"Where it began, I can't begin to know when, but then I know it's growing strong." That's the opening line of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a song inspired by Caroline Kennedy, composed in 1969, and now played every eighth inning at Boston's Fenway Park. (It's also shown up at Florida State, Pitt, Davidson College, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals games.)
Hmm. I know when our national craziness began: in the 1960s. That's when the American left thought we could put an end to hardship. Marriage a disaster? No-fault divorce. Pregnancy a problem? Abortion. Work a bummer? Don't work. Tired of the Cold War? Give up: Better Red than dead.
During the 1980s and 1990s some foreign-policy and economic conservatives thought they had put the 1960s to rest. The Reagan administration pushed the Soviet Union so hard that it fell apart. Welfare reform in 1996 brought work requirements. But no-fault divorce and abortion remained—and two current controversies remind me that many liberal leaders (particularly in New England, where I grew up) are still living in the 1960s.
The first centers on mariatalks.com, a Massachusetts government-funded website that tells teenagers an abortion "is much easier than it sounds." The site uses a faux-teenage voice to declare, "Abortion is a pretty hot topic. . . . Some believe that it is wrong while others believe that it can be a good and responsible choice. . . . What's important is how you feel about it. One of my friends who had an abortion . . . felt that it was the best choice she could make for herself, her boyfriend, her family, and her future."
The state-invented "Maria" declares that "abortions are safe and effective, though some people may experience temporary discomfort." Since Massachu¬setts has a parental consent law, "Maria" tells teens that their peers get around this "all the time here in Massachusetts . . . call the Planned Parenthood Counseling and Referral Hotline at 1-800-258-4448. . . . They will provide you with a free lawyer who will help you go to court and talk to a judge."
Sure, banish hardship. How 1960s! The Boston Herald reported conservative outrage over the site and concluded its story with a quotation from a high-school principal, Charles Skidmore: "I'm assuming because it's from the Department of Public Health, it's balanced information." Assume away.
Crazy. But wait, let's go to Maine. With teen unemployment nationally at 21 percent and likely to soar this summer, Gov. Paul LePage and fellow GOP legislators want to allow employers to offer teens $5.25 rather than $7.25 per hour for their first three months of employment.