A pink-orange twilight filtered through the bay window in my office. A swoosh filled the silence as file after file descended into oblivion. So many outrages, so little time, I thought. Editors pushed for a 24- to 48-hour turnaround on news commentaries. I no longer could churn out pieces fast enough and still fine-tune them.
As I went about freeing up countless drawers and boxes, I reflected upon the compulsive sense of urgency I had felt when I was penning my books. Oh, how I agonized over those first speeches and articles! If I got held up in traffic, even for 10 minutes coming home from work, it was 10 minutes I wouldn’t have that night.
Many of my colleagues struggled similarly. Before there was hard evidence of legislation presaging universal mental-health screening, before there were Smart Cards, traffic cameras and computer viruses, many of us recognized that the America we knew was living on borrowed time: an America where topics like rape and sodomy were thankfully spoken in whispers; an America that required prospective immigrants to have a sponsor and a job; an America where Judeo-Christian values were the gold standard, but where other beliefs were respected as long as public safety was not at risk; an America where a person’s time was not all but taken up satisfying government diktats; an America that rewarded initiative instead of “process”; an America where you could turn on your television and radio without being grossed out.
By the late 1960s, conservative writers were barely make a living, as one by one, magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, and independent radio and television stations were taken over or marginalized by the left. Conservative publications, even the few successful ones, could not afford to place magazines at the corner drug store or give newspapers away free of charge for six months like their liberal counterparts.
The left, of course, always had access to funds, through second and third parties, and so their version of events wound up being what most people saw and what permeated the schools. A gift from George Soros here, a Rockefeller Foundation grant there, an Armand Hammer endowment somewhere else -- they could scarcely have spent it all.
The conservative groups were left to battle it out for limited resources. This resulted in continual infighting, and a revolving door of poorly paid, barely out-of-college gofers, who packed their brief cases the minute they were able to command a decent salary. The few who stayed on to assume higher profile positions (typically thanks to a well-positioned relative) too often exchanged their zeal in digging out the truth for a big ego. Swelled-Head Syndrome became a condition commensurate with one’s lofty, if precarious, position within the conservative network.
Two examples: A renowned educational analyst wrote in 2001 to the chairman of a conservative non-profit (which shall remain unnamed). The organization had enjoyed some success in challenging universities that discriminated against conservative students and professors. The analyst outlined what he saw as serious missteps in the Republican strategy, especially with regard to academic freedom and free conscience, the organization’s primary interests. His letter was three pages long, but thorough. He asked for a meeting and included his e-mail address. The letter was diverted to the vice-Chairman of the organization who, in turn, e-mailed a colleague that the writer was “long-winded but apparently well-connected” and should get a perfunctory response to “keep him happy.” This insulting e-mail was re-transmitted (accidentally?) via e-mail to the analyst in question along with the boilerplate letter that was supposed to “keep him happy.”
Needless to say, the man never made contact with that organization again, even though it could well have benefited from his expertise.
In a personal incident: I was invited to meet with a highly placed conservative leader to discuss the No Child Left Behind Act. This prominent conservative (who shall similarly remain unnamed) “forgot” our first meeting, according to his office manager, and never called to apologize. Upon rescheduling (which I initiated), this same muckety-muck spent our short time together scanning his e-mail, blowing his nose, answering the phone for trivial matters and noisily munching a snack. At length, he asked me to make a three-minute presentation at his organization’s meeting of top conservatives -- about 100 people. I accepted the offer and took annual leave from work.
The meeting ran out of time and I didn’t present. I didn’t know whether to reschedule or not. At length, I took the initiative, thinking perhaps I was expected to show up the next week. The office manager confirmed I was on the schedule. Thanks for telling me, I thought. I took off work again. This time, Mr. Big-Shot was on travel, so a 20-something girl from a different organization served as moderator. Armed with handouts that I distributed beforehand (standard operating procedure for presenters), I waited. And waited.
Finally, after nearly half the attendees had left, I was called. I had whittled my talk to under three minutes (a limit nobody else actually bothered about), and began by referencing my handouts. The young lady interrupted, saying that since I had disseminated handouts, I could sit down. I laughed and said thank you, but I’d take my 3 minutes. The girl was repeatedly rude -- so much so that jaws dropped. Nobody, including me, had a clue what her problem was. The remaining attendees applauded my presentation when I had finished, probably more to compensate for the girl’s performance than because of anything I said. Since that time, Mr. Big-Shot began toadying to “conservative” homosexual activists, much to the dismay of traditionalists in his camp, and Her Snottyship has moved on to other endeavors, in keeping with the ever-revolving door that has become the “mainstream conservative network.” (Apparently, my experience with her had not been unique.)
Liberal powerhouses like the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and the Carnegie Foundation do not make these blunders. They turn on the charm. Such boorish behavior on the part of a few conservative leaders exemplifies how drunk some have become on their own importance -- which, for all the good it has done, has amounted to their not being very important at all.
Meanwhile, the publishing world had changed, and writers of all political stripes were told that “nobody reads anymore.” By the 1980s, one’s work had to be concise to the point of being factually bereft. If it didn’t read like Tom Clancy, claimed the syndicates, no one would pick it up. Thus my first book, Educating for the New World Order: reviewers and talk show hosts rhapsodized that it read “like a spy novel.” Readers snatched it up, then begged for more. So I wrote a second, much longer tome, proving that people did read, after all.
In the 1990s, books by many conservatives hit the shelves -- a good sign, we thought, portending a showdown between parents and government schools. But it didn’t pan out that way. Conscientious parents didn’t have an American Civil Liberties Union to pop out of a hat with pro bono help. Lawsuits took years and were expensive. Most parent-activist groups eventually burned out.
Research-writers like me tended to hold alternative “day jobs,” often outside our real areas of expertise. A few held high positions within government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education. Like me, they didn’t like what they were seeing, and not merely from a political-party or Oval Office perspective, but from the bureaucracy, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and special interest groups, which were showering legislators under the table with soft support and perks only hinted at in the recent lobbying scandal starring Jack Abramoff.
Eventually, every serious writer I knew was drowning in a sea of paper and e-mails. Scores of colleagues threw in the towel. The rest of us rationalized that there would be other years to watch a favorite television special, hike in the woods, take a non-business-related trip, or just sit outside and do nothing for awhile. The liberals, of course, had all the time in the world. Conservative alliances started breaking up as new upstarts and a few old-guard think-tanks went RINO (Republicans in Name Only) – the price of legitimacy in the new order.
There are, of course, still millions of folks who revere traditional American values (e.g., the success of films like “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” and news services like NewsWithViews.com, NewsMax and WorldNetDaily), but overall the statistics tell a different story.
To put the matter in perspective, consider the popular TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise.” The show was canceled in 2004 because, according to TV Guide, “only” 2.8 million people were watching it. Forget for a moment whether you liked, hated, or even tuned in to the program. Until about 1965, 2.8 million people doing anything would have been considered an awesome figure. Today, it doesn’t mean diddly. Media executives, like policymakers, are interested in figures over 65 million.
Shock-jock Howard Stern is slated to get hundreds of millions of dollars from his new contract with Sirius Satellite Radio for just this reason. Many more people apparently like drivel, smut and bathroom “humor” than are interested in what used to be called “family entertainment.” More sophisticated qualities like subtlety, cleverness, riveting plots and characterization are becoming rarities. Polls, of course, are predominantly liberal and probably skewed to augment figures supporting garbage and claptrap. Even so, the delta between 2.8 million and 65 million is hard to fake.
More significantly, every graduating high school class brings a whole new slate of “legal adults” into the fold. These “grownups” don’t remember what family entertainment used to look like. As they join the ranks of voters, consumers, and workers, they bring the “new” value system they learned in school with them, and our nation descends further into socialism, welfare, casual sex, narcissism, and political correctness.
As long as the liberal-left faction of government was denying what it was doing, time was on our side. Traditionalists had a chance of winning the larger culture war. But when the opposition began bragging about what it was doing instead of denying it, we started losing in earnest. Now we are in a position where people of principle are subject to government harassment at every turn.
The world has visited this scenario before, under the Nazis and the Soviets, but this time it comes with the “benefits” of computerized cross-matching and high-tech, long-term tracking. Several news outlets reported this month that New York City has begun tracking its diabetic residents. If you think it will stop with diabetics or New York City, you’re dreaming!
We should have drawn a line in the sand during the hippie movement of the 1970s, a phase that most of us thought would fizzle. Instead it morphed. Had our side quickly bought up media outlets, launched new television and radio stations en masse, funded newspapers in every city, created alternative schools and franchised them, launched class-action lawsuits to stem the dissemination of filth, made pariahs of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, and insisted on laws reigning in the fledgling computer technologies, we might have stemmed the political tsunami. Had we told the environmental extremists where to get off, beginning back when they were first protecting bugs over humans, we might still have trash cans in our parks instead of being forced to carry doggie droppings and empty paper plates from concession stands in baggies on our belt.
But we chose to spend the money on election campaigns and Republican Senatorial Committees, even though we had no press to disseminate our message, and no school system to reinforce our values.
Moreover, in 30 years we have succeeded only in filling a few legislative seats with Republican protoplasm, a result which produced only temporary, meager gains.
As the eminent columnist Mark Steyn put it in his January 4, 2006, column for the Wall Street Journal It’s the Demography, Stupid “…much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes….[Places like] Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.”
That pretty much sums up the situation.
As I disposed of the contents in the last file drawer, I couldn’t help brooding. How did a fiercely independent, can-do populace turn into a collection of resigned, apathetic and submissive sheep is so short a time? A little voice seemed to whisper: “Sorry, that’s above your pay grade.”
I smiled. Goodness, I was getting cynical in my old age!
here for part -----> 1
Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive Director, National Education Consortium.
Now we are in a position where people of principle are subject to government harassment at every turn.