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Simple images of America

Jul 30, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

q They don't have much to do with new-car smells and cable-TV talking heads.

"Blazing Saddles" came out 43 years ago this summer. I watched it for the first time at the Knight Drive Inn in Riverton.

It's a film that would never make it off the production floor in today's hyper-sensitive, eternally offended America.The magic of the film was that it offended everyone. No ethnic group, religious belief or economic class was left untouched.

If this Mel Brooks classic came out today the professionally offended talking heads on Fox, MSNBC and other media outlets would explode. In its satire, the film embodied all that is great about America, while deriding the darkest eras of our collective history.

Bart, played by Cleavon Little, is a black sheriff hired sight unseen by the rednecks of Rock Ridge. When he takes a stroll through town he is reviled. When you see the film occasionally on a paid movie channel they carefully rub out the soundtrack when the "N" word appears, which is quite often.

As Sheriff Bart returns, stunned, to his office after a hostile stroll through town his friend Jim, (Gene Wilder) also known as the Waco Kid, delivers this gem. "What did you expect? 'Welcome, sonny. Make yourself at home? Marry my daughter'? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land, the common clay of the new West. You know... morons."

That would be an impossible sequence today in an America purposefully divided by politicians and media-driven ideology. The America we're bombarded by on television, radio and the Internet isn't my America.

It became a right-wing mantra to say "Not my president" when Obama was elected. Now the left-wing has jumped in with the same statement on Trump. Well, folks, like it or not, they were both elected. It is time to put on your big girl panties and get over it.

My image of America is vastly different from the message swarming around us of divisiveness and conflict.

In 1971 we moved to our farm between Kinnear and Pavillion. It was tough going for my parents. I didn't realize how hard it was until years later, when I began to make my own way in the world. After serving on the USS Iowa in the Korean War and 16 more years as a crew chief on B-52s, my dad moved us to Wyoming so the Arkansas farm boy could have his own farm. They chose Fremont County so my mom could be near her parents and family in Riverton.

A sergeant's retirement pay didn't go far. My dad took jobs in Riverton to augment the family income, and my mom worked for two companies as a bookkeeper to just make ends meet. That's my image of America -- a couple raising a family against long odds and financial hardship but with a solid goal in mind waiting at the end of the rainbow.

It was no different for my generation. After seeing the carnage in the classroom from distracted parents who worked too many hours away from home and never had time for their children, we decided that Sue would stay home with our two children. When Brian arrived in 1986, I was making just $22,300 a year teaching and coaching. House payments, insurance, medical costs and food took every penny. We only made it on my summer job building houses, decks and pouring concrete. The summer work made it possible for Sue to stay home with our kids and to take in a few other children whose parents didn't take the same path as ours.

Yes, that's my image of America on a personal level, a level shared by untold multitudes of Americans.

When they arrived in Lysite, Jose and Bertha barely spoke English, but they worked hard, provided for their family, and the five Chavez children thrived at the school in Shoshoni.

They represented one of the best families I ever had the pleasure to work with as a teacher. They were immigrants, making a better world for themselves, their children and all of the rest of us. That's my image of America.

Images like this are rarely represented. The advertisers of Madison Avenue show us dazzling urbanites with perfect four-day beards looking disdainfully on the rest of us, soldiers returning to surprise their families, single moms (fathers don't exist) and children (the shaggy boys must always look like girls.)

It is the modern method of selling tires, appliances and insurance policies. These carefully crafted images created from market research and consumer surveys are designed solely to sell merchandise. Consumerism has, sadly, become the image of America for those addicted to material things. I like the smell of a new car as much as the next guy, but it's not my focus in life.

In the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower wrote this message to the 3 million men about to attack Hitler's Europe: "You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. We will accept nothing less than full victory!Good Luck!"

But he also wrote this message at the same time, in case of failure: "The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."

That's my image of American leadership, someone who accepts the mantle of leadership. It is something you'll never find in a tweet. We remain a great people, even if the weak, easily offended among us can't face a challenge.

Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.

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