Don’t Fly the Rainbow at Carolina Beach

Boing Boing has a post about a lifeguard at Carolina Beach catching hell for flying a rainbow flag:

On July 4, Zach Hupp, a lifeguard on Carolina Beach, NC, flew a rainbow flag from his post. Hupp says someone immediately complained to another lifeguard, concerned “that they thought because I was flying that flag that I would only rescue gay people,” and someone else posted on the town’s Facebook page that she “didn’t know how to explain this one to the tourists who asked us about it.”

Hupp received a formal warning, and the town officials made a new policy that only flags authorized by the town or the US Lifesaving Association can be displayed on the lifeguard stands.

It seems that if you’re going to North Carolina’s beaches this year you have two things to worry about: being attacked by sharks and being overrun by numbskulls.

The Changing American Jobs Landscape and What It Might Mean for Men

The Atlantic Monthly has a fascinating look at how the jobs picture has changed in America since 1977. Why that date? Because that’s the last time our labor-participation rates were as low as they are today. From the article:

A couple things jump out here: Even though the labor-participation rate is almost as low now as it was then, the workforce has grown faster than the population (which was 220 million then and is around 319 million now). The big jump is in the number of women employed—from 36.5 million in October 1977 to 54.1 now. Male employment has also climbed, but not as much. So as the female labor-force participation rate has climbed, the male rate has dropped, from eight in 10 to barely seven in 10 men working full time. And whereas the male unemployment rate was much lower in 1977, now there’s gender parity.

Even as the gender balance has shifted, it’s noticeable that the racial balance hasn’t. Now, as in 1977, the black unemployment rate is much higher than the national rate, and lags far behind white unemployment.

This isn’t all just evidence of a bad economy—much of the decline comes from Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and checking out, though some of it comes from would-be workers who simply can’t find work, and millions more Americans are underemployed. That isn’t without challenges: An aging population could draw more in benefits than the government collects in social-security taxes. Massive spending on health care for older Americans could be a drag, too.

There’s more to read at the site, in particular what Americans were doing for work back then versus today, but I find the role of women in the workforce to be most interesting. With more women now graduating college than men how many households of the future will see a reverse of the traditional roles of breadwinner (men) versus secondary income/homemaker (women)? We’ve already seen a huge shift in household composition away from the traditional roles  – more dual income homes, single parent homes, women as primary breadwinners, etc. – but it seems clear that the shift will continue over the next generation. What will the impact be on our society?

We’ve already lived through a generation of women struggling to balance work and home life, to face the never-ending tension of career versus kids, but we’re about to be confronted with men having to confront a similar situation over the next generation. The reality that men’s traditional role as primary breadwinners or “heads of household”, at least according to our societal norms, is beginning to dawn on America. Over the next generation the big question is going to be how men will handle being the secondary earner and likely primary caregiver to their children? How will society, especially other men, react to them and treat them when they do? I suspect they will go through many tumultuous days trying to find the right balance, just as many women have for years, and it’s often going to be ugly. Can they do it? You bet, but it’s going to be a painful process as they learn to do it.

*Update*
This Planet Money post also highlights what’s going on:

The share of marriages where women work full time but men don’t is highest for low-income families.

The story here has as much to do with the decline of working men as it does the progress of women in the economy. In just the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, the manufacturing sector lost an astounding 5 million jobs. Since manufacturing jobs historically have been held predominantly by men, this left lots of men out of work. Women, on the other hand, have benefited from the employment boom in the service sector, which employs more women than men.

High-income families are much more likely than average to have both spouses working full time. The message is pretty clear: It’s pretty hard to be rich with only one income.

Gustavo the Disappointing Winston-Salem Painter

From a long New York Times piece on photographer Robert Frank:

Frank retains the spontaneous enthusiasm of a much younger man. In his tenth decade, he is still a free-form outsider seeking untried situations, fresh leaps — and nothing pleases him more than picking up on the scent of something exceptional. Last year, after receiving intriguing letters postmarked North Carolina from an itinerant laborer named Gustavo, Frank set off to find him. He discovered Gustavo in Winston-Salem painting a house, he says, but ‘‘I was disappointed in him. He was ordinary. He seemed not to be possessed by anything. He just drifts.’’

That’s truly unfortunate. There are soooo many people here in Camel City that I’m sure Frank would have found extraordinary.

The Race from Race and Guns

Speaking, or writing, about race in America is almost always an exercise fraught with risk and anxiety. Because we each bring our own racial identity to the table, our own experiences and perspectives, our own preconceptions and expectations of other races, we almost always struggle with overcoming our own obstacles to express our views. Maybe we’re afraid of offending so we salt our statements with ample disclaimers. Maybe we’re enraged so we salt our statements with hyperbolic adjectives. Maybe we’re confused and salt our statements with conflicting viewpoints. Maybe we’re so wrapped up in our own experience that we close our ears to the stories of those we’re trying to talk to. Likely we’re a combination of some or all of these things and as a result our attempts at talking about anything race-related are uncomfortable at best. The result? We do as much as we can to not talk about race in anything but the most generic terms.

Then we have something happen like the Charleston shootings of this week, or the events in Ferguson and Baltimore in the last few months, and race catapults to the top of our minds and the tip of our tongues. We can’t avoid addressing it and that’s when a great divide appears between us. That’s when we most need for people who can articulate the issues in a way that helps us better understand them. but unfortunately that’s when opportunists, the self-appointed leaders of their constituencies, appear on camera claiming they represent the whole of their race and instantly closing the ears of just about everyone. (How long do you think it will be before Al Sharpton shows up in Charleston?) That’s also when those who would like anything but reconciliation, the haters, step up with a megaphone and barf their venomous propaganda all over the rest of us.

Then there’s the matter of talking about guns in our country. The reaction to mass shootings like those in Charleston (and Connecticut, Virginia, Colorado, etc.) is depressingly predictable and divisive. It is near impossible to have a conversation about guns without it spiraling into a heated, virulent argument in which no one seems to think there’s some point between absolute freedom to own ANY weapon or a total ban on weapons.

In its own way gun control as a topic is as divisive as race and when you combine the two topics, as you most definitely are when you start to address the shootings in Charleston, you have the recipe for a witches brew of misunderstanding and divisive rhetoric.That’s why it’s so important that we DO have people who can say what’s needed in a way that we can all hear and understand. Once again the comedian shows us the way:

And then there’s this from David Remnick on President Obama’s reaction to the events in Charleston:

Obama is a flawed President, but his sense of historical perspective is well developed. He gives every sign of believing that his most important role in the American history of race was his election in November, 2008, and, nearly as important, his reëlection, four years later. For millions of Americans, that election was an inspiration. But, for some untold number of others, it remains a source of tremendous resentment, a kind of threat that is capable, in some, of arousing the basest prejudices.

Obama hates to talk about this. He allows himself so little latitude. Maybe that will change when he is an ex-President focussed on his memoirs. As a very young man he wrote a book about becoming, about identity, about finding community in a black church, about finding a sense of home—in his case, on the South Side of Chicago, with a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson. It will be beyond interesting to see what he’s willing to tell us—tell us with real freedom—about being the focus of so much hope, but also the subject of so much ambient and organized racial anger: the birther movement, the death threats, the voter-suppression attempts, the articles, books, and films that portray him as everything from an unreconstructed, drug-addled campus radical to a Kenyan post-colonial socialist. This has been the Age of Obama, but we have learned over and over that this has hardly meant the end of racism in America. Not remotely. Dylann Roof, tragically, seems to be yet another terrible reminder of that.

Nearly all of South Carolina was in mourning Thursday. Flags were at half-mast. Except the Confederate flag, of course, which flew high outside the building where Tillman still stands and the laws of the state are written.

I’m with Jon Stewart in feeling confident that nothing will change as a result of Charleston, or the dozens of similar events that have preceded it, or the dozens of similar events that are sure to follow. Why? Because change comes only when enough of us want it, and right now there just aren’t enough people who want it. Too many people benefit from the racial divide, from scaring the crap out of people – “They’ll take your guns, rape your women, steal your jobs… – and playing both sides to the middle for any real change to happen. The odds of that changing in my lifetime are minuscule and shrinking by the day, but my hope is that my children and their children can fix what the rest of us have so royally screwed up.