Garry Trudeau: weak, sensitive boy traumatized by prep school, not a product of "old money liberalism"

"Old money liberalism" is a myth. The idea that upper class "WASPs" as a group lean left is a product of 1950s "conservative" political correctness and various combinations of aspirational leftist self-deception and manipulation.

Steve Sailer writes:

For example, consider Garry Trudeau. He was a scion of old money liberal Protestant good blood good bone folks (his mother went to Miss Porter’s School, for example)
1. Let's not exaggerate the wealth or social standing of Trudeau's family. While I don't doubt they easily fell within the top 5% in both respects, thousands of people of Trudeau's generation were born into richer families with more impressive ancestors, and most of these people did not become obnoxious leftists.

Trudeau's father and paternal ancestors going back several generations were doctors. His mother's father was a sales manager and Republican politician. Certainly respectable and likely prosperous people, but I'd say they belonged to the multigenerational upper middle class rather than the upper class.

2. It would have been more helpful for this narrative if Garry Trudeau's parents were actually liberal. Trudeau's mother belonged to a Continuing Anglican church. Trudeau's parents were Republicans. They did not encourage their son's faggotry. A fan lazily (or wishfully) attempts to frame Trudeau's leftism in terms of the make-believe construct of "old money liberalism":

Members of Trudeau's more recent family tree were not rabidly Republican, but their politics, perhaps because of their privileged social status, leaned to the right. As an educated, civically engaged family, they saw themselves as belonging, nevertheless, to a tradition of liberal egalitarianism. In his satire he has made the dissonance of these competing ideologies a major theme, continually returning to the ironies and hypocrisies of individuals and a society built on such conflicted ideas. In addition, having been raised at the intersection of the ethics of aristocratic gentility and liberal idealism, Trudeau seems to have adopted a sense of noblesse oblige that has fueled both his selfless devotion to promoting social justice through satire, as well as his supreme confidence in his worldview, his business ethics, and his position as social chronicler.

One may also speculate that Trudeau's populist indignation at corrupt authority, nepotism, and old-boy networks is rooted in a need to exorcise a sense of lingering guilt at having such fortunate opportunities. It has even been speculated that the depth of his intense loathing for the Bush family comes from his need to differentiate his own privileged, WASPy persona--one that is tempered by self-criticism and a championing of social underdogs--from that of other Ivy Leaguers who, from his perspective, have seemingly used their background and connections to increase their own wealth and power. For example, those strips which mock the elder Bush for his participation in the closed Skull and Bones society at Yale (the university attended by Trudeau as well) reflect a vehemence and particularity that belies his deep-seated, especially personal dislike for this other type of New England family. (At the same time, one could argue that the Bush family's adoption of swaggering, folksy, Texan personas was an effort to distance themselves from the type of liberal New England elitism they saw in families like Trudeau's; Bush indicated as much in 1988, when he charged that Trudeau only spoke "for a bunch of Brie-tasting, Chardonnay-sipping elitists" [Alter 67].)

But no support whatsoever is offered for claims that the family professed "a tradition of liberal egalitarianism" (nor have I been able to find evidence for this elsewhere), and his parents do not seem to have been active in politics.

(As for the assumed connection to New England, only one of Trudeau's great-grandparents was born in Vermont; the other seven and proceeding generations were born in the mid-Atlantic. In total, no more than 1/4 of Trudeau's ancestry traces back to New England; 1/8 of Trudeau's ancestry is French, his great, great-grandfather having been an evidently incompetent Confederate officer and doctor from New Orleans; the remainder of his ancestry came by way of the mid-Atlantic and includes Dutch and German.)

The facts actually presented by this author paint a picture not of a self-assured aristocrat driven by a sense of noblesse oblige and carrying on a tradition of "liberal idealism" picked up from his family, but of a sensitive bitch who couldn't hang with other members of his class, who because of this developed a resentment of winners, and who imbibed his liberalism from popular culture.

By Trudeau's own description, he was an awkward teenager. Physically weak, athletically slow, pigeon-toed, and small for his age, he did not fit into the popular crowd. About his time at St. Paul's prep school in New Hampshire, he says, "I was not the class clown. In fact, I was pretty shy. . . . [It was a] tortured time for me [because] I was the second or third smallest in my class" (Alter 64). As a result of being ostracized from the elite cliques at school, Trudeau's inner, imaginative life was given ample time and space to develop. He found solace in art--an interest that did not help his social life; a classmate recalls that the prep school was "an unbelievably bad climate to be an artist," and as a result, "Garry took a lot of grief" ("Doonesbury: Drawing and Quartering" 60).

The traumas of his teen years--including seeing his parents divorce--gave him ulcers and probably contributed to his career-long sympathy for people in minority or underdog positions in society. He has little nostalgia for this awkward period in his life; for example, he stated in an interview in 1986 that "Adolescence is, I think, an unpleasant time of life no matter where you spend it and with whom you spend it. I didn't like being a teenager. I didn't like teenagers when I was one. And I still don't like them. It's a very selfish time of life" (Grove D15).

As Trudeau entered into his young adult years--the point at which he was expected to follow his father's lead in becoming a physician--his interest in art and theater put him at odds with his extended family. One can see how Trudeau's creative and sensitive personality did not mesh his father's worldview, a philosophy that can best be summarized in the maxim he repeated often to his son: "Life is not something to be enjoyed, so just get on with it" (Weingarten W14). In some way the disconnect between Trudeau's aspirations and his family's expectations was typical of many family conflicts in the late 1960s when staid lifestyles of the older generation clashed with the newly bohemian, countercultural ethics of their children. Trudeau was not a rebellious kid in any radical sense, but his affinity for the arts seemed to place him within the general parameters of this dissenting youth culture. Trudeau jokes that during his teen years his grandmother "would plead with my parents to send me to Outward Bound, because she had read in Life that the counselors were very good at reaching troubled teens" (Trudeau, Flashbacks 90). [. . .]

In light of Trudeau's adult dedication to following politics with a wonk-like intensity, it is interesting to note that, although he had vague countercultural leanings as a youth, he did not have a deep understanding of politics or any strong convictions about particular parties or candidates during his formative years. Here he describes this teenage detachment:

I wasn't particularly politically attuned growing up. There wasn't much debate at our dinner table. My parents were Republicans, so the GOP was my team, and Ike was our genial manager. In '60, I was too young to really respond to JFK's charisma as intuitively as I was repelled by Nixon's sleaziness, and in 1964, I was so disengaged that I actually designed placards for both parties at my high school. Later I came to admire Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, but more as pop figures than as visionaries who changed the world. Vietnam was the wake-up call. That's when I really started paying attention, and by then heroes were in scarce supply. Besides, who needed role models? We had the certainty of youth. (Bates 62)

[. . .] This gradual success of the strip also won for Trudeau some grudging praise from his family. His father offered him barbed congratulations, saying, "You're lucky you were born when you were. In my day you'd have been a loser" (Trudeau, Flashbacks 16). Similarly, his mother quipped after hearing he had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975, "I'm perfectly thrilled and delighted. I've kept my fingers crossed for fear he might end up in jail" (Trudeau, "Investigative Cartooning" C1).

[Kerry Soper. Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury and the Aesthetics of Satire.]

Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys--and the Men They Become
Wherever boys play games, as on the playing fields of nature, where predation and aggression have shaped animal behavior for tens of millions of years, sheer size makes a difference. You won't find that fact in many textbooks, but it may be the single most important lesson of unsupervised schoolboy existence.

The way those feelings of beleaguerment, insecurity, and behavioral adaptation live on in an adult psychology has been insightfully captured by the cartoonist Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury. In a lovely 1996 essay called "My Inner Shrimp," Trudeau admits that "for the rest of my days, I shall be a recovering short person" with "the soul of a shrimp." Trudeau, unlike some of us, benefited from a delayed but explosive growth spurt that propelled his final height to over six feet. But it's the feelings he experienced at age fourteen, when he was the third-smallest kid in his high school class, that still perfuse his adult soul. Trudeau sometimes pondered going to a high school reunion to show off all those postpubertal inches. But the Little Man Inside nixed the idea.

"Adolescent hierarchies," he writes, "have a way of enduring; I'm sure I am still recalled as the Midget I myself have never really left behind."

Related:

We do have some preliminary evidence that Conservatives and Liberals vary, on average, in their testosterone-estrogen ratios, with Conservatives males higher on the testosterone side, and Conservative females higher on the estrogen side. This means that the Liberal females and males are closer to each other in their testosterone-estrogen ratios, and the Conservatives further apart.
Formidability and the logic of human anger
Individuals with enhanced abilities to inflict costs (e.g., stronger individuals) or to confer benefits (e.g., attractive individuals) have a better bargaining position in conflicts; hence, it was predicted that such individuals will be more prone to anger, prevail more in conflicts of interest, and consider themselves entitled to better treatment. These predictions were confirmed. Consistent with an evolutionary analysis, the effect of strength on anger was greater for men and the effect of attractiveness on anger was greater for women. Also as predicted, stronger men had a greater history of fighting than weaker men, and more strongly endorsed the efficacy of force to resolve conflicts—both in interpersonal and international conflicts.
Facial Structure May Predict Endorsement of Racial Prejudice

Studies have shown that facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) is associated with testosterone-related behaviors, which some researchers have linked with aggression. But psychological scientist Eric Hehman of Dartmouth College and colleagues at the University of Delaware speculated that these behaviors may have more to do with social dominance than outright aggression.

[. . .] “Racial prejudice is such a sensitive issue and there are societal pressures to appear nonprejudiced. More dominant individuals might care less about appearing prejudiced, or exercise less self-regulation with regard to reporting those prejudices, should they exist,” says Hehman, who conducted the research as a graduate student at the University of Delaware.

The researchers asked male participants about their willingness to express racially prejudiced beliefs and about the pressure they feel to adhere to societal norms. The results revealed that men who have higher fWHR (determined from photos of their faces) are more likely to express racist remarks and are less concerned about how others perceive those remarks.

Alex Shoumatoff on St. Paul's School
For the past 150 years St. Paul’s School, the “exclusive” (as it is invariably called) boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire, has been the Eton of America’s upper crust. Or perhaps it is its Hogwarts, as Harry Potter’s fictional academy is called, providing the country with many of its most accomplished wizards—not just at making money, although that is what its graduates have tended to do, but in practically every endeavor. Its main constituency has traditionally been the conservative old Wasp families of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia—the plutocracy that has been running the country for generations. But this is changing. Since the first black student was admitted—in my class, which graduated in 1964—the school’s admissions policy has been progressively more meritocratic. The “natural aristocracy,” based on virtue and talent, to use Thomas Jefferson’s distinction, has been displacing the “artificial aristocracy,” based on wealth and birth. Every year there are fewer “legacies,” fewer fourth- or fifth-generation Paulies, among the 533 students, who now come from 37 states and 21 countries.

Despite its reputation for being a breeder of staunch, old-line Republicans, St. Paul’s has also turned out a distinguished roster of liberals, including the cartoonist Garry Trudeau and Senator John Kerry. Kerry was in the class of ’62, two years ahead of me, and even then he seemed to be plotting his run for the presidency. [. . .]

The fourth element of the St. Paul’s calamity had been incubating for years: the allegations that, from the late 1940s through the early 90s, dozens of the school’s masters (as the teachers were known until women joined the faculty, in 1972), including several revered ones, had sexually molested students. [. . .] But boarding schools attract sexually conflicted adults. [. . .]

The faculty was also at odds with the rector and the board. Partly it was because the teachers were liberals, and the trustees were for the most part stodgy conservatives “who have not crossed the postmodern line into the world with the rest of us,” as one faculty member put it. And partly it was a class issue: the trustees acted as if the teachers were underlings, when in fact it is the teachers who dedicate their lives and careers to fulfilling the school’s mission.

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