This American Life Defines Privilege

I keep wanting to blog about Mad Men, but I haven’t the time to do it properly! And as Momma always told me, if you can’t blog properly, don’t blog at all.

Meanwhile, I caught the first act of the latest TAL on my commute this morning. An aimless, laid-off white dude walks across the USA: “Walking to Listen,” as he puts it. On a sign. To avoid looking homeless?

And gol dernit if he didn’t remind me that every “American” story is a white straight man’s story.

Don’t get me wrong. The kid’s naivete charms, the production is typically compelling, etc etc. I do love our country.

But check it out: A 23 year old sets off to walk across the country with a pack, a mandolin, a cardboard sign, and a heart.

Is that 23 year old a woman?


Is that 23 year old gay?


Is that 23 year old trans? Asian? Black? Latina/o?


Now, recent events in Cleveland have got me all buggaboo. Not because they have surprised me. But because they are a more extreme example of what we have always known. Women walk around constantly with the realistic expectation of violent assault.

So do other groups of people. Vast groups of people. Walk around every minute aware of their expectation of violent assault.

I could take all the martial kickboxing I wanted. I could really devote myself, hours a day, to the practice. And I’d still be afraid to set off, unplanned, walking across our country across all our vaunted but be-big-boxed wide open spaces. I’d still have nothing against a group of men. A group that I’d expect to come along eventually.

In Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a memoir of hiking alone, young, blond and breasted, on the Pacific Crest Trail, such a group of dudes does come along. And she runs all night with all her million pounds of unwisely packed backpack, after all day hiking to stone exhaustion, to get away from them.

Still, out of all the pairs of dudes she meets, only one of them exhibited an ostensible delight in the physical and sexual power they’d have over her. So that’s nice? I guess? Just one out of like 12 pairs of men?

Eventually the TAL kid (I know he’s not a kid but please) starts getting afraid. Because in the Nevada desert, he has to walk at night to avoid heat stroke. And this is pretty scary. Sure!

Still, when this kid, 2 miles into his walk, meets a group of dudes drinking by the train tracks. He can just walk right up to them and play his mandolin.

This, my friends, is freedom. And not too many people in our country can actually experience it.

And, it turns out, our country’s mythos is founded upon it anyway.

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