"Where it began, I can't begin to know when, but then I know it's growing strong." That's the opening line of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a song inspired by Caroline Kennedy, composed in 1969, and now played every eighth inning at Boston's Fenway Park. (It's also shown up at Florida State, Pitt, Davidson College, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals games.)
Hmm. I know when our national craziness began: in the 1960s. That's when the American left thought we could put an end to hardship. Marriage a disaster? No-fault divorce. Pregnancy a problem? Abortion. Work a bummer? Don't work. Tired of the Cold War? Give up: Better Red than dead.
During the 1980s and 1990s some foreign-policy and economic conservatives thought they had put the 1960s to rest. The Reagan administration pushed the Soviet Union so hard that it fell apart. Welfare reform in 1996 brought work requirements. But no-fault divorce and abortion remained-and two current controversies remind me that many liberal leaders (particularly in New England, where I grew up) are still living in the 1960s.
The first centers on mariatalks.com, a Massachusetts government-funded website that tells teenagers an abortion "is much easier than it sounds." The site uses a faux-teenage voice to declare, "Abortion is a pretty hot topic. . . . Some believe that it is wrong while others believe that it can be a good and responsible choice. . . . What's important is how you feel about it. One of my friends who had an abortion . . . felt that it was the best choice she could make for herself, her boyfriend, her family, and her future."
The state-invented "Maria" declares that "abortions are safe and effective, though some people may experience temporary discomfort." Since Massachusetts has a parental consent law, "Maria" tells teens that their peers get around this "all the time here in Massachusetts . . . call the Planned Parenthood Counseling and Referral Hotline at 1-800-258-4448. . . . They will provide you with a free lawyer who will help you go to court and talk to a judge."
Sure, banish hardship. How 1960s! The Boston Herald reported conservative outrage over the site and concluded its story with a quotation from a high-school principal, Charles Skidmore: "I'm assuming because it's from the Department of Public Health, it's balanced information." Assume away.
Crazy. But wait, let's go to Maine. With teen unemployment nationally at 21 percent and likely to soar this summer, Gov. Paul LePage and fellow GOP legislators want to allow employers to offer teens $5.25 rather than $7.25 per hour for their first three months of employment.
Good data support the LePage proposal. Last year even the Paris-headquartered Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, made up of 34 countries (70 percent from Europe) that rarely agree on anything, released a report contending that countries could reduce teen unemployment by "lowering the cost of employing low-skilled youth" through a sub-minimum training wage.
The "progressive" concern, of course, is that rapacious bosses will seize the opportunity to fire an adult-but no competent manager will replace a good worker with an untrained teen. To play on another 1960s tune, "All we are saying, is give kids a chance." So, why the furor from the Huffington Post and other organs of the left? Because 1960s craziness remains. Why should anyone have to work for less than $10 per hour? Why shouldn't everyone work for at least $100 per hour? Banish hardship! If we bang on the doors of Eden, they will open.
Neil Diamond: "Sweet Caroline, o-o-o, good times never seem so good." But they don't last unless children are born and grow up. Diamond: "Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you." That may lead to crisis pregnancies, but I prefer to think about the hand of an unborn child reaching out of the womb during prenatal surgery and touching the doctor's, or the hands of a man-child or a girl/woman learning the joy of grown-up work and gaining productive habits that can last a lifetime.
The 1960s were a search for instant gratification. We would have a Great Society by willing it. Actually, good times often seem good at the time, but different the next day. That next day is now.