Leave it my favourite whipping... country.
I can only assume that the recently started '100 Greatest Americans' show is taking it's cue from the success of the Canadian show that ran over nine months ago.
But have you seen the list? It's clearly based on some sort of bizarro-world logic about what constitutes great... oh, no sorry. I am wrong. Upon further inspection the list is actually clearly dictated by the masses who actually have the inanity to sit and watch a show like this. It's not bizarro-world, it's Red-state... Oh, right. That IS bizarro-world.
A quick look at the list:
Abraham Lincoln - A Great American, no matter how you slice it. But looking at the rest of this list it strikes me that the Red States just grudgingly accepted the inclusion of the champion of the 13th Ammendment, who kicked their ass in the Civil War, just so as to not make it look too obvious who is calling the shots.
Albert Einstein - Ah yes, a great man. A truly great A........ he was German.
Alexander Graham Bell - Sure, Top 100, sure in a walk.
Alexander Hamilton - As a historical statesman he certainly did his part.
Amelia Earhart - Strikes me as an odd choice, but... sure. There need to be a few wild cards right? Why not someone whose main claim to fame is disappearing without a trace... actually, when put THAT way...
Andrew Carnegie - I'd never pick him, but at least the reasons for picking him reflect a value judgment that I can give some creedence to.
Arnold Schwarzenegger - .....Okay. We just completely lost the plot all in one fell-swoop. ONE: Austrian. TWO: OKay... I admit, we must be talking about a different Arnold Schwarzenegger. One I've never heard of. 'Cause you can't possibly be talking about the body-builder-turned actor-turned governor of California, 'cause thats just... laughable.
Audie Murphy - Here's a tough one. I really think of Audie Murphy as a singer and actor, and we all remember his classics don't we? Like, uh... But really, that was all icing. Audie Murphy really makes the list for being the most decorated soldier of WWII... so is THAT what makes a great American? Why should I be surprised.
Babe Ruth - A stretch. But so was Wayne Gretzky on the Canadian List. No... let me take that back. Wayne Gretzky was not a stretch on the Canadian top 100 list. What he was was a stretch on the Top 10. We are after all talking about the greatest player ever to play the quintessential Canadian game. So, by that measure, Babe Ruth has every right to have his fat drunken ass on the American list.
Barack Obama - A self proclaimed "skinny kid with a funny name." And the only African-American in the Senate, right now. RIGHT NOW. (Admittedly there have only ever been five - I've read my Wikipedia!) But what about the FIRST! The simple fact that I had to look him up is not good for his status as a great American. Will we remember who he was in a hundered years? Not unless he manages to do something unarguably great... and I can't see that he's done it yet, so why is he on this list?
Barbara Bush - I can't say I've ever really understood how being a First Lady qualifies one as a person of value. Certainly they must be supportive and patient to a degree I personaly couldn't attain, but I could also say that about any babysitter who came back to my house more than once. Of all First Ladys to make the list, this one probably baffles me the most.
Benjamin Franklin - Not a word of argument from me. A true modernist.
Bill Clinton - In my opinion, the best President of my lifetime... which may still be damning with faint praise when my lifetime is done.
Bill Cosby (William Henry Cosby, Jr.) - Uh... a few questions... Why the extra specification? Is it just in case we aren't sure which Bill Cosby? Because we might think that Bill Cosby might be a weird choice, being a comedian and all? Okay, then why not specify WHICH Arnold Schwarzenegger? Okay. One more question - Why?
Bill Gates - Gates qualifies in the same manner as Andrew Carnegie. I guess in a way he's simply a new Carnegie.
Billy Graham - Oh, those red states... chuckle chuckle... you crazy guys.
Bob Hope - Because he... ummm... because he... made so many of those funny 'road' movies?
Brett Favre - Favre was a great QB. Sure, but he was hardly football's Wayne Gretzky.
Carl Sagan - Well, obviously a few Blue State votes got through, 'cause - I mean Sagan is really just one of those Science Shamen that they pray to on the coasts. You know, the ones who beieve those crazy things like Global Warming and Evolution.
Cesar Chavez - I don't know a lot about Cesar Chavez. I essentially see him as sort of a Latino Malcolm X - a comparison which may upset adherents on either side. But Malcolm X makes the list, so so should Chavez.
Charles Lindbergh - Well, at least unlike Earhart, he landed.
Christopher Reeve - Well, duh, he fought for truth justice and the American Way!
Chuck Yeager - Y'know, I've flown faster than the speed of sound. Somehow I didn't make it to the Canadian list.
Clint Eastwood - Seriously? Did you see how he treated Tuco in The Good the Bad and the Ugly? But to be fair, he made a damned fine Mayor for... what was that place called? I mean, he put it on the map! You know, that town he was Mayor of... East-wood-ville... or something.
Colin Powell - Well, when it comes to the right wing. Powell is a class act. I could go on about how much I dig the way he speaks about the WMD fiasco... but of course he still DID it! If there is another Republican in the White House in 2009, please let it be Powell or McCain!
Condoleezza Rice - Satan must be on this list when I get down to the 'S's.
Donald Trump - Another Carnegie.
Dwight D. Eisenhower - I don't know what there is to specifically like about Ike. The world didn't go up in a nuclear cloud under his watch... but under whose did it? The Cold War got well under way while he was at the helm... that's a strike. Being a President who was in office duirng the lifetimes of the voters seems to be all but a slam-dunk as far as making this list.
Eleanor Roosevelt (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt) - For god's sake don't confuse her with Eleanor 'Left-eye' Roosevelt! Of the First Ladys on this list, this one makes sense - possibly the most.
Ellen DeGeneres - She made the list 'cause she's black, right?
Elvis Presley - I don't see ANY reason for ANY mere entertainer to be on the list. Don't get me wrong. I'm in the performing arts myself. But unless you manage to at least become Mayor of Eastwoodville you do not deserve to be on the list. For that matter sports figures too. Gretzky, you're out!
Frank Sinatra - Now, don't make me repeat myself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - He'd make a list of top ten American Presidents in just about anyone's estimation, so I can't possibly argue.
Frederick Douglass - A name which ought to be better known. His work on the abolition of slavery was fundamental. More people should know his name and instantly associate it with emancipation. He should make it onto a much shorter list than this.
George H. W. Bush - Wouldn't deserve to make the list of top ten American Presidents.
George W. Bush - Wouldn't deserve to make the top one hundred.
George Lucas - There are three film directors on this list. Of all possible choices - George Lucas!?! Has anyone who voted for him actually watched the movies he directs? If you can name three that rise above the level of 'tepid', you're stretching the truth. I can name directors who have only ever made three films who have a better track record. Now, yes, one of those films happens to be the most influential film of a generation (or more) and it and it's sequels - including several tepid ones directed by Lucas - have more economic clout than the average African Nation... but even that film, when you get right down to it gets worse with every viewing. For Christ-sake Roger Corman made more films that are worth repeat viewing than George Lucas! ...I'm ranting.
George Patton - Well, okay. Though I must quote Yoda - "Wars not make one great."
George Washington - I'd point out that he wasn't a born American, but in this case it'd be a bit specious. And let's face it the only thing that REALLY made him a special President was the fact that he was first.
George Washington Carver - I don't really know much about George Washington Carver. I know he made huge advances in the uses of peanuts and soy and stuff - an inventor of high caliber and great honour. In my mind there aren't enough thinkers on this list. SO Carver gets the nod from me, despite my relative ignorance.
Harriet Ross Tubman - Why isn't there a movie about his woman? Let's make that movies. There could be a semi-fictionalized adventure version about the underground railroad - ya hear me Bruckheimer!? And there could also be a more respectful and arty bio-pic by someone who could really honour the woman, say Spike Lee. Here is an example where direct action deserves the recognition of being named to this list.
Harry Truman - I have to admit that I don't actually know a heck of a lot about HST. Sure he lead the US out of WWII, but by the time he got in, that would have happened even if Hop-a-long Cassidy was the CIC.
Helen Keller - How exactly does being famous for a birth defect qualify you as great? Perhaps because in the case of being deaf and blind it means that you are much more likely to crash a plane where it will never be found.
Henry Ford - There aren't manythings more American than the Automobile and being a self-made multi-millionaire. He kind of falls somewhere between Bell and Carnegie. Too bad he wasn't a great out-fielder too, he'd have it all wrapped up.
Hillary Rodham Clinton - Another First Lady. Sigh. Again I'll have to give her some props. She's one of the best First Ladies on this list and probably the best First Lady on my life time, and she may yet make that top ten Presidents list.
Howard Hughes - A flying Carnegie!
Hugh Hefner - ... no really. I can't. It's beneath me.
Jackie Robinson (Jack Roosevelt Robinson) - Rumour has it that he was an asshole. But, it would be an asshole who'd deny him a position on this list. He was more than just a great athlete than the sport that he excelled at.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - I don't really know what Jackie 'O' accomplished as First Lady beyond wiping off the trunk of the car.
Jesse Owens - For breaking racial barriers, you bet. But a quandry exists right? I mean part of his message was we we're supposed to be judging him as an athlete and as an equal not as a member of a minority race, so by putting him on this list we're saying he was a really great runner? Or are was saying he did great things for by breaking racial barriers? Isn't that by definition judging him as a member of a minority race? It's a paradox. But like Jackie Robinson he transcended his sport, that is why he's here - ironic or not.
Jimmy Carter - Oddly, he seems to have done more as an ex-President than as a President. Hard to say a Nobel prize winner doesn't have a place on the list though. But you can't give every Nobel winner a place on this list either, can you?
Jimmy Stewart - You're kidding right? Thank you Clarence, I can't imagine what life would have been without him.
John Edwards - ... Uh. Now I really COULD use some clarification. You don't really mean John Edwards, running mate of failed Democtatic Presidential candidate John Kerry do you? Why isn't Lloyd Bentsen on this list?
John Glenn - I've got a hard time with this. What did he do that the monkey didn't do first? He was nothing but a willing lab-rat on a the world's (then) biggest firecracker.
John F. Kennedy - Another top ten President.
John Wayne - No way, pilgrim.
Johnny Carson (John William Carson) - Yes, Johnny Carson is the equal of Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and James Madison......... wait a second..... where the fuck is James Madison!!!?? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he write your fucking Constitution?
Jonas Edward Salk - The man who eliminated Polio. Very cool. He probably won't make as short a list as he deserves.
Joseph Smith Jr. - There is no way it gets more red-state than this.
Katharine Hepburn - What? Well, at least she did more for women's rights than the Mayor of Eastwoodville.
Lance Armstrong - Well of course! I mean, he's the frikken Wayne Gretzky of that great American sport - bicycling!
Laura Bush - My respect for Laura Bush is only slightly higher than that which I have for her husband. Look how I treated him! I would have evren more respect for her if she'd had the strength of character to not marry him in the first place.
Lucille Ball - A funny, funny lady. Very funny. Very talented. Very revered. But looking at my other comments it ought to come as no surprise that I don't think she has any business being on this list.
Lyndon B. Johnson - I don't really know a lot about LBJ. All I know is that he didn't initially get in by being elected to the post. And note that with the exception of Gerald Ford, every President since 1933 made the list? Even Nixon for Christ's sake! If I were Gerry Ford, I'd be pissed! Wasn't Johnson the one who carried his dogs by the ears? What a great man.
Madonna (Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone) - Uh, wasn't Madonna from Galleli? America was still about 1500 years away from discovery by the Spanish at that point... Oh, wrong Madonna, good thing they specified Madonna Ciccone. I mean, I could understand how the Blessed Virgin could make the list, but this Madonna is merely like a virgin.
Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) - I totally think Malcom X is worthy of a place on this list, but not before and above James Madison.
Marilyn Monroe - For that matter why in all that is, hell anything, is Marilyn Monroe before and above James Madison? I mean, why isn't Paris Hilton on this list then? At least she is a HILTON!
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) - If an all-American writer deserves to be put beside the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, Mark Twain certainly fits the bill. But it does beg questions about other notable authors who are missing for example Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemmingway and John Steinbeck. Oh, but they were an opium addict, a manic depressive and Communist respectively.
Martha Stewart - Certainly no Communist, she. But a great practitioner of the great American art of tax-evasion. Hey! Why isn't Al Capone on this list then?
Martin Luther King Jr. - A vicious rumour (purportedly started by that nasty John Stewart on the Daily Show) is circulating that Martin Luther King is NOT on the list. Well, here he is, and well deserved.
Maya Angelou - Perhaps a bit on the PC side, but of all marginal nominees, she's certainly on the legit end of the scale. I can't imagine that there aren't more worthy possibilities. Will she still be on the list in a hundred years?
Mel Gibson - Only slightly more American than Swartzenegger. Really more Australian than anything, but yes, he WAS born Stateside so I can't really split hairs that way. But not in a million years is Mel Gibson one of the Top 100 Americans of all time.
Michael Jackson - Yeah right. He may not be guilty - the jury is still literally out as I write this - but he isn't on trial for being un-assailably squeaky clean. I mean, if you really want your country represented by this screw-ball... well fuck, look who you elected President once out of the last two terms. Go ahead do what ever you like. It's your country. And let me point out - he named his kid Prince Blanket. PRINCE BLANKET... hey, it's your country.
Michael Jordan - The Wayne Gretzky of basketball. If you're sayin' sports figures are legit on that basis alone, then Michael Jordan is definitely worthy. However, I am saying that being great at a sport is NOT all it takes. You have to at least transcend the sport itself - like say, Jackie Robinson.
Michael Moore - I am one of those left-leaning sorts who is getting sick of Michael Moore. I thoroughly believe that he does more damage than good and that he is a terrible journalist and a hypocrite. He has more in common with Ann Coulter tactically than he does with Ralph Nader ideologically. Ann Coulter didn't make the list (and you can probably imagine what a field day I'd have with that) so why should he?
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) - Ali DID transcend his sport, but I'm not so sure that he did it in a way that makes him truly great. He transcended it more as a pop-icon than as the activist that he is often credited with. He was no Jackie Robinson.
Neil Alden Armstrong - Another lab rat on the list. Possibly the most worthy lab rat. But that's perhaps a but like calling Kim Jong Il the most benevolent of insane world dictators.
Nikola Tesla - As brilliant as Edison, but he was Croatian.
Oprah Winfrey - Will she still be on this list in a hundred years time? REALLY? Perhaps that question should be asked of everyone. Who is timeless? Who really is? Actually, to be fair, there is an outside chance Oprah will be. I admit I'm sick to death of her - have been for years. But she's certainly got some admirable qualities that raise her above the average pop-culture icon. I don't really think she should make the list, but I'm willing to admit that this is one case in which time could prove me wrong.
Pat Tillman - You've got to be fucking kidding me. A nominal football star who happened to die in battle in a questionable war? He is a great example of what is wrong with America. No, I am sorry. He is not. His nomination is a good example. Not only will he not make the list in a hundred years, but in five years no one will know his name. This is totally retarded.
Dr. Phil McGraw - This one falls right into the middle of the You have GOT to be fucking kidding me category.
Ray Charles - Love Ray Charles. Love him. But do you really think that if he hadn't 1) Come out with a great swan song album; 2) Had an Oscar winning Bio-pic and 3) Died all within the last 18 months that he'd still be on this list?
Richard Nixon - The original Book of Lists had Nixon on the most hated people in history list along side Hitler and Satan. Was that a non-sequitur? Or am I making a point?
Robert Kennedy - I'd like to be able to justify this one. I really would. But I can't. Let's call RFK the high-water mark for people who shouldn't make the list.
Ronald Reagan - It's kind of funny how perspective changes. I still don't think of Reagan as a great man, but he no longer represents the pinnacle of Right-wing Military-Economic Imperialism that he once did... I wonder why he doesn't seem so extreme anymore?
Rosa Parks - Right on. She won't make the top ten, but there had to be some justifiable choices on the list. All for the simple act of saying 'no.' How simple greatness seems.
Rudolph W. Giuliani - Not sure if this will stand the test of time. But I know that when the towers went down and the President was no where in sight, Giuliani's composure in a state of emergency was unbelieveable. A total class-act. Whether you loved him or hated him during the controversial periods of his tenure as Mayor of New York, it was virtually impossible to not respect him in the days following 9/11. Will that really immortalize him once those of us who were alive then are gone? Who can tell. But I'll give him the bye for now.
Rush Limbaugh - Seeing as I don't have the opportunity to be outraged at Ann Coulter being on the list, this is a close second. What the fuck!? How does someone so bent on divisive pot-stirring deserve to get on the list? America needs to come together, for itself and for the planet. But good ol' Rush would rather say outrageous things that only have sporadic tethers to empirical fact that keep him controversial (and therefore making money) than to deal with the truth of the matter and actually make progressive moves. He doesn't really love America. He loves the money that Americans give him for saying things that make them feel righteous in the face of constantly growing evidence to the contrary.
Sam Walton - Wal-Mart man. No way. I've given the nod to virtually all the 'builders' and/or industrialists, but I just can't. Wal-mart is the epitome of the evils of capitalism. What makes America great (God, did I just type that clause?) is the beautiful side of capitalism... and they haven't left much of that in the wake of multi-nationalism.
Steve Jobs - Another Carnegie.
Steven Spielberg - If there is a director who deserves to be on this list, Spielberg may well be it. He makes great films, he makes American films, he makes artisitcally complex films, he makes pleasing films, he makes block-busting films, he makes righteous films, he makes self-critical films and above all else he uncompromisingly makes his own films. Obviously I don't think much about artists justifiably being on this list, but Spielberg is as close as it gets.
Susan B. Anthony - Not a word of argument from me.
Theodore Roosevelt - If Teddy Roosevelt doesn't make the top ten, America needs to give it's head a shake. Well, America needs to give it's head a shake anyhow, but you get my drift.
Thomas Edison - Much of Edison's greatness was a matter of 1) the time in which he lived - some huge batrriers in science had just fallen; 2) he took a lot of credit for work that was done under his employ; but he still guided some of the most seminal dicoveries ever. Most people don't know that he invented the fax-machine... sure it was so slow and low-res that it was next to useless, but he invented it. Oh yeah, there was that light-bulb thing too...
Thomas Jefferson - No brainer. Hey America, where's that revolution that you're supposed to have every generation? I think you've betrayed Jefferson.
Tiger Woods - Golf? The Wayne Gretzky of golf... sigh.
Tom Cruise - This is getting ridiculous. Next you're going to be naming Tom Hanks to the list!
Tom Hanks - ....................................................... . . . . . . . . ?
Walt Disney - In a way he's a Carnegie, in a way he's an entertainer. It's a huge stretch to have him on this list.
Wright Brothers (Orville & Wilbur Wright) - Uh... that's 101. No doubt flight is a pretty cool discovery. I guess, yeah sure. BTW: Did you know... not only was Orville the first human to fly, he was also the first human to die in a plane crash.
I guess if I were to boil down my criteria to it's essence, it would be that the most deserving inclusions on the list would be those that were most influential in changing the way people live (either through action, thought or widespread inspiration) and moving our species forwards to a brighter future... I.E. Today.
So, based on that who is in and who is out? All kinds of contradictions to what I said above follows.... (ignoring those who I would consider 'disqualified' as not being true Americans.)
IN (Italicized indicates marginal choices; Bold indicates definite choices.)
Alexander Graham Bell
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harriet Ross Tubman
John F. Kennedy
Jonas Edward Salk
Martin Luther King Jr.
Neil Alden Armstrong
Rudolph W. Giuliani
Susan B. Anthony
OUT (Italicized indicates marginal choices; Bold indicates 'what were they thinking?')
Dwight D. Eisenhower
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Washington Carver
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Joseph Smith Jr.
Lyndon B. Johnson
Dr. Phil McGraw
Now: One more part to this rather long entry...
Who has been selected as the top 25?
George W. Bush
John F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King Jr.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
For those keeping score that's:
12 of my 19 "Definite INs"
3 of my 'Normal' IN picks.
5 of my "What were they thinking?" Which I guess elevates it to "What the fuck were they thinking?"
The rest were either marginal or out.