- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Family history
"On the deepest matters of cultural and social affairs, the best guide is to reflect on human experience. This means looking backward at those experiences, and conservatives are more inclined to do this than are liberals.
"Families were created to make up for what evolution did not provide, namely a way by which men could be induced to support the children they beget and care for the women they impregnate. But since marriage is a social invention, we have learned how it can be undercut by people who think that their lives will be fuller, their opportunities greater, and their burdens fewer if they are allowed to treat sex as recreation, children as toys, and income as an obligation of government rather than a result of work.
"Family disorganization is more important than either race or income in explaining violent crime. William Galston, once an assistant to President Clinton, put the matter simply. To avoid poverty, do three things: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after you are 20 years old. Only 8 percent of people who do all three will be poor; of those who fail to do them, 79 percent will be poor.
"Looking backward makes the importance of families obvious. Looking forward makes families look like an outmoded television sketch called, variously, 'Leave It to Beaver' or 'Ozzie and Harriet.'"
James Q. Wilson, writing on "The Family Way," Jan. 7 in the Wall Street Journal
T-shirt rights
"Amid a growing mound of Confederate flag cases, one unsettled legal issue in courts across the country is this: Can public schools ban the wearing of Dixie Outfitters and other Confederate T-shirts without running afoul of the First Amendment? The Dixie Outfitter shirts celebrate the Confederate flag insofar as draping fuzzy baby bunnies, fuzzy puppies, and fuzzy duckies in flags could be said to constitute celebration.
"Yes, the Confederate flag is a racially divisive and possibly even a hateful symbol; but it's also a symbol that implicates American history, racial sensitivity, and the nuance of differing human perspectives. It's the whole darn social studies curriculum in a few stripes and bars; precisely the sort of subject best addressed through education and discussion.
"If American kids can be counted on for anything it's this: Tell them they can't do/wear/say something and they'll do/wear/say it 'til their heads blow off. This is why Dixie Outfitters sold a million T-shirts last year, and why virtually every kid disciplined for wearing a Confederate flag to school shows up the day after the suspension in either the same T-shirt or one with a bigger flag. Yes, it would be a more civil world if we could all just agree once and for all that the Confederate flag is either beautiful or vile. But until that day comes, it would be a useful and educational exercise to at least hear one another out on the subject. One might think a school would be a good laboratory for such efforts."
Dahlia Lithwick, writing on "Bristling Dixie," Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com
Mencken and liberals
"A heterodox character such as [H.L.] Mencken could become, as [author Fred Hobson] notes, 'the most widely discussed of American intellectuals' because 1920s liberals were still liberal and because 'intellectuals saw in him what they wanted to see, and no more,' as [biographer Terry] Teachout says.
"What they saw were two traits that have remained their moral constants for six decades. Mencken disturbed the peace. That is the unwavering moral, political, and aesthetic principle of liberalism; and while they revere its benefits, we ruffians remind them that their venerated principle remains, in most criminal codes, a misdemeanor. Secondly, Mencken was contemptuous of America. Liberals have always been attracted to this hauteur, and in recent years the purists among them have actually come to hate America."
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., writing on "The Dark Sage," in the November/December issue of the American Spectator

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