I want to commend Michael Romain for an extraordinarily insightful and thought-provoking column regarding the Hulu TV series, Fleishman is in Trouble. Not only did I find his observations about our culture astute, but I must admit that his column forced me to look at myself more closely.

Two disclaimers: 1) when I first read the column, I hadn’t watched the show, and 2) I am an elderly white male (aka “old white guy”). I have now watched several episodes and am even more impressed by Michael’s column and his observations about the current state of our American civilization, what we as a people value, and how we measure success.

There is a through line from Thomas Frank’s 2007 book What’s the Matter with Kansas, to the 2016 election, to Fleishman. The subtitle of Frank’s book is “How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” and that’s the subtext to so many recent events.

Michael asks, “What are the social consequences for the winners in a winner-take-all world that lavishly rewards the most likely to succeed by its pathological, sociopathic, psychosomatically toxic and ultimately pointless rules while impoverishing the rest?” Good question, and the flip side is, why do so many Americans, ordinary and extraordinary, buy into those rules? 

As Michael asks us, “Why have we allowed the world to stay this way?” As the column points out, from U.S. tax law, health-care policy, and business regulation to gun laws and abortion, to name just a few, the majority of Americans (as counted by the popular vote in national elections) have allowed a minority of conservative Americans to rule. Huh? Why?

The other point I would like to add is about myself. I had kinda pigeonholed Mr. Romain as someone who focused on racial issues. He is obviously an astute observer of American culture beyond race. I owe him an apology, and myself a look in the mirror. It’s so hard to be color blind; should that even be a goal? 

Thanks for making me think about so many important issues.

Ed Liss, Oak Park

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