The Washington Post Style section — once a gilded stable of great stories by legendary writers — ran a sweet ditty of modern American family life last week, as if a haunting prelude to Easter.
It began with a group of little girls — ages 6 to 16 — sitting nervously inside the Richmond City Jail, each dolled up and glittered out like prom dates. The men they were waiting for to take them to dance were their fathers, jailed away from society for various crimes.
The men on the inside were jittery, too. But it was the angst and anticipation of little girls struggling to grow up in an abusive world without their fathers that was so searing.
"I hope he recognizes me," said a 9-year-old girl in a pink dress with a matching purse.
The purpose of the very traditional father-daughter dance inside prison walls is just what you would think. It gives lost little girls a glimpse of their fathers in a highly controlled environment. And it gives fathers a heart-wrenching glimpse of their daughters, which hopefully becomes an incentive to get through their prison stint and stay out.The little scenes of wayward toughs rising to their feet when their little daughters return to the table and pulling their chairs out of them is enough to stir a soul of stone.
Who knows if such soft diplomacy inside a prison really makes a difference, but the case of one of the dancing dads certainly underscores how utterly shattered jailed dads, daughters and families have become in American society today. One fellow is serving 12 months for failing to pay child support for one of the nine known children he has sired on this planet.
When something is that broken, anything is worth trying to fix it.
That is not to say that there is universal agreement that anything is wrong with this picture of utter societal dysfunction.
Indeed, as if racing the American family down the tubes to the dust heap of sad irrelevancy, the Post's Style section — slavishly devoted to the zaniest of political correctness — managed to scare up some people to inject politics into the story. They actually found Neanderthals to celebrate this obliteration of the American family and ridicule the attempt to repair healthy relationships between little lost girls and their fathers.
There are "growing concerns," we are told with complete seriousness, "that traditional father-daughter dances are exclusionary."
"Detractors say they are outdated, discriminatory and sexist and that they no longer reflect what American families look like," The Post reports. Then we are told that, according to the 2011 census, more than half of all children are raised by unmarried mothers.
Oh yeah? How is that working out? How are women faring in that scene? And what about little boys born into it? Any correlation there between that and, say, going to jail? Or growing up in wretched poverty? Or growing up and falling into sexually abusive relationships?
Never mind. These people heap nothing but scorn on father-daughter dances, even inside prison walls.
"The whole idea feels very 1950s," whined Peggy Drexler, who allegedly wrote a book. "I mean, do you invite your sperm donor dad? Today's America has the daughters of donors, lesbians, two gay dads."
Then, of course, there is the ACLU filing lawsuits claiming that such attempts to allow — heaven forbid, encourage — fathers and daughters to have a healthy bond is "discrimination" and "gender stereotyping."
"Not every girl wants to grow up to be Cinderella," explains Steven Brown of the ACLU.
The new tradition all of these social vermin rally around for little girls today is "SAM" dances, which stands for "significant adult male" dances.
So would these people be perfectly content if that "significant adult male" just happened to be a pedophile? Or the drug-dealing, whore-beating thug down the street? I mean, who are we to judge, right?
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.