- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

Uncivil rights?

“When more than 10,000 people converged on the small town of Jena, La., … the Rev. Al Sharpton called their march the beginning of the 21st-century civil rights movement. He may be right. And that’s just what’s worrisome. The marchers gathered to protest criminal charges brought against six African-American high-school students, the ‘Jena 6.’ … The mismatch between the complex and layered racial tensions in Jena and the one-issue rallying cry of ‘Free the Jena 6’ suggest that the tactics of last century’s civil rights movement may be an anachronism for today’s racial conflicts.

“The Jena 6 were accused of beating and kicking a white classmate until he lost consciousness. The district attorney charged the six assailants with attempted murder — an absurdly severe charge under the circumstances — and then later, perhaps under pressure, reduced the charges to aggravated battery. … It’s plausible that this prosecutorial overzealousness was inspired by racial prejudice, but even privileged white people can fall victim to overzealous prosecutors — ask the Duke lacrosse team. …

“The 21st century’s civil rights movement will need more sympathetic poster children than the Jena 6. These young men weren’t exactly engaged in peaceful civil disobedience when they ran afoul of the law.”

Richard Thompson Ford, writing on “The Wrong Poster Children,” Monday at Slate.com

Vanishing herd

“Hollywood devotes a lot of energy to promoting ‘alternative families’: Even the animated blockbuster ‘Ice Age’ was full of a lot of labored dialogue about how the mammoth, the sloth and the saber-toothed tiger were an alternative herd. But you can’t help noticing that in Canada and Europe what the numbers show … is not that the family is changing but that the family is dying. Here’s another all-time record: 27 percent of Canadian households have just one person in them — which is three times as many households as have five or more. … ‘Five or more’ sounds pretty crowded but, in fact, it’s Mom, Dad and three kids — or what back in the despised conformist ‘50s we would have called ‘the norm.’ …

“In the space of 40 years, the middle class abolished ‘living in sin’ and embraced ‘long-term partners,’ and the working class stopped worrying about ’broken homes’ and accepted the sociological designation of ‘alternative families.’ ”

Mark Steyn, writing on “Howdy, Partner,” in the Oct. 8 issue of National Review

Digital portraits

“For centuries, the rich and the powerful documented their existence and their status through painted portraits. A marker of wealth and a bid for immortality, portraits offer intriguing hints about the daily life of their subjects. …

“Today, our self-portraits are democratic and digital; they are crafted from pixels rather than paints. On social networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, our self-portraits feature background music, carefully manipulated photographs, stream-of-consciousness musings, and lists of our hobbies and friends. They are interactive, inviting viewers not merely to look at, but also to respond to, the life portrayed online.”

Christine Rosen, writing on “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism,” in the summer issue of the New Atlantis

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