I’m angry. I’m fed up with nasty remarks about Mitt Romney from the Obama campaign, and from the mainstream media – which amount to the same thing. The attacks on Romney’s business career with Bain Capital are expected – that’s politics. But now, Romney is accused of causing a woman to die of cancer, as well as being a felon and a tax cheat, and “torturing” a dog. What, no child molestation?
Romney is also accused of having a polygamist grandfather. This is untrue – his great grandfather was a polygamist. But so what? Lincoln observed, “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” Meanwhile, the critics ignore the fact that Obama’s father was a polygamist. What the critics really find offensive is not polygamists but Republicans.
There have been repeated references to Romney’s Mormon faith. “Romney magic underwear” gives 1,010,000 results on Google. Charges that running mate Paul Ryan is “anti-woman” may be thinly veiled references to Ryan’s Catholicism.
But this is 2012, not 1960. One would have thought that in 52 years, religious bigotry directed against a presidential candidate would have gone out of style with the rants against Jack Kennedy’s Catholicism. One would be wrong. Check out this 2011 Newsweek cover:
Romney was photoshopped (not cartooned) as a crazed fanatic, jumping up and down holding the Book of Mormon. What’s next – ridiculing a candidate for biblically based Christian beliefs? Oh wait, we already saw that with Michele Bachmann.
In my day, a candidate might be criticized for his political views, but – since the time of Kennedy – never belittled because of his religion. We remembered the Holocaust and racial segregation. We learned the dangers of seeing a group of human beings as less than human. Sadly, what was learned with difficulty can be forgotten with ease. They say times have changed. No, people have changed. I must be getting old.
In fact, I’m so old, I can remember when:
Things were not disposable.
I went through high school and university with a fountain pen. I learned to drive on a Ford that my parents owned for 12 years. I learned to take care of knives and scissors, because they were expensive and lasted for decades. I watched TV with my parents on a black-and-white set that outlasted them. When my American-made portable radio went out, I took it to a repair shop – I didn’t throw it in the trash and buy a cheap new one made abroad.
There were no electronic gizmos that had to be replaced with newer models every year or two. I had what I needed, but my parents didn’t flood me with expensive devices − there weren’t any. And there were no shoddy articles made in China by oppressed workers, so I learned to keep my things and take care of them.
People were not disposable.
Divorce was rare. As I recall, none of my friends’ parents were divorced. The rate of broken homes was higher among minorities, but it was much lower than it is today. Most kids were raised by a married couple − that is, a woman married to a man. That I need to define “married couple” tells a lot about what has changed. I learned to keep my relationships and take care of them, too.
I was taught that my role was to find a profession and find a wife. Unlike today’s kids, I was never told that my role was to “find myself.” Everyone assumed I already knew who I was − which turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Children are born narcissistic. They need to be taught to be aware of the needs and feelings of others. But if we teach them to “find themselves,” they have a convenient excuse to remain narcissists all their lives. As we are discovering to our sorrow, narcissists make inconsiderate spouses, selfish parents, whining children, hostile drivers, complaining workers, ungrateful bosses, bad citizens − and a colossally self-absorbed president.
People knew the meaning of a handshake.
People often did business on a handshake. There were few lawyers, but who needed a lawyer when you trusted the other guy? He didn’t need one either, because he didn’t make a contract while already planning to break it. And there were no prenuptial agreements, because people didn’t get married while already planning to get divorced.
If you rear-ended a car, you got out and said, “I’m sorry, it’s my fault.” I did that twice. The first time it saved me from a boost in my insurance rates. The second time it saved me from a beating. “I’m sorry” prevents a lot of trouble, but now hardly anyone says it, because lawyers tell us it leads to lawsuits. This may be true, but only because we allow it, in the hope of making money if we sue.
Kids were brought up to be Americans.
I was taught by my parents, the schools, the TV, and the movies that I was a member of a special group − Americans. So I felt no need for gangs, cults, or movements. In my day, a “movement” was what you had after breakfast. Unlike “Taliban” John Walker Lindh or “Al Queda” Adam Gadahn, I was not left to “find my own path.” I was grounded in my religion, not to teach me I was better than anyone else, but to teach me who I was. It’s good to know who you are. Then you don’t have to spend much of your life trying to find out, and you can get on with constructive activities.
Immigrants from many lands, speaking many languages, following many religions − or none − sent their children to public schools. They trusted that their children would be taught reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as American history. civics, and basic moral principles. In most cases, the schools did their job.
Teaching the basics was a big enough job to keep teachers busy. They didn’t have to teach about homosexuality, global warming, or “diversity,” or perform a myriad other politically correct activities that take precious time, but contribute little to students’ ability to go to college, get better jobs, or be better citizens.
We spent less on education, but the students learned more. The money was spent on teachers, not on a host of bureaucrats who monitor bilingual classes, environmental classes, affirmative-action and diversity programs, and other irrelevancies mandated by a “caring” government – which cares about everything except real education.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might suspect that the “caring” government and the “caring” education establishment are intentionally producing a generation of poorly educated people − who will need government aid, and will therefore go along with whatever the government demands. “Saving the planet” is so huge and so vague a goal as to justify nearly any totalitarian scheme, so a compliant populace will be necessary. And who could be more compliant than people who are poorly educated and have no sense of national identity?
American citizens have specific rights and responsibilities. But “citizens of the world” have no specific rights, and only the responsibility to do as they are told by the “caring” government.
In my day, we respected individual achievement. We were taught to have self-esteem for what we accomplished, not for merely breathing. We could not understand why anyone – especially a president – would try to convince us that we could accomplish nothing without the aid of government. “You didn’t build that” is a message for subjects, not citizens.
Recently a BBC anchor declared:
When we talk about God, guns, and government, those are the three big things we [Brits] don’t understand. The role of government here [in the U.S.] is much more complicated; people don’t want it in America. In Britain, we expect government to provide things for us.
The anchor was describing subjects, which applies to the Brits – but also to an increasing number of Americans. They are called subjects because they are subject to the whims of the government. If the government “provides” a mountain of debt or substandard health care, that’s bad enough. If the government “provides” tyranny, that’s worse. But in any case, subjects have no choice but to take whatever the government “provides.”
Citizens, on the other hand, provide for themselves and their families. They form religious and civic groups to aid the truly needy. Only if these groups prove inadequate do they want the government to step in. And if they don’t like what the government “provides,” they vote the government out of office and vote in one more in line with their values.
I must be getting old if I can remember when my country was so different. But my mind is still clear, as I will demonstrate on Election Day.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.