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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Cancel culture creating a chasm

By Ray Hanania

When I was young, my family would gather together on Sunday nights to watch TV. One of our favorite programs was Bonanza, a series about a father and his three sons living out in a wild, wild Western frontier town near Lake Tahoe, Nev. in the late 19th century.

It was a great program, running 14 seasons with 430 episodes from 1959-73. The show portrayed a fair and just father, Ben Cartwright (played by Lorne Greene), who confronted injustice.

It was all fiction, which requires a good story, a dramatic conflict and a solution. Minorities were often exploited and stereotyped; but in the end, there was a sympathy that came from stereotyping.RayHanania

I watched every episode, mainly because my parents insisted the kids be home before the street lights went on. If we weren’t, I’d get a whooping. It taught us to be accountable, something we don’t teach much of in today’s so-called better world.

We make more money and have far better technology than we did in the 1950s and 1960s, but we were taught respect and to abide by family rules which engrained in us a respect for society’s laws.

We were also taught about stereotyping and how it was wrong.

Bonanza reflected all that in a one-hour show.

That’s all changed. We don’t work 9 to 5 anymore. Both parents work morning, noon and night. TV dinners on TV trays are replaced by unhealthy fast food restaurants.

The other day, I happened to turn on TV Land and watched an episode of Bonanza.

But the first thing shown was a disclaimer that read “This program contains outdated cultural depictions. Viewer discretion is advised.”

Turns out all of the programs from the 1950s and 1960s had the same disclaimer.

The Bonanza episode I watched was about land swindlers, who happened to be Mexican, stealing land from homesteaders using false claims.

That’s where Ben Cartwright and his three sons stepped in, fighting to expose the land swindlers and save the day. There were many positive images of Mexicans in the show, and one of the heroes was Mexican.

Watching the show made everyone think about the unfairness of TV stereotypes. We talked about them openly back then. In reality, it made us more aware of what other minorities had to go through. It made many people sympathize all in the context of how justice and law overcome crime and criminals.

In 1965, Pernell Roberts, who played the oldest son, Adam Cartwright, protested the unfair cultural depictions of minorities. He also said Hollywood should stop using white people to portray minorities and use minorities instead.

We didn’t have many minorities living in our neighborhoods back then. The truth is neighborhoods in Chicago were always and intentionally segregated. People wanted to live among their own. We had black neighborhoods, white neighborhoods, Polish neighborhoods, Italian neighborhoods, Mexican neighborhoods and Jewish neighborhoods. Everyone had their own “hood.”

The truth was that Hollywood portrayed every ethnic and religious group in a negative way, including my own heritage, Palestinian Arabs. In every movie and TV show, Arabs were depicted as ruthless and bloodthirsty killers, or terrorists.

I didn’t like it, but it created an awareness for others and sparked a public discussion.

But the portrayals evolved, and society was made aware of the unfairness. We understood history better and appreciated the complaints of others, especially African Americans and Native Americans.

Today, most minorities are portrayed better, except for Arabs, of course. But instead of making it better, it has made it worse. Some minorities are portrayed better. Others are not. It’s created an atmosphere of resentment.

History is now separated into good and bad. As a consequence, protesters tear down statues of historical icons of certain ethnic groups like Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus, but not all ethnic groups.

Discussion and understanding has been replaced by hate and anger. The reality is that every ethnic, religious and national group has good and bad people. All of them have been portrayed badly.

Society is so divisive I really avoid watching anything any more about other ethnic communities because no one cares about my ethnicity. Why should I care about theirs? No one complains about the reverse racism and bullying that takes place today.

Kill an Arab and nothing happens. Kill a black and it’s a federal case that results in huge lawsuits, never mind the circumstances of the tragedy.

We no longer learn about each other. Cancel culture has taught people to be resentful and only to care for themselves. It’s no longer about what’s right. It’s about what’s white.

Check out Ray Hanania’s columns and political podcasts at hanania.com.

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