Just this week, I stumbled upon Mary Eberstadt for the first time. Mary’s an essayist, novelist, lecturer, research fellow-ette at the Hoover Institute and, damn her eyes, a woman conservative intellectual. Worse? She’s a Christian and pro-America. Much of her work is dedicated to looking at what most of us spend a lifetime turning away from in silent screams: Unintended Consequences. I think the pundit George Will drolly described her best as being “…intimidatingly intelligent.”
She flat-out blames much of today’s societal soul sickness on 1964, the arbitrary starter’s pistol of — drum roll please — The Sexual Revolution. I’m just a backwater irritant who wears the same pair of jeans 365 days a year, to funerals or boat launchings. But, I think Mrs. Eberstadt was spot-on and yet, still a step away from what might be the true answer. Or, she’s absolutely correct and I am left alone, using my index finger to make amusing bubble noises with my lips and passing it off as Profound Thought.
I vividly remember The Sexual Revolution. I participated as a P.O.W., watching from behind bars as men and women indiscriminately had at it. The Women’s Movement was a centuries-in-the making grand revenge, only where the offended shoots themselves in the high heel, followed by smugly noting: “That’ll fix your wagon, Little Mister…” Much of history is written from the male loincloth or lack thereof. Guys think of conquest and sex, while making chimpanzee noises. You know what we’re fixated on even more? Breasts. Men will launch themselves headfirst into a pit of rabid flaming weasels just for the chance to see an extra unbuttoned blouse button. We’ll howl at the moon if that comes with a come-hither sultry smile. Along comes 1964 and women fight back by burning their bras and sleeping with Charles Manson, whom, I believe, went to Canyon.
No “I love you” needed. No dinner and a movie. No “Did you want to know that my name is Shirley?”
That’ll show us guys.
Mrs. Eberstadt has written, with an embarrassing accuracy, how the go-go ’60s planted the seeds of this devilish, soul-killing angst our society is writhing under today. Her book, “Adam and Eve after the Pill,” comes out next week. It connects the dots from the tearing down of not just American institutions, but a righteous and wise way of life. “Tearing down” was 14 train stops ago. We are flirting with the suicide of one of the grandest experiments in world history. Like a country of homicidal maniacs, we tear and rip at morality. We lunge for its throat.
Rage rules America. The country stumbles about, screaming, cursing, tearing at its own eyes. Murder. Wickedness. Loss of a sense of true self and purpose. What I find simply insane is how a good portion of the alleged grown-up population embraces oppression, the crazy notion that a politician or bureaucrat will have our best interests at heart. We’re awash in intellectual stubbornness, stupidity and phantasmagoria — the belief that the most preposterous falsehood is true. Wisdom is an endangered species.
Modern souls we, we laugh at the corniness of holy book-thumping ancestors with their tedious thee’s and thou’s. We long ago stopped scoffing at an ancient word — wicked. Today, “wicked” is something spectacularly yet subtly cool. The origin of “wicked” is unknown, but, first accounts connect it to the Old English term for a witch, a sorcerer, someone or some thing that casts a spell. “Wicked” appeared 119 times in the 1611 version of the King James Bible. Today, in the 2001 English Standard version, it appears just 61 times. And yet, I’d place a small wager that all of us, no matter what our religion, spiritual path or complete indifference, can, at the end of the day, ask themselves a simple question: “What did I do that was wicked today?”
It’s a darn squirmy word. Even on my best of days, I can look back at the end to reflect and wince. Yup. I did — something — wicked. Small, perhaps. But, wicked nonetheless. Mrs. Eberstadt tirelessly writes that while we’ve always had our dark side and darker urges, as a society, we’ve pretty much abandoned our acknowledgement of the wicked. In fact, we unknowingly worship — wickedness. Some applaud transsexual exotic dancing — in nursery schools. Our everyday media is pornographic. A few years ago, it would be considered barbaric to watch two men beat each other bloody in cage matches. The fighters aren’t the bad guys. It’s the hundreds of thousands toothily cheering in the stands. The slow motion of a floating detached retina makes the 6 o’clock news. Mobs loot stores. Drug addicts run our streets. And yes, Mrs. Eberstadt firmly places the blame on the permissiveness of the 1960s. But, the enemy is far more ancient than hippies, topless bathing suits or doing the white man’s overbite with steno pool in the supply closet. But, this goes deeper than The Sexual Revolution. We all suffer from the chronic inability to recognize something very real. Ultimately powerful. And always with us.
Mrs. Eberstadt, the kindliest priest, me, all of us, rarely notice what walks shoulder to shoulder with sinners to saints.
There is such a thing as a devil. I think it was Baudelaire who was one of the first to warn us: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
We’ve been warned 10,003 times. And yet, we just don’t see. Not today. Not tomorrow.
My mother-in-law — one of them (:-) — once told me: “The devil doesn’t care what you’re upset about. Just that you’re upset.”
Look around. Or better yet. Look at yourself. Are you upset?
Do the math.
Someone in Psalms noted that God is closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.
But, so is an ancient enemy…
If you get a chance, go read Mary Eberstadt’s works. Or, better yet, go visit johnbostonbooks.com, buy some books and leave nice words on Amazon about John Boston because he needs the money more than Mary…