It's a hell of a town

Mona Charen

July 14, 1993|By Mona Charen

VENTURE with me once more into the world liberalism has created: New York City.

New York has been governed politically, educationally, spiritually and morally by liberal ideas for at least 30 years. Fads that merely sideswiped other parts of the nation -- like high-school condom distribution and a therapeutic approach to crime -- have become institutional pillars of New York's liberal superstructure.

So how are they doing? One of the things liberals told us they could manage so much better than anyone else was the treatment of women.

News item: At least five teen-age boys have been arrested during the past week in New York for engaging in gang molestation of girls in public swimming pools. In a ritual called "the whirlpool," reports the New York Times, as many as 20 to 30 boys, ranging in age from 12 to 17, link arms and surround a lone girl. They chant a slogan popular at basketball games -- "Oops, there it is" -- and then attack her, dunking her head under water, frequently tearing off her bathing suit top and sometimes grabbing at her breasts and genitals. This is high humor for the boys, perhaps especially if the girl is reduced to sobs of fear and humiliation.

All right, you say. Teen-agers misbehave. How can you possibly blame liberalism?

Consider the response of Betty Gotbaum, New York City commissioner of parks under liberal Mayor David Dinkins. She is the authority here. She is the representative of society's mores. Here's what she said: "This has been going on since time immemorial. And it's not right. But . . . we just have had a really bad five days."

No, New York has had a bad 30 years. "It's not right" is about the most tepid censure in the lexicon. How about "It's outrageous and will not be tolerated"? Moreover, Ms. Gotbaum betrays her limitations by suggesting that this behavior has been going on since "time immemorial." It has not. This kind of contempt for and cruelty to women wasn't a part of the America I grew up in. It wasn't a part of my mother's America either. Women were never treated this way in the worst days of the Depression or in the

most libertine era of the Wild West.

No, it required the concentrated assault on "bourgeois values" that began in the '60s to so thoroughly unravel the fabric of civility that had previously survived war, depression and natural disasters.

An informal survey of 50 youngsters from a variety of neighborhoods in the New York area conducted by the New York Times reveals the coarse and vulgar world in which teen-agers now interact. This is a world in which romance is gone -- replaced by easy sex and trashy language. Liberals, evangelists of the sexual revolution, never believed that by devaluing chastity they'd be devaluing women. But ask the girls who are almost universally addressed as "bitch" in New York City whether free sex has resulted in greater respect.

The term "bitch" is no accident. It literally refers to a female dog. And the girls reciprocate by addressing boys as "dogs." Derrick James, 18, of Bogota, N.J., was asked by the Times how he accounted for the predatory, pack behavior of teen-age boys.

"It's nature," he explained. "Look at a female dog and a male dog: It's the same thing. You see 20 male dogs on a female dog. It's the male nature in a way."

So much for 5,000 years of civilization insisting that human beings, creatures created in the image and likeness of God, are not mere dogs in heat and are capable of better behavior.

This moral swamp we have allowed to emerge threatens the United States far more than huge budget deficits, a failing educational system or the challenges of global competition.

In my lifetime, we have gone from a world in which men customarily rose from their chairs when a woman entered the room to a world in which a 14-year-old cannot swim in a public pool without fear of sexual assault.

It's been a steep decline.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

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