Thursday, August 28, 2003

Fifties fables

“On television, situation comedies [in the 1950s] such as ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ ‘Father Knows Best,’ and ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ presented a positive and, yes, somewhat idealized view of family life, but there were countless families then, and still are now, who live pretty much as these were shown to do. Moreover, there were serpents in these gardens, such as Eddie Haskell, Wally Cleaver’s sneaky schoolmate in ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ …

“The dramatic shows also featured strongly individualist characters. Consider, for example, ‘Superman,’ ‘The Lone Ranger’ … Marshal Dillon in ‘Gunsmoke,’ the crusading attorney of ‘Perry Mason’ (where the authorities are always wrong), independent tough guy Peter Gunn. …

“The American culture of the 1950s was far from being a monument to conformity; it was actually a strong promoter of individualism, self-expression, and questioning of conventions. In addition, although the leaders of the ‘60s counterculture talked much about brotherhood and communalism, their activities played out in a powerful, nationwide trend toward individualism.

“Of course, so strong an emphasis on individualism rapidly led to a moral egalitarianism, as people became increasingly loath to criticize others’ efforts at self-expression, particularly those that seemed ‘victimless.’ We are still experiencing — and enduring — the consequences of that culture.”

S.T. Karnick, writing on “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes,” Wednesday in National Review Online at

Usurped power

“Who should control education, and what is the proper education? The two questions are interdependent. In history, two answers have been proposed to the first question — the state and the Church. …

“If the State in America becomes the educator, education must be secularized totally. In theory, our State is the institution for accomplishing secular justice. It has absolutely severed itself from all religions equally. It has pledged itself that no man’s civil rights shall be modified, or equality diminished, because of his religion, or lack of one. …

“God has immediately and authoritatively instituted three organisms for man on earth — the State, the visible church, and the Family. … The State or Church has no more right to invade the parental sphere than the parent to invade theirs. …

“No parent can fail to resent the intrusion of any authority between his conscience and his convictions, and the soul of his child. If the father conscientiously believes that his own creed is true and righteous and obligatory before God, then he must intuitively regard the intrusion of any other power between him and his child … as a usurpation.”

R.L. Dabney, 19th-century theologian, quoted by R.C. Sproul Jr. in the September issue of Chronicles

Car culture

“It’s a curious thing, NASCAR’s massive success. In an age of watered-down appeals to the lowest common denominator and concern about offending tender sensibilities, NASCAR revels in its throwback authenticity.

“Races showcase muscular patriotism, grease-filled masculinity, fast cars and the unembarrassed invocation of God. All that goes down very well in the Bible Belt, where NASCAR has its roots. But the remarkable growth of the sport has taken NASCAR to places that squirm when too many American flags are flown. …

“NASCAR’s growth has created challenges as the heirs of moonshiners start to mingle with urban wine sippers. While the good-ol’-boy concept has worked so far, NASCAR frets about its image. …

“NASCAR’s growth coincides with a larger trend: The reincorporation of the South into the broader American idea. And to that end, NASCAR finds itself rubbing off on the broader culture as much as it is trying to adapt to its broader fan base.”

Dave Kansas, writing on “NASCAR, Engine of Change,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

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