The latest signpost on our road to cultural (and possibly literal) hell comes from a survey which found that one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. The survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests a link between dating abuse and self-destructive behavior by girls. Some abused girls were found to engage in binge drinking, promiscuity and drugs, and use laxatives and vomiting to lose weight.
Perhaps we truly are the Great Satan.
This is not a problem that will soon be solved by legislation or more "prevention programs," as the lead author of the study suggests. Such programs and legislation treat only results, not causes. Something has clearly gone wrong in culture.
"Evil is aggressive," George Lucas, the "Star Wars" producer, once told Bill Moyers. And so must be its antitheses -- goodness and righteousness -- be even more aggressive. Evil cannot co-exist with good, anymore than sickness and wellness can. An individual inclines toward good or evil, and so does a culture.
What comes out of a microphone, television, film or video depends on what's put into it. What emerges from a child depends on what goes in. We can drum in virtue, wisdom, love and attention and expect the same in return, or we can expect violence, despair, suicide and alienation when we abandon, ignore and corrupt our youth.
Oozing from every pore of our society, from the rhetoric of some political "leaders" to the garbage masquerading as entertainment that arrests the attention of the young (and too many adults), is incontrovertible evidence of our public affair with evil.
Did we really think there would be no consequences -- no hell to pay -- as we slowly repealed personal and corporate codes of conduct?
Images and music say to young boys that women are nothing but sex objects. Why are we surprised when they learn and act out that lesson? Their cultural and political icons behave as if sex is a personal entitlement and that women are as disposable as rags.
The rules of conduct we once taught in school and reinforced at home and in places of worship have been expunged for fear that adherents might be called "judgmental" or imposers of morality. Ask the young women who were attacked if they would have preferred someone had imposed some morality on their abusive dates.
When I was dating in high school and college, I treated young women with respect. That's what I was taught and that was what my father modeled before me. My favorite TV programs, so maligned today as being "unrealistic," reinforced Dad's teachings. The idea that I would bring any kind of harm to a young lady for whom I was responsible for an evening never crossed my mind. My dates were human beings with value. I wanted to show them a good time and experience a fun evening doing clean things about which neither of us would feel embarrassed or ashamed. Besides, their fathers would have abused me if I had abused their daughters.
Congressional attempts to "clean up TV" or pressure Hollywood to make better movies won't cure our disease. Why should the entertainment industry give consumers what many don't want? If we wanted decency, entertainment conglomerates would be decent. We get corruption and debauchery because we are corrupt and debauched. Consider the low behavior we tolerate in high places.
Albert Camus believed future historians would summarize modern man this way: "He fornicated and read newspapers." Now we would say he fornicates and watches MTV and BET, which are mostly about fornication and other forms of female abuse, and he doesn't, or can't, read at all.
The V-chip, which was supposed to be used by parents to block access to bad TV shows, is a failure. A recent survey indicates that most parents don't know the chip is in their newer TV sets and, among those who do, only 36 percent are using it.
We have made our accommodation with the salacious and the impure. Why should we be surprised when dating is just the latest potentially dangerous activity for young women?
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
("The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas," from Promise Press, is now in bookstores. Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill. 60611.)
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