Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jack Benny says Good-Bye to 1950

It's been four week since I've been able to go to the gym. Work has been more intense than normal, and the few hours I have each night on rough days are better spent with the family. But I do so love going to the gym. I love the way I feel afterwards, I love feeling like I'm physically more capable than I was ten years ago. And I love listening to Jack Benny on the treadmill.

Today's experience was another view of history through entertainment. Jack and crew had an annual tradition of putting on a play on New Year's Eve. Jack would play the outgoing year, they would get a child actor to play the incoming year, Don Wilson would play the World. Phil Harris would play Uncle Sam. Mary Livingston would play Columbia. And they would talk about the outgoing year and what they'd like to see in the incoming year. As you can imagine, it was current and topical when the enormously popular radio show would first air these episodes. Today, it's a lesson in learning history from the viewpoint of those actually living in it. Like a time machine.

The episode was from December 31st, 1950. And I found this exchange particularly interesting:

Columbia: "Say, World, you don't look too happy."

World: "Well,,, I haven't been feeling so well lately. You remember how sick I was from 1914 to 1918?"

Uncle Sam: "Uh huh."

World: "And then I had a relapse from 1939 to 1945."

1950: "Yup. I heard about it but I thought you were all over that."

World: "A few months ago I suddenly developed a big pain around my 38th parallel."


Columbia: "Well, why don't you go see a doctor?"

World: "I did and he knew what was wrong with me as soon as he took my blood count. Too many red cells."

(Laughter, applause)

From there, Jack and crew in their guises as the state of affairs at the end of 1950 take a peak into the U.N. and see the Russian dignitary addressing the assembly and seeming very foolish in his criticism of the American way of life.

The 38th Parallel line is, of course, a reference to the Korean War, which had started in June of 1950.

I've never really understood the red scare. I know the facts, but my mind always likens it to the Salem Witch hunts, McCarthyism, and Dr Wertham's war on comics. I'm annoyed at the thought that we have to denounce and vilify any other way of life that's different than the way of life we choose to live as Americans. We're the "reds" also denouncing and villifying the American way of life? I've read that they were. I know I'm oversimplifying things, and living here in 2013 will never give me the perspective of those living in 1950. But when I read about the red scare it just seems we were so pumped by defeating the obvious villain that Hitler presented that we were just looking for the next heroic act we could find to perform.

We were trying to make the Russians villains. The Russians were trying to make us villains. Where's James Bond to help clarify things?

Star Trek tries to teach us "IDIC". Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. And as a child of the seventies, Star Trek played a huge role in my moral development. Is it my perception that's skewed?

Here in 2013, America's enemies are performing acts of terror on us because they don't like our way of life and think we should live more like them. The very idea disgusts me.

And now things have gotten entirely too serious and my head hurts. I'm off to read a comic book from 1976.


1 comment:

  1. Wow! Philosophical musings! Makes a mother proud!!!