Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
Thursday, February 25, 1999

The Salem Evening News

Baby boomers' rebellion has had unintended consequences

By Barbara Anderson

Like conservative leader Paul Weyrich, I want to drop out. But I need someplace to drop into.

He says we need to find places, even if right here, "where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives."

I can do "sober" right here at my computer, but I'm not sure about godly and righteous.

The place Mr. Weyrich seeks to go is the place I dropped out of myself, once upon a '60s revolution. The rebels of my generation didn't want godly righteousness; we wanted freedom.

What we didn't understand, in our youthful enthusiasm for change, was that freedom works best for people who have been properly raised. Most of us had two parents who focused on our daily needs and took us to church on Sunday. Our homes had one television with which we all watched family-oriented programs together.

Our teachers started the day with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Our middle-class values were already firmly embedded in our subconscious before we began consciously attacking them.

Many of my fellow rebels are today as appalled as our parents by what Weyrich calls the "moral sewer" in which we find ourselves today. It never occurred to us that future generations, raised with the freedom we loved, might not have a traditional moral base on which to stand when rebellion was carried to the next levels.

We verbally discarded our parents' inhibitions, but we still lived with them. In the early stages, we didn't have drugs; we were high on ideas, on existentialism or objectivism, debating Sartre and Ayn Rand. We talked about -- more than we did anything about -- "free love," which to us really meant the freedom to love, not to engage in promiscuity or contract sexually-transmitted diseases.

We stopped going to church on Sunday, but we didn't stop feeling guilty when we broke one of the Ten Commandments that we'd memorized and internalized. We still believed we should "tell the truth and shame the devil."

I was well over 21 before I said one of the forbidden four-letter words.

In short, we were good little rebels, our feet firmly planted in the traditions of "godliness, righteousness and sobriety," though we would never use the phrase. But we were the beginning, what some might call the beginning of the end.

My generation took those first tentative steps down the slippery slope to today's cultural wasteland. From our high vantage point, the valley below appeared misty, romantic, and better than the plateau from which we'd begun the descent.

But the next generation slid too fast, and didn't carry enough survival supplies with them. I think they lurched off the trail into a different valley altogether.

I don't want to go back to Paul Weyrich's world. But I want to take the best of it with me -- common sense, personal responsibility, respect for some traditional, homely values.

In my American valley, there is no institutionalized prejudice or preference about race, creed, color or sexual orientation. Bigots can't be sued, but are socially scorned. Immigrants are welcome, to work and learn English and melt into the great American dream.

In this world, the first immigrants who came here to promote liberty and the pursuit of happiness are still honored, as are treaties with those who were here before them.

There is free speech, not political correctness in my valley. We have the right to bear arms, to do what we like with our property. We are taxed lightly, regulated little, and monitored by government not at all. Laws are few, but evenly enforced; those who initiate violence, theft and perjury are punished.

Children are wanted and their need for moral guidance is a priority. Their television viewing is censored by parents who read books about heroes to them at bedtime.

Children belong to their parents, not to the government or the teachers' unions. Education is publicly funded, but not government controlled. Parents choose schools that reflect their own values.

Environmentalism is taught, not annoyingly preached. Humans are considered part of nature, not despised intruders.

Sharing with the less fortunate is a religious value and is taught by example, not forced by government. All religions and humanism are respected, but not subsidized.

It ain't John Lennon's world, but it's not Paul Weyrich's either. In my valley, freedom is the very highest value.

I'm glad Weyrich has spoken out and started this discussion, though. It's made me realize that my own idealism has outlasted youth and survived political cynicism.

Drop out, if you will, along with me. The best, if we care, is yet to be.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. She writes regularly for the Viewpoint page. Her biweekly column also appears in other publications.

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