Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Charlie Jenkins
California outside of the Bay Area was largely lightly settled frontier until the 1950s, more cognate to the modern Pacific Northwest than modern California. LA used to be the whitest, most Anglophone, most native-born city in America, did you know that? East LA (which is unincorporated county land) was Mexican, yes, but in the same sense it had been since LA was part of Mexico. It wasn’t until the immigration wave of the '70s-'80s - in living memory for plenty of people - that things changed, and movies like White Men Can’t Jump, Falling Down, and American History X were made by people who lived through the transition. Snow Crash is a projection of early ‘90s SoCal into the future, and the specter of the Raft is a reflection of the Asian boat people refugee/Mexican overland wave. (Steve Sailer can mostly be accounted for by the fact he grew up in the Valley back before this)
And here’s a wild frontier thing - sexual morality is umm, loose. I see some folks - with good and proper ethical basis - sniffing about the mainstreaming of the sexualization of children. But, well, let me say the new millenium has *nothing* on the ‘70s, when the California Experiment first started taking over the culture. Yet, anyway. Roman Polanski - not just his personal life, his 1968 Romeo & Juliet was very upfront about the fact that the leads were young teenagers who were sexual beings who, upon getting married, got naked and sensual with each other in bed. Which I suppose seems like nothing now, but it was something then. Ps, the ‘50’s? That joyous time? No, all that “constrictedness” was a counter-reaction to the fact everyone sensed, and knew, that the older edifices were rotting. Seriously, watch Mad Men. No, husbands weren’t all cheaters, but the Lambeth Conference was at the start of the ‘30’s. Pop-Freudianism, the notion that obviously we totally wanted to have a lot of sex, particularly with our family members, and repressing this was a major source of pain in the world, was always biggest on the coasts.
Yeah, Woody Allen (the things the Farrow family’s said about him would make a good movie. Maybe two.) Heck, the career of Brooke Shields - nude photo spreads in a Playboy publication at ten, starring role as a child prostitute in Pretty Baby at 12, at 14 introducing Calvin Klein and designer jeans in general with ads the conceit of which was her sitting with her legs splayed and double-entendre-ing that she wasn’t wearing underwear, same age as she starred as a topless girl going through an incestuous sexual awakening in The Blue Lagoon (as with Flowers In The Attic, “incestuous sexual awakening” had the same prominence in contemporary YA pulp romance as “supernatural boyfriend” did in the Twilight era). Like, it was not in fact clear at the time that the Sexual Revolution wasn’t going to go all the way from acceptance of premarital to extramarital to homosexual to intergenerational sex. NAMBLA has the same legend of stab-in-the-back betrayal by incrementalist gay activists that transgender activists do.
It wasn’t until the ‘80s that a backlash back-footed things. First there was the “satanic ritual abuse” thing, which was reactionary witch-hunting to the point that folks were literally hunting witches, mating the fears about the twin declines of Christianity and parenthood as structural forces. The Moral Majority and the appearance of evangelicals in cultural politics and anti-pornography coalitions coincided with second-wave radfems. After obscenity laws fell under the Warren Court, it wasn’t until the 1982 New York v. Ferber - which if you read the decision is pure handwaving - that it was established it was even constitutional to criminalize child pornography and not allow “redeeming artistic value” as a defense. (It wasn’t until 1990’s Osborne v. Ohio that it was established criminalizing mere possession was acceptable). Then AIDS was seized upon to co-opt sex education (about which, you know, the Moral Majority wasn’t wrong; it was originally introduced as a means to saturate students with sex-positivity and undermine parental restrictiveness) to teach youngsters sex was deadly as a convenient idiom to reassert sex needed to be controlled. This is a position which now has a better chance of being re-asserted in the hands of sex-negative feminists, by expanding and tightening rape and sexual assault laws.
All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. The players will change. The combinations will change. And the country’s ability to absorb and adapt will change, because whatever it is that keeps America going will change. Ya folks better hope whatever institutions keep the place running don’t weaken, because I tell ya, that will take a toll on every one of your sacred rebel cows (America being a nation of rebels, of course). But since some people are comparing the BLM stuff to the civil rights activism of the sixties, who knows, the eternal return of the sixties might be upon us. Everybody watch California.
Note: The basic notion of this essay first appeared three years ago, was put into essay form two years ago, and was revisited a year ago. I’d say its aged well. How many of these sort of issues have only intensified from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2017?
Note of correction: It was pointed out to me, and this was an oversight on my part, that it was Franco Zeffirelli and not Roman Polanski who was responsible for Romeo and Juliet.
Tara Ann Thieke