By E. Jeffrey Ludwig
Not long ago, this writer was riding a subway train in New York City to keep a medical appointment. The train stopped at 36th Street to let out and to receive passengers. My mind shifted to memories of a mass subway shooting at that station a year ago, where Frank James set off a smoke bomb and then fired 33 rounds, wounding ten people.
The doors closed and the train moved on to the next stop, and when the doors opened there, I saw an electronic advertising sign on the platform, which I had seen a few weeks before at another subway station. It read: “WE LOVE HEALTHY VAGINAS” and then shifted to another ad.
Then I looked up and studied the advertising that lines subway cars above the windows. I saw a series of posters posted by the City University of New York (CUNY) that told readers that “prestige is available to all.” The signs announced that 75% of students were debt-free. Many schools and programs offered free Metrocards (cards used to pay subway and bus fares in NYC) and free textbooks.
The incentives for seeking so-called higher education were money and prestige. Nothing about knowledge. Nothing about love of learning. Nothing about making a contribution to society. Nothing about meeting challenges. Nothing about personal growth. Nothing about building a future for oneself and one’s family. The signs were the height of cynicism and degraded values.
The above signs of perversity and challenges to the moral order did not begin this year or last year. They did not begin with President Joseph Biden or President Donald Trump or even with Presidents Bush and Obama.
Thirty years ago, in the 1990s, a man went into a New York City elementary school as a substitute teacher, and one of the unruly and spastic second-graders was standing on a table. When asked by the substitute why he was standing on a table, the second-grader replied, “I’m standing here because I want to stand here; I stand wherever I want to stand!” Another girl in 10th grade in a riotous high school told her teacher, “It’s too warm in here” and went over to the window and raised it. When the teacher told her that it was against Dept. of Education rules to raise the windows more than six inches, she raised the window even higher…and jumped out. Fortunately, it was a first-floor window, but it was still an eight- to ten-foot drop.
On another occasion, the same teacher opened the door leading to the stairway, and on the other side of the door, one of the female students was giving oral sex to a male student. In the same secondary institution, a girl student was shot in the leg when exiting the school, yet the students were demonstrably upset that the police were “too rough” when they pushed through the crowd to get to the victim so they could rush her to the hospital. At the same high school, long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, the National Anthem was never sung except at graduation (to the groans of the graduates) as a show for the parents and relatives. The only song of allegiance sung or played was “Lift Up Your Voice and Sing” (the so-called Black National Anthem).
What about that best of all possible decades, during the 1980s presidency of Ronald Reagan? At that time, an asst. vice president in his forties at a major bank boasted to some of his co-workers that on a business trip to Latin America, he went into “dens” where the air was filled with marijuana smoke, and gorgeous chicks in their twenties were everywhere. Another lady banker boasted about servicing clients in the back seat of limousines.
In the 1980s, a brilliant Harvard student joined a cult that was allowed to hold its meetings in a Roman Catholic church in New York City. The cult combined Hindu teachings and meditation with Catholicism and with the teachings of the cult leader, who was based in New Mexico. The Harvard student, despite an off-the-charts high I.Q., was captivated by the cult and gave half his inheritance and a huge percent of his earnings from two jobs worked seven days a week to the cult. He believed in a global spirituality not unlike the twisted globalism of today in the socio-political realm or the so-called “ecumenicalism” of the present pontiff and other cosmopolitan types in the world of religion and politics. He “knew” that Reagan nationalism was generations behind the times and that Western or U.S. hegemony was senseless spiritually as well as politically.
In the 1970s a young soldier returning from Vietnam disembarked from the plane only to be confronted by a young woman calling him a murderer and a racist who killed Vietnamese people who only wanted self-government. He punched her in the face and left her screaming, crying, and cursing on the ground. The out-of-control street rage of the sixties over civil rights and the “right” to take psychedelic drugs like LSD and against the Vietnam war became a rallying cry for a large number of people in their twenties and early thirties.
Increasing numbers of young people lived in psychedelic “pads” before, during, and after the trial of the Chicago Eight (1968) that had disrupted the Democrat National Convention held in Chicago. Abbie (Revolution for the Hell of It) Hoffman instigated law-breaking and trouble wherever he could, and he could be heard laughing demonically as he scattered dollars over the New York Stock Exchange. That group of cowardly, antisocial troublemakers were among anti-war types who began to call police “the pigs.” Yes, scorn for police began in the sixties.
Young males started growing shoulder-length hair — looking increasingly like women decades before transsexualism became an exciting social movement. It was a time of libertinism and an all-out attack on middle-class values and on Judeo-Christian morality. Every single one of the Ten Commandments came under attack, and the perverse behaviors and attitudes we see today are a continuation and expansion of the lewd and ignorant rage that beset our country in the sixties. How many people today can even say what five of the Ten Commandments are?
Great liberal commentators like David Reisman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney, writing even before the sixties, depicted the alienation in American society. That alienation, observed so clearly in their legendary book The Lonely Crowd, would be the seed for the growth of the violence, neurotic and psychotic behavior, regular societal disruptions, anti-Judeo-Christian morality, and identity confusion that have beset the USA during the last sixty-plus years.
Christopher Lasch enlarged our understanding of the “lonely crowd syndrome” in his classic, The Culture of Narcissism. The love of pleasure and undue love of self have spun much of our culture on a path of neurosis and even psychosis. Add in the essential element of sin that theologians and true religionists would note, and we have a true understanding of the sixty-plus years of ever-enlarging perverse behavior in our society.