Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Conservatives and Promiscuity

This weekend there was some discussion on NRO's CrunchyCon blog of whether conservatives are willing to oppose sexual promiscuity. I believe that, while it is undeniable that what little discouragement of promiscuity there is comes from conservatives, the people who say conservatives don't do much in this regard are right. Nobody does much in this regard anymore. Go back a few decades and everyone thought society was served by people controlling their sexual passions; nowadays only social conservatives ever say such a thing, for the most part they don't say it often, and when they do everyone knows they're talking into the wind. I'm generalizing, yes, but then this is generally true.

I think the reluctance of conservatives to oppose sexual promiscuity goes back to the reader email Jeremy Beers posted 2/24. It said that there were three main methods of promoting Good, namely

"1) Personal suasion, religious teaching, conversion, appeals
to beauty and justice;
2) Social pressure, the threat of ostracism,
moralistic disapproval;
3) Governmental diktat."

and that Americans have little tolerance for the second one. There's some truth in that. How many of us, when a coworker announces her unmarried twenty-year old child is about to become a parent, are willing to ask, "When is the wedding?" How many of us, when we've just watched a movie with friends and are discussing it, are willing to say anything against the movie having depicted it as completely natural that its unmarried hero and heroine were having it off a few hours after they met? How many of us are willing to so much as frown slightly when someone we know announces he or she is about to start cohabiting?

Anybody? I doubt it. We don't want to seem intolerant or judgemental or, worst of all, prudish. Besides, we're hip, we're not old-fashioned, easily-shocked people; if we say anything against promiscuity people will think we're not only judgemental and un-hip, but too uptight to be any good in the sack. Can't have that.

I disagree slightly with the author of that email I quoted in that I don't think this sort of thing is a product of the American frontier mentality (although there may be a little of that contrariness in it.) I think it's a product of more recently developed attitudes. Americans used to be more willing to say that promiscuity and having children out of wedlock was wrong. For example, when I was a child in the '70s the pejorative term "shacking up" was used to refer to cohabiting outside of marriage; the way adults used the term left no doubt that they considered the practice at worst highly immoral or at the very best a trifle declasse. Even on frothy '70s television, it wasn't considered outrageous that Mr. Roper would refuse to rent an apartment to a (straight) man and two girls; can you imagine that situation on a sitcom today? Mr. Roper would be hauled into court on a discrimination charge faster than you can say "intolerance", and Jack Tripper and the girls, if not actually involved with each other, would be giving us quite a lot of details of their very active sex lives--or else complaining humorously and in detail about how the only sex life they have is with themself.

Nowadays nobody even bothers to be discreet about their promiscuity, much less be chaste. I live in the Bible Belt where we're supposedly more conservative socially, and yet it's nothing any more to hear young coworkers talking about their "booty calls" or hear your cashier casually telling the cashier next to her about how she was having a shower with her boyfriend in their apartment before work, yada yada yada. One of the few things you can bet on not hearing is terms like "shacking up" or "illegitimate"--nobody wants to be so negative as to use terms like that.

And I'm as guilty of it as anybody. Just writing this makes me afraid I sound like a prude and makes me want to add that, "I'm not offended by any of this myself, oh no, it's just that I don't think rampant promiscuity is good for society." I think we could use more people willing to cluck their tongues disapprovingly when promiscuous behavior is mentioned, but I'm not eager to be the one of the first to revive that practice and I'm willing to bet not many conservatives are. It's one thing to say "promiscuity is socially destructive" in an online opinion piece or a church group discussion, but how many are willing to say it to a neighbor or coworker?


I wrote the above Sunday night, but have been hesitant to post it. Like many, I don't want to be mistaken for a prude or a puritanical killjoy. Possibly like some others who've only come to realize that promiscuity is a disintegrative force in society relatively late in life and whose pasts were more checkered or even hedonistic than we now know to be good for people, I have a niggling fear of laying myself open to charges of hypocrisy. Like most, I don't want to be viewed as nosy. Like many, I don't want to be seen as advocating social disapproval.

But I am advocating social disapproval. I don't see how conservatives can get around the fact that if we want to decrease the incidence of family-destabilising behaviors, we have to disapprove of those behaviors. Not just in the things we say in internet discussion groups but in the things we say in real life, to our family, friends, and acquaintances. "I love you, but I can't approve of what you're doing." "You're my friend and you're welcome in my house, but I can't allow you to do X in front of my children." "I like him, but I wish he wouldn't behave like that." Things like that can be really uncomfortable to say, but if we never say them, what is the message we send?

I hope it goes without saying that our words then have to be supported by our actions.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Surely This Kind of "Parade" Is Worth More Points Than a Marching Band?

An AP news story from Saturday says 17 counter-demonstrators were arrested before and during a neo-Nazi march through a predominantly black neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. A few points:

* If the marchers really want to encourage white people to unite, as their signs suggest, shouldn't they be marching through predominantly white neighborhoods?

* I don't know about this particular group, but many neo-Nazi and white supremacist types portray themselves as patriotic Americans. If they're such loyal Americans, why do they align themselves with the National Socialists--enemies we fought and defeated, but who claimed many American lives while we were doing it.

* In a time when America faces real enemies around the world, why are these people wasting their time on this crap? If they must hate, why can't they focus it on the people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life?

* According to the article, 14 of the 17 counter-demonstrators arrested were members of out-of-town groups and the marchers were part of a Minneapolis-based group. What were these outsiders doing in Orlando? If Orlando really wants this sort of thing in its city, can't it DIY it?

* The article said police said the arrested faced charges "including disorderly conduct, battery on a law enforcement officer and wearing a mask". I don't know if it's my proximity to America's Mardi Gras Central or if it's my con experiences and enjoyment of live theater, but one of those charges makes no sense to me.

* To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, "I hate Minnesota Nazis." (And Florida ones, and German ones, and Arab ones... :-) Actually I just hate the ideology; the individuals involved are still God's children, of course, and their souls should be prayed for.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Some of the best news I've heard lately...

A Washington Times article by Scott Galupo asks a question that I've asked myself many times over the past couple of years: where are the movies of heroism related to the War on Terror? This would be good news just because I'm glad someone besides myself is asking the question, but it also relates that Bruce Willis doesn't like the media treatment of the war and is in talks about a movie that will presumably have a more heroic storyline. I can't say I've followed Willis' career with much interest since the early Moonlighting, but I wish him well of this project.

The article does quote Craig Mazin giving a good reason why we haven't seen much in the way of Iraq or Afghanistan movies:

"Hollywood is reasonably cautious when it comes to depicting
any war in progress," Mr. Mazin says. "Doing a movie after a war's conclusion
means that you can frame a narrative safely within the confines of historical
fact and public perception."

I understand and accept this as one reason. There are at least two other good reasons, namely artists' understandable reluctance to compromise their artistic integrity with material that might, without care, stray toward mere propaganda, and (something I hadn't thought of) the military not making it easy for people who are interested in stories of heroism and/or information that might help them depict such stories on screen to find out what they need to know.

I think we all know the main reasons we haven't seen such movies, though. Fashionable lefty attitudes and pacifism (or at least the faux pacifism that condemns all wars that certain countries engage in.) Anti-military feelings. Anti-Americanism and general Western civilizational self-flagellation. And, I think, the attitude of some--too many--contemporary writers and other artists that they are above doing anything that is intended to inspire or comfort ordinary people.

I am not asking for out and out propaganda, especially not anything that demonizes our enemies as less than human. I just want to see some movies with heroes. I'd like one or two of them to be set in Iraq and some to be more general, terrorist-fighting movies. But they don't have to be. Just some movies that portray American military personnel (or soldiers from allied countries) behaving in an heroic way; it could take place in any conflict, even an entirely ficional one, and the characters don't all have to be heroes--just one hero per film with a few reasonably good people in the mix would be great. They don't all have to be--and shouldn't all be--about military people. Moreover they don't really have to be about Americans or anything closely related to contemporary conflicts; I would love to see some heroic, inspiring films set in our past--stories that all of the Anglosphere and Europe could warm to.

You can't tell me that people wouldn't want to see these movies. People have always wanted heroes in their stories; it was true of people sitting around campfires thousands of years ago and it is true of people now. It's why Hector going out to face Achilles still thrills us, why John Wayne movies still have a viewership, why any story with a mother sacrificing for her child or any news item with a man risking his own life to save a stranger touches us. It's why Maximilian Kolbe's story is more affecting than that of some saints--his last sacrifice made him a hero, as well as a saint. It's why the song wasn't called, "I'm Holding Out for an Anti-Hero".

You can't tell me that contemporary people will no longer accept stories with heroes who are in the military. One of the reasons Babylon 5 was so popular (just a decade ago) was that we got to see people being heroic--people, human and alien, making personal sacrifices for the greater good--and some of those people were military.

You can't tell me you can't make a good film that's also patriotic and inspiring. Laurence Olivier's Henry V could well be called propaganda, but it is still worth watching today. Heck, just reading Henry V makes me want to cry out, "God for Harry, England, and St. George!" and I'm not English.

You also can't tell me that it's impossible to make a good film about a war that's still going on. Mrs. Miniver puts the lie to that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The past two or three weeks I've increasingly felt that history is speeding up--you know, having one of those times it occasionally does when events seem to move more quickly than usual, even to cluster. The bombing of the Shiite mosque in Iraq today--not to mention the reprisals--didn't alleviate the feeling any; it made me feel quite sick, in fact, and I'm not even Muslim. The annoying part--other than the fear and sorrow we can feel over the loss of life that turbulent times often bring--is not knowing which of the many things seeming to go wrong are important, knowing that only history will tell that tale or tell if the feeling is even right or not. Hindsight is relatively easy; being in history is confusing. Prayer for those who have more active roles in history-making can sometimes seem a flimsy defense against chaos.

Maybe I just pay too much attention to the news?

One good distraction just started though. NRO started a book blog yesterday to discuss Rod Dreher's newly released book, Crunchy Cons. I forgot to pre-order the book, so I don't have a copy, but the blog is interesting. A little "How should we live?" discussion beats "What the hell is going on out there?" worrying.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More of That "Freedom of Choice" We Hear So Much About

Wal-Mart has chosen not to carry the "morning after pill" in its pharmacies, except in Illinois where it is required to do so by law. Now three women, reportedly backed by abortion rights groups (big surprise), have sued Wal-Mart for not carrying the morning after pill in its Massachusetts stores. They sued on the grounds that state law requires pharmacies to stock all "commonly prescribed medicines", which I believe is the same reason Wal-mart is required to carry it in Illinois--though it remains unclear to me how commonly morning after pills are prescribed and whether megadoses of hormones given to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg really constitutes "medicine". Nevertheless, the Massachusetts pharmacy board has ruled that Wal-Mart must carry the drug. If forcing a business to sell a product it does not want to sell constitutes a blow for freedom, then we may count this as a victory for freedom of choice and assume the Massachusetts pharmacy board is pro-freedom--you might even say pro-choice.

One of the plaintiffs applauded the ruling, because now her patients won't have to "shop around." Yes, heaven forbid that.

NARAL Pro-choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League), either anticipating this victory or celebrating after it, announced that it would be bombarding Wal-Mart with letters urging it to carry the drug. Well, good for them; all Americans have the right to try to influence a business' decisions by telling it what we, as consumers, want to buy. But it goes further than that. NARAL Pro-choice America's argument, in their petition, is that Wal-Mart has no right not to carry the drug. Wal-Mart's choice not to stock it interferes with a woman's decision to take the drug--or the doctor's decision to prescribe it or--well, it interferes with someone's decision about something. And that interference doesn't promote freedom. Fortunately, if Wal-Mart doesn't change its mind and choose to carry the drug in all states, the lawyer for the Massachusetts women says he is ready to sue in other states. Viva freedom!

I must say I find this all very instructive. I never before knew that if I couldn't find a product I wanted at one store, I could sue to make them carry it. Silly me thought I had to go down the road to a store that did carry that product. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to buy a loop turner for sewing and the Wal-Mart fabric department doesn't carry them, so I foolishly went to Hobby Lobby and bought one. Now I know I can just sue the store to make it carry everything I want so I don't have to shop around.

For instance, I have checked several Wal-Mart stores and two Sam's Clubs in south Mississippi and Louisiana multiple times over the past few years and, as best I can tell, Wal-Mart does not carry Catholic bibles in its stores--no, not even in south Louisiana, which has a high proportion of Catholics. Clearly they are trying to limit my freedom of choice to buy those products. Because Wal-Mart did not carry them, I was forced to shop around for my purchases, and if I want to buy more copies I will be forced to shop around again, rather than enjoying the convenience of buying my Bible at the same time I buy my eggs and toothpaste at the local Supercenter. Or I would have been forced to do so. Now I know I can simply sue them and force them to carry all the products I want.

And now I think about it, why should anyone have to shop around for anything? Everything should be available at Wal-Mart. If my neighbor wants to buy the latest copy of Hustler or Spanking Feminists, why should he have to shop around to find an adult bookstore? Shouldn't he have the right to pick it up as he goes through the Wal-Mart checkout line with his milk and doughnuts next Sunday morning?

I assume NOW will also want to see freedom of choice extended and will be carrying ads for these products in their newsletter. (Yes, they advertise products; I used to get the newsletter.) And feminist bookstores will start carrying Phyllis Schlafly's oevre, lest their customers be forced to shop around for her books. It's all about freedom.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Random Thoughts

Am I the only one who looks at the new gaucho pants and thinks of Spock and Kirk's pants from the first Star Trek?


People--okay, women--often complain about the unending nature of housework, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone complain about the unending nature of shopping. No sooner do you do a big grocery shopping expedition, than you discover you're low on soy sauce and have to start the list for the next grocery trip; no sooner do you replace the flourescent bulb in the kitchen than you break your butter dish lid and have to buy a new one. It's just as bad as the dishes you do today only to have to do again tomorrow, yet we have more tolerance for it.


One of life's largely unsung pleasures is the pleasure of challenging other people's assumptions. The only thing I miss about vegetarianism was the kick I got out of being able to point out to people who knew I was a vegetarian that I approved of hunting.


If you find yourself having a conversation about the relative merits of duct tape and electrical tape to hold your breasts up when wearing outfits that are too revealing for a bra, it may be time to reconsider your clothing choices.


If animals are really, as the bumpersticker has it, "little people in fur coats", shouldn't PETA throw red paint on them?


Why, when the food associated with southern Louisiana is so good and when New Orleans Mardi Gras is (or was?) such a big thing, is the dessert associated with Mardi Gras in Louisisana so bad? Admittedly I've never had King Cake in New Orleans itself, but I've had some that are supposed to be good and as pastries go they were pretty mediocre; most of the ones I've tasted didn't quite make it to mediocre.


Young Adult novels are just the right length for making into movies. With ordinary, for grown-ups novels, a lot has to be cut out, both because there may be a lot of subtle, interior stuff that is hard even for good actors to depict and because of length. But a YA novel or a children's novel--some people call them "chapter books", I believe--can be put on the screen with little or nothing cut out. There should be more films made from good YA novels.


As any haiku fan can tell you, a very few words can say a lot. One of the posters from the recent Muslim demonstrations says volumes: "FREEDOM GO TO HELL". Mind you, another calling for the beheading of all who "insult" Islam was also succinct, but it just couldn't beat the pithiness of that four word summation of Islamofascist thought--"FREEDOM GO TO HELL".

Pharmacies Should Carry Mental Purgatives

It's amazing the amount of mental junk that we carry around. For example, for years part of my brain has been working on the question of why the Figurines commercial had the woman singing, "I love how I look in my gabardines, so I keep myself fit with Figurines." Well, it rhymes of course, but those were '70s style gauchos, and I never heard them called gabardines and who would call them that--no one says, "I love how I look in my twills/crinkle cottons/houndstooths"--so why have it? Would the audience even know what "gabardines" was supposed to refer to if she weren't kicking up her legs as she sang? Or am I just a non-sophisticate who never knew that all the cool people used to call their gauchos gabardines?

I think the part of my mind that keeps worrying over this ancient commercial is the part that should have been trying to get me into MIT. Or at least keep track whether I need to buy more postage stamps or not.

I also wonder if this is something that has only started happening since the advent of mass media, or if ancient Romans used to find themselves unable to enjoy the latest gladiator spectacle because their mind was insisting on going over the odd word choice in that play they saw twenty-five years ago.