ROCK ‘n’ role playing.
When confused and uncertain, we often recoil from the challenges of the future, reverting instead to comforting visions of one or the other redemptive halcyons from a past viewed with rose-tinted hindsight. Very little of it stands up to scrutiny, but no matter. Cultural mythology is aimed at supplanting rational thought, not buttressing it.
Citizens like you are standing up all across the country—standing up to reclaim our culture, a culture that was founded on the principles that are today being threatened at every turn.
— Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK)
ROCK is back in the news with another orchestrated anti-pornography public relations campaign. It has erected a billboard, convened a press conference and hinted that the “end times” are finally near for Clarksville’s Theatair X.
But just as Fidel Castro’s stubbornly unmovable Cuba has thwarted generations of American politicians, so has Theatair X frustrated the efforts of local do-gooders. Wile E. Coyote’s success rate versus the Roadrunner is considerably better than the “winning” percentage amassed by Theatair X’s many detractors over the decades.
However, ROCK now says it has incriminating goods, and it demands that Clarksville’s town fathers take action against a business so eternally impervious to the vicissitudes of an ever-changing marketplace that if it were a “family” owned fruit and veggie stand, it probably would be receiving a lifetime achievement award from One Southern Indiana, and maybe a seat on its board.
Let’s leave the bananas and cucumbers out of it, pour a refreshing locally brewed ale, and return to the question I’ve asked of ROCK and the like-minded numerous times:
Exactly which culture are you so intent on reclaiming?
I’m so old that I can remember Citizens for Decency through Law, which as acronyms go comes out CDL – and a commercial driver’s license is hardly as rhythmic as ROCK, is it?
CDL was founded in Cincinnati in 1958 by Charles Keating, who later became famous (and eventually incarcerated!) for corruption during the savings and loan scandals that erupted during the presidency of Bush the Elder. Our local chapter of CDL declared holy war against Theatair X when disco was ascendant, Chevettes patrolled the highways and Jimmy Carter donned his energy crisis sweater.
Earnest prayer and righteous protest ensued, until eventually the smut peddlers became so terrified of CDL that they demolished the drive-in movie screen – to make room for a new building and a contemporary business model, which has thrived ever since.
In 1978, as part of my senior civics group project, a representative of CDL was booked to speak to us about pornography’s threat. We also scheduled an employee of Theatair X to appear separately and provide what we imagined as instructive counterpoints about rights, freedoms and frequent flyer discounts, but he abruptly cancelled at the last minute.
In a shocking turn, only a few months later the very same no-show was shot and killed while mowing his yard. I didn’t know him, but my personal aversion to cutting grass dates to that sad day.
In 2009, ROCK is a state of the art, social-networking and niche-marketing phenomenon, utilizing sophisticated communication technologies rather than CDL’s splotchy mimeographs and rotary dialing lists. ROCK capably harnesses the affluence and ideology of the vast and expanding Southern Indiana exurb, home of the mega-church and big-box theories of shopping, salvation and life itself, as well as tapping into the same “wealth creationism” espoused by One Southern Indiana, which continues to exploit a linkage, however surreptitiously, with theocratic tendencies.
However, we’ve all been here before. ROCK plays a familiar role in a long-running medicine show as civilization’s oldest professions, sex and religion, grapple for turf as millennia race past in the blink of a heathen’s jaundiced eye.
The question again:
Exactly which culture is ROCK so intent on reclaiming?
Is it the one with barefoot and pregnant women denied the right to vote? Does it have something to do with the enduring traditions of vice, gambling and prostitution in river towns like Jeffersonville and Clarksville, communities that profited from the calculated civic-mindedness of bookies and pimps just as surely as Louisville prospered from the coerced labor of African-American slaves?
Am I forgetting all the other aspects of presumably “golden” cultures of the past, when sewage flowed unnoticed through the streets, all of medicine was faith-based quackery, the Inquisition made Gitmo look like a Cancun resort hotel, and witches were regularly burned to keep parishioners toasty and warm in their pews?
In the past, organized Christianity aligned itself with each and every one of the preceding and lamentable abuses, which is to say that an often unquestioned local authority figure standing unchallenged at a pulpit taught supernaturally sanctioned gibberish to the fearful and reticent, with catastrophic results for those on the wrong side of faith.
ROCK unabashedly aligns itself with a particular religious worldview, simplistically offering “reclamation” of culture as its goal, but is a workable definition even possible under the circumstances of preconceived religious affiliation?
Perhaps there exists a remote possibility that “reclaimable” culture can be explored coherently, although only within the checks and balances of a truly pluralistic society, with shared respect for a multiplicity of viewpoints and a commitment to impartiality in the pursuit of truth.
Given the historical record of Christianity, I’m skeptical.
One of our civics set pieces was a feature from a “Hustler” magazine, which was one of Keating’s prime targets back in the day. It’s none of your business how we obtained it. The pages we clipped showed gruesome photos of disfigured and mutilated corpses. The title?
“War – The Ultimate Obscenity.”
Three decades later, that’s about all I recall from the class, meaning that contrary to popular opinion, I actually did learn something in high school.