating a block of snow in front of the space next to his box stating “this seat reserved for non-wussies.” After I stuck my fingers down my throat to clear out this sudden desire to upchuck, I got really sick when I saw how much the press ate this stuff up and applauded Rendell for being such a macho guy.
The O’Reilly Factor had a panel debate in which the talking heads agreed with Rendell in dumping on the American people. Brian Williams on NBC did a softball interview with Rendell that made him look like a hero, as did numerous other broadcasters on ESPN, CNN and many of the country’s newspapers. Even Field & Stream got into the mix as columnist Eric Deeter suggested Rendell “may be right” and called for an “I am not a Wuss; I fish in the snow campaign.” (Deeter at least made me laugh). In not so funny commentary, a guy named Dennis Prager from a site called “Real Clear Politics” praised Rendell, saying that it’s American “wussiness” that leads to the market withdrawal of drugs like Avastin, a treatment for breast cancer. (Actually, Dennis as someone who worked in the industry, I can tell you that the FDA pulled Avastin because one of the drug’s higher than acceptable level of side effects was a gastrointestinal perforation – development of a hole in the stomach – that led to death in some cases. I guess the patients who died taking Avastin hoping it would cure their breast cancer are wussies, Dennis, because they couldn’t handle living with a hole in their stomachs).
Perhaps Rendell never envisioned how his inappropriate comments would become the basis for journalists all over the country bad-mouthing the American people, but it’s all because the Governor himself was the one who started this whole backlash against the public with his “wusses” comment when it’s obvious his real anger and disrespect for citizens had nothing to do with a postponed football game.
Now that he’s leaving office for good, he knows he can tell us what he really thinks of the citizens he’s served for all these years. Obviously, not much. I know Rendell is proud of his knack for expressing down-to-earth, common-sense points of view that sound like everybody’s favorite street tough uncle. And I have to confess, the man does have a real ability to communicate a roll-up-the-shirt sleeves, earthiness that some Americans find lacking in Barack Obama.
But let’s not go turning him into the Democratic Party’s future answer to all the ills that now exist in Congress and the White House. Let’s hope he stays the hell out of politics and god forbid he becomes yet another politico emeritus given his own talk show. The mentality behind the comment, and his disrespect for Americans was just so irresponsible and downright stupid in so many ways. He questioned the character and resolve of Americans at a time when most people struggling in this economy are really feeling a bit kicked around — and rightly so – by leaders in government who have spent this country into a toxically debt-ridden economy.
The last thing we need is yet another windbag politician blasting our resolve and then getting credit for it. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? It’s just more of the continuing, tiring scenario of politicians getting press coverage for being controversial without actually doing anything genuinely effective. Talk about snow jobs. Rendell’s turned out to be far more powerful than the actual blizzard.
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