"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, October 22, 2021

Cancel All White Men–They Are So Toxic Their Names Should Be Replaced By Numbers

A neighbor was overheard recently praising the cancel culture.  Not only were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington slave-owning immoralists, when you came right down to it all men were oppressors and social reprobates.  

Not only should we topple the statues of the worst historical offenders and rename the streets, schools, and libraries named after them, we should stop naming things, period.  That would assure future generations of a value-neutral, inoffensive, accommodating, comfortable life – or at least be a big step in that direction; and it would do its share of ridding today’s reminders of male toxicity.

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So, return Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia to Route 1 and be done with it, revert to indicating  all public schools by number (PS 1, PS 2), and legislate against named-for private buildings.  Foundation buildings (Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Mellon), private apartment buildings (Trump Tower), and suburban developments (Petrucci Road, DiLoreto Drive) all should revert to numbers, addresses, points on GPS.

Women, however, should be given a bye, and in fact every time the name of a male misogynist or slaver was removed, that of a woman should replace it.  A good example was the decision to replace the image of Andrew Jackson on the US$20 with that of Harriet Tubman.  Few people had ever heard of Tubman, and her accomplishments pale in comparison with those of Jackson, military hero of the War of 1812, President of the United States, Justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court, multi-term member of Congress, statesman, and patriot.

Because he was an expansionist and a supporter of forcibly resettling Native Americans west of the Mississippi River, and because he was opposed to the radical politics of Northern abolitionists, his history, his accomplishments, and he himself will disappear thanks to the politically myopic, revisionist liberalism of the day. 

In fact Tubman was the perfect choice for the Left – a two-for-one, a black woman and an unknown one at that, a loud slamming of the door against any suggestion of greatness, a concept discredited and dismissed by the deconstructionists who provide the ‘intellectual’ basis for the progressive movement.

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The fact that Harriet Tubman is a nobody was the whole point.  There is no such thing as genius according to Derrida and Lacan; and focus on the works of Shakespeare, Faulkner, or Tolstoy as artistic expressions ignores the valueless, neutral, historical influences which determined every verse and every line.  

All public figures whether Aristotle, the Sun King, Genghis Khan, or Donald Trump must be looked at only through the lens of race, gender, ethnicity, and economics.  A Streetcar Named Desire, recounted a Derrida associate, is nothing more than a cautionary tale of the oppressive nature of society, its wholly corrupting influence, and its disruption and damage to human enterprise.

Get over the fact that the Founding Fathers were not great but only timebound, historical pawns whose actions were but reflections of the random events that preceded them.  Once this understanding is clear, the removal of Jackson by Tubman makes absolute sense.  

The US Treasury was not toppling an icon, but simply erasing him and penciling in someone with irrelevance in the long term, but significant in the short term.  Tubman, as Derrida liked to explain, is a signifier, a signpost, a stone marker hammered  in at the junction of past and present.

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The current age, say postmodernists, needs signposts, indicators, and signifiers; and since the social reform juggernaut favors women over men, why not chisel a few more stone effigies along the way?  Once women’s innate superiority is realized, understood, appreciated, and praised, then their names can be removed from public view and replaced by numbers; but until then, it is a women-everywhere moment.

Of course today’s progressives are post-modern when it suits them, rabidly feminist when it does not.  Although they see the irony of the selection of Harriet Tubman for the $20, they would prefer more notable, exceptional women on other currency. 

The search for such exceptional women is not easy, of course, because the times being what they were, women were restricted in their choices, consigned to Kinder, Küche, Kirche and subject to the whims and prerogatives of men.  So for every Mme. Curie there were a million scullery maids, wet nurses, dutiful partners, and dull, routine housewives. Although women are now coming into their own and the crop of excellence is growing, it used to be slim pickins.

This is what led to the neighbor’s crowing so loudly about enumerating things rather than naming them.  When pressed to create a list of the ten most influential women in history, she got only as far as Elizabeth I, and even then the Queen had inherited her position, made the most of it, but didn’t exactly work for it.  So numbering covers over the historical gender lacunae, gives time and space until today’s women are able to be named.

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The most important thing, said the neighbor, was to rid things of men and men’s things.  Every man, she said, was guilty of some offense against women whether adultery, abuse, discomfiture, marginalization, or downright patriarchal oppression; and since most things were named for men, replacing names by numbers was fitting, appropriate, correct, and a long time coming.

This is important not because of the salience or even relevance of the neighbor’s thoughts – she was as muddled as any progressive who misreads history or reads only the pleasing bits, ignoring the fact that men were responsible for the great civilizations of the world from Plato and Aristotle, to Jesus Christ, Genghis Khan, Ashoka, Chandra Gupta, Meiji, Akihito, and Louis XIV – but because she is not alone.  

The facile notions of expungement and erasure are all too common.  It is far easier to tar with the same brush or to erase with the same eraser than to disaggregate, analyze, and choose.

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Then again, perhaps this is unfair.  America is a quick-fix culture without the patience for slow, deliberate change; and is utopian to boot.  The combination is deadly, and the result is the cancel culture, a movement which requires only a suspension of critical analysis and judgment for membership.  

Anyone who has taken even the simplest introductory course in World History wants to run for the exits.  The Hittites, tariff and trade disputes, armies and crusades, the miasma of Chinese imperial intrigues, hundreds and hundreds of wars, civil conflicts, and tribal realignments.  Sea power, cannonades, castle keeps, and Charlemagne at Roncesvalles.  Not only can one not possibly keep all that in one’s head, but why bother?

The neighbor’s rants became only louder and more insistent the more the environment of her neighborhood became more progressive, and there seemed to be no stopping the almost universal political hysteria that had taken over.  Black Lives Matter, Everyone Is Welcome, and Hate Has No Home Here lawn signs were everywhere.  All curbside discussions turned quickly to the evil reprobate in the White House, the capitalist scourge, and the inherent systemic racism of America.

No more chit-chat about potholes and garbage pickup.  The times were too troubled, and the dark forces of the Right were alive and well. If the neighbor and her neighbors could have their way, every scintilla of conservatism would be erased, dismissed, expunged, and forgotten just like Thomas Jefferson.  Doctrinal purity was the meme of the day, and the purification of the country could happen only if enough people believed.

The removal of toxic maleness, patriarchy, and the burdensome, angering, marauding male kings and emperors, wicked husbands, and faithless suitors is the key to revolution.  Timidity, collusion and collaboration in the name of respect for difference of opinions cannot be tolerated.  The new age of authoritative righteousness has arrived.  Just do it!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Brown Shirt Mothers Of Merriweather Park–Political Enforcement In A Nice Neighborhood

Jane Talbot was a good neighbor.  She brought tomatoes and figs from her garden, offered to watch the house when the Chandlers were in Charleston visiting their children, and pottered in her garden every Spring and Fall, keeping it trim but interesting, a tad wild, very English, and as she put it, ‘Revolutionary American’.

This last bit was surprising, for the Chandlers knew that Jane was a radical progressive, a woman who was on the left of nearly every family in the already solidly Democratic neighborhood, and someone on the avant-garde of the movement to recalibrate American history, to expunge it of its racism, homophobia, and profound misogyny.  Shit may have happened, she said in her own particular vernacular, off-putting to many for a mature woman from the Main Line but part of her new persona, developed in the Sixties and honed to a fine edge during the Trump presidency, but we do not have to remember it.  

So much for being condemned to repeating the history one chooses to forget, Jane was unmoved by anything but progressivism these days.  Jefferson, Madison, Washington himself had to go in the interest of truth, justice, and a doctrinal purity necessary for the promotion of universal social harmony.

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The irony of the ‘Revolutionary Garden’ was lost on her for it was part of her own Revolutionary, true American, aristocratic heritage.  The Talbots of Philadelphia, while not exactly the Cabots and Lodges of Boston, were of the highest pedigree with close genealogical links to both the Mayflower and Jamestown; and she was bred with the good taste, manners, and intentions of her class.  It was only in college that she learned to reject her ‘privileged, elitist’ background.  While intelligent enough, she was never Harvard grade, and spent her undergraduate years in a small but midwestern college known for its music department and radical progressivism.  Her parents only remembered the name of the college from their own university years, a name which then did not shout radical, progressive socialism as it now did; so it was with some disappointment but reasonable expectations that they signed the check

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It didn’t take long for Jane to be undressed, stripped naked of her past.  She was called out, shamed, humiliated, and dunned for her parentage, family history, and ties to America’s corrupt, predatory, capitalist past.  She was sent to the gulag to be purged and re-educated.  

It is not surprising that this credulous young woman, brought up to be respectful and generous towards others, demurred and agreed to accommodate her hectors’ wishes.  What is so surprising is that her re-education took hold so deeply and completely.  By the time she had completed her four years in Ohio, she had become the leader of the school’s Socialist Union, Progressive Party, and Feminist Association.

Yet, as much as she denied it, she could never fully free herself from her patrician past.  There was still something appealing – comforting if she were completely honest - about bone china, Crichton Brothers silver, fine linen, and Chippendale furniture.  Her college classmates howled when she married Thomas Langley, son of the Wilmington Langleys, a family whose forbears fought in the Revolution and the Indian wars, and while never as rich as their peers, were respectable, proper, and  correct.   Jane was pleased that she was finally recognizing her roots and settling down in the very orchard where they had first taken hold.

Yet there was something niggling and irritating about her life, something too predictable and staid.  She missed the fire and brimstone political meetings in college, the torchlight parades, the angry demonstrations; and for years she struggled with the conflict.  Who was she, actually? And where was she going?

Her husband was never investment banker material, so became a downtown lawyer instead.  He and his wife moved to Washington after a number of years in Philadelphia and Wilmington, where he took a job with a law firm specializing in the cases of non-profit agencies fighting both government regulation and conservative lobby groups.  He, like Jane, had questioned his past and its legitimacy, had gone to a college much like Jane's but less endowed and committed, and emerged less radical and more moderate in belief and opportunity than his wife. 

It was association with these non-profit clients of his that Jane’s progressive fire was rekindled.  These groups were fighting for the climate, for oppressed black people, women’s rights, and economic justice, and although her husband was doing his part to defend their interests, she wanted to do more, to be activist, frontline, and physical.  She joined large national organizations that fought for social justice, and before long she had earned the respect of many in the Movement.  She was first at the barricades, loud and insistent at rallies for civil rights, economic justice, and social reform. 

As she grew older, had children, and sent them off to college, she toned down her anger and moderated her activism.  She was no less committed to the progressive cause; only less vigorous in furthering its claims.  Before long hers was a desultory participation, a mail-in, annual contribution kind of activism.

Then, along came Donald Trump with his vindictive, arrogant, insanely self-serving presidency.  The man was evil, an incarnation of every racist, misogynist, and homophobe that had ever existed.   Most importantly his brand of populism – an appeal to the ignorant, backwater rubes and country cousins of the South and West – was a threat to the very progressivism she had always espoused and fought for.  The Bushes – and even Nixon and Reagan before them – were sweet, likeable moderates compared to Donald Trump.  No, this man must be stopped in his tracks.

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Jane became the point person for ‘Merriweather Park for Social Justice’ (MPSJ), a group of like-minded former social activists who felt resurgent and in touch once again with their most true and telling sentiments.  Jane and her minions were instrumental in organizing discussion groups, meetings, and rallies.  She invited black leaders from Washington’s most oppressed inner cities, feminists from local universities, and political firebrands from New York.  

The Merriweather Park community, formerly complacently moderate and politically unengaged, was becoming sensitized.  Black Lives Matter and rainbow Hate Has No Home Here signs went up throughout the neighborhood.  Men and women were heard talking about rights and injustice on street corners, and students at the local public  school now heard calls for social action from their teachers.  Jane was happy and finally content.

Yet there was something still niggling and disturbing about her community’s response.  There was a diffidence in certain quarters and even an opposition to her calls for universal social reform.  The problem lay in the inner cities themselves these outliers claimed, in the social dysfunction of the black community, not the ‘systemic racism’ that Jane and her followers claimed.  The glass ceiling had been broken decades ago, gay men married, and the sadomasochistic revels of the Folsom Street Fair, Bay-to-Breakers parades, and Halloween In The Castro were deformations of sexuality not the best expressions of it.  Donald Trump for all his braggadocio and vaudevillian performance was an intelligent leader who understood geopolitics, national culture, economics, and especially political philosophy better than most.

Outrage! shouted Jane and her supporters. Something must be done; and her organization turned hostile.  It was obviously not enough to promote social justice, and the fight required the silencing of those who opposed it.  Anyone flying an American flag – clearly and evidently a symbol of radical conservative Trumpism – would be confronted, shamed, and publicly disgraced.  Any reference to Trump, conservatism, or its retrograde ideas and principles, no matter how casual the remark, would be challenged and dismissed.  

In a well-organized, well-orchestrated campaign, the MPSJ, with the support of the Teachers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Progressive League of Washington, the District of Columbia Feminist Alliance, and the Capital Gay Action Committee were able to institute significant policy changes in the DC public schools.  Not only would race, gender, and ethnicity be taught as part of the ‘Diversity and Inclusivity Now’ curriculum, students who showed any sign of reluctance or even opposition would be censured and disciplined.

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The mainline Protestant churches in the wealthy neighborhoods of Washington had already adjusted their sermons to address social issues, but Jane’s group made sure that all pastors did not simply exhort responsible behavior but called out those who neglected their social duties.  There was to be no dissent in the schools or churches of Merriweather Park.

Town meetings to address the need for political solidarity and uniformity in the neighborhood were organized by Jane.  Participants were told how to suss out radical conservatism in even casual speech and how to blunt it.  They were instructed in ways to innocently turn conversations to politics, to engender trust in order to elicit political views which could then be attacked and espousers shamed, and to insinuate intimidating remarks in all gatherings.

Jane always pointed to Caryn Marshall as a model.  No matter what the conversation was from literature to religion to modern art, Caryn had a way of introducing references to Derrida, Lacan, Deconstructionism and its spawn, liberal American progressivism.  She was brilliant, studied, an academic star, and a talented rhetorician.  Before her listeners knew it, they were nodding in agreement with her seamless arguments for righteous behavior and  became ashamed of their own residual conservative feelings. 

COVID was a progressive activist’s dream.  Despite the existential threat, there were virus deniers, anti-maskers defiant of ‘the government’ and its Stalinist measures to limit free choice; and these must be as irreverently and absolutely stopped in their tracks. Just as there were conservative naysayers in Merriweather Park, so were there those suspicious of or at least indifferent to the public health measures advised by CDC.  

Regardless of their reasonable questioning of the quarantining and spraying of mail, triple-masking in the open air, the closure of parks, outdoor recreation facilities, the budget-breaking retrofitting of industrial strength air purifying equipment for offices and clinics, and other economy-depressing, socially disruptive measures, these political reprobates were to be shut down.

In a program reminiscent of Stasi, Stalin, and the Brown Shirts, Jane recruited parents, teachers, students, and children to accuse those who were not wearing masks or social distancing.  J’accuse! was a cry of honor and justice in Merriweather Park.

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Jane was particularly pleased because she knew that this radical community organization, if instituted properly, would take root as a permanent feature.  The same volunteers for COVID compliance could be called on to accuse and call out racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and capitalist remarks.  Her goal of a completely sensitized, aware, and responsible community was in sight.

Jane ignored Tip O’Neill’s famous reminder that “All politics is local” and tried to market her particular brand of community activism to other cities, and failed.  Her knowledge of local culture, political history, and social parameters was severely limited.  Merriweather Park was unique because it was a Washington neighborhood where K Street lawyers, Congressional aides, think tanks, and university professors lived – all of whom could not possibly avoid the proximity of the contentious and highly partisan dealings of their city.  A slide into aggressive politics, a dismissal of Constitutional rights, and Communist bloc recruitment of informers and enforcers was a natural, but not extended elsewhere.

In any case, COVID is ending, Black Lives Matter banners and posters have all been taken down, and President Biden has lulled the electorate into thinking that everything’s OK now.  It is not of course, and the political Right is itself mobilizing and preparing for significant wins in the 2022 midterm elections and the Presidential election two years later.  Jane’s brand of gulag-style progressivism, now the going thing, will not last, and the electorate will vote out those vociferous, arrogant, and ill-meaning politicians who knee-jerk irresponsible liberal policies at every turn.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bad Boys And Good Girls–The Ineffable, Irresistible Allure Of The Sexual Truant

‘Do the right thing”, said Mrs. Shilton to her son, Roger, every day as he was leaving for school, where he would be told to behave, to be good, to fall in line, and to obey, after which he would be reminded by the priests at St. Maurice and the nuns at Sunday school to be moral, righteous, and good. 

For a while he got A’s on his report cards, pats on the back from Frs. Brophy and Mullins, pictures of the Virgin Mary from Sister Mary Joseph, and extra servings of peach cobbler from his mother.

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He was the son that every parent wanted, a model student, and a boy destined for a religious vocation and a place at St. Anselm’s Abbey.  Then, without warning, notice, or intimation, he began to slack off, and little by little and piece by piece, he began to turn bad. 

First was a deliberate indifference to his clothes – school tie loose and askew, khakis dragging, and shirt half-tucked. Then was a more deliberate disregard of propriety and right behavior – snide remarks to the English teacher, refusal to kneel during the Kyrie, bad table manners, and a messy room; and finally downright defiance.  By his sixteenth birthday he had joined a gang, drunk, hung out at pool halls, and cruised for factory girls on the Strip. 

His parents of course had no idea what had gotten into him.  “Such a nice boy”, was all Mrs. Shilton had heard since Roger’s toddler days, and so he was, proper, obedient, prayerful, and respectful.  It was as though he had been possessed by the devil himself, for this could be the only explanation for the sudden transformation from everything good to everything bad.  So convinced was she, a devout Catholic, that she went to Father Brophy for counsel and support.

He dismissed her suspicions, explaining that the boy was simply going through a phase like most adolescents; and she needed only to up her vigilance, trust in the Lord, and be patient, not petition for an exorcism.

Father Brophy was on solid ground here.  Many a parish parent of adolescent boys had come to him suspecting the worst, and he offered the same advice and comfort.  Boys will be boys, he said, and the Lord will watch over them.

By his seventeenth birthday, Roger had become a center of sexual interest, and girls from up and down the social ladder sought him out.  There was something very appealing about his nonchalance, his confidence, and his air of superiority and defiance that was irresistible.  The more their parents tried to keep them away from Roger Shilton, the more desperately they pursued him.  They couldn’t keep their eyes off him, had wild, sexy, exotic dreams about idylls with him in Jamaica and Hawaii, naked, hot, and wet, coming with the thought of his body, his kisses, and his embrace.

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The girls at Miss Willard’s fell the hardest.  Girls who came from the crème de la crème of New Brighton society were sent to private day and boarding schools for the well-off and privileged with the expectations of an Ivy League education, a proper marriage, and a return to the country clubs and social milieu of their youth from which they would carry on into adulthood with grace and aplomb.  If there were any truly ‘good’ girls still around, they were to be found at Miss Willard’s.

The moral and social restrictions, the insistence on propriety, rectitude, and good behavior – all part of Miss Willard’s code of behavior – were enforced uniformly and harshly.  The school was as close to a nunnery as the more liberal modern age would allow; so it was no surprise that its girls, as red-blooded, sexually enthusiastic, and rebellious within as any, wanted release from this punitive environment. 

The name Roger Shilton made the rounds of the classrooms and refectories of Miss Willard’s and soon the most adventurous and sexually precocious girls were seen with him.  It didn’t seem to bother them that Shilton had already had his share of girls from both sides of the tracks, that he bedded and left them quickly and unceremoniously, that he showed no interest in love or a relationship, or that he showed no signs of interest in them as people, individuals, beings of value.  In fact every new report of his dereliction piqued their interest even more.  

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None of this is surprising or new, of course.  Good girls have always fallen for bad boys. Their unshakeable male confidence; their calm, determined sexual nature; their social defiance, and their rejection of the proper and the predictable are Darwinian traits.  The righteous, the dutiful, and the honorable cannot hold a candle to them.  It is their children that good girls want.  They want to pass on to their sons their mates’ irrefutable maleness. 

Although the other side of the brain tells them to be sensible, to marry a good provider, a family man, a man of principle and caring, they cannot resist the allure of bad boys.  Most women fall prey to the inevitable social pressures of a good, profitable marriage, and a solid roof over their heads; but will always regret never having at least tasted the wild seed of the likes of Roger Shilton.

Those who do marry bad boys soon realize what they have done, for they never change.  Their irresistibility to women and their desire for them remains as much a part of them as it did before marriage.  The very traits that led to a marriage with a good girl lead to the beds of hundreds of others.  Ironically but not surprisingly, this male irresistibility is part of what keeps these women married.  They hate the idea of such an attractive, virile mate sleeping with other women, but this sexual insistence is why they married him.

D.H. Lawrence, perhaps more than any other writer understood sexual determinism – sex is not simply an act of pleasurable procreation, nor one of intimacy and consolidation; but one of almost epiphanic importance.  Men and women seek each other for the possibility of a uniquely powerful, if not transformative sexual experience.  Lady Chatterley and Mellors seek each other out despite the great differences in social class because of this instinctive, irresistible attraction. 

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Flaubert’s Madame Bovary wanted nothing to do with her pedestrian, dutiful, and insufferably boring husband; and looked to men of physical beauty, sexual allure, and social prominence.

Sinclair Lewis’ heroine in Main Street grew  increasingly impatient with her rural doctor husband and his patient dutifulness.  She wanted  more than a man of principle and good intent, and she eventually left her husband to find her own way. While Lewis brings her back to reality and to her husband, he has created a female character of vitality and sexual energy.

Tennessee Williams’ Alma, the main character in Summer and Smoke was brought up in a rectory by a censorious, disciplinarian father, and has for most of her youth followed his precepts and good counsel; and yet she is ineluctably attracted to the bad boy next door, the ‘wastrel’, womanizer, and libertine.  He is the one, not the schoolmarmish, bookish young man who seeks her company.

Blanche and Stella, main characters in Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire both are attracted to Stanley, an unashamed male who likes women, who understands them, and in his irrevocably powerful sexuality attracts them easily and often.  In Williams’ mind, like Lawrence’s, this primitive, inexplicable, but captivating sexuality is the central point of male-female relationships.  It is no surprise that women like Stella, unpretentiously feminine in her wifely and motherly role; and Blanche in her sexually promiscuous way are both attracted to Stanley.

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Because good girls always fall for bad boys, the boys have no reason whatsoever to reform, to repent, or to apologize for their ways.  They understand the indefinable but inevitable captivity of sexual bonding.  The wives who have married them for their untrappable ways, and who have voluntarily agreed to this particular marital contract will bear up, conciliate, draw some of their own lines in the sand, but be satisfied.

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is about one of these improbable but very decipherable marriages.  Kate, the shrew, is ‘tamed’ by Petruchio not because of some timorous desire to be dominated, but because her shrewishness has been a result of her sexual and social frustration.  Once she meets Petruchio who loves her for her defiant and indomitable character, she loses her sharp edges, her hostility, and aggressiveness.  It is a perfect match.

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Today’s feminists and their male coterie make automatic assumptions about such relationships.  Tennessee Williams’ ‘fragile’ female characters – Blanche, Alma, Laura – are, these progressive advocates insist, are all oppressed and dominated by the men in their lives.  They are victims, sufferers, and in no way independent from the predatory male.  Williams of course thought just the opposite, and put social assumptions and environment aside.   Sexual attraction at its best and worst is primitive, and at the heart of both epiphany and disaster.  In either case it is not an affair of misogyny, abuse, or oppressive domination.

The political-social climate in America today is censorious, presumptuous, and unrelenting in its righteousness.  Progressives are intent on neutering sexuality, removing all traces of a Lawrentian, Williams-like heterosexual power, and replacing it with a passionless gender spectrum.   One hopes they will not be successful and that the pendulum will swing back to dead center between sexual poles; but the news is discouraging.