Mind you, I've said nothing

Russell Baker

December 08, 1992|By Russell Baker

HERE are four ideas for columns I am too timid to touch. They are offered free to all who enjoy receiving abusive mail:

1. A Little Respect for Lechery, Please: Accused of sexual harassment, Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., says he has an alcohol problem. With this he seems to acknowledge the accusations but plead that alcoholism excuses them. This reflects medical science's success in persuading us that alcoholism is a disease, hence deserving of compassion.

When Senator Packwood was a lad matters were entirely different. A politician forcing his attentions on women who didn't want them would not have been hailed as the norm in gentlemanly conduct, but neither would he have been at much political risk.

Confessing, however, that he was sometimes too drunk to control himself might well have finished his political career, even though he had been widely known as a boozer and re-elected in spite of it before making public confession.

A public that historically had regarded drinking as sin could tolerate a sinning politician who behaved like everybody else by keeping quiet about his backsliding. Now that drinking is disease rather than sin, however, politicians ask public sympathy for sins, like mauling women, by declaring themselves alcoholics.

Question: Is medical science sure that lechery is not a disease? At present, perhaps because science simply hasn't bothered to look into it, lechery remains an old-fashioned sin. If it gained disease status, though, men in the Packwood predicament would no longer have to blame alcohol but could claim absolution with honest confession that they were "problem lechers."

2. All Depends on Whose Rage Is Gored: On Wednesday, the Washington Post and New York Times both dealt with trends in popular music. The Post reported on a "rap" recording in which the performer fantasizes about killing President Bush. It is a product of the trend toward violent expression of "black rage," which is said to be legitimized by a long history of abusive discrimination against blacks.

The record's release was accompanied by a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union saying its message constitutes free artistic expression under the First Amendment and cannot be legally construed as incitement to assassination.

The Times that day, in a piece on rising German Nazism, described "hate rock" being played on German stages. Sample lines: "The flame-thrower is the only weapon/ With which I can triumph/ Exterminate the Gypsies/ Whether child, woman or man."

People old enough to remember that the real Nazis were nothing at all like the cute Nazis on "Hogan's Heroes" may feel a raging impulse to ask why the German government doesn't clamp down on this music and all who make it. But of course we don't want to clamp down on "black rage" rap -- or do we? That would be censoring art, wouldn't it? That's what Hitler did.

3. Communication as Environmental Threat: Would millions care about starvation in Somalia if there were no television? Before the present age of total communication (television everywhere, the world in everybody's parlor), massive tribal catastrophes must have occurred, largely ignored by the world, creating social evolutions that shaped the world we inherited in this century.

Before the present era of total communication, the world must have evolved quite differently from the way it does now. Question: Does total communication distort natural social evolution just as dangerously as environmental abuses distort the world's natural biological evolution?

4. A Royal Madonna: The British royal family's troubled marriages result from letting true Royals marry people not trained in the hardships and philosophy required by the job. When unroyal outsiders learn they are expected to lead public lives of excruciating dullness and keep their private lives private, they panic and go to pieces.

They are unfit to be Royals because, through inclination or lack of training, they cannot satisfy the first requirement of British royalty: unquestioning readiness to sacrifice the last vestige of one's humanity to advance an inhuman cause.

Should the Crown need a successor to Princess Diana, one American has shown the necessary steel for this cruel task. Madonna is not only fit, she is tanned and, surely, she is ready.

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