Metal Yarmulke
Saturday, December 06, 2003

The Way We [Never] Were

A reader of John Ray's mostly excellent blog Dissecting Leftism writes, "A leftist teacher friend of mine found herself painted into a corner recently when she tried to explain 50s social values to a class of modern teens. Despite her best effort to sell the advantages of feminism, diversity and libertine culture, most of the kids quickly saw the more stable and predictable values of the 50s as offering more protection to the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, children."

I wonder how the teenage girls would have responded if the teacher had mentioned that back in the Fifties, if your husband beat the hell out of you and you were foolish enough to go to the police station, the cops would just tell you to go home and cook him a nice dinner. Or, if you got raped, the same cops would jeer at you and ask, "So, did you enjoy it? Maybe you shouldn't be parading around in short skirts, honey."

And I wonder how the non-white kids in the class would have enjoyed living in the days before the Civil Rights Movement ... even in the North, where I grew up and where racism is, of course, not unknown.

As far as "libertine culture" goes, sexual freedom has always been available for men if they wanted it, with few if any repercussions. Back in the Fifties, does anybody really think "Our Boys in Korea" weren't availing themselves of prostitutes over there, just as soldiers, sailors, etc. had done in various parts of the world a decade earlier? But let a teenage girl of those eras get pregnant...quite a different story. When conservatives decry "the moral values of today," what they're really saying is, "We don't think women should be allowed the same freedoms as men."

Also note that the reader invokes "the children." As a woman who's child-free by choice, I've become especially wary whenever I see that invocation, no matter whether it comes from the right or the left, because it basically means, "I'm about to suggest that your liberties be curtailed, and I'm going to use 'the children' as an excuse for doing so, even though I don't really have any firm evidence on hand that the curtailment of your liberties will improve their lot."

On the left, it usually means higher taxes for schools, regardless of how well the schools actually use the money they already get. Some dim bint with three kids recently wrote to her local newspaper after a tax-hike went Tango Uniform to say, "The village has failed my children!" (No, I'm not making this up — this is Massachusetts, remember.) Now, this bint lives in a very nice house (with a historical marker — her house is nearly 200 years old!) in a very nice section of a very nice suburb, so she certainly could have afforded private lessons for her offspring in most of the stuff that was slashed, if maybe she and her husband made the ultimate sacrifice and passed up on getting a new SUV again next year. Her email address was not hard to find online; my scathing missive to her about her overweening sense of entitlement was, shall we say, unappreciated by its recipient.

And although liberals and conservatives often make unholy alliances under the "for the children" banner, such as crusades against pornography, typically the right invoke "the little ones" as justification for intrusion into the bedroom, and they do so much more often for women than for men. (Same with intrusion into the doctor's office. Yes, I'm "pro-abortion." Deal with it. As I wrote recently to a local talk-radio host who was bemoaning the current "dearth" of women who wish to reproduce — "only" ghod, a mere fraction of the female population! — I not only "tolerate" abortion, but I encourage it. Sometimes retroactively, like in, say, the 90th trimester. To quote an acquaintance from Usenet, "Put the swingsets BACK on the concrete and let God sort 'em out! Too many morons reaching breeding age nowadays!")

To get back to a more serious note, let's not kid ourselves that the '50s were some sort of Father Knows Best paradise, any more than the entire generation that came of age in the '60s were revolutionary heroes to a man ("and womyn"), with a deep concern for "social justice." Judging by the history I've read, the Fifties were, if anything, an anomaly, and one made possible by quite a bit of government spending at that. 
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