Posted by Peter Lawler
There are no butts about it, says Mark Steyn. We are becoming more permissive and more coercive--not to mention more humorless and less prudent--when it comes to anything in the neighborhood of sex.
Yeah, Peter, if I'm reading your post correctly, I agree 100 percent. Our society/culture pretty much has a very permissive attitude about sexuality and inundates us, and yet we flip out about all the wrong things about sexuality like asking permission at Antioch or registering kids as sex offenders when they slap each other on the butt or jokes and sexual harrassment. The ironies are distressing and distorting our view of sexuality and what it means to be human.
This particular story, about extreme punishment of playful spanking, is not the best example to use in a presidential campaign for obvious reasons: Soccer Mom is paranoid about her girls. But it's further evidence of accelerating police-state tendencies in our society (which have nothing to do with the Patriot Act).
The first presidential candidate to use these police-state tendencies as a major issue will benefit. Next to immigration and terrorism, it is the most important issue of our time. "Nanny state" is the wrong term. It doesn't generate alarm. We need to generate alarm, because the situation is dire.
It's not "we" who've lost all sense of proportion. This legal regime has been imposed primarily by liberal legislators, bloodsucking trial lawyers, and feminists. Are most of us guilty of exaggerating trivial things that bother us? Probably. But we must understand that the Orwellian horror story reported by Steyn -- and it is exactly that -- is part of a larger totalitarian-liberal project to rid society of all risk and all unpleasantness (as they define such things). Speaking in terms of "we" is one of the biggest mistakes conservatives make. It lets the perpetrators off the hook. Generally speaking, one half of America is imposing things on the other half of America.
Yes, the example is horrifying and ominous, but I would locate the problem not so much, or not in the first instance, in the degree of "severity" of punishment or its "coerciveness" -- though it is admittedly way out of proportion -- but in the agent of punishment. If my daughters were being touched on the posterior involuntarily I would want the school to do something about it, even if it required subjecting boys to detention, the principal's office (which was often my fate), etc. (Come to think of it, if they were consenting to being touched, I would be even keener to put a stop to it!)But we have stripped the schools of all effective authority, and displaced the concern to higher and higher levels of the allegedly rational "state." Now that's scary.
Well, Ralph is right. But there might be something to the theory that parents and schools have surrendered authority. There's some mixture of surrendering and stripping here.
As Mark Shea wrote last year, "If we will not have right and wrong as kings in our city, then we will have pleasure and pain as tyrants."
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