In 1979, in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, I spoke at a gathering of GOP women. The other speaker was the former governor of California, Ronald Reagan. On our way out, I offered Gov. Reagan my best wishes on his campaign.
“What’s your best idea for it?” he asked me as we walked out of the club.
“Jimmy Carter has screwed up everything he’s touched,” I said. “He just reeks of failure. Why don’t you try as a slogan, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’” I am sure others offered it to him as well.
Time passed. Reagan got the nomination and turned out to be a fantastically gifted president. We miss him every day. But as I survey the world we live in, I cannot help but think, day by day, Are we better off now than we were 50 years ago? That is, Are we better off now than we were in 1963? That question about comparing the past with the present haunts me.
In some ways, indisputably, yes, we are better off than we were in 1963. Legalized racism is gone. Fifty years ago, there were barely any blacks in Congress, and blacks were barred from voting in many parts of the South. Blacks in the highest reaches of law or business or government were unheard. That’s all changed.
Blacks make up an enormous and powerful caucus in Congress. (Somehow, they consider it legal to bar whites from joining the Congressional Black Caucus, whereas it would certainly be unimaginable for there to be a “White Caucus” that barred blacks from joining. But that’s another story.) We have a black president. We have a black senator from South Carolina. There are many blacks in high positions in finance, law, and industry, as well as the top ranks of government.
The top-tier colleges and universities are begging for black students, and they give black students meaningful preference in getting in and paying their way.
That’s all to the good, or at least most of it is.
But the black community in much of this country is in deep crisis. Fifty years ago, most black children were born to married couples. Now, that’s a rarity. Fifty years ago, black gang killings of other blacks were grim novelties. Now, it’s a byword in most major American cities.
Fifty years ago, there was no Internet. Now, we press a few buttons and we can communicate for free, instantly, with anyone on the globe. We can go to a website like Wikipedia and find information on a subject instantly, often in considerable detail. (Unfortunately, that “information” is often comically mistaken, and the Internet is often captured by lunatics.)
With the Internet, alas, come an unimaginable torrent of pornography that, at least to me, degrades women, and introduces young people to sex as a violent, forceful act usually completely devoid of real affection.
The Internet is sometimes great stuff. But the role it plays in dehumanizing and perverting human relations is nauseating.
Fifty years ago, a man might come home from work and have a drink or two or three to wind down from work. In my opinion as a teetotaler, not great. But today, in many states, including my beloved Sunny Cal, a marijuana so powerful that it is literally immobilizing and psychedelic, is freely available to anyone with even a modest wish to have it.
This drug, modern-day marijuana, is for many people simply impossible to stop taking, and demolishes ambition, energy, and initiative.
Fifty years ago, women were greatly restricted in their careers and their home lives. Now, they serve at the highest levels of government, run immense companies, win Oscars for best director, and become billionaires. All to the good.
On the other hand, they are very often not married even if they want to be; are compelled to raise children by themselves, often in economic straits; and (again) are used as the most vile form of sex toys on the Internet.
Fifty years ago, abortion was rare and illegal. Now, it is commonplace and legal. Fifty years ago, a small number of women a year died in botched illegal abortions — any is too many. Now, there are very roughly 1 million abortions per year in the United States. That is 1 million totally, utterly innocent human beings killed every year by “doctors” who have pledged to, “first, do no harm.”
Are we better off now than we were 50 years ago? What signifies the Internet? What signifies genocide against our own children?
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, and lawyer, who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes cast him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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