Friday, October 30, 2009

MARK SCHMITT'S PROSPECT FOR AMERICA

Well, I just finished my print copy of ‘The American Prospect’ for November.

Several of the articles in this issue seem to be circling around the same trope, and I think an interesting overall course-change can be gleaned from plotting the trajectories of the individual short articles.

On page 10, Mark Schmitt has a one-page piece entitled “Title IX Dad”. Frankly, my whiskers always twitch when I see an avowedly ‘liberal’ (as the term is nowadays defined, which really isn’t liberal at all) magazine pundit start gushing about parenthood. ‘Family’ and ‘dad’ (and – who can deny it? – ‘male’) haven’t been such really popular topics for the past couple-four decades among the chattering elites.

So, the old Izvestia and Pravda reader wonders: what are they up to now with this piece?
It’s a gush piece: ‘dad’ is mooning over his little girl-child playing baseball, thank to “Title IX”.

That 1972 Title, you may recall, imposed “the requirement that federally-funded education programs not discriminate by gender (with extensive exceptions for single-sex colleges, fraternities, sororities, and beauty pageants” [parenthetical comments part of Schmitt’s text].

You might have wondered, back in that far-off and irretrievable era, thinking that it seemed much ado about not so much. But of course, the ‘thinking’ behind it was that there is no difference between a male and a female (Nature’s and Evolution’s rather substantive ‘discrimination’ notwithstanding) and if per impossibile you could pour a little-girl ‘self’ into a little-boy body, the little-girl would rather instantaneously function rather well as a ‘boy’. It was all a matter of ‘gender’, which was ‘merely’ a social construction and a matter of perception.

Title IX then would be a bit of house-keeping legislation that would simply bring the nation into conformity with ‘reality’ (although a reality-per-impossibile). As with Roe, the Party-line was that after just a few years of its elite guidance the blundering herds of American society would be properly re-educated into ‘reality’, or ‘the new reality’. Neat.

You may recall Congress mandating as well that Little League change its charter to refer to “young people” as opposed to “boys” and to drop its goal of promoting “manhood”. That’s worked so well for Us, hasn’t it? The government got out of the manhood business, since – apparently – little boys don’t need any training or formation in either character or masculinity. Are they presumably just going to blossom into a decent maturity and maleness and manhood?

Come to think of it, that’s what the Flower Children presumed: that if you just let everything ‘be’, it would ‘naturally’ blossom into its ‘natural goodness’ and not be twisted by – they channeled Rousseau here – ‘society’ and ‘conformity’ and, of course, all those unreal ‘perceptions’.

Around the same time Boy’s Town had to change its entire operating concept (not, if I recall correctly, Girl’s Town). And all-male colleges much the same. Although, neatly, female colleges were considered the very epitome of cutting-edge.

The driving force, ya’see, wasn’t forming youth – it was that the boys had gotten a lot of neat stuff and now deserved zilcho, while the girls should get not only their dessert but the boys’ dessert as well. It was a piece-of-the-pie sort of thing; culture and youth, mastery and maturity would take care of themselves, once freed (and perhaps poured into new moulds).

Government by Flower Children – ah, that takes Us back! Summer of Love, 1967, summer revolutions (as if winter would never come round again) – wheeeee!

Schmitt tiptoes by a little bit of problematic ‘evidence’: in this Year of Grace Two Thousand and Nine, his little dickens is the only girl on her Little League team. Nor, curiously, does he make any fuss about that (‘disparate impact’, subtle discrimination, de facto discrimination – all the usual suspects). No, he’s just a happy dad and family man, gushing over his little munchka out there on the field.

But in case you might be wondering if you aren’t being taken for tea at the Mad Hatter’s just on the other side of the famous Looking Glass, Schmitt starts ladling and pouring with a will. “As one watches these kids round the bases and cheer one another on, it’s also obvious that there’s a lot more to it than just athletics [italics mine]. This generation of children is unfailingly decent to one another, respectful of one another’s different personalities [including gender-based differences, I wonder?], and attentive to and proud of one another’s successes. The petty cruelties of childhood are rare.”

Oy. If your dentist knew you were gobbling this much treacle … best to both brush and floss after reading this confection.

The kids sound like little adults – which isn’t quite the purpose of the thing. Although it makes Schmitt and his chattering sistern and brethren seem like highly cultured and successful child-raisers. I get the idea he’s looking to congratulate himself and all the Utopia-land Gang who have been pushing all this ‘progress’ for decades.

I wonder sometimes about their own childhoods, these elite chatterers. Children have a ‘secret’ world, hidden from adults not by the children but by the inattentiveness or selective observations of adults themselves. So whether almost four decades of Title IX has eradicated “the petty cruelties of childhood” (which have been around since the dawn of the species, I’m going to bet) is a good question. Although for Schmitt, the question seems to have been ‘answered’; or at least must be considered to be solved by anyone who wants to keep his/her Correct union-card. Or Party-card.

If he’s right about the elimination of petty cruelty, then are We presumably on the cusp of a no-cruelty America as soon as these munchkins and munchkas grow up? It would have to be a pretty recent miracle, since the cohorts just a few years ahead of them are texting indiscreet photos of themselves to each other. Probably on personal communication devices purchased for them as rewards by still-employed elite parents who wish to reward the eradication of the aforementioned “petty childhood cruelties”.

Oy.

He pulls himself away from his enlightened musings, there on the sidelines of the game (he doesn’t mention the score or which team won – but then again, as We are now finding out in Iraq and Af-Pak, winning isn’t everything, or maybe shouldn’t even be a primary consideration … demonstrating that Title IX has proven to have had great effect far beyond the gender/culture-wars and is now working its magic in real wars, real preventive wars of occupation; funny how the night moves, as the songster saith).

“What can we take from these moments?” quotha. First, “that small gestures toward equality and fairness can have vast implications for the future”.

Who can deny it? But of course, comrade citizens, “equality” and “fairness” are code words that are hugely freighted. “Equality” as Correctness understands the term means that there is no difference between the little male and the little female ‘self’, and the female self should have every right to an equal chance at a male body, or at least role. Interesting theory, and deserves some significant and extended research – although not necessarily a hastily-deployed national policy. But – ooops – too late.

Ditto “fairness” which means that piece-of-the-pie stuff, with no actual thought as to whether the societal arrangement reflected any deeper reality or was connected to other substantive realities within the ‘body’ of culture and civilization.

The entire process was carried on in the manner of Shylock’s dampdream: I have a right to what I want here, I can get it, and I can do it without causing any dangerous consequences – and even if some dangerous consequences arise, that’s the way the cookie crumbles and just deal with it. Oh yeah!

Marvelous. Although I was rather firmly of the impression, back there in my youth, that Shakespeare (that dead, white, European male) had pretty much demonstrated the rather grievous shortcomings in Shylock’s analysis and his business plan.

But Schmitt is going somewhere with this. “Title IX, with all its limits [italics mine], was a nudge that set off a chain of social transformations”. Just in case you were thinking that it caused more trouble than it was worth. But of course, Correctness also decrees that a ‘transformation’ is by its nature a good thing, and will have only good consequences, or at least mostly good consequences, or at least that its good consequences won’t be outweighed by its bad ones (which it would be ‘insensitive’ and ‘backlash-y’ to notice even if they existed).

Still, so far so Correct and so predictable. The usual liberal gush and mutual … back-patting and high-fiving. Chardonnay all around, barkeep, and keep’em coming!

But that “with all its limits” sounds a new note. A note of regret? Circumspection, certainly, which – have I not gotten all the Memos? – has been for quite some time a ‘former concept’, an ‘abstraction’ that once was discussed but is no longer part of the working vocabulary of New Feminist Man. Is it being – and does Stalin agree? – ‘rehabilitated’? May its name once again be spoken out loud without an immediate delation to the Thought and Correctness Police?
Interesting times indeed! I haven’t felt this excited since the Wall came down, twenty years and a lost eternity ago.

Or, as once happened in 1956, may we sodden masses expect some change-that-is-not-to-be-seen-as-a-change after Mr. Big addresses (secretly) the Party Congress?
And by the most amazing coincidence, Schmitt moves to his second point: “Many liberals have become wary of getting too far ahead of the culture”. Say what the frak what? This is not a straw in the wind, Comrades; this is a complete refurbishing of the Kremlin décor.

Is this the opening gambit in a mistakes-were-made exculpation by Party cadres who now would rather not be too closely associated with the Revolution? A sort of oh-well-let’s-just-move-on-and-forget-about-it replay of 1989?

Fuhgeddaboutit?

I had mentioned in the first of my 3-Post miniseries on feminism last week that it seemed to me that the cadres were anxious to brassily declare victory and then get out of town, along the lines of the late Teddy K (about whom more below). And now here’s Mark Schmitt and the trusty liberal mag ‘The American Prospect’ informing the cadres that it’s – ummmmmm – not such a good idea to spit in the face of the country that ‘you just don’t get it’ and then go throw throw a revolution (or two or six).

For a moment I can see Clouseau indefatigably not-noticing his most recent frak-up and moving with undentable self-satisfaction and self-confidence into the next scene.

But no. The cadres billed their ‘creative destruction’ and ‘social transformation’ as a ‘revolution’, and they meant it, and they copied the methodology of those ace practitioners Lenin and Stalin and threw in the PR chops of the late Reichsminister fur Propaganda as well.

Now they want to start backing away. But without fixing anything because – hey! – they didn’t break anything. The revolution was a huge success. It’s just that … well, that was then.

Yah.

He is assured by “sensible liberal legal scholars” (as it were) that in the matter of Roe, the revolution “got ahead of changing attitudes on reproductive rights”. Well, of course you did, Comrade – it was, after all, a revolution and you said so yourself. What else does a revolution do but ‘get ahead’ of attitudes? Indeed, Comrade, the ‘revolution’ is not a tea-party; it reaches out and grabs ‘attitudes’ by the scruff of the neck and by the seat of the pants and by the very throat … and shoves them in the Correct direction that the lumps are too unenlightened to take under their own steam. As Dzherzhinsky said of his police organization: ‘The Cheka does not investigate; it strikes’. Just so.

Schmitt goes on to lay out – as if describing an accomplished fact – that “many of us are also hesitant about pushing the point too hard in areas of the country that don’t seem quite ready”. Ah. And where precisely would that not be?

And if you are indeed backing away from the wrack of your happy-face revolutions, and perhaps even looking to mend fences with the former ‘lumps who just don’t get’ and the former ‘male backlashers’, then is this half-snotty stab at those parts of the country that “don’t seem quite ready” really advisable?

But is this the New Direction for the revolution? Are We seeing here the Central Cadres letting the many committed minions know what the new Party line is? How to think? How to think about the dead white males (who are, alas, not quite dead and actually even may be getting better)? How to think about the self-hating females who are still letting themselves ‘be defined’ instead of fearlessly defining and forging themselves? O brave new world, to have such people in it!

Is this going to be America’s 1989?

Are the cadres of Correctness trying to reverse course and get away from the wreck while still congratulating themselves on their victory over “the vanquished”? Are We going to see a ‘kinder, gentler’ revolution? One that actually respects The People and a democratic politics and the profound complexities of social and cultural change?

Is 1969 suddenly gone? 1999, when the revolutions and the Correct cadres were poised for their utter sweeping ‘vanquishment’ of the sodden, lumpish mass of American society and culture?

As Miss O’Hara would say: Mah, mah, mah.

And – can it be? – that in order to rehabilitate themselves, the Cadres of Correctness, on the orders of the Central Committee, are going to rehabilitate Us as well? That We are no longer lumps who just don’t get it and no longer hateful backlashers seeking to oppose the revolution simply in order to continue the myriad oppressions of the past (fill in the blank) years of human existence? That We may once again refer to Ourselves as ‘Americans’ out loud?

Let me share something. I want a piece of the Wall.

NOTE

Well, it looks like a good-sized Post and I didn’t even get to the piece on ‘The Polanski Paradox’ and on Teddy Kennedy’s gleaming legacy on behalf of - waitttttttt for ittttttttt - “the working class”. Those will be in the next Post.

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