Zinging a New Song of a Culture Gone Wrong

Marybeth Hicks

7/20/2011 9:53:00 AM - Marybeth Hicks

I'm working the refreshment tent this week at the music festival in my hometown, putting in my volunteer hours for our children's school, when I realize I am not shocked by the tattoo-covered, fifty-something woman walking toward me in Daisy Duke shorts and midriff-baring bustier.

Her stiletto sandals, black nail polish, pigtails and pierced, red lips don¹t faze me in the least. I turn to her without blinking and smile easily as I ask, "What can I get for you?"

In retrospect, it's possible this is the moment when I surrendered to the reality that our cultural decline is now complete.

Heck, when you don¹t bat an eye at a teenage boy's gauged ears (those are the pierced ear rings that put giant holes in the ear lobes), and you take for granted that the child in front of you in church will spend the entire service playing games on a Nintendo DS, and you don't roll your eyes anymore when you realize your middle-aged neighbor is highlighting his hairSwellS you¹ve been worn down.

There was a time when it made headlines that a young woman's phantom pregnancy resulting in her unexpectedly giving birth, when she thought all she had was a bad stomachache. This happens so often now there's a reality show on the Discovery Channel called "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant."

For some of us ­ mothers, for example ­ this is like naming a show "I Didn't Know I Was Breathing." But culturally, we'd be in the minority.

Sadly, those days are long gone, faded into cultural oblivion along with obituaries in which the last names of surviving family members are all the same.

Not only has our culture devolved into a celebration of diverse and widespread tastelessness, but those of us who yearn for bygone days of common social mores are loathe to even mention such things, for fear of offending the people we find offensive.

Perhaps this is why the new book, "Of Thee I Zing: America's Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots," by radio host Laura Ingraham with co-author Raymond Arroyo is such a treat. For culturally cathartic ranting, it's well worth the cover price.

But be forewarned: "Of Thee I Zing" may elevate your blood pressure. Reading Miss Ingraham's observations about dirty dancing at the prom, designer duds for infants, and airplane seat companions who fire up laptop porn will likely cause you to break into a sweat when you realize your chances of avoiding such phenomena are nil.

Then again, Miss Ingraham offers perhaps the only reasonable response to such fads as holiday sweaters, internet dating, and mealtime house calls from Jehovah's Witnesses: A good laugh.

"The path from Florence Henderson to Snooki is a rocky one! It's a path that we should avoid, and help our children avoid, if at all possible. (If for no other reason than to stop the proliferation of the Snooki bump, I believe it is possible.)," Miss Ingraham offers.

"Of Thee I Zing" should make us realize that if we put today's American culture into a time capsule, we will all be a mortified when future generations discover the truth about us. That is, assuming they have regained some cultural decorum by then.

Perhaps in that distant, decorous future, our spray tans, invisible braces, sagging pants, flip flops at formal functions, blue jeans at funerals, and fascination with the likes of Charlie Sheen will be only the outdated trappings of a society that lost, for a time, its good breeding.

"Taken individually these cultural failings are not the end of civilization," Miss Ingraham says. "But taken as a whole they indicate that we have lost respect for our human dignity and are setting a truly tragic example for those who will follow us."

"We are better than this as a people, and so are our kids."