Thursday, August 04, 2005

Turning Back The Clock

In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Hermione Granger, overachiever and all-around genius, uses a device called a time-turner to alter time slightly so she can attend two classes that take place at the same time. The device is used later in the story to alter events with far-reaching consequences should they have occurred as intended.

We find ourselves increasingly in similar time-turning circumstances. Since Goldwater's mainstreaming of conservatism in the late 60's, White heterosexual males, and their admirers, have tried their best (and occasionally succeeded) to change the face of America, literally and culturally, to make real the post-World War II setting of "Ozzie and Harriet." The show featured a family of four, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, exploring everyday issues like growing pains, school, dating, and the social life of teens. Never having seen the show myself, I can't tell you how bland it actually was, but from all accounts, it was. Debuting on television in 1952 (according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications website), it was originally a radio show that moved to t.v., with Ozzie Nelson scripting and directing the show. Much of what is remembered about the program focuses on son Rick Nelson's musical performances, but the focus was to have been Dad's steering the course for the family, and Mom Harriet making sure slightly goofy Dad doesn't kill himself in the process. Classic "the man is the head of the household," with the woman submitting stuff. I usually think of this line from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," delivered by Lainie Kazan's mother of the bride: "If the man is the head, the woman is the neck; without the neck, the head won't turn."

What none of the conservative O&H'ers conveniently forget, or choose to omit in their hubris, is that first, it's fiction, a story, bogus, crap. Second, the off-screen Nelsons weren't as perfect as one would think, with Ricky's (later Rick) post-show music career descending from flame to fizzle, with rumors of cocaine abuse surfacing around the time of his death in a plane crash, David's currently fodder for "Where Are They Now?" shows. Ozzie admitted in his autobiography that he was an atheist. He was also extremely controlling, keeping his family under his thumb. And these same O&H'ers also skip over t.v.'s "My Three Sons," a single-parent household headed by Fred MacMurray, with help from his father-in-law (until actor William Frawley's death), followed by Uncle Charlie. A single man moves not one, but TWO single men into his house and can't find a wife to take care of his kids? Hmm...

It's all well and good to long for simpler days. God knows I'm tired of living in post-9/11 America, with civil liberties being rapidly crunched underfoot in the name of patriotism. And, I'm sick of being on the defensive every time "gay" hits the news. But it just isn't possible to turn back the clock. It's no accident that GWB's nominee for the Supreme Court, John Roberts, is shown with his perfectly blond wife, and perfectly blond kids (when was the last time you saw a little boy in short pants?), as we're sure that's what much of America wants to get back to. But it's not possible. As my brilliant wife says, you can't unlearn what you've already learned, and we've learned far too much to go back. Conservative Christians can't say they live by the Bible, and not work actively and openly to re-legalize slavery; they prefer to do it by using the law to strike down things like affirmative action. Or conveniently forget Paul's writing in the book of Romans that there is no male or female in Christ, and simultaneously chip away at Title IX provisions. Or cite Leviticus to demonize gays & lesbians while enjoying shrimp parmigiana.

No matter what we want, the clock can't be turned back. We can't undo anything, we can only try to improve or undo the damage done. And we need to work tirelessly to make sure the clock isn't turned back.


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