Here’s the second half of my “unacceptable” essay about Roy Moore–and it may just be my comments about Mr. Lincoln’s bloody dictatorship that got the door closed in my face.
I myself didn’t actually court younger girls very often in my thirties—but I knew those who did. At a large Southern Baptist church which I visited frequently (since it was the only place in town to meet single women other than a bar, and marginally the more wholesome gathering of the two), we were classed in Sunday School rigidly according to age; and, yes, I observed more than one thirty-something man to forsake the abundant company of wounded divorcees and go hang out with the college girls. The age gap always froze me in my tracks when I contemplated the maneuver. I was afraid that a younger woman might be interested in me only and precisely because I was older: that is, she would assume that I was “experienced” in various and mysterious ways rather than that I was a bookish, retiring person who had hunkered down as the hurricane of the Sexual Revolution raged overhead. I’m sure certain people who wished me no particular good must have whispered various ingenious theories about how I had come to remain single at thirty-two. In fact, I was occasionally apprised of the speculation by busy “well-wishers” who “just thought I should know”.
Now, I quite obviously cannot attest that my situation and Roy Moore’s were closely parallel in the manner that I have just suggested. I hope they were. That would allow me to let the Judge off the hook for everything except some very clumsy prevarications in the throes of “Yankee-induced panic”. I can further imagine, without much of a stretch at all, a fourteen-year-old girl whose parents have split up being titillated by the prospect of drawing attention from an older, “more experienced” man. And I can imagine her creating fantasies that come to have the vividness of reality for her—perhaps to the point that she holds the older man responsible for not finding her more interesting and considers herself somehow violated by him. Look up a classic black-and-white film with Lawrence Olivier and Sarah Miles titled Term of Trial if you want to view a good example of just how such things can happen.
I do not believe that Moore had the sort of encounter with the fourteen-year-old which she has described, forty years later, as a middle-aged woman. It would make no sense. Having exercised gentlemanly restraint around the older teenagers (who had reached the legal age of consent), as all parties acknowledge who acknowledge anything at all—and this excludes Roy himself, at least during Hannity’s interview—why would the same man then strip naked before a child? In the scenario I have portrayed, Moore would most likely have an interest in younger women precisely because he was striving to preserve an abstemious Christian lifestyle before marriage. Had this not been his objective—believe me—he could have found dozens and dozens of playmates to party with in the pre-AIDS, hypersexualized Seventies. Yes, even down in the land of cotton, where there’s a steeple on every street corner.
A Southerner, a Christian, a white male… Roy Moore is everything our intelligentsia loves to hate. The only thing needed to fill out his profile, as far as the opinion-makers are concerned, is a trail of corpses indicating the activity of a serial killer. I do wish this man were not so verbally klutzy; and, as a Christian myself, I wish he would not retreat to Bible-thumping every time he senses that the jackals are closing in. Just because all martyrs suffer doesn’t mean that everyone who suffers is a martyr.
On the other hand, I have to reject the pronouncement of Gregg Jarrett (for whose views I have the utmost respect) that Moore is an antinomian renegade just because he has defied the Supreme Court. “Renegade” seems to me a pretty accurate descriptor for more than one of the nine worthies who sit on that august body. Then, too, Mr. Jarrett, you must understand that some of us in the South, even now, have not forgotten the hypocrisy of a central government that invaded its member states for exercising a constitutional freedom, all the while sanitizing its act by decrying the atrocity of slavery yet tolerating the institution in “loyal” states and freeing Southern slaves only to serve as cannon fodder, imprisoning publishers and legislators in states as remote as Illinois and New York for resisting Mr. Lincoln’s draft and his sanguinary policies, and carting away plunder while leaving once-prosperous cites in ashes. Roy Moore speaks to those memories, as sublimated as they have grown and as unhappily knotted as is his drawling tongue. The government in Washington, Mr. Jarrett, observes what clauses of the Constitution it feels like reading on what days it finds itself in an observing mood.
We revere the Constitution in the South. The faraway, faceless government that claims to rule by constitutional authority? Not so much.
Roy Moore, if you are that caricature of a Christian gentleman that they make of you in the corridors of power… then God help us, and I only hope that forty years have taught you how to keep a belt buckled.