Pajama Boy . . . and the rest of us

Princess Pajama Boy croppedAs far as the Left is concerned, Pajama Boy — the ultimate androgynous metrosexual — represents a significant majority of young people.  Certainly that’s where the White House is betting its money.  As Rush Limbaugh said, they wouldn’t have put together an ad campaign aimed at 1,00o or 2,000 people.  The White House genuinely believes that, across America, there are tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of Pajama Boys who want to get cozy in their onesies and talk about how to promote government growth.

I wonder if the White House’s money men are right, or if the White House is deluded by the bubble in which it lives (a bubble with lots of Pajama Boys) or by the ideology that both strengthens and blinkers it.  The White House is essentially saying that, for too long, we’ve been assuming that men are . . . well, manly, when all that they really wanted was society’s permission to be girlie.  As far as the professional Left is concerned, traditional masculinity is one long, biased, societally-imposed construct that has nothing to do with biology.

I think (or maybe I just hope) that the White House is wrong.

Here in Marin, conscientious Marin parents do their best to raise their children free of gender stereotypes, yet the kids embrace those stereotypes with gusto.  Boys play war games; girls sit around and share their feelings.  That’s not all that the boys and girls do — they’ll come together for lots of shared activities — but even in shared activities, boys are rambunctious and girls are bossy.  The kids who gather in my house each represent perfectly the highest points on the bell curve defining typical male or female behavior.

Slumber partyThese behavioral differences are mirrored in their physical differences.  The boys shoot up, their voices deepen, their legs get hairy, their faces more square (and hairy), and their shoulders broaden.  The girls grow too, but not as tall, their faces soften, and they get curves in all the right places, something that they’re happy to show off in feminine clothing.  These formerly somewhat androgynous little children, once they hit adolescence are manifestly different from each other.  Moreover, as they flirt gently with each other, I do believe that each would agree with that old French expression, Viva la difference!

But back to the boys especially.  I just learned the other day that another young man of my acquaintance enlisted in the military.  On Facebook, his father showed a photograph of the young man in his fatigues after ending basic training.  I wrote a comment congratulating the young men and saying that I’m seeing more and more young men look to the military as a way to learn self-discipline, have a purpose in life, and be part of a team, all as a way to hasten the maturation process.  The boy’s father wrote a response saying that I had hit the nail on the head.  He noted that, while his son’s choice was a surprise considering his Marin upbringing, it was precisely those goals that drew him to the military.  In other words, this 19-year-old boy, despite Marin’s assiduously asexual upbringing, still wanted to be a man.

One of the things the insulated White House ignores is that, just as was the case for this Marin youth, boys want to be men.  I don’t know if the White House ignores this reality because its ideology cannot accept it, or if it ignores this reality because, as Rush Limbaugh posits, it’s filled with Pajama Boys, whether youthful interns, or wrinkled and grizzled senior advisers.  Either way, whether because they’re true believers or actual Pajama Boys, the White House has given us an insight into what it thinks the American young man is, or should be, like — and that’s like a girl.

Who died and made you queen?

My daughter has frequently come home from soccer fulminating about certain girls on her team who keep “yelling” at her.  I have to admit that I didn’t initially take her complaints very seriously.  Being a teen she (a) has thin skin and (b) is prone to exaggeration.  Also, in a good soccer game, there is lots of communication going on.  “Mary, be open!”  “I got it!”  “Watch out, Jane!”  It wouldn’t surprise me if my daughter took “Watch out” as an insult.

And then I saw her team play.

In fact, my daughter was absolutely right.  There are a handful of girls who have taken it upon themselves to tell everyone else on the team what they’re doing wrong.  In shrill, teen girl voices they scream out “You shouldn’t have missed that.”  “You’re in the wrong place.”  “You’re doing that wrong.”  “I told you to be mid field [never mind that the coach said something else].”  As the game goes on, they get more and more shrill and dictatorial.

The person mostly at fault for this is the coach, who should squash this type of behavior immediately.  He doesn’t, though. and the fact that this is a recreational league staffed by parent volunteers means that there’s not a lot other parents can do.  I’ve advised my daughter to pull a sweet-tempered “dumb blonde” in the face of this hectoring.  She should, in dulcet terms, keep saying “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” until those girls are embarrassing themselves by screaming at the top of their lungs.  Meanwhile, my daughter should pay attention only to the coach.  Whether my daughter has the guile and self-control to pursue this approach is questionable.

Why am I writing about this if I can’t change the passive coach and it’s unlikely that my daughter will do anything other than get angry?  I’m writing because I find it almost incomprehensible that there are people out there who think that they have the right to yell at anyone.  This kind of narcissism is so alien to me.  There are certainly situations in which one has the right and even the duty to tell people what to do and to tell them what they’re doing wrong:  a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, a sergeant or chief to a new recruit, an employer to an employee, etc.  What my daughter is dealing with, though, are just ordinary girls (usually popular in school) who believe that they are entitled to tell everyone else not just what to do, but what they’re doing wrong.

It’s narcissism, plain and simple.  One of my favorite romance novels (you know I like them), involves a woman escaping from an abusive relationship to a narcissist.  In Lisa Kleypas’s Blue-Eyed Devil, Kleypas has as good a summary as I’ve ever seen of what a narcissist is, how he or she thinks, and how he or she controls people:

I was welcomed into a small, cozy office with a sofa upholstered in flowered yellow twill, by a therapist who didn’t seem all that much older than me. Her name was Susan Byrnes, and she was dark-haired and bright-eyed and sociable. It was a relief beyond description to unburden myself to her. She was understanding and smart, and as I described things I had felt and gone through, it seemed she had the power to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Susan said Nick’s behavior fit the pattern of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, which was common for abusive husbands. As she told me about the disorder, it felt as if she were describing my life as it had been for the past year. A person with NPD was domineering, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ needs . . . and they used rage as a control tactic. They didn’t respect anyone else’s boundaries, which meant they felt entitled to bully and criticize until their victims were an absolute mess.

Having a personality disorder was different from being crazy, as Susan explained, because unlike a crazy person, a narcissist could control when and where he lost his temper. He’d never beat up his boss at work, for example, because that would be against his own interests. Instead he would go home and beat up his wife and kick the dog. And he would never feel guilty about it, because he would justify it and make excuses for himself. No one’s pain but his own meant anything to him.

“So you’re saying Nick’s not crazy, he’s a sociopath?” I asked Susan.

“Well . . . basically, yes. Bearing in mind that most sociopaths are not killers, they’re just nonempathetic and highly manipulative.”

“Can he ever be fixed?”

She shook her head immediately. “It’s sad to think about what kind of abuse or neglect might have made him that way. But the end result is that Nick is who he is. Narcissists are notoriously resistant to therapy. Because of their sense of grandiosity, they don’t ever see the need to change.” Susan had smiled darkly, as if at some unpleasant memory. “Believe me, no therapist wants a narcissist to walk in the door. It only results in massive frustration and a waste of time.”

(Kleypas, Lisa, Blue-Eyed Devil (pp. 92-93). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

When I look around at the number of people, from the White House down, who believe that they exist on a different plane and are therefore entitled unfettered right to criticize others, I have to ask whether this was always the case, or if the last fifty years — since Marxists took over parenting ideas and education — have created a generation of self-righteous narcissists.  What do you think?

Oh, and here’s just the right video for this post:

Why Romeo and Juliet? Why not Much Ado About Nothing?

Romeo and Juliet:  two impulsive teens.

Romeo and Juliet: two impulsive teens.

My two favorite Shakespeare plays are Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing.  I’m also quite partial to Richard III.  My least favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet.

Sure, I know that R&J has some of the most exquisite prose and poetry in the English language.  Indeed, I think that’s part of the problem.

Shakespeare’s writing disguises that Romeo and Juliet are two of the worst nincompoops ever to be created from an artist’s imagination.  They are everything that is bad about teenagers:  fickle (“Rosamund?  Who the heck is Rosamund?”), overwrought, manic-depressive, impulsive, and woefully short-sighted.  Their failings bring death and destruction in their wake, and in this regard they are aided and abetted by the equally foolish nincompoops who surround them.  West Side Story recognized these failings, and tried to clean up Tony and Maria a little bit, by having him be less fickle, and having only one of them die at the end, slightly lessening the pile of bodies.

The only sensible analysis I’ve ever heard about Romeo and Juliet came from a professor at Berkeley who suggested to the class that Shakespeare didn’t intend to write an ageless romance.  Instead, in a time when all classes of families arranged marriages for their children, his goal was to support this adult-controlled system by showing that, if youngsters are left to their own devices, their adolescent failings lead to disastrous choices for everyone involved.

Of course, that’s not how high school English teachers approach Romeo and Juliet.  Instead, they focus obsessively on everybody’s feelings.  Unlike Shakespeare, who thought that over-reliance on feelings brings tragedy in its wake, the modern way to teach R&J is to have classrooms full of 14, 15, and 16 year olds compare their feelings to R’s & J’s, and then to wallow in precisely the type of irrational thinking that Shakespeare thought was so dangerous.  It’s as if the schools are intentionally creating emotional, adolescent, loose-cannon nincompoops.

For Gawd’s sake, people!  Can’t you see that, if everyone ends up suffering meaningless deaths, they’ve probably pursued a foolish, not a wise, course of conduct?  None of the dead in R&J sacrifice themselves to save another or to save their country.  All die because of rage, revenge, impulse control, and woefully poor lines of communication.

Wouldn’t it be much more useful for students to read Much Ado About Nothing?  To the extent the play has a moral lesson, it has an obvious and useful one for the cesspool of gossip that is a modern high school:  gossip can ruin young women.  This is as true now as it was then.  In a day and age of social media, terrible stories keep popping up in newspapers about teenage girls who commit suicide after pictures of them misbehaving (usually because they were drunk) hit their schools’ social media and cause them to become reviled outcasts.  Poor Hero almost suffered that fate.  It’s good to have a play that focuses on moral purity, dangerous rumors, and rescuing sullied reputations.

And of course, nothing surpasses the delightful interplay between Beatrice and Benedick.  Whether on paper, e-reader, TV, or movie screen, most every romantic comedy written since Much Ado About Nothing relies on this Shakespearean formula of witty and wary lovers who use their words to both repel and attract.  Indeed, the two of them produced one of my favorite Shakespearean insults:

BEATRICE: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick; Nobody marks you.

BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

Honestly, could anything be more pithy and cutting, yet surprisingly polite, than Benedick’s comeback to Beatrice’s insult?

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend Joseph Papp’s 1973 version of Much Ado About Nothing, which is set in small town America at the end of the 19th century.  The acting is delightful and the setting is perfect.  High school English classes would be so much happier if students could laugh at and learn from Much Ado About Nothing, instead of spending their time wallowing in the pathetic teen culture that is Romeo and Juliet.

Presidential Election 2012: Eddie Haskell versus Ward Cleaver

Leave It To Beaver is an iconic television show, complete with archetypal American characters.  Week after week, during its Eisenhower/Kennedy heyday, the show presented its American audience with the naifs (Beaver and Wally Cleaver) being enticed into dangerous or embarrassing situations, thanks to the machinations of Eddie Haskell.  Eddie was a skinny, duplicitous young man, adept at ingratiating himself with adults when called upon to do so, but basically dedicated to upsetting the placid social order prevailing amongst Beaverville’s young.  When anarchy threatened, Beaver and Wally always knew that their mother, June, would express worry and dispense kisses, while their father, Ward, acting in a lovingly magisterial way, would impart wisdom, impose appropriate consequences, and generally restore sanity.

Although the show ran for only six seasons (from 1957-1963), and pre-dated the upheavals of the 1960s, it is a show that resonated in the American psyche.  Generations of Americans have laughed with (and yes, sneered at) the tight little world of Beaverville, one that presented stable families; wise fathers; loving, stay-at-home mothers; and children grateful for the security that this traditional nuclear family provided.

Perhaps the scenario is a fairy tale, and never did reflect the majority of American families, but it’s a lovely fairy-tale, one that promises lasting security for the child who can escape the bad boy’s enticements and embrace the elders’ wisdom.  It presents an America as we wish it would be, although we will happily accept that the next-door neighbors in this healthy, stable community represent different races, colors, and creeds, and that there’s a conservative gay couple down the block, raising an adopted orphan from China, as well as the biological child of one of the gay partners.

Simply put, Leave It To Beaver transcends race, color, creed, and sexual orientation.  It is about a way of ordering the world, one that puts its trust in maturity.  Further, it is a world that makes manifest the benefits of that maturity by contrasting it with the instability, physical and psychological risks, and dishonesty that naturally results from putting ones faith in a youthful hustler.

The Presidential Election of 2012 is Beaverville played out in real life, on the national stage.  President Barack Obama is the skinny, duplicitous “Barry” Haskell, while Gov. Mitt Romney is the wise, affectionate “Mitt” Cleaver.  Here’s a little history of the two main characters in the Eddie versus Ward show that Barry and Mitt are playing out right now, on the national stage, before an American audience:

To begin with “Barry” Haskell lies.  His lying always follows the same pattern, whether he is (a) distancing himself from a troublesome priest; (b) supporting gay marriage (1996), which he did before opposing gay marriage (2004), which came before supporting gay marriage (2012); or (c) making diametrically opposite promises about Jerusalem, all within the space of a day or two.  Barry’s lies are rather spectacular, in that they are peculiarly attenuated.  Whenever he’s caught in a problematic situation (ah, those friends of his, whether individuals or special interest groups), rather than making a clean breast of it, or a good defense, he instead engages in a perfect storm of ever-spiraling affirmative defenses, with the common denominator always being that it’s everyone’s fault but his own.

For those who are not lawyers, let me explain what affirmative defenses are.  A complaint contains allegations that the defendant committed myriad acts of wrongdoing.  In response, the defendant does two things.  First, he denies everything except his own name, and he’d deny that too, if he could.  Next, he issues affirmative defenses, which concede the truth of the accusations, but deny that they have any legal or practical meaning.

As an example of how this plays out, imagine a complaint alleging that that the defendant smashed his car into the plaintiff’s fence, destroying it.  The defendant will begin with a simple denial:  Then he’ll begin an escalating series of affirmative defenses:  (1) “Okay, I did bring my car into contact with the fence, but I didn’t actually hurt the fence.”  (2) “Okay, I hurt the fence, but I didn’t hurt it badly enough to entitle its owner to any damages.”  (3) “Okay, I destroyed the fence, but it was falling down already, so it’s really the owner’s fault, so he gets no damages.”  And on and on, in a reductio ad absurdum stream of admissions and excuses.

These affirmative defense patterns have shown up with respect to some of Barry’s nastiest little pieces of personal history.  When Jeremiah Wright’s sermons first surfaced, Barry denied knowing anything about them.  When that denial failed, he claimed that he only had one or two exposures to this deranged level of hatred, so he didn’t make much of it.  When that denial failed, he conceded that he’d heard this stuff often over the years, but wasn’t concerned about it, because he knew his pastor was a good man.  (Which makes Barry either complicit in the statements or a fool.)  Indeed, he even made a much-heralded speech about what a good man his pastor is.  He then promised that he’d never abandon his beloved pastor.  But when his pastor became dead weight, Barry dropped him so hard you could hear the thud.

The Jeremiah Wright series of lies wasn’t an isolated instance.  Barry repeated this tactic when word got out about his connection with two self-admitted, unrepentant, America-hating terrorists.  (That would be William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, for anyone out of the loop here.)  When caught, Barry again engaged in a perfect storm of affirmative defenses.  (1)  I don’t know them.  [A lie.]  (2) Okay, I know them, but not well.  [A lie.]  (3)  Okay, I know them well, but we’re just good friends, not political fellow travelers.  [A lie.]  (4) Okay, we’re more than just good friends, because we served on a Leftist board and I sought political advice from him.  And on and on.  With every exposed lie, Barry first concedes that maybe he deviated from the exact truth, and then he comes forward with a new lie.

The same pattern emerges with Rezko, with Barry freely ranging from “I didn’t know him,” to “I never took favors from him,” to “I didn’t take big favors from him,” to “I took a big favor from him, but I didn’t know it was a big favor.”  It just goes ad nauseum, as if Barry is a machine, programmed to spew forth this endless flow of denial and concession.  Unlike Eddie, Barry doesn’t even need a team of scriptwriters to make these lies happen.  Barry is pathological in his inability to admit wrongdoing and his ability to prevaricate.

Just today, Barry repeated his pattern.  In 1996, when it was politically expedient to do so, he explicitly supported gay marriage.  In 2004, when Barry was making waves on the national scene, and it was no longer useful to support gay marriage, he suddenly repudiated it — with no reference to his prior position.

It’s worth noting, too, that Barry grounded his 2004 gay marriage stance in religious scripture.  Today, though, Barry has apparently decided to worship at a different church, one in which Jesus pretty much mandates gay marriage.  Dan Blatt, at The Gay Patriot, notes that scripture marches nicely along with Barry’s desperate need for campaign cash, some of which might come from a GLBT community that’s pleased that Barry’s finally came out of the closet on the subject.  The one thing that’s for certain is that Barry has outdone John Kerry, by adding a flip to that last flop.  Barry’s views aren’t e-volving, as he and his acolytes claim, they’re re-volving.

All of this is Barry’s Eddie Haskell hustle.  And he does it all with Eddie’s trademarked smarminess.  He knows that he’s pulling one over on the voters (they’re the Wally and Beav naifs in this national play), and he can’t resist a few winks to his complicit MSM audience.  They’re all in on the joke being played on the American innocents.

Eddie Haskell also had a nasty habit of vanishing when the pot he’d stirred started boiling over.  His character was the living embodiment of the old saying that, “when the going gets tough, the faux tough get going.”  Barry, too, can’t stay the course.  He walked out on Iraq, turning it into an Iranian satellite.  He’s assured the Taliban that they need not worry about America much longer.  He kicked out Mubarak, who was nominally America’s ally, and is now leaving the hapless and ignorant Egyptians to the Muslim Brotherhood’s tender mercies.  Having dabbled in war’s waters in Libya, he’s decided that the Syrian people are on their own.  Ten thousand or more have already died, while Barry dithers fecklessly.

Barry also shares Eddie’s behavioral dishonesty.  He can turn on the smarmy charm when needed (“he oiled his way across the floor, oozing charm from every pore”), but when the pressure is on, the hustler comes out.  Magisterial memorized or teleprompted speeches give way to nasty remarks about Hillary being “likeable enough,” about Sarah being a pitbull, about asses getting kicked in the Gulf States, about Americans who need to be shoved into the back seat of the nation’s figurative car, about stupid cops, etc.  Just as Eddie does, Barry reserves his charm for manipulating people.  He doesn’t like them; he uses them.

Also in keeping with his Eddie persona, Barry’s never held a serious job.  Eddie had the excuse of being a child in an imaginary, fairly affluent suburb.  Barry has no such excuse.  He’s “organized,” lectured, and voted present, but the presidency is Barry’s first real job.  Worse, he doesn’t seem to like the gig.  Despite his savage desire to win, Barry prefers to do anything but buckle down to his day-to-day responsibilities.  He wants the glory, not the sweat.

And of course, there’s the obvious physical likeness:  Barry and Eddie are both young, skinny, nervous, jittery guys.  Their physical presence does not inspire calm in the face of crisis.

Now, please turn your attention to “Mitt” Cleaver.  He’s the grown-up in the room.  Set aside the media-induced preconceptions about him being robotic, weird, and out-of-touch.  You need to understand that all adolescents strive to paint authority figures in precisely that light.  Doing so provides them with the justification they need to deny the adult the respect he (or she) deserves, and to ignore the wisdom that the adult has acquired over the years.  (“God!  My Dad is such a dork.”  “Daaad!  Don’t talk to my friends.  You’re embarrassing me!”  “God, Dad!  You don’t know anything.  How can you not recognize Justin Bieber?”)

Viewed objectively, Mitt is the essence of wise maturity.  Not only has he held down real jobs (Bain, the SLC Olympics, Governor of Massachusetts), in each case he’s excelled, benefiting not only himself, but thousands of other people.  Even if Progressives won’t admit it, and conservatives are embarrassed to admit it, capital management creates vast sums of money, not only for the money managers, but for the nation as a whole.  Money isn’t trapped in dusty government coffers or doled out selectively to special interest groups in exchange for votes.  It’s spread around.  As Dolly Levy understood, “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”  Romney, Bain, and that whole crew were America’s farmers, spreading that money far and wide — while pull out the weeds that appeared in the guise of mismanaged or dead-on-their-feet corporations that were trapping useful wealth.

Romney is a thoughtful man.  His flip-flops lack that extra flip that Barry adds (e.g., Barry’s gay marriage flip-flop-flip).  Instead, they’re the thoughtful development of ideas based upon life experience.  Significantly, his changes move in one direction.

Mitt is a man of true faith, unlike Barry, who talks the talk when he needs to, but has never walked the walk.  You may not like Mitt’s faith, but he’s true to it.  Importantly, while its doctrine may be a bit peculiar to many Americans, the values it imparts to its followers are completely consistent with American values.  Moreover, Mitt’s doctrinal beliefs don’t shift abruptly with the political winds.  There’s something unstable, and downright megalomaniacal, about a man who bends Jesus to his will, rather than bending himself to Jesus’ teachings.  Mitt lacks that unnerving instability.

And here’s an important one, given that Americans consistently rank Mitt’s “likeability” factor significantly lower than Barry’s.  The “Barry likeability” thing is a media lie.  Aside from resenting the adult in the room, the media has to sell Barry’s likeability, because it’s about all he’s got, given a record that leaves thoughtful people shuddering.  Because Barry isn’t very likeable, the only way to raise Barry on that pedestal is to make sure that Mitt doesn’t get anywhere near it.

Mitt may not be the nicest man in the world — none of us know him well enough to make that call — but we do know that he’s invariably polite, that he’s capable of charm and wit, that he’s unbelievably decent (as his Bain employees will attest), and that he’s no more inarticulate than the next man (and he’s actually probably much more articulate than the next man).  Keep in mind that Barry is fluent only when he’s reading words off a page.  On his own, few match Barry for being completely tongue-tied (not to mention the little matter of being ignorant too, ’cause Barry has clearly studied just as hard as Eddie did).

The Eddie and Ward show culminates in November 2012.  That’s when Wally and Beav, the American naifs, have to make a choice.  They can continue down the “Barry” Haskell path, one that inevitably leads to lasting trouble, or they can follow the all-American Wally and the Beav, and turn to the wise parent, Papa Mitt, who is waiting in the wings to restore sanity to an increasingly insane and scary national situation.