Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Primary Victim Of 1960s Violence Was Family Values, Apparently

Twice every week, the warden at Bellvue Hospital for the Criminally Insane unlocks a heavy steel door with a name tag next to it that reads "David Brooks, columnist." The warden opens the door, heaves in a typewriter and a raw steak, and Brooks--bound by a straight jacket and frothing at the mouth--pounds out his twice-weekly missive by repeatedly smashing his head against the keyboard until a mix of blood, tears, and neocoservativism has dirtied the page.

Yes, it's an origin myth, but frankly it makes more sense to believe that than to believe the New York Times gives an office to a man who would write a sentence like this (from Brooks' eulogy today of Irving Kristol):

"Kristol championed middle-class virtues like faith, family and responsibility, especially during the 1960s when they were so much under attack."

Oh yeah, if there's one thing that was seriously under attack in the 1960s, it was family values. Not civil rights leaders, or, I don't know, Vietnamese peasants. Mostly it was the family values that suffered. The real victim of institutionalized racism, sexism, and war-mongering were the Brady Bunch.

What was under attack in the 60s--other than Vietnam--was the supremacy of a white, sexist, imperialist mindset in America. Kristol and his neocon offspring believed--and continue to believe--whole-heartedly in the inherent goodness of American hegemony, so it should be no surprise that Kristol would've defended what Brooks euphemistically refers to as "middle-class virtues." Kristol believed that society was falling apart due to the loss of religion, and the patriarchal society that goes along with it. The following quote is taken from J. David Hoeveler, Jr.'s Watch on the Right: Conservative Intellectuals in the Reagan Era (via Sadly, No):

"Kristol identified a spiritual vacuum that cut across the whole public culture of the United States. He was a writer who could cry out for censorship of pornography and who could praise Victorian culture for its deference to womanhood. What Kristol sorely lamented was the loss of republican virtue in Western life, and behind that loss, he believed, was the decline of religion. The decline did not constitute for Kristol a merely curious cultural shift. It lay at the base of every issue that liberal and conservative ideologies confronted. The loss of faith, Kristol wrote, was the “most important political fact of the last hundred years.”"

That paragraph speaks for itself, but it's worth briefly returning to the Brooks quote.

Brooks' phrase, "middle-class virtues like faith, family and responsibility," is repugnant and offensive, but those types of constructions get used all the time. Those three "virtues" become property of the "middle class," as though the working class doesn't give a shit about family. As though immigrants and blacks--because make no mistake, when Brooks refers to 1960s middle-class society he means white--don't give a shit about responsibility.

There's no real need to comment on any other part of Brooks' column, which is entirely dedicated to the memory of Irving Kristol. Learning about Kristol from Brooks is like learning about the Emperor from Darth Vader--if you don't trust the source, it's hard to really throw yourself into academic pursuit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks John, well said. I'm trying to find out what was the first use of 'family values' in political manner. I'd love to find something from the sixties.