John Derbyshire is in a very bad mood and predicting that all is lost.
Normally, being an optimistic sort who truly believes that God has a hand in all things and that therefore all things will – in the end – work to His glory, I would shrug at a column such as this, if not for two things.
First, Derb re-inforced his column with this blurb in The Corner:
WE ARE DOOMED, DOOMED [John Derbyshire]
Several readers have emailed in with something like: “My, Derb, did you take one too many of your gloomy pills this morning?”
No, it was the usual dosage. Look, somebody has to act as counterweight to The Corner’s general air of Goldbergian cheeriness. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. We avert our eyes most of the time, but an occasional reminder doesn’t hurt.”
Again, I would probably have chuckled at Derb’s inconsolable doomsaying and moved on, but then I opened an email from my l’il brother, Thom. My LEFT OF CENTER l’il bro. And this is what he put in the subject header:
WE ARE DOOMED!
He wrote: had lunch with a friend, and she told me she was horrified to hear a 4th grader, one of her son’s classmates, say “Is it okay if I take off my shirt? I gotta wife beater on underneath…”
This is in [insert extremely upper-upper tony neighborhood like Chappaqua, here], mind you.
You know what a “wifebeater” is? I’d never heard this before, and she explained it to me, and says it’s very common terminology for this particular garment — she expects that any day now you’ll see it listed in the Sears catalog. It’s a plain old tank top! We’re doomed.
Now, I admit, Thom needs to get out more, he’s a good boy who goes to work, goes home to his beautiful wife and goes to church. He by choice and inclination does not have a whole lot of exposure to pop-culture. He wrote several subsequent emails still thunderstruck by the idea of a 4th grader refering to an item of clothing as a “wife-beater” and thinking nothing of it.
I had to explain to him that the fault for the kid’s boorish insensitivity lies with the parents who, all too often, think it’s cute and cool to hear their children spout the gangsta lingo, even though they would very likely never let the wearer of a real “wife-beater” enter through their gates, unless he was there to put up some drywall.
Still, Thom is truly upset. He actually googled “wifebeaters” and was unhappy with what showed up before his eyes. He cannot believe that there is a generation (or two) out there who don’t think there is anything wrong with calling a sleeveless tee shirt a “wife-beater” and adopting an entire attitude to wear with it.
I do not think we are doomed. But I do wish more parents would do their jobs. I’m sure the mother of that 4th grader has probably told him he is not to hit girls. I wonder if she understands the disconnect, though, in telling him that and then allowing him to refer to his clothing in such a way.
Meanwhile, my brother Thom and Mr. Derbyshire are singing the same dirge, today. All we need is a pub and a bit of Guinness and we could have a fair session on it!
UPDATE: Matteo at Cartago Deneda Est is also feeling the vibe and is singing the song. We have a trio!