Apparently no slander against us as a people is too insultingly inaccurate if it comes from an enraged right-wing moralist. In a recent issue of Parade, the country's most widely circulated newspaper supplement. Jack Anderson, the country's most widely read journalist, paints a picture of the United States and its people that is so distorted, so divorced from the daily experience of most Americans, that one can imagine reading it in the pages of Pravda.
Anderson, however, is an honest Christian gentleman cursed with an undisciplined and utterly mindless moral zeal. In his role as America's number one journalist-cop-evanbelist, he can call his fellow countrymen a nation of degenerates and get away with it. If Brezhnev were to say what Anderson did there would be a universal yelping and yipping.
"Future historians may look back on America, as Edward Gibbon did on ancient Rome, as a nation that fell of its own exfesses. There are signs of rot on all sides, signs that the nation's ideals are being sapped by persmissive immorality," writes Anderson. "Never before has so large a share of the population indulged in an orgy of self-pampering, overdosing, loafing, sponging, splurging, cheating, shoplifting, looting, philandering, even murdering . . . Judges," Anderson continues, "in the face of mass violations are unable to enforce our laws against prostitution, gambling, homosexual acts, illegal strikes against the public."
That chestnut comparing the United States with the Roman Empire is worthy of a high school debate topic. No one who had ever read Edward Gibbon could possibly conclude that the nation he was describing, in his gloomy and mournful manner, has more than the remotest connection with the United States. It is hard to imagine two large, complex, literate societies that are less alike. One thing they do have in common, however, is that neither was brought down by homosexuals or philandering heteros.
How long has it been since Jack Anderson has visited the United States? Perhaps if he'd drop his angel wings and climb down off his cloud he wouln't write that the Navy's "ships are manned by ill-trained, dissension-wracked crews . . . commanded by Captain Queegs." Or get this bit of simplistic revivalism: "Just about every vice is now on display in the temples of government. Members of Congress take bribes and put mistresses on the public payroll." A few politicians doubtless take bribes and put their girl friends and/or their mothers on the public payroll, but every bit of evidence suggests this kind of activity was far more prevalent a hundred years ago than it is today.
After decrying the "orgy of self-pampering, etc." Dr. Bluenose writes that "two . . . million able-bodied men spend their days puttering around the house and have no intention of going to work. Some are supported by women! [exclamation added] . . . They feel no stigma, because in widening circles it is no longer considered poor form to let oneself be supported by another's labor and sacrifice." What widening circles, where are they? Every known measure we have shows that more people are currently employed than ever before and that they represent a larger proportion of the population than ever before.
This revivalist in reporter's clothes writes: "The declining work ethic is costing our nation the economic supremacy in the world. Businesses that once were able to compensate for poor worker performance by selling better and better machines can't do it now because profits are too low, taxes are too high and investors are scared off." This is a reactionary slander on the country's office and factory workers that managers and executives seldom make. Compared to the work force in most technologically advanced nations ours is conscientious, skillful and energetic.
We are not a country of mate-swapping, freeloading stumble bums. To suggest that our economic and political problems are the result of our personal morality is to use the standards of religion as a tool of intimidation. There have always been a certain number of jackleg preachers offering themselves for sale for such purposes, just as there always have been journalists for hire as propagandists. Anderson puts himself in that class when he writes that the unchained American libido is why "profits are too low."