The Seventies: Our First Full Decade of Cultural Decline

(I’ve been utterly preoccupied this week with preparing a re-edition of a novel invisibly published almost twenty years ago: Footprints in the Snow of the Moon. I hope to have it accessible on Amazon by mid-week. In writing the preface, at any rate, I decided that I could post an excerpt here that might not be uninteresting to IC’s audience.)

I heard a television documentary declare recently that Sharon Tate’s murder at the insane hands of the Manson gang was the end of the Sixties.  The remark wasn’t intended chronologically: its implication was plainly that the depraved brutality of the deed corrupted the “Sixties dream” and exiled American culture from the Eden of free love and rejection of social hierarchy.  If only, if only a few crazed loons hadn’t flown off the preserve!

In a far more significant sense, the Manson murders (there were several, by the way) were the climax of the Sixties—the necessary, inevitable dark fruit of a poisoned tree.  When human beings are freed of their inhibitions, the animal impulses that come to the surface vying for control may be lamb-like one instant… and then lupine the next.  Not that any wolf deserves to be defamed by comparison with Charles Manson: no, the human being wholly liberated of shame or guilt is an infinitely more atrocious creature than anything we can find in raw nature.  Thanks to his imagination, he can indulge a lust that has no analogue in any merely brutish chemistry: not a lust for sex or food, but for dominating the will of others—libido dominandi.

In unmooring the individual will from the cables with which two and a half millennia (punctuated by a few notable lacunae) of Judeo-Christian and classical Stoic morality had secured it, the Sixties set a generation of directionless young people loose upon each other—looking high and low for what they “wanted” and what they considered “relevant”, brushing aside entire systems and institutions that they considered “old” or “patriarchal”.  Frankly, this thumbnail sketch of the Sixties ethos is already in error: only the final years of the decade grew “radical”.  Most of the cultural clearing-and-leveling labor was accomplished in the Seventies.

Now, I will not maintain that the decade of flaring cuffs and collars, bushy unisex hair styles, and anorexic pop-singers saw a proliferation of drug-addicted mass-murderers.  Manson, let us say, was the face reflected in the pool at the chasm’s bottom.  For if human beings are distinct from the purely animal in bearing their blessed curse of free will and imagination, their distinction remains grafted upon an animal substrate.  They like to move in herds.  The herd lifts from the individual’s shoulders the complex burdens of freedom.  The hand of Satan that scrawled “helter skelter” in Sharon Tate’s blood no doubt hazed many a young “free spirit” away from the edge.  Indulging impulse was tamed (superficially and for the time being) into a social endeavor, and even a sociable one.  In those passive, pacifist Seventies, it turned out that you could “find yourself” while looking and acting exactly like the legions of “seekers” all around you; and this was indeed unsurprising, because it also turned out that our “self” was essentially a construct of DNA—our instinct to mate, our natural aversion to forced labor, our inbred terror of physical threat, our primate comfort in belonging to a group.

Statistical outliers—rogue elephants—would register a dangerous resurgence in the Eighties, when the cult of pleasure irresistibly fed into a cult of acquisitive hunger.  For most of the intermediate decade, however, I observed my peers to be lingering in an insipid sameness, neither searching for a guru in India like the Beatles nor snorting cocaine to amass royal fortunes on Wall Street.  The Seventies were a trough between crests.  They were a lull in whose wash uninspired hordes supposed themselves to be riding the wild surf.

The word “infantilism” would leap to mind if the present time had not laid yet a better claim to it.  Today, as I sit writing, college students are (as an abandoned cliché once had it) “much as nature might have left them”.  Several years ago already, my undergraduates hadn’t a clue what I intended when, as we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight together, I associated the evocation of fertility in Arthur’s all-green visitor with the recovery of longer days after the winter solstice.  Most of them didn’t know what a solstice was.  Now their younger brothers and sisters are lecturing all of us on the planet’s climate and ordering us to “shut up” if we raise an objection.

In comparison, the overgrown children of the Seventies were at least not rude brats.  And they had developed a decisive gender—very decisive!  In that they could be said to have blazed a trail into puberty that leaves their contemporaries far behind.  Yet their hair still grew long in the pristine ringlets whose first formal shearing brings mothers to tears.  Their bodies were of the supple quality that allows toddlers to absorb infinite falls without taking much harm.  In fact, it was wrong of me to celebrate puberty in them with such confidence; some of the girls, at least, had found a way to resist menstruation.  I know I mentioned anorexia in passing.

Wasn’t abortion part of the same bid for “prolonged innocence”?  Children don’t become mothers and fathers, so… so pregnancies just shouldn’t be happening.  Something was amiss there.  Reset the clock and go back to playing in the nursery: those two months of alarming discomfort never happened.

Well, our overgrown children today appear to have discovered the full Mansonian potential of sacrificing small, fleshy masses with little fingers and tiny noses.  It’s a rite performed to a known god whose name I shall not repeat.  In that respect as in so many others, I prefer the “terminal adolescence” of the Seventies.  Observers of the scene back then could still see that something was wrong; and the gullible young fools sucked into doing the wrong still had, as often as not, an inkling that they had been led astray.  It was a time suitable to be the backdrop of a morality play, whereas today… today we find only the appalling chaos fit for writing what the ancients would have called a catabasis: a journey through Hell.

Why the difference?  I think it consists entirely in this: fifty years ago, vestiges of those twenty-five hundred years of Western culture lingered among the herd’s hoofprints.  Today, they’re all gone.  Fifty years ago, the young who had jettisoned the cargo of Western civilization in favor of “relevance” (which, in terms of college work, involved a much lightened reading list: a very happy accident in the Decade of Pleasure) had still seen Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet and Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons at the movies.  Today’s graduate students have cut their narrative teeth on comic-book superheroes—about whom some of them will probably write a dissertation.  I devoutly hope that a few of our twenty-first century crop will find their way out of Hell, having heeded a spiritual voice within that can easily outshout the Call of the Sociopath if attended to… yet Hell is where they are, where they have to search for exits.  Fifty years ago, exits higher up the road were still open.  They just weren’t being well maintained.

Nothing distresses me more in retrospect about that lost decade than the invertebracy of the Christian church in the face of so many formidable challenges.  As a young man navigating the day’s troubled waters, I had a keen sense that most Christian denominations were responding to the times, “Wait!  Don’t leave us behind!  We’re one of you!  Love, peace, togetherness, a better world… that’s what we’re all about!”  Yes… and that was apparently all they were about: no sin, no guilt, no repentance, no abstinence, no difficult ascent through stones and briars, no resistance to worldly seductions.  No comfort.  In my experience of the Seventies, the Church desperately fought against irrelevancy by rendering itself irrelevant.  Those whom it courted abjectly had already found what they craved in the here-and-now; or if their souls were not wholly drained of breath and secretly craved a lifeline to the Beyond, the Church had cast aside that line in its zeal to fashion a better here-and-now.

Again, one might make precisely the same claim of organized Christianity in the twenty-first century, and make it with a vengeance; but the trend began when trousers rode low, their buckles spread broad, and their bottoms belled wide.

I could write lengthily about the “charismatic” movements that sometimes spiraled into cultism during this decade—but I should be wandering too far afield from the subjects addressed in Footprints, which do not include these.  If I lend any emphasis at all to the matter of religion here, it’s because the novel struck me so powerfully—as I edited it after almost two decades—as groping for the spiritual.  This, too, seems to me characteristic of the Seventies: I mean, groping clumsily after something fulfilling and immaterial… and not being able to find it.  Finding substitutes for it in all the wrong places.  Yet again, yes, one might say as much of any generation of human beings.  The difference is that most such generations were graced with some form of organized faith that offered a clear alternative to sex, drugs, wealth, and power.  The Seventies, having inherited from the previous years a contempt for all reverend institutions, were left with a Church that embraced the secular world’s facile opposition of sex and drugs to wealth and power, as if those pairs defined adversarial ends of a spectrum.

The charismatic represented less a third way—a midpoint on the spectrum—than a retreat into that infantilism (too young for sex, too young for power) typical of the era’s approach to other moral crises.  There was no genuine escape from this world’s traps (and Sartre’s Huis Clos, whose title literally translates such despair, was taught in every sophomore French class).  Those who survived the day’s Charybdis of rival forces circling the same focal void and were at last spewed out upon Odysseus’s stunted fig tree faced a bleak, lonely prospect.

One of my faithful collaborators in the charitable venture, The Center for Literate Values, gave the original novel a kind review (what else would you expect of any officer in a public charity?)—but voiced a mild regret that the book did not investigate faith as a solution.  I won’t say that I took the criticism under advisement in my rewriting.  Rather, in my rewriting, I discovered that the forces I had unleashed in these fairly ordinary Middle Americans (ordinary on the surface—the only level at which anyone is ordinary), most of them well under thirty, needed to “blow up the world” a little more.  There needed to be more frustration with the options offered by a relatively smooth-purring, profitably hedonistic society now free and clear of the Vietnam nightmare.  I don’t say that there needed to be more options: faith often grows exactly because more is needed but no further options are possible.  I felt a considerable pressure to let something intrude into my “dystopic pastoral” which would lighten life’s burdens, paradoxically, by acknowledging that burdens don’t disappear in this life.

I had to make the narrator turn somewhat more consciously mature at the end.  And I did so: that’s the book’s major change.  Some may persist, “But I still don’t see his faith taking shape.  Where’s his faith?”  My answer: not in the things and people of this world—but running straight through them; not in the institutions of this world, but thriving in spite of them.

How many people in fact weathered the Seventies with a spiritual insight of such elevation?  Well… as a novelist, I don’t do statistical analysis.  I try to present the most instructive case, and sometimes I thereby present the least probable.  I will bring to general attention, however, that the narrator’s retrospective places his final thoughts in the late Nineties: he’s had plenty of time to mull it all over.  If you were “on the ground” during that somnolent spiritual war which was the late Seventies, you didn’t yet know that promiscuous sex might harm your body as well as your soul: AIDS was yet unheard-of.  You didn’t know that foreign nationals might plot to murder thousands of your neighbors in the midst of their routine: plane hijackings always ended with a rerouting to Beirut or Tripoli, usually after the passengers were swapped out for a million bucks.  You didn’t know that school children might so much as fantasize about gunning their classmates down: video games and our sociopathologizing “social media” were a glimmer in some developer’s eye.

I doubt that we learned much of anything from the Seventies, in short, while they were being played out.  Any lesson would have come years later (and it doesn’t appear that most of us have learned the full lesson, even fifty years later).  What I like about the Seventies as an artist, though, is precisely that they are “pure” of mixed motive when one scans them for moral cautionary tales.  At the time, no one would have known just how risky to bodily health and mere survival were many trendy new habits.  The only reason for resisting them would have been abstract: a stand in principle uncomplicated by a gun pointed at the head.

My New Novel (Part One)

Yikes–it’s Wednesday!  How many of you suffer from the subconscious conviction that Christmas always falls on Sunday?  No matter.  I had predetermined that I would publish a couple of excerpts this week from the preface to my new novel, Worse by Seven.  My commentary therein isn’t at all different from the sort of thing i usually post in this space, it may induce one or two readers to download the Kindle version or purchase the hard copy, and… and it has become fairly evident to me that most people aren’t reading blogs over the holidays, anyway.  So I’ll indulge in a bit of self-promotion today and Saturday, and otherwise join our fearless leaders in a shutdown of activity.

From the author’s “Polemical Preface”

[The preceding paragraphs describe the immense difficulties I encountered when trying to interest self-styled Christian publications in a much earlier version of this book twenty years ago.]

Still, there was certainly a component of the Christian community (understood in a more general—and also more genuine—sense) that did read novels. A few such people sampled my book before our press collapsed… and of these, more than a few lodged an objection not easily shrugged off as insubstantial. I should note that all members of this “test group” were affiliated with a Southern Baptist institution to which I had a professional connection at the time. The somewhat squeamish character of their reservations, then, was perhaps to be expected—for they were distressed that the novel had chosen to tackle the sexual revolution, especially as it had evolved in the Ivory Tower during the Eighties.

I had witnessed this lurid cultural debacle from a spectator’s seat rather than participating on the field of play—but my seat belonged to the first row of bleachers. Between 1972 and 1984, I studied at three different institutions of higher learning, eventually earning three degrees. Shortly thereafter, I began a career of teaching at various colleges that ended only a few months ago. My exposure to the lifestyle of the cultural elite, therefore, was lengthy.

In my time, I had seen one psyche after another, among both males and females, corroded dangerously by the prevailing ethic. When I began my academic apprenticeship back in the Seventies, the message was overtly hedonistic. (It has lately grown more self-righteously ideological: promiscuity not for pleasure’s sake, but to liberate oppressed minorities.) Back then, one was supposed to approach sex as among life’s most desirable joys, probably surpassing good food and a good sleep in many minds. To more than a few, I have a feeling that it even outranked food and sleep as a necessity. It was an “it”: an acquisition, a thing to be possessed and savored like a German-sweet-chocolate cake straight out of the oven. Educated adults were to understand this “itness” and to abstain from the childish or uncouth attachment of emotional significance to “good sex”. If both parties consented to dedicate their bodies (for a month, a weekend, or ten minutes) to plucking the forbidden fruit off the tree and sucking out its juices, then what ground remained for the moralist to grow livid and call down damnation? Would that bourgeois, probably Christian moralist have the same hang-up about other perfectly natural behaviors like going to the bathroom? More than once, I heard his kind dubbed “anal-repressive”.

The irony about the “anal-repressive” jibe was that it logically eliminated the possibility of love among the Enlightened without their ever having noticed. If sex is a kind of bowel movement involving the other side of the abdomen, what can it have to do with emotion? A physiological need cannot be considered a fine sentiment by any sensible person. The ability to sleep eight hours a night is no proof of delicate feeling. Yet the rock-and-roll mentality that saturated the society in which I grew up (and in which I observed very little growing up) persistently applauded itself as more “sensitive” and “caring” than its glowering, Puritanical parent generation. “All you need is love”—with the supplementation, apparently, of birth-control pills. At the same time, the refrain that “sex is just sex” was beginning to be sung by the same hipsters. I never could get an answer from any of them to the question, “So which one is it?”

Alas, the Christians I have tried to describe in my preamble held aloof from the fray of ideas rather than tearing into the other side’s contradictions, as I myself thought proper (and even compulsory for those of us whose business was ideas). My remote, unsoiled colleagues didn’t resemble the caricature of Christian self-discipline that the “educated” crowd drew of them except, perhaps one respect. They were not a bunch of trap-jawed males keeping their womenfolk barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the stove… but they did feel very uncomfortable about lifting the veils insistently draped by polite society. Let me return now to these ever-vigilant caretakers of propriety.

My book’s sin, for this more literate class of Christian, did not—of course—lie in promoting the “educated” view of sex as a natural joy for the laid-back (and sketchily toilet-trained); nobody ever accused my novel of that, and nobody who had read it ever could. Yet I seemed to have been doing something close to illicit promotion precisely by exploding the sexual revolution’s premises at close range. I was looking microscopically into a matter that good people agree to keep half a mile away, or to approach more nearly only if squinting through lowered eyelashes. It appeared that an author was doomed to make sex enticing (especially to impressionable young girls) even if he systematically, almost categorically revealed its host of spiritual risks in scrutinizing it. The scrutiny was impermissible. It was like giving a child a sip of beer to show him how vile the stuff tastes: what if the kid enjoys it?

Here I must set the scene more thoroughly. My tortured hero, Professor Huston Evans, had reached a vaguely suicidal decision to compete in elite campus dating games after he had followed a celibate adulthood’s path to marriage—only to see his young wife die within months. Evans’s state, at this point, is so deeply depressed that it becomes virtually nihilistic. The happiness achieved by his strictures having turned to ash in his hands, he can recognize no further virtue in fighting the good fight—for tomorrow, indeed, we die.

Through this tormented character, I tested the claims of the sexual revolution one by one. (Readers may believe or not, as they will, that Evans was truly a test vehicle for me and not myself under an alias: the novel isn’t an autobiography—but I’m too old now to bother about those who want it to be.) What I observed in peering imaginatively through this man’s eyes was that sex never has an emotional (I would prefer to say spiritual) value of 0. In other words, I am convinced that sex is never just sex (except, perhaps, in cases of pathological degeneration). Crude men will claim otherwise almost as a boast, or perhaps to challenge younger men to come down and join them in their psychological dunghill. When feminism, with the aid of the Pill, began to morph into a cult of promiscuity during the Seventies, “educated” women took up the same loud, hoarse boast. Female Ph.D.’s were now sounding rather like lifelong playboys whose only fear on earth was pregnancy, with its host of attendant shackles. Some of them, indeed, were sounding more like sailors on shore leave. These were the women with whom Evans felt he had some kind of score to settle. The vision of happiness they most derided was that for which he had most longed, and whose sudden loss after so much waiting seemed (in some associational manner created by his buried grief) all their fault.

And the poor man’s “vendetta”, if irrational, was not utterly incomprehensible. After all, the sexual revolution had indeed reduced his chances of finding what he sought to statistical zero, at least in an academic setting (with not much better odds to be found outside that setting). No man and woman could find enduring, mutually respecting happiness in such a climate; for, to repeat my thesis, a purely sensory savoring of sexual pleasure, as of a fine wine or a crêpe Suzette, is impossible for people of stable emotional health—yet such is the academic formula for sexual relations. The quixotic quest for “emotionally unengaged” sex—for that utterly detached joy in the “object”—must find itself diverted to one of only a few practical destinations. Evans had embarked upon an unwholesome journey to explore many of these, ripping up the scenery as he went.

Most natural for any tender, callow person is the tendency to fall in love with the partner, to be sure; but, among the experienced players of the game in an artificial world like Evans’s, this is also the least likely outcome. Much more often in these highly exploitative surroundings, one develops a contempt of partners as mere deliverers of “the thing” (a perverted sentiment felt especially often by men for their female partners) or a contempt of oneself as having developed an addiction-like dependency upon the thing (probably more common in females, since it requires introspection—but Evans explores these waters, too). Women sometimes want to get “the thing” out of the way as quickly as possible so that they may proceed to learn if they and their partners actually have a basis for friendship. Men seem to me more likely to push the envelope, seeking after ever more violent and unnatural ways to achieve “the thing” once they have grown bored with the old-fashioned way. Evans, I will note here, registers a new taste for physical violence—for a kind of vengeance on the world—before he retreats to the bedroom with his first conquest.

My design, in a way, was to write a little Inferno about de-spiritualized sexual experiences, with different levels of degradation implied here and there. Yet it seemed that most of the few self-identified Christian readers who nosed through that version of the book (and you’ve probably deduced by now that Seven Demons Worse was the first incarnation of Worse by Seven) couldn’t make out my Dantesque intentions. They saw the narrative as profoundly “off-color”. Neither of its versions ever had any explicit descriptions of sex acts or human anatomy (though the definition of “explicit” depends, I suppose, upon the beholder’s eye, and specifically upon how much imagination enhances that eye’s vision)—and, likewise, no references whatever appeared to any form of sex that might be called sodomy. Nevertheless, my harshest critics didn’t like my getting into Evans’s head. Sex is… hush… sex. Jack and Jill withdraw to the bedroom, the door closes, and… oh, Jack! Oh, Jill! Naughty, naughty! No analysis of either character’s reflections and feelings, please. If they’re not married, then something bad has just happened. And if they are… why, apparently nothing bad could possibly happen. The right and the wrong of it is all about being legal, not in the least about state of mind or disposition of the heart.

“I Believe,” “Me, Too”: Women and Transferred or Postponed Rage (Part Two)

Words like “transference” do not typically grow in my author’s garden.  “Postponement” is a little more characteristic of literary haunts, and seems to me (in my amateur’s carelessness) to point to a very similar psychological phenomenon.  That women in Western societies have delayed or suppressed a lot of rage at the male sex is smack-in-the-face obvious to me.  Today I will try to extend my case to the idea of how that rage, broken loose at last, might transfer itself to a particular target (the original source of outrage having vanished, quite often, into murky decades).

First, to recap: I accept that many women today have been abused and violated by men in the past.  It’s grossly unfair to accuse all of us men of such behavior… but we who minded our manners were not “players” in the Seventies and Eighties, only mute bystanders.  Indeed, academic feminism, which I hold ultimately most responsible for the contemporary woman’s plight, began in the assumption that “men get to play around”.  I recall that notion from fifty years ago—I recall such blather flying from the mouth of a high school English teacher; and I further recall muttering to myself in futile protest, “Men in my family don’t play around.”

That was the point of departure: take the most reprehensible behavior of the most undisciplined males… and make it the standard which, in simple fairness, should also apply to females.  Once women began stooping to pass beneath a steeply lowered bar, men either followed their lead or… well, to repeat, some of us were left spectating from the game’s sidelines in gaping disbelief.

I didn’t write this last time, but I should say it now in so many words.  Today’s women don’t live up to men’s expectations: those times are branded “the patriarchy” and consigned to the Dark Ages.  Instead, men adapt themselves to women’s expectations in modern Western society—and the vector of those expectations was decidedly downward in 1980.

A second quick addendum: women are far less apt than men, in my experience, to be shamed by the example of an upright individual and to alter their habits accordingly.  Instead, they are likely to savage the “good girl” mercilessly until they drag her into the mud wrestling.  The female ego is stunningly fragile in that regard: it will sooner transform the whole world into a gallery of the macabre than recognize that it has allowed itself to be disfigured and corrupted.  (In that respect, women are natural progressives: they prefer blundering forward with back firmly turned on a dubious past to brooding over errors in a confessional, corrective frame of mind.)  No doubt, we men bear some of the blame for this.  To become “unpleasant” or to acquire “soiling” experiences is practically a death sentence in the female mind, whereas to a male it can be viewed as the Prodigal Son’s constructive adventure to the bottom.

Imagine, then (and here I pivot to this day’s subject), a woman whose head was filled from early adolescence with the “virtues” of freedom and self-assertion as expressed by giving her body casually to a different male every month, or every weekend… or every day or hour.  (There’s a satanic progression in such conditioning, just as may be observed when the gang recruit’s initiatory shooting graduates to cold-blooded mass-executions.) Imagine, for instance, someone like singer/actress Alyssa Milano: endowed (cursed?) with an angelic face, swallowed up before the age of consent into the most malodorous cesspool of moral degeneracy in American life (the entertainment industry), submitted to more kinds of assault and seduction than were ever seen by patrons of a Tiberian bath house, and finally spewed out with fading looks upon a pile of money with a mic and camera never far away.  At whom would such a person flail, now that she may safely throw a punch or two?  The agents and producers on whose couches she first auditioned have long, long ago drifted far, far out to sea (where, as this male hopes, the fishes gnaw their rotten bones).  The soirées where memory has “redacted” all the details with the thick black stylus of booze and drugs are not likely to yield back their secrets… unless under hypnosis or “therapy”.  In any case, much of life remains to be lived, even though the leading roles for “hot, sexy” young things are no longer forthcoming.  Is it wise to accuse Pilate of the Crucifixion at this point instead of a palace guard?

If I single out Ms. Milano, it’s because a) her voice in these matters is among the most persistent, audible, and imbecilic; and b) because I cannot quite shake myself of utter infatuation with her lovely face (male pig that I am: it’s infuriating sometimes, ladies, to be subjugated to the hard-wired male adoration of beauty).  Yet I should append here a bit of wisdom imparted by the roommate to whose nuggets I was briefly privy at the College of Willian and Mary: plain girls are easier prey, because they’re grateful for any attention they receive.  As the irrepressibly randy old Ben Franklin put it, all cats are gray in the dark.

A man needn’t be so naive as to suppose, therefore, that beautiful women were most tarnished by the sexual revolution’s debacle.  It may very well have been Plain Jane, rather, who had the widest experience of one-night stands in her bid to be pleasing and “hip”.  O vocal chorus of outraged women, address your wails to people like my roommate (who was on probation for drug-dealing, and from whose company I soon parted) for some of those raw mornings on the trash heap—but devote a strophe to Gloria Steinem, as well: louder, longer round of outraged wails.

According to the hair-rending logic of shrieking choruses… who pays?  Now that #MeToo has attracted a supportive mass of victims from the backstreets, whose neck gets fitted for a noose?  Every man a girl has ever dated?  But you can’t hang them all, much as you’d like to.  Who most deserves to be hanged… who, symbolically, is the most compelling villain?

Why, Dad, of course!  You know: the Man Who Wasn’t There, just when you needed him—the guy who was busy making tubs of money to send you to the very best schools.  During your high school years, you could coax a smile from his weary face (on rare occasions when you saw him) by bringing home A’s from Saint Tiffany’s Academy… and you secured an A in English by writing about how women should be allowed to sleep around just as men have always done.  (Did Dad really do that?  You knew he didn’t… he just wouldn’t.)  Then it was off to Rutgers or Purdue; and Daddy Dearest certainly couldn’t have disapproved of keg parties and weekend hook-ups, because he was oh-so-proud of you for getting accepting into one of the nation’s premier ivory towers.  (So maybe… maybe the other stuff really was part of his secret life.)  How were you supposed to figure out, at eighteen, that physically walking these ivy-draped corridors was a high honor, but that listening to the subversive, nihilistic rigmarole echoing through them was a plunge into the abyss?

Why didn’t Daddy explain all this to you, if he approved but disapproved?  It needed sorting out.  Why did he turn his back on you, once more and at the most critical moment?

Yes, Dad should pay… but he’s your father, and you love him (between and behind the times when you hate him).  Daddy should hang for letting you be taken out with the trash… but not precisely Daddy.  Somebody like him.  Some very prominent spokesman for his “values”: for God, country, family, free enterprise… for rationality, objectivity, order… for the System.  The System that let boys treat you like a toiletry before flushing you away.  All rise for the Pledge!

Who gets croaked for all that?  Why, Brett Kananaugh, of course.

To the Alyssa Milanos of this world, and to their Plain Jane sisters, I believe there is a weirdly logical cogency in the “I believe her” professions.  Yes, he did it!  The wrapped-in-flag Mr. Clean who made straight A’s as you were supposed to do and drew the priest’s benediction that was supposed to be yours—all the while enjoying his beer-guzzling games with rowdy mates and being Man About Campus though saving himself for his future bride… what nauseating hypocrisy!  The sham of it all!  The lie of it all!  Oh, yes, the specifics—the details!  They make it look as though the truth is on his side and the lies on yours.  You always get snared in details, because that’s how the game’s creators set it up.  So Justice Kavanaugh gets off on a technicality?  Not on your life!

He’s worse than the boy who wouldn’t stop when you said “no”, the young man whose panting face on top of you doesn’t quite crystallize from the fraternity house’s drunken mob, the boss who showed up in your apartment to go over tomorrow’s presentation and wouldn’t leave… he’s the man who facilitated it all.  The pimp.  The hypocrite who nods, smiles, collects his fee, and shuts the door on you.  He needs to hang till his face turns black and puffy.

I can understand all that.  It’s wrong-headed thinking.  It’s miserably misguided: the degree of transfer is pitiful, surely pathological.  And yet… and yet, is such a transfer of fury entirely irrational?  The lunacy must stop—but the hypocrisy which drives weaker characters to lunacy must stop, as well.

We should no longer surrender our daughters for sacrifice, like Aztec maidens about to have their hearts cut out, to polluted “institutions of higher learning”—and we should no longer patronize an industry that degrades them for our amusement.  Both of these cultural burn barrels are radioactive with hatred of the American mainstream… and the American mainstream, in retaliation, continues to channel its impressionable youth straight into their furnaces.  Why is that?

If You’re Male and Have a Pulse, Then Someone Somewhere Could Ruin Your Career (Part One)

Having begun a few disclosures about my own experiences of the dating game last time, I’m prepared to lay before the public the entire body of wisdom that has accrued to me from my amorous adventures of yesteryear.  But I must post a warning: if death by boredom is possible, my accounts may pose extreme risk to the reader.

(Seriously, there’s a highly relevant point to this excursion—but I won’t be able to reach it in one post, so please stay tuned.)

I was sent to a rich kids’ school by two hard-working parents whose means were very modestly middle-class.  To everyone concerned but them, it soon became painfully obvious that I didn’t belong on the campus of that elite K-12.  An uncomfortably memorable event occurred when I was in sixth grade. A blonde girl whom I was sweet on—but had never found the courage to speak to—told me with a high dose of vitriol that she hated my guts and wished I wouldn’t return next year.  The abuse was so random and vicious that it entered where there was no armor to slow down the arrowhead.

A couple of years later, I conceived the same sort of steal-a-glance-now-and-then obsession for another lovely blonde thing.  (I’ve thought many times since those days about the “not me-ness” represented by the blonde and blue-eyed, as if I were attracted to features as far from the stigma of my own dark-eyed person as possible.)  This girl was of a classier sort, and we were all rather older; so when she became the first and last person I would ever ask on a date in high school, she turned me down very gently.  God bless her soul!  She already had her sights set on a college lad who was Pre-Med—and whom she would marry and divorce in one chapter of what must really have become a Hallmark Channel kind of life.

Meanwhile, the sexual revolution was raging.  I was so eager to depart my high-rent penitentiary that I graduated after eleventh grade (I’d taken extra classes and made top marks in most of them), against everyone’s advice.  Free at last!  What I didn’t know was that I, an innocent of almost unbelievable naïveté, was entering a land where the bad rap on Sodom and Gomorrah had been rehabilitated by a new “love” amply supplied with long hair, weed, and guitars: the academic world.

In the interest of safety, I will skip over the years that left me with three degrees and a fiercely reclusive, misanthropic nature: otherwise, I might bore myself to death.  A single skirmish might well summarize many: an absurd date with the daughter of a Baptist preacher.  I thought she, at least, might be just about my speed.  To my mind, everything had gone great in that initial encounter.  It took me almost half a year to figure out that Miss Sunshine and Salvation really didn’t want to see me again—that she’d expected not to spend that fateful evening at my digs and held me accountable for an extreme humiliation before her roommate.  But… her father was a Baptist preacher!  This just couldn’t be!

Since I’m keeping score… yes, she had strawberry-blonde hair.

I caught on quicker in ensuing episodes of similar caliber; and there were also one or two comedies where the “desperately single” tried to haul me in.  I was lonely, but my life raft wasn’t growing loose and squishy.  While I reached the ripe age of thirty almost as socially inept as I had been at fifteen, I’d managed to become a pretty shrewd observer of people, if only because I personally was seldom more than a supporting actor in any scene.  I wasn’t interested in someone who just needed to check a box in order to win the esteem of a certain social circle.

In any case, graduate school offered few specimens of this kind: on the contrary.  The “best and brightest” were all about building a career and squeezing in diverse romantic interludes as time allowed.  And they were horribly miserable, which probably accounts for why so many had drug and alcohol problems.  The males who hunted through their lives like cavemen looking for just enough meat to last a week were moral invertebrates.  They took responsibility for nothing, though you might mistake them as having principles to hear how they railed against “bourgeois hang-ups”.  Of course, the would-be feminist free spirits who supplied most of their sexual diet’s menu claimed to endorse the same lofty utopian goals; but a girl has to know subliminally when she is being used, even when she keeps repeating to herself that she’s getting even more use out of her user.

As much as I wanted to curl up in a self-pity of utter isolation, I could never convince myself that these “successfully socialized” creatures were were happier than I was—were not, in fact, agonizingly unhappy.  No wonder some of them decided to seek companionship only in the same sex!  That decision was being driven by cultural, not biological, conditioning… and the culture was in a state of advanced decay.