Rush Limbaugh is very good at his job. He keeps 'em listening. There is no more to the job than that — nor, for any reason, should there be.
And he called a woman "slut" the other day, occasioning a word riot among people whose ears are out of tune with our present non-issue-oriented political discourse.
Not that I'm horrified by the word. Among my friends, for instance, the tattoos women get on their lower backs are called "slut badges." Not all of those friends are men, either.
Still, one expects the outrage. Public speech is not private speech, if only because private speech is almost always more true and better to hear than public speech.
I'm 54 — not ancient, but aging — and I remember when women who had sex before marriage were commonly described as "sluts," though my father would have said "bimbo" and my mother would have said "tramp." My grandmother would have said "whore." My family members, I hasten to add, were not members of some snake-handling church, either. We were Catholics.
What struck me about the reaction to Limbaugh's unsurprising utterance is how few people seem to have even the shortest of long memories.
There was a time, in this country, when words like "slut," along with more concrete penalties, enforced at least part of the social order.
That's a good thing to remember because, if you want a return to the great days of America's morality, you can't leave it to Rush. You can't even leave it to Congress.
A man who was living with a woman to whom he was not married was not welcome in my parents' house. A single mother who had never married could likewise not dine at our table. Many people, most particularly Catholics, did not care to associate with divorced people.
And this was standard, or at least popular.
It was a safe world, well fenced. I ought to know — I lived my early years in that world, in the midcentury years before new money and cheap dope pushed out old values.
And I long for it sometimes, though that may be just my soul crying for the clean sheets and Spaghettios of a happy childhood.
To maintain the value of female virginity and the nearly universal sanctity of marriage requires that people be snubbed and called names. It requires a relaxation of the discrimination laws so that a manager can fire an employee who bears a child out of wedlock. It requires that most men regard a divorcee (remember the word?) as a species of slut. My father called a man who left his wife, for any reason, a "bum."
Segregation laws were enforced in the same way, by volunteers from the public. There were laws on the books against blacks and whites eating together, but the front line of racial segregation was the underpaid waitress who looked a black man in the face and said: "You can't eat in here, boy. Go 'round by the back, and they'll hand your meal out through the kitchen."
We can do it. It's going to take what political organizers call "a grassroots community effort."
And we need you.
Here's how you do it.
Tomorrow, you're walking through the mall and you see a woman with a pregnant belly and no wedding ring.
Spit in her face and call her a whore.
If enough of us do it, we can get this country back on the right track.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com