Sunday, May 1, 2011

Four Men Who Will Save the World, Part 4

"Cowgirl" is an attitude, really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands; they speak up. They defend things they hold dear. --Dale Evans
Perfection. The workers' paradise. Full prosperity. The New Jerusalem. Total well-being. Perfect health. Infinite wealth. Perpetual youth. Joy. In return for obedience, all these were promised--and still are--by the Masters of the 3Cs. Tomorrow.

It was never today, of course. The perfection promised by the Masters of communism, capitalism, and Christianity was always what Thomas Merton called the "proximate utopia," the earthly paradise just over the next hill, just around the next bend. A lovely place, this brand of utopia, where, as Merton puts it, "the last sins are currently being eliminated and when, tomorrow, there will be no more sins because all the sinners will have been wiped out." Once the authorities had managed to get a few hooligans and malcontents out of the way, once those sodomites had been sent to hell, once those lazy, stupid poor people dragging the rest of us down were kicked off welfare and forced to get jobs at Burger King, we, the Sons of Light, would get our just reward. It was all carefully calculated, prophesied, predestined, dialectically synthesized, Ayn Rand approved. It was inevitable. It was only a matter of time. And the time was always Tomorrow.

The final page of Kartinniy Slovar' Russkovo Jazyka, a children's primer, Moscow, 1950

Tomorrow. Soon. Someday. Never today. Today was for diligence, and obedience, and everyone wearing the same hair style, the same height of skirt, the same col- lar on the same shirt, going to the same church, the same job, the same role, thinking the same thoughts. It was the world I and my fellow elders grew up in, raised children in. And it wasn't exactly the nightmare you read about in 1984 or A Wrinkle in Time. Think Ward and June Cleaver, Dagwood and Blondie, the kids in Peanuts all fed, clothed, and sheltered by grown-ups who were never seen. . . . 

No, it wasn't that bad. Not for most people.

But it was what life was like in, say, 1965, and yes it was boring, and uncreative, and limiting, and people died in pointless wars, and people were thrown in jail or killed for their beliefs, and people who didn't conform because they couldn't were blamed for their "failure" anyway and thrown into various dark corners. And not just the poor, or the malcontents, or people with too much melanin. The average life-expectancy for a person with Down Syndrome in 1965 was 2 years. They could have lived much longer (as they do today), but they were shuffled off to those dark corners . . . and those corners were very dark indeed. But the vast majority of their fellow citizens never knew. They were the lucky ones. They were normal.

Normalcy. The ultimate drug, and everyone wanted it. Don't you? Think cozy living rooms and sunny Sunday mornings and watching parades go by. Think of Father Knows Best and I Love Lucy and Bob Hope and Dutch Reagan and his good buddies Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Then don't think about Angel Unaware, the book Dale Evans wrote about her child with Down Syndrome, a child that she and Roy arranged to live in a corner that didn't seem dark until you looked closely. Robin Elizabeth Rodgers died just before her second birthday, and Dale never told us why.

You won't find a copy of Angel Unaware in my home town. Not in the libraries, anyway. Mom didn't have the option Dale Evans had, of being wealthy and well-connected enough to hire a nanny to care for her Down Syndrome baby. Nor did she have the option of building a separate dwelling for the child to keep her away from her other children as Dale did, supposedly under doctors' orders. (The other children might have been "disturbed" by contact with such an odd duck, you see, so Dale didn't let them have any.) 

And Mom certainly lacked the arrogant gall to write a book about her daughter from the child's point of view, and in a sickeningly sweet, pseudo-inspirational baby-voice that in comparison makes Rainbow Brite sound like Vlad the Impaler. No, you won't find a copy of Angel Unaware in my hometown. Mom tracked them all down and burned them. Blame it on her German ancestry, if you will. Or maybe Mom was just being a good cowgirl.

We're told Dale's baby "died of complications from Down Syndrome." My sister also tried to die when she was two. She tried to die when she was twenty. In fact, she tried to die just a couple of weeks ago. But she didn't. And not because of luck, or because of angels, or because "The Bible Tells Me So." (One of Dale's most popular songs--I used to sing it in Sunday-school.) Dale's gone to her grave now, and her husband Roy, and their good buddy Ronald Reagan, along with plenty of other famous rich people. But I wonder about Robin Elizabeth Rodgers, and where her grave is, and if anyone ever visits it.

The young women who grew up in the world of the Masters should have turned out as self-satisfied, narrow-minded and mindless as Dale Evans. That a signifi- cant portion of them did not must mean that something happened to them during that time of life when the mind is most open to influences outside the family: adolescence. The mothers who raised the current crop of under-30s reached this time of life during the 1960s, the decade so often called "tumultuous" by those who either weren't there or have something to sell. To hear pop-sociologists tell the tale, something about the time period itself got into the youth of those days like a virus or an evil spirit or a drug, something coming out of the radio or the TV or the movies or the akasha, something their parents couldn't control and that had even the Masters scrambling, something their dialectics and market analyses and ancient prophesies had failed to account for. What mysterious essence came oozing out of the ether and turned the docile young ladies of the 60s into the mothers of the Obama Generation? And what does this have to do with the four men who will save the world?

to be continued

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