In the 1950s, the United States Congress threatened the comic book industry with — you guessed it — government regulation if the industry did not clean up its act.
What kinds of books were being published?
Detective stories, romance stories, horror stories (perhaps you've seen Creep Show, based on the old E.C. Comics horror comics).
This had to stop. It was corrupting the children, don't you know! After the predictable moral outrage and theater for consumption by the gullible, er, Congressional "hearings," the industry caved in.
Go pick up a copy of Green Lantern or Superman. You'll note a literal stamp of approval — from the Comics Code Authority on the front. That's the industry group that took the place of Uncle Sam in protecting American children from dangerous ideas.
Somehow, of course, American children in 2002 do not seem as wholesome as the children of the 1950s. Maybe it's just me, but where was Britney Spears in 1955? Where were the drive-by shootings, the teachers stabbed in school?
At any rate, consider this tale of romance: a wife decides to leave her husband. He's been unfaithful to her, and playing favorites with his affections. He has failed to keep the vows he made at the altar.
The man, however, will have none of it. He beats her.
Over time, her will to leave him vanishes. The pain and suffering are simply too great. And so she stays.
This of course, is the type of story that one could only read in a romance novel.
Unless, of course, we substitute "United States" for the man, and "Confederate States" for the wife.
And then it is the kind of story that we teach to young children in school.
This is the wife-beater philosophy of government: violently forcing people to stay in a "union" that they want to leave.
No "union" is saved when it is forced upon unwilling participants. Such a union is preserved in name only, the real "union" between man and wife, or between political jurisdictions, destroyed. Genuine union is replaced with violence and the omnipotent state. As Montesquieu writes, "in the concord of Asiatic despotism — that is, of all government which is not moderate — there is always real dissension. The worker, the soldier, the lawyer, the magistrate, the noble are joined only inasmuch as some oppress the others without resistance. And, if we see any union there, it is not citizens who are united but dead bodies buried one next to the other."
Horror stories, in terms of the potential to do harm to children, pale in comparison with the failure to learn the lessons of history.
The real-world horrors wrought upon the people of the South in the name of "saving" the Southerners from their freedom were terrible indeed. When Abraham Lincoln and the war to "save" the union are celebrated, the wife-beater philosophy of government receives unwitting applause.
Where marriage is concerned, presumably no one is in favor of forced union. Where politics is concerned, the idea of forced union should be repugnant as well.
June 24, 2002
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2002 David Dieteman