Several years ago a friend moved from Rochester, New York, back to Cleveland. Where did he plan to live? I asked. “Anywhere but Shaker Heights,” he said, having grown up among the suburb’s hip, posh, and politically correct.
I asked why. My friend said, “I know the type.” The type had nothing to do with race, creed, or religion, he added. It meant perspective, outlook: attitude, as adjective and noun.
The type thinks what we have matters more than what we are. It favors elitism, skin-deep, over character, deep-down. The type likes cutting edge, moral relativism, and outcome-based education. It will rewrite American history, fixate on race and gender, but never be so, gasp, old-timey as to dub something wrong.
The type inhabits places, to quote Oscar Wilde, that “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Shaker Heights. Rye, New York. Half Moon Bay, California, outside San Francisco. Beverly Hills, L.A’s waste disposal. It frequents good burgs, too, which should know better, and where good people allow bad things.
As a teenager, my friend and I thought it daring to pass notes in class. Today, some snap, then send, naked photos of themselves by cell phone to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Many dot the Internet. Some lead the photographer to jail. The virus largely spurns the small town and rural. Its core is rich suburbia, increasingly more Lindsay Lohan than Lois Lane
In Castle Rock, Colorado, 18 middle-class students exchange nude photos. This spring the bare truth spreads through chic Westport, Connecticut. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, a 17-year-old allegedly posts photos of his ex-girlfriend, 16, in MySpace, narcissism’s Bible. He is charged with child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child, and defamation. Bet you by golly he doesn’t do it again.
The type, my friend says, often prefers avoidance to punishment. This year Penfield, New York, students twice cell phoned their nude picture to a friend; whereupon the photo passed to other phones; at which time the school had parents check cells for further R-rated viewing. What happened next is startling. Publicly nothing, as if nothing had occurred.
The suburban school might have scored bad behavior, suspended the students, or slapped their knuckles with a ruler. It could have made them apologize, read William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues, or write 100 times on the blackboard, “I am not the sun, moon, and stars.” That, of course, would be deemed judgmental: bourgeoisie right v. wrong.
Several years ago, a Canandaigua, New York, primary school official attacked the terms Christmas, Merry Christmas, and Christmas tree. In nearby Pittsford, a superintendent banned Christmas trees and candy canes. Like Penfield, Portland, Oregon or Maine, Philadelphia’s Main Line, each brooks an affluent, liberal, and smugly “progressive” class largely oblivious to Main Street. Coincidence? I think not.
In a typical small town, a school would be expected – made – to enforce discipline. If not, its head would need another job. Many Penfielders, I suspect, concur. Sadly, many elites choose self-esteem over common sense – making Johnny feel good about himself, even if Johnny’s conduct stinks.
Herman Kahn, late of the Hudson Institute, said that “the strength and weakness of the intellectual is that the deals in ideas. The strength and weakness of the average guy is that he can tell black from white – but he gets confused in the gray areas.” By contrast, self-styled better people “confuse night and day.”
Sending teenage nude photos by cell-phone is black and white, night and day. If adults can’t tell the difference, how can kids? I talked to my friend this morning. He didn’t need to say, “I told you so.” After all, he knows the type.
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