Darrowing experience


James Lileks had a great "Bleat" on Wednesday, some thoughts about where Clarence Darrow, celebrated defender of Scopes and Leopold and Loeb, and his rejection of moral responsibility have led our society. I liked this paragraph, on the important distinction between public and private conduct (asterisk added):

I am the last person to roam the streets in my Cotton Mather costume, and I've lost my enthusiasm for the adolescent glee that comes from pointing out other people's hypocrisies. All I have are my pathetic attempts to draw a distinction between private and public – that is, Howard Stern saying those oh-so-naughty! words on the public airwaves vs. Stern saying what he wants on subscription radio, or Hustler Honey sex-shows in the Superbowl half-time vs. private rentals from the satellite hot-mama feeds. I suppose it comes down to this: you should have to seek these things out instead of having them come to you. Otherwise the coarsening of the public arena continues unabated, and the good & decent fathers who fought hard for Howard Stern’s right to say sh*t – literally – find themselves without an argument when the billboard across from their kid’s elementary school uses the same words. Today’s crusading moderate is tomorrow’s prude.

During a recent visit to the northeast, it was startling again to see all manner of "adult" magazines on open display at newsstands on the street corner, with no attempt even to conceal the covers. I bragged to a friend who lives up there about QuikTrip, Tulsa's homegrown convenience store chain, which many years ago completely banned pornography from its stores. It's nice to know I can bring my children into any QuikTrip and not worry about what they might see. (I'm also proud of QuikTrip for making the security of employees and customers a priority in the design of their stores and their operating procedures, for their top-tier gasoline, for clean restrooms, for cheap sodas, for carrying the Tulsa Beacon, and for those tasty Hotzi breakfast sandwiches. But I digress. Ain't that right, Lamar?)

Most of us out here in red-state America aren't asking for everyone to be moral. We just ask for decency in the public sphere -- decency, from the Latin word which means "fitting" -- which is really about common courtesy and respecting each others sensibilities. When we are told that we must allow our bourgeois sensibilities to be confronted by tawdriness and turpitude, preferably funded by our own bourgeois tax dollars -- well, we don't take kindly to that, and we go vote for people and parties that do understand the meaning of decency.

P.S. www.lileks.com is one of my favorite sites on the web. Be sure to visit the Institute of Official Cheer, his collections of motel postcards, restaurant and diner postcards, and a tribute to his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, in 1950. And buy his books: Interior Desecrations and Gallery of Regrettable Food I asked for and got both of them for my birthday!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 10, 2004 12:45 AM.

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