From #Goonies to #NeverGoonies? Our “Time” is Nearly Past
I guess I saw “The Goonies” half a dozen times while my sons still lived at home. They were 11 and 15 in 1985. We saw it at the theater then bought a VHS tape (remember those?) to watch at home. My eldest son, just turned 49, has it downloaded and he’s shown it to his boys, 8 and 11, although he hasn’t told them (yet) that the “Goonies” star, Sean Astin, also played Sam Gamgee in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, 2001-2003.
Both my boys also read Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in high school, as required reading. By me. They’re fans.
Both were also athletes earning scholarships in university swim programs and both earned degrees, the elder in Zoology (birds) and the younger in Business.
Both my sons were Goonies, taking the road less traveled in high school and college, and thinking the thoughts less thunk, making me very proud.
But each went through entirely different “times” to get where they are today.
I use my sons as yardsticks for their whole X Generation.
One is a successful swim coach and a better-than-average Bible scholar and teacher. Big Trump guy.
But my youngest, now 45, had a tougher row to hoe. He got his BA in ’92 and began learning the restaurant business, with the intention of buying a franchise from his company. But in 2003, at age 29 he was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia.
In ’03 I had been going back and forth to the Balkans and had also spent a lot of time in the old USSR, Ukraine and Russia. I put that consulting business on hold and closed a retail location I opened to sell the militaria and politica I’d accumulated, and drove 400 miles, in two-week intervals, swapping out babysitting duties with his mother, while he was undergoing chemo. I once did a 5-week stint after his radiation and bone-marrow transplant, because his mother was too sick. Having no insurance, we paid for almost everything that first year.
After three years the docs cleared him from having to be babysat any longer, and next year, gave him a full release. It’s been 13 years now, but a day doesn’t pass that I pause and cross myself.
But his career plans were shot. He could no longer buy that franchise and be his own boss. Today he manages one of the company’s branch stores and lives a solitary life, which, coming from a long line of hermits, he seems to take in stride.
Combined they’ve taught me a lot about their Generation.
No one ever had to declare themself a #NeverGoonie in my boys’ day. Goonies were the go-my-own-way types who more often as not created the history, while it would be the herd who would profit by writing about them. That’s how it’s always been.
Every generation had its Goonies and they were a minority in virtually every human endeavor.
Few people would have considered conservatives to be Goonies in my day, but in truth, true conservatives always were the political minority even as it was the most clear-headed way of thinking. It’s instructive that we live in a Constitutional republic that glorifies the herd, and sanctifies its power, but, more interestingly, relies on the common sense of the herd to select the best Goonies available to serve their interests best.
If this sounds illogical, it isn’t, for in the grander scheme of things, on the world stage, America is the first, and arguably, only Goonie nation in history….our road still never truly traveled, our liberating thoughts still never truly contemplated anywhere but here.
I was in my 60s before I ever thought of America in Goonie terms, but it does make understanding the rise of a new kind of #NeverGoonie culture a little easier, for modern #NeverGoonie mentality is not the same as the ordinary herd mentality I recognized in the GenX world my sons grew up in. I was looking at teenagers then.
By 1992 they were out on their own while I was learning new tricks in the Russias. I had little interaction with Gen X until they would be in their 30s.
By my reckoning it would be the early 2000’s when #NeverGoonie-ism was spawned from within the conservative movement; self-admiring elites wrapped in ambition, the fundamental philosophy of our Founding and its spiritual makeup merely useful brands, vain repetitions to be used for identification purposes, as comparison with “those other guys”, ranking on their Top Ten list similar to Major Margaret O’Houlihan’s, of M.A.S.H fame, where she ranked “love” only among her top ten list for reasons to marry, somewhere in the middle, but definitely not Number One.
In my Goonie generation William F Buckley defined conservatism through his publication, “National Review”, which I read since law school, and my dad since Goldwater. I never met him but we corresponded after I returned from the USSR in Spring ’92. I didn’t write then, and wouldn’t for another decade.
I just became more interesting.
I think the origins of #NeverGoonie-ism in American conservatism began when “National Review”, in 1998, assigned a young Jonah Goldberg, then 29, to launch “National Review Online” to establish a niche in that emerging market.
Out of the loop in those years, 1991-2008, I was learning the ropes of “tricking the government” and the multi-level art of dishonesty as taught by 75 years of Communist distrust, intrigue in genuine slave conditions. I never returned home that I didn’t feel the urge to kneel down and kiss the ground.
But I did learn how conservatives could re-arrange their Top Ten articles of faith.
In 2008 I discovered RedState and after 3 years of writing there as a guest-diarist saw #NeverGoonie-ism first hand.
Red State was managed by a nice young kid, a year younger than my youngest son, about 33 at the time. He could have been a full-bore conservative Goonie, but apparently passed that door, going for Door #2. He oversaw an inner circle of frat boys, along with some pretty good more mature people. Millennials mostly, their principal qualification was that they looked up to their young editor as a protector and the adult in the room.
Prior editors at RedState had gone onto bigger and better things so the platform and brand seemed secure. But coming out of senior management in a Fortune 500 company, I recognized what happens when a boss allows the inmates to run the asylum while he is out chasing his own interests, using the status of his employer’s brand as a launching pad for bigger and better things.
This general impression was confirmed in 2011 when RedState showed me the door, unceremoniously, by locking me out. No Goodbyes, no reason. Very cowardly.
This is only speculation on my part. There could have been other reasons. Since the editors only knew me by what I had written, it seemed logical that my 25 years of world experience was a bit more than they could endure. One kid there, affectionately remembered as Captain Kneepants, tried to impress me once by telling me his trying several different types of scotch with the same macho gusto as one who had trekked high mountains…
…which I had on three continents.
Today they might remind you of the 50-something popinjays from the State Department we’ve seen paraded before Adam Schiff’s impeachment committee. I met Embassy staff in Moscow in ’91 just before the Fall which fit their profile well; afraid of the unknown of what might happen when the Hammer and Sickle came down while I was living entirely outside the embassy gates.
Captain Kneepants was a Millennial lawyer at RedState still in his early 30s, and had it not been for later reflections on Jonah Goldberg, he could have been my poster boy for #NeverGoonies. He was a boastful, rude, spoiled spawn of Ol’ Clootie; clueless about the world but foot-stomping arrogant about his deserved place in it. He had the annoying habit of referring to commenters at RedState with far greater maturity and experience by names like “Skippy” if they disagreed with him. A bully…as long as no one was within rolled-up newspaper swatting distance. I never met Captain Kneepants personally, which is a good thing.
Another theory is corporate: With the coming of Obama, it was almost as if RedState, or their publishers, had decided to target a different market, and simply decided to purge the grown-ups, and with them all the site’s real-world knowledge. Again, I refer you to the parade of House Ukraine experts witnesses for context.
Maybe RedState just chose a BubbleGum music format, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve got love in my Tummy”, as many FM rock stations did in the 60s when the second wave of Baby Boomers outgrew their kneepants and started buying 45’s. To the emerging Millennial market even a Captain Kneepants could have seemed like an adult role model.
But anyone over 50 knows what risks such a scenario portends in another 20 years when people such as these would be looked upon as wise sages.
All I knew for sure was the managing editor at RedState wasn’t minding his store, and probably, neither was RedState’s parent company minding him. Management by spread-sheet. Free to pursue his private brass ring, he was otherwise a piss-poor manager of people, but worse, an even poorer conservative light in the darkness that has been trying to envelope this nation for at least 50 years.
(Postscript: RedState is under new management, and seems to be in better fettle. I recognize a couple of the older holdovers, one a retired Army officer, so wish them well. But if they judge their success by clicks and not the content and the grown-ups who drop by…not hard to tell from the comments…they aren’t pushing adult conservatism forward.)
I’m told this same misery is happening all over the conservative political internet today, a sort of Hunger Games soap opera. ConservativeTreeHouse, a site I’ve only visited once or twice has been exorcising demons for dissenting with the received wisdom of editors. No “Skippy-calling” involved, I think, still I’m sensing that some conservative-minded people would rather see America lose the war if they can still secure a niche in the new world order that will follow.
When Donald Trump began kicking over tables outside the national temple our Constitution erected (Yes, I use this imagery intentionally) he probably didn’t know there were so many conservative tables out on the temple portico selling indulgences, just like the Left.
I credit Jonah Goldberg as the first #NeverGoonie because he was the earliest of the youngsters to rise, in 1998 to 2008, then kerplunk by 2016 as noted by me in 2018. His “Skippy” comment to President Trump about Joe McCarthy spoke volumes, hanging him by his own petard, establishing both Buckley and Trump’s qualifications as True Goonies from their older generations, and Jonah’s certification as an apostate #NeverGoonie from his. Captain Kneepants never got so high as to be able to fall this far.
Still they are the generation that wants to be looked up to as old grizzled veterans and wise old sages, sitting on blankets, legs crossed, relating to the young the tales of how it once was when the buffalo still roamed free, and Watananka still looked down favorably….
…but with memories and experiences as shallow as a pool of warm piss. (VP John Nance Garner, 1932).
When selecting a political banner to fight under becomes no more discerning than choosing a brand of mustard from the grocery shelf, or passing off having tried several single malt scotches as deep discrimination…it is, well…French.
You can watch the virtues of conservatism be chiseled down simply by measuring the quality of the replacements being sent to the battle front to replace these tired old veterans advancing to the rear.
There’s a simple law involved here; When there is no deeper philosophical root than the pursuit of status, as a large portion of the conservative movement from that generation has demonstrated, often there is virtually nothing left to pass on to the next generation.
So who will teach Gen Z to be discriminating?
I can name a few Gen Xers who would qualify as genuine Goonies; Mollie Hemingway, Sara Carter, Sharyl Atkisson, John Solomon, several more. Make your own list. They are anchored by the younger wave of my generation, Byron York, Andy McCarthy, the late Denice Shepard/PumabyDesign (RIP) all in their 60s.
But my wave, born in the 1940s, are fading quickly. Our “time” is passing quickly, witness friend Puma.
We not only need new torches in the dark, we need soldiers who are a little less polite about placing a symbolic rolled-up newspaper across their snouts. #NeverGoonies are on the precipice of becoming the majority of a generation, bolstered by Gen X conservatives in-name-only who still believe they are conservative.
It’s pandemic on the Left, which is a natural home for hatefulness, and the #NeverGoonie Millennial. But look for the sleepers on the Right. They can do great damage while on their celebrity quest.
Beware of the mindless booboosie (a term created by HL Mencken….if a Millennial you’ll have to look up both the word and its creator) and they are found everywhere these days; Newsweek, Time, Vox, Axios, The Hill, Atlantic, Vanity Fair. Names I’ve never heard of, but many of you will recognize.
So, who the hell is Natasha Bertrand, 27, whose parents probably were even married when the original Goonies was released in 1985. See what I mean? I’ve never heard of her, but apparently, because of her links to “The Atlantic”, like National Review, a once respectable magazine (I read it in high school) and now MSNBC, she is considered to be a force to deal with in this Ukraine business.
Look for the scheme behind these battalions of mindless booboosies.