Sunday grownups column

Dreaming of a world in which
grownups are in charge again

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
REMEMBER when everything from politics to marketing to fashion to entertainment was aimed at grownups?
    Take television: While we kids owned Saturday morning (“Mighty Mouse” and such), prime time was keyed to the buttoned-down square world of people who had come up during the Depression and reached maturity — a sort of maturity most of us would never know — during the last war that this nation could get it together enough to see all the way through.
    “Popular music” was made by these old guys in suits with short, slick hair who looked like they could as easily have been bankers. Perry Como. Andy Williams. The height of hipdom was Dean Martin. He showed he was daring and edgy by walking around with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. Pretty sad. (A friend and I would compete as to who could more closely lampoon him: “Oooh, ah think ah’ll go over an’ sit on da cowch…”).
    Every once in a while, they’d throw us a bone. Ed Sullivan, the squarest guy who ever lived, would on rare occasion devote five minutes of his hour presenting something “for you youngsters.” But when he said that, we never knew whether he would be bringing out the Rolling Stones or Topo Gigio, the talking mouse. These morsels were presented within an adult context, as curiosities from an alien culture that adults could smile down upon indulgently.
    Once, these brothers called Smothers tried to have a show that was sort of different. But the grownups put a stop to that.
    So much for popular culture.
    Take politics. It was so quiet and low-key that for the longest time, I didn’t even know it existed. Ike had always been president. (I was born in 1953.) Then this shocking thing happened in 1960. Two guys stood before the nation asking us (asking the grownups) to pick between them to determine which one would replace Ike as president. It came down to a popularity contest. That brought the presidency down a bit in my estimation. Before that, if I had been familiar with the phrase, I would have assumed Ike was “president by the grace of God.”
    I guess it never occurred to me that there was an alternative to Ike being president because back then, even political opponents accepted that that the president was the president, and were content to wait for the next election to have their say.
    And when they had their say, they were so grown-up about it. No mindless pandering to voters’ selfish impulses. Go back and read excerpts from the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Forget how they looked. Their words were so lofty, so respectful, so intellectual, so well-informed. They debated like… grownups. It was weird.
    Time passed, and I went off to college, just as things were starting to change a bit. (It’s a little-acknowledged fact that for most of us, the ’60s really didn’t happen until the ’70s. Go back and look at high school yearbooks; you’ll see what I mean.) Then I got married, went to work, had kids, and suddenly it was the ’80s.
    MTV. I couldn’t believe it. It was like the very best few seconds that you might have squeezed out of a year of boring television in the early ’60s — only 24 hours a day, every day of the year. But I didn’t have much time for it. Work, mouths to feed. One maturing experience after another.
    And then the millennium passed, and I looked around again, and the kids had taken over. In the grocery line, I was surrounded by headlines that would have insulted a 12-year-old’s intelligence in 1962. I flipped through the channels now available on television, and there was nothing on that any grown man would want to see. OK, there was “House.” But he was overwhelmed by programs that put such an ironic twist on the word “reality” that I guess it just goes over my head. Or under it.
    (I did see one recently that my very grownup wife likes, but only because she likes anything with dancing. All you could hear throughout the show was the kind of screaming that you heard in small bits when The Beatles came on. Only this adolescent keening wasn’t for anything special or exciting; they screamed for everybody. They screamed when people said hello. Here’s the really weird part: What was this show about? People doing the fox trot. It was like Lawrence Welk with semi-nudity.)
    Once, we played war with toy guns, and if we were really daring, we played marbles “for keeps.” Now, kids join gangs to play war with real guns. For keeps.
    How did those who think and act on a childish level get to be in charge? I never got my turn.
    That’s why I celebrated last weekend’s aggressive crackdown on underage drinking in an editorial headlined, “The grownups strike back in Five Points.” For once, maturity was asserting itself as dominant over the random raging of the ungoverned id. It gave me hope. I dared to dream.
    In my dream, a swarm of determined grownups swoop down on the Democrats and Republicans, toss them all aside, and put up a couple of thinking adults for us to choose between for president.
    They compete to see who can say the wisest and most mature things. They tell us we have to stop burning all that oil, and that we have to pay taxes to help come up with an alternative. They tell us that we have to accept the fact that we are the strongest country in the world, and that with that power comes responsibility. They tell us there’s no free lunch — on Social Security, Medicare or anything else. If we build in a flood plain or on a sandy beach, they tell us we should have known better, and maybe this will teach us something. They’ll say the FDA should regulate nicotine. They tell us to stop whining, sit up straight and eat our vegetables.
    I’d vote happily for one of them. And if the other won, I’d respect that. I’d be a man about it.

35 thoughts on “Sunday grownups column

  1. bud

    Brad, your other column on grownups was a good one. This one is way too preachy. And your memory of the fabulous 50s is a bit selective. While the culture of this decade is way too coarse for my taste I don’t want to retreat to the sterile, fantasy world of the yesteryear. Here are a few “grownup” events from the 50s that I could do without:
    Atom bomb shelters
    Joe McCarthy
    The Korean War
    Air Pollution
    Tobacco Smoke Everywhere
    18 year old drinking age
    21 year old voting age
    Stiff Dress Codes
    Plus many others. It’s time to recognize that we’ve made tremendous progress in some very important social area. Nostalgia for the past is ok until it threatens the imporant gains we’ve made.

  2. Doug Ross

    Yeah, ask a black person if they long for the good old days of Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, David Duke…
    Remember Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Lt. Calley and My Lai?
    Richard Nixon – who I would suggest is responsible for the political climate we have today… Henry Kissinger? Robert McNamara?
    The movie Deep Throat, made in 1972, is estimated to have made $100 million dollars in revenue. In current dollars, that would be about $350 million, or about what the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie made.
    “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV

  3. Mary Rosh

    You guys are right that about all the issues that Warthen ignored, but you don’t address the reason behind it, which is Warthen’s fundamental dishonesty. Warthen’s definition of “grownup” is “someone who agrees with Warthen”. If you look at the various things Warthen says the “grownups” “have to tell us,” they are all code for various positions of Warthen’s. For example, he says that in his dream, the “grownups” tell us that “They tell us that we have to accept the fact that we are the strongest country in the world, and that with that power comes responsibility.”
    Not only is Warthen dishonest in his attempt to conflate maturity with his positions, he is dishonest in his presentation of his positions. Warthen’s view, and the view he is trying to portray as “grown up” is not that with great power comes great responsibility. Everybody agrees with that, except maybe the senior members of the Bush administration, although people are more or less successful in putting the philosophy into practice in their lives and actions.
    But that isn’t really Warthen’s position. Warthen’s position is much more specific than that. It is that the United States has an obligation to decide what forms of government selected foreign countries should have, and to impose those forms of government by military force. His position is also that he should not bear any of the costs or make any of the contribution or make any of the sacrifices needed to accomplish this goal. And anyone who disagrees with that is not “grown up”.
    Similarly, according to Warthen, those who disagree with his position on Social Security are not “grown up.” “They tell us there’s no free lunch — on Social Security, Medicare or anything else.” Those who contend that the Social Security “crisis” was a false hysteria fomented by people who want to take the opportunity to use the Social Security Trust Fund to finance tax cuts for themselves and their campaign contributors are not merely in disagreement with Warthen, or smarter than Warthen, they are not “grown up.”
    Warthen seems utterly incapable of framing an honest argument. He never says, I believe A because B, C, D, E, and this is why I believe B, C, D, E lead to A. No, he simply presumes without evidence (and often in spite of massive evidence to the contrary) that his viewpoint is correct, and disparages those who disagree with it.

  4. Dave

    The deaths of high schoolers and young college kids are always tragic and senseless when it involves alchohol and/or alcohol and driving. What is amazing to me is how the crime rate and the viciousness of the crimes in the Cola. metro area seem to be on the rise with little attention or fanfare from the Cola. mayor or any of the politicians for that matter. How about a crackdown on gangs instead of smoking and beer drinking? Or would that be too racist in this politically correct utopia we live in? Two women employees of Wendy’s no less, sacrificing their Sunday day of rest to make a few dollars at low wage, are slaughtered by unnamed and unknown persons. Does anyone care? But wait, light up a cigarette in the wrong place, sip a cold brew at the zoo, now there are some activities worthy of editorials and political campaign speeches. One of the differences between today and the 50’s is that the USA wasn’t balkanized by distinction by color, religion, or ethnicity. If you wanted to get ahead, you spoke English as it should be. If you were caught stealing a car by the cops, not only may you get 30 days hard labor, but you would arrive at the booking station with a couple of teeth missing and a pair of black eyes. Kind of discouraged most from going after that second car. Now if the car thief is arrested, they get counseling and 3 square meals a day plus cable tv and a workout center. Yes, let’s go back to the 50’s and get the respect for law back.

  5. Steve Gordy

    Continuing Dave’s thought: If you wolf-whistled at a white woman and you happened to be a black teenager, you got beaten to death and tossed in a river with your body weighted down by an industrial fan. Yep, the 50s were sure a great era for law-and-order in the South.

  6. Dave

    OK Steve, because of what Democrat sheriffs did in the South back in the 50’s, let’s just forget law and order and give the criminals the free ride they enjoy now.

  7. Randy Ewart

    One of the differences between today and the 50’s is that the USA wasn’t balkanized by distinction by color [sic], religion, or ethnicity. If you wanted to get ahead, you spoke English as it should be – Dave
    Dave, uhm…are you being serious?
    Color? We had different restrooms for white and for black people.
    Ethnicity? Hernandez VS Texas, 1954. The Supreme Court recognizes Hispanics as a separate class of people suffering profound discrimination.
    Religion? Redlining practices in the middle of the century allowed legalized discrimination against Jews. There was distinct anti-catholicism as well.

  8. Dave

    Randy, your points are correct but you interpreted me out of context. I wasn’t claiming that there was no injustice in America, but looking at it in a political sense. As Brad noted, when Truman was elected in a very close election, Republicans didn’t hate Truman. And accordingly, Democrats never hated Ike. So politically we weren’t balkanized to Brad’s point. What really happened in my humble opinion is that the Reagan era signalled a true conservative shift in the US, and the Democrats had become accustomed to “owning” the power in Congress for over 40 years. The election of ’94 with the Contract with America put the Democrats into what I see a a permanent minority status. The Democrats, other than Bush hate, have no unifying message. So the negativity gets more shrill and loud with the elitists in the media and academia cheerleading the negativity. The Gore attempt to pull a coup d’etats via litigation really exposed the desperation of the minority party. Sadly, it gets worse instead of better and those who don’t accept honest and monitored election results threaten our democracy. Read the latest Time mag. article on Nancy Pelosi and under her rule you find that any members who cooperate with the Republican majority are attacked by their own leadership. No room for centrists in her regime. Anyway, maybe you see my vantage point now.

  9. Randy Ewart

    Dave, your post, in the context of politics, is well done. Sorry for the misinterpreation. I agree with you and do see a better time in our country when the politicians weren’t driven by the sound bite.
    Of course, the media wasn’t out to get them either. JFK would be all over Access Hollywood if here were around today. Which makes the “macaca” comment even more stupid.

  10. Dave

    Allen apologized for the macaca comment even though to him it really wasnt meant to be racist, but it was a stupid comment nonetheless. Time will tell if he can put that behind him and make up some ground on Giuliani or McCain.

  11. LexWolf

    This Labour Day, I thought about the working class, the masses.
    No, honestly, I did. Okay, I was on the beach, but the folks around me lying on the sand had jobs they’ll be getting back to this morning. They worked. They would be classed as workers. But they’re not a homogeneous “working class,” they’re not conscripts in Karl Marx’s “masses.” The transformation of Labour Day, from a celebration of workers’ solidarity to a cook-out, is the perfect precis of the history of Anglo-American capitalism.
    If you want to see what “the masses” are meant to look like, buy a DVD of Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1926 “expressionist masterpiece.” As futuristic nightmares go, it’s hilarious: The workers are slaves, living underground, chained to the levers, wheels, cranks and cogs of a vast machine, dehumanized by the crushing anonymity of their servitude, etc., etc.
    Alas, nothing dates faster than a futuristic vision: Today, the nightmare that beckons is quite the opposite. Instead of a world in which the workers are forced to operate huge, clanking machines below the Earth all day long, the machines are small and silent and so computerized no manpower is required and the masses have to be sedated by shallow distractions like supersized shakes and Wal-Mart and 24-hour lesbian wrestling channels on Premium Cable.
    It took the workers’ tribunes a while to catch on: Even today, when your average union leader issues his annual Labour Day address, you can tell at heart he still thinks it’s 1926 and Metropolis is just around the corner. But the intellectual left has been scrambling for decades to come up with explanations as to why, if everything’s so bad, everything’s so good: Noam Chomsky’s theory of media manipulation – “manufactured consent” – can stand for an entire school of philosophers who believe a subtler breed of capitalist overlords are maintaining the workers in some sort of fools’ illusion of content. …. (click the headline for the rest of the piece)

  12. Randy Ewart

    Dave, I hear Allen is a very skilled and effective politician. I haven’t read up on him nor his stances. What’s your (or anyone else on here) take on him?

  13. Dave

    Randy, Allen’s pluses are his stances on taxes, second amendment, business growth, war on terror support, and family values. I havent met him personally but I hear that he is a commanding presence and very personable face to face. He has a positive air about him from what I see. His negatives are definitely name recognition and his lack of authorship of any major Senate bills. But I think the American people could warm to him as he campaigns. McCain and Guliani are nearly household words but both have real flaws that could constrain conservative support. Both are conservative “lite” varieties and weak on support of traditional family values and the second amendment. McCain has voted against tax cuts which makes him even more undesirable to the base.

  14. Dave

    Lexwolf – Over Labor Day weekend, I was thinking some of the same thoughts. With national unemployment at nearly an alltime low, and that with the illegals working millions of jobs displacing Americans, you begin to wonder how anyone could do anything but marvel at the US economy. Then, when you see the number of RVs and travel trailers on the highways, as well as $20,000 recreational motorcycles, and the massive crowds shopping at outlet malls, everywhere, you know that life is good in America. Not for all, the poor are still there, and they do need help. Then you look around and see BMW, Haier, Honda, Michelin and other foreign investment in SC, creating thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs, and people still moan about jobs overseas. Good jobs lost in engineering and programming yes, but many dumdum jobs making light bulbs and ashtrays too. So, the question would be why all the negativity from the media? We know why, it’s all about political power, or the loss of it by Democrats.

  15. bud

    Why all the negativity from the media? For starters, the number of persons in poverty is increasing rapidly. The number of Americans without health insurance has gone up each year since Bush took office. The quagmire in Iraq continues with no end in sight. The reason you see so many people out shopping is because we’ve become conditioned to buy well beyond our means. The savings rate in this country is below zero. Try flying if you want a real wake-up call about safety in America. Obesity is out of control. Traffic deaths and murders are up.
    Yes, in some ways we are very well off. The resiliency of the average American is remarkable. But let’s not view the world with rose colored glasses. Life for many Americans is hard. And most polls reflect that hardship.

  16. bud

    This is just too good. Here’s an excerpt from an actual letter written to the Chicago Tribune:
    “Where was the media in all of this tragedy? Where were the recurring and staged pictures of the crying people yelling for help? Where was the mayor of Homestead accusing the President of racial and social bigotry because it was the political thing to do? I don’t recall the press ever interviewing the mayor of Homestead. Where did all the people go? Scattered to the four winds like half the population of New Orleans? Hardly. Just “google” Homestead to see what happened to that city. Why didn’t the press indict the President for incompetence immediately before Andrew hit? OK, then. How about immediately afterward? Could it be that the President was that media darling, the do-nothing right, the do-nothing at all, Mr. Clinton? It took Clinton until the following year to upgrade Federal Emergency Management Agency to a cabinet level position.”
    Talk about your revisionist history. Clinton did not become president until 5 months AFTER hurricane Andrew. This speaks volumes about who really controls the news media.

  17. Preston

    Dave, Allen’s apology is disingenuous at best. His wife’s mother is French-Algerian. That word macaca is the French-Algerian slang version of the N word. Do a little research how about it. To suggest this is some innocent misinterpretation is ridiculous. The man is at best a low brow racist.

  18. bud

    I would like to ask a serious question to all self-professed conservatives, what do the following terms REALLY mean. They’re tossed around as if everyone understands what they mean, but frankly, they make no real sense in defining a given issue:
    1. Pro-Life
    2. Family Values
    3. War on Terror
    4. Growing the Economy
    It seems to me that if you label someone who professes to be in favor of these things that makes him/her a good person who is worthy of our vote. But what makes someone fit any of these things? No one would claim to be pro-death, or anti-family values. We all want to defeat the terrorists. And who could be in favor of shrinking the economy. Since all politicians are in favor of these things why are some politicians labeled in favor while others are labeled in opposition, even though no one really is. This seems like just a bunch of weasel language, devoid of any real intellectual value.

  19. Mary Rosh

    “One of the differences between today and the 50’s is that the USA wasn’t balkanized by distinction by color, religion, or ethnicity.”
    Yeah, because guys in white sheets kept black people from voting.
    I think we now know everything about Dave that we need to know.

  20. LexWolf

    1. Anti-abortion.
    2. Support the family at every opportunity, rather than advocate policies which would weaken it.
    3. Not just verbosely claim to want to “defeat the terrorists” (while helping them at every turn) but to actually do whatever it takes to defeat them.
    4. Grow the economy as much as possible by lowering taxes, and by cutting mandates and regulations. Get the government out of the way, in other words. Dems may not consciously want to “shrink the economy” but that’s the inevitable result if their policies are given free rein.

  21. Dave

    Mary, NJ has the highest per capita income in the US, yet Camden, NJ is perhaps the single poorest city in America, rife with crime, drugs, illiteracy, and hopelessness. Your homework assignment is to enlighten all of us on how such a prosperous and progressive state like NJ can contain such a place of utter hopelessness, anger, terror, fear, and despair.

  22. bud

    Ok Dave, except for number 4 you’re still using weasel words. This is a good example of how the right has taken over the use of language in politics today. Even though the ideas and policies of the Democrats generally poll better with the American people, the remarkable marketing abilities of the right effectively fool people into thinking Republicans actually are on their side. In fact, Republicans favor only the wealthy at the expense of the middle and working class.
    So let’s try again:
    1. What politician in this country is pro-abortion? Democratic policies will lead to far fewer and safer abortions.
    2. Who is opposed to supporing families? It was the Democrats who propose policies to help families. Take the family leave act. Republicans fought that tooth and nail. How about the minimum wage? Wouldn’t that help families.
    3. The verbosity on the terror issue resides mostly with the Republicans. GOP policies have helped breed terrorists by the thousands while at the same time getting Americans killed.
    4. Republicans favor lower taxes FOR THE WEALTHY. The rest of us pay higher taxes through higher debt. The economy grew fastest during the Clinton years. Today only the rich benefit from the feeble growth in our economy.
    The Republicans are masters in the use of language to gloss over their failed policies in a number of areas.

  23. Dave

    Bud, here you go.
    1. The Democrats won’t even permit a pro-life person to speak at their national conventions. I could name them all but Boxer, Kerry, Schumer, Waters, you name it are all pro-abortion, including partial birth abortion.
    2. Democrats constantly vote to weaken the rights of parents thus weakening the family structure. Allowing a 14 year old to get an abortion or birth control pills without the consent of a parent is a policy the Dems support. Dems want schools and government to make decisions that should remain in family settings. It can be argued that raises in min. wages put the lowest people on the wage scale out of work. How does that help them? Ask any corporation HR dept and the FMLA is pretty useless.
    3. “We killed the Patriot Act – yippeee”
    “We killed Social Security Reform – Yippee” by Harry Reid, Dem. Senate Minority Leader
    4. Home ownership is at an alltime high. There are fewer poor in America now than when Clinton was in power. The economy is booming and the deficit is going downward with tax collections up 40% from Clinton to Bush. Look at the facts please, not your feel bad emotions.

  24. Ready to Hurl

    1. The Democrats won’t even permit a pro-life person to speak at their national conventions. I could name them all but Boxer, Kerry, Schumer, Waters, you name it are all pro-abortion, including partial birth abortion.
    Media Matters debunks this disinformation. Allegedly PA Governor Bob Casey wasn’t allowed to address the 1992 convention because he was opposed to abortion.
    Casey was denied speaking time in 1992 over his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket, not his anti-abortion views. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL), and five other governors who opposed abortion rights did address the convention in 1992, as detailed in a September 16, 1996, article in The New Republic on the Casey myth. In addition, anti-abortion speakers have spoken at every Democratic convention since 1992, including Breaux in 1996 and 2000, former House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI) in 1996 and 2000, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2000 and 2004.

  25. Mary Rosh

    “Home ownership is at an alltime high.”
    HOW could home ownership NOT be at an alltime high compared to any past time? Once a house is built, SOMEONE is going to own it. Even if the mortgage is foreclosed, somebody new is going to buy it.
    If you use something like that to support Bush, it shows that you know you don’t have much.

  26. Dave

    RTH – What a bunch of baloney. Because John Breaux or somebody got to speak at an 11:30 am time slot, technically that covers the baloney. However, the only time slots that matter at the conventions are the evening prime time speaker slots when people will actually be watching and listening.

    Mary – No, as usual you are wrong again. Those who cannot afford homes RENT. A sign of prosperity is actual home ownership. You are drinking that polluted water up there again.

  27. bud

    Dave writes:
    “A sign of prosperity is actual home ownership.”
    Fair enough. Some others:
    Percentage Below Poverty Line (up under Bush)
    Percentage with Medical Insurance (down under Bush)
    Wages (Stagnant under Bush)
    Savings Rate (First time negative since the 30s)
    Home ownership is up mainly because of lower interest rates. That trend, like all the other positives in the Bush administration, is coming to a screeching halt.

  28. Randy Ewart

    On the bright side, nation-building efforts are up. Being a divider, not a uniter, is definitely on the upswing. Don’t forget the rising rate of polictically motivated constitutional amendments.

  29. LexWolf

    “Percentage Below Poverty Line (up under Bush)
    Percentage with Medical Insurance (down under Bush)
    Wages (Stagnant under Bush)
    Savings Rate (First time negative since the 30s)”
    LINKS, please!!

  30. Dave

    Bud, you probably long for the days of Jimmy Carter when we had the Misery Index and he told us we suffer from a national malaise.

  31. bud

    From the Census Bereau Table 13. Number of Families Below the
    Poverty Level and Poverty Rate:
    2000 to 2005
    (Numbers in thousands.
    Families as of March of the following year)
    Number of Poverty
    poor rate for
    families families
    2005…… 7,657 9.9
    2004 14/.. 7,835 10.2
    2003…… 7,607 10.0
    2002…… 7,229 9.6
    2001…… 6,813 9.2
    2000 12/.. 6,400 8.7


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