No one can decree what a word will signify for those who hear it, or even what it must signify for himself. That's not how words work. Nor is it how symbolic actions work — actions that are, whether we admit it or not, significant. I put my hand in my pocket; it doesn't mean anything. Maybe I'm searching for my car keys. Maybe my hand is cold. But if I'm holding a woman by the hand, that means something, the meaning is public, and it's not ours to determine. John may rent a house with his brother Bill. That doesn't mean anything. If John rents a house with Sarah, that does mean something, whether they like it or not. And it has implications. It denies the necessity of marriage. It declares, "A man and woman need not be married to enjoy the delights of sexual intercourse. They may do what we're doing. There's nothing wrong with it."
What began fifty years ago as defiance has ended in convention — in a settled language. It sounds as odd, now, to insist upon purity before marriage as it would sound odd to use the language of the King James Bible for common speech. "Whithersoever thou goest, I will go," says Ruth to her boyfriend, and he knits his brows and wonders if she's been drinking. That's assuming he understands the statement at all. If a young woman says, "I don't think people should pretend they are married when they aren't," her boyfriend may understand the words on that page, so to speak, but their import will escape him entirely. Is she a prude? A religious fanatic?
The language changes; expectations change. If the language is degraded — if people no longer perceive great differences in meaning, so that, for example, fornication is felt to be just like marriage — then that will hurt people's ability to read the truth. When everyone goes to the gladiatorial games, the cruel man is one more face in the crowd. Those who attend will be the worse for it; and they will be more vulnerable to the worst among themselves.
I am now thinking of another person I know, another victim of the revolution. For obvious reasons I shall alter the names and some of the incidentals of the case.
Grace was raised in the Catholic Church, after the revolution. The word sin wasn't often uttered from the pulpit. She considered herself a good Catholic, but that phrase had been drained of most of its meaning. She believed in the declarations of the Creed, to the extent that she gave them any thought, and she was determined to be nice to people, as Catholics should be. The whole of the Law and the Prophets, says Jesus, is summed up in the love of God and neighbor; and love means being nice. Grace was a nice young woman. She set her heart on the care of the elderly, and was exceptionally good at her work at the nursing home. When she entered the room, it was as if the curtains had been raised and the windows thrown wide. She was conscientious and patient, never thinking herself too good for the humblest tasks. She is still that way, as her fellow workers have testified to me.
Grace had the misfortune to fall in love with a terrible man. But who knew? The revolution had made it hard for anyone to read him — to see how bad he was. He had slept with nine or ten girls; he made up a secret scoresheet on them, which I have seen, rating them for various characteristics. Grace didn't know about that, but she did know about his history. Yet what could that mean? All the boys, except for the homely or the impossibly shy, slept around. Half of Grace's female friends did, too. He didn't go to church. Neither did most anybody else. He used pornography. Well, what else is there to watch on television but the sleazy and the sniggering? His work record was erratic. But is that so out of the ordinary now? Who says that a man needs to support his wife, anyway?
They married and had two children. Then the corruption began to bubble over. I won't go into the details. One day, in fear, Grace left him and the children; and the real nightmare began. It is a nightmare of law gone insane, of a mendacious judge, of social workers fascinated by the husband and filled with vindictiveness against Grace, of bigotry against the Catholic faith to which Grace returned, of suppressed evidence of the husband's cruelty, his pathological lying, and his sexual degeneracy. The children were taken from Grace and given to the custody of the husband, who hates them, and whom those same children have accused of abuse. They were forbidden to attend their old school, where their friends and teachers knew Grace and loved her. They were taken out of the community and forced to move with the father, far away.
There are credible accusations of abuse by the father. I have looked through a notebook he kept and inadvertently left behind, after he moved away. It is filled with drawings of sadism, and worse. There is a blasphemous drawing of Satan, born in a stable and laid to rest in a manger. There are drawings of naked women, always penetrated from behind. There is a drawing of a girl begging her father to give it to her. There is a sick cartoon portraying father-daughter incest. All this was ruled inadmissible by the court. "It's art," the father claimed. Note the parallel degeneracy of that field of significance.
I hear the objections, "There have always been wicked men!" Yes, certainly. But their wickedness used to be kept partly in check by social expectations — by the language.
Can it get worse? Oh yes, much worse. Grace has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting for her children, who desperately want to be with her and not with the father they hate and fear. She pays child support — the father is a bloodsucker, unemployed at the time of the breakup. His legal fees were paid by the state. He is now in an adulterous relationship with another woman; the court forbade Grace from proceeding with a divorce. That doesn't matter to the court. What's a little adultery, when more than a third of children are born out of wedlock? If the judge threw a party, how many people attending would have also been guilty of finding a sexual partner before the formalities of divorce had been concluded? He and she now have a child of their own. Well, that does happen. The "stepmother" is jealous, and treats Grace's daughters badly. Not nearly so bad as the father treats them. One day recently he threw a ten year old girl out of the car in the middle of a city and forced her to find her own way back home — three miles. Should she have gone to a policeman? She is terrified of policemen, because they have sided with her father before.
I have read pages written by the elder daughter. They are chilling, not just because of the sickness and evil of the father, but because of the innocence she's already lost. She has heard obscenities hurled at her all her life long. She is living in a sewer, and the smell of it is on her, and there's nothing she can do about it.
I hear the objections, "There have always been wicked men!" Yes, certainly. But their wickedness used to be kept partly in check by social expectations — by the language. I had a bad uncle who kept his wicked habits to himself, so nobody knew anything about it till much later, and though one of his children was clearly hurt by it, the other three got through more or less intact. For it is one thing to be bad; it is another to be known and despised as bad, and that raises the cost of wickedness considerably. Then too the sexual revolution has allowed us to gloss over bad behavior, as if sin were not sin. But that is like glossing over skin cancer with rouge. The cancer remains. Sin eats away at the soul of the sinner. Grace is a good woman, but if she had been born in her parents' time she would likely have been a better woman, just as it would be healthier, all things considered, not to live beside a polluted river.
Worst of all, the revolution has brought complete chaos. Her evil husband fits the nauseating phrase, "the new normal." Her children suffer the consequences. Multiply them by millions.
see The Sexual Revolution and its Victims - part one
Anthony Esolen. "The Sexual Revolution and its Victims - part two." Crisis Magazine (October 8, 2012).
Reprinted with permission of Crisis Magazine.
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