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Jewish World Review /Jan. 4, 1999 /15 Teves, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas In culture war, a parking
space trumps sex

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) THE NEWS ONCE BROUGHT US the occasional and shocking story of citizens indifferent to the cry of their fellow man for help: the blind eye or the deaf ear to appeals for assistance from a woman being set upon by a mugger or rapist; the pleadings of a person who has been shot and who is ignored by others who walk by because they don't want to "get involved.''

Now come signs that this insensitivity, like an untreated disease, has spread to new social organs.

In the Washington, D.C. "bedroom community'' of Gaithersburg, Maryland, a woman was sent to jail for running a house of prostitution out of her townhouse. The prostitutes, some as young as 17, made $200 per encounter. The woman, 33-year-old Caroline Ripa, was earning $120,000 a year at the time of her arrest, according to authorities. Neighbors saw men arriving and leaving at odd hours, but never called police until some of them started parking their cars in reserved spaces. Detective Mike Herbert explained the growth of the madam's business: "Montgomery County is a wealthy county. A lot of gentlemen have expendable income.'' Gentlemen? My how our definitions change in the age of sex that isn't sex in the White House.

Then there is the story of a South Carolina theater owner who tried to do the right thing, but gave up when virtue turned out to be his only reward. David Crenshaw stopped showing R-rated movies in his Spartanburg theater. He had faith that the family values crowd would reward him with their patronage.

They didn't.

Crenshaw says he lost $20,000 at his seven-screen theater since he instituted the policy last August. After one month, his audience dropped from 2,000 to 1,200. Profits were off 50 percent in November and 32 percent in December from 1997. "This whole thing has left me rather cynical,'' Crenshaw said. He restored the R-rated flicks, concluding "you can't make people want something they don't want.''

That is a lesson politicians and others who espouse "family values'' need to learn. Two decades of political activism by some who thought they could restore virtue and ethics through the political process has brought no change. In fact, things have gotten worse.

A seven-part Washington Post series on "American Values: 1968-1998'' suggests why. Things are not different at the visible top (politics, entertainment, law, education, marriage) because "the values environment has changed.'' Since the problem is not at the top, but among the citizens, any restored sense of virtue will not come from the top, but from the bottom. We'll notice it after millions of unseen decisions are made to live differently. This is the proper role of clergy and other moralists. Government can affirm right decisions. It cannot make them for people.

The battle, notes the Post story, continues to be one of extremes: the Puritanism of the Religious Right vs. the permissiveness of the aging children of the '60s. Don Eberly, director of the Civil Society Project in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is quoted: "No analysis can absolve the people themselves of responsibility for the quandary we appear to be in. Nonjudgmentalism, the trump card of moral debate, seems to have gained among the people, especially in the sexual realm, and this clearly does not bode well for America.

Eberly and Alan Wolfe, a Boston University sociologist and author of "One Nation, After All,'' agree that politicians are not seen as the ones to lead a values revival. Wolfe has written, "When government becomes involved in moral matters, Americans are no longer sure they can trust it.''

The Post series indicates the divisions that have marked the last three decades are likely to continue into the next generation. It also reveals that the current 18- to 34-year-old crowd is more tolerant than their elders toward divorce, adultery and casual drug use. The "sins of the fathers'' are being visited upon the next generation.

That is why even if politicians promise to do something about our moral failings, they are likely to be confronted by masses of people who prefer their parking spaces to shutting down a house of prostitution in their neighborhood, or who secretly prefer the R-rated films to the milder fare to which they only give lip service.


12/28/98: Until we've learned our lesson
12/24/98: Peace in Bethlehem!? Something to think about during Xmas
12/22/98: The slime machine brings Apocalypse Now
12/15/98: The 'moving finger'
12/11/98: This sorry president
12/09/98: The eclipse of principle
12/03/98: Destroying Jewry on the installment plan
12/07/98: Before the Age of Clinton
12/01/98: Apathy and ignorance
11/19/98: Ken Starr's moment of truth
11/19/98: The fall of journalism's empire
11/17/98: Republicans drift while conservatives float
11/13/98: Supreme Courtupholds freedom of school-choice
11/10/98: The revolting Republican 'revolution'
11/06/98: Hulk Hogan for president?
11/03/98: Clinton's greatest peril isn't Monica
10/30/98: Mother Teresa was right about killing
10/27/98: Clinton to Netanyahu: 'You're despicable'
10/21/98: A 'peace' agreement: Wye not?
10/19/98: Vanity Fair snubs some of the greatest women 'leaders'
10/14/98:The mean machine
10/09/98: Impeachment: an outside perspective
10/07/98: The corruption of the Secret Service
10/02/98: Land erosion in Israel
10/01/98: The race panel: lies in black and white
9/18/98: The Clinton strategy and the Clinton legacy
9/18/98: Stopping him before he sins again
9/15/98: Repenting when the end is near
9/11/98: Faithfully executing: Congress vs. the President
9/10/98: The degrees of separation between Dan Burton and Bill Clinton
9/08/98: Joe Lieberman and the Democrats' conscience
9/04/98: Clinton vs. Reagan and the struggle for power
9/02/98: If only Bubba had been a Boy Scout
8/31/98: Liberal clergy and the Lewinsky affair
8/27/98: Combating the terrorists among us
8/25/98: The president as 'Chicken Little'
8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.