William Falk writes in The Week (13 August):
Bill Clinton, Hillary, Chelsea, and Marc were at the next table, talking avidly over their dinner, and my wife and I couldn’t help but snoop. No, no this wasn’t the big wedding last weekend; believe it or not, I was not invited. It was at a Mexican restaurant in the Clintons’ hometown of Chappaqua, N.Y., where we had met some friends. While we were perusing the menu, the former First Family strolled in. With an eye to his cholesterol intake, Bill ordered soup and vegetable fajitas. But as he talked and listened, the Big Dog kept reaching into the basket of tortilla chips, and absent-mindedly popped one after another into his mouth. Without a word, Hillary finally slid the chips basket down the table, out of Bill’s reach. It was the story of their marriage in a single gesture: Bill’s undisciplined yearning, Hillary’s vigilant determination to protect him from himself.
It is a measure of something, though what I’m not exactly sure, that this passage popped into my head while I read that:
The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.
Now Bill Clinton isn’t exactly Huckleberry Finn, but the idea that one of the duties of woman is to civilize man is still around. A blunt statement to that effect, from Jonah Goldberg:
Female equality seems to be a pretty reliable treatment for many of the world’s worst pathologies. Population growth in the Third World tends to go down as female literacy goes up. Indeed, female empowerment might be the single best weapon in the “root causes” arsenal in the war on terror.
The reason strikes me as fairly simple. Women civilize men. As a general rule, men will only be as civilized as female expectations and demands will allow. “Liberate” men from those expectations, and Lord of the Flies logic kicks in. Liberate women from this barbarism, and male decency will soon follow.
I know this much: while I had definite jerk tendencies when I got married, I veered way over into Major Jerkdom when the marriage unwound, and I suspect the long way back to Merely Difficult would have been shortened a bit were there a second pair of hands to help push.
And you just know Chelsea was taking notes that night at dinner.