In the eighties and nineties, I would meet with a group on the Lower East Side for discussion and commentary on the arts-and-culture scene. Okay, okay, we were there to buy pot. Gordon (not his real name) was the dealer, and he was very organized and surprisingly strict. Organized in that he was open for business only two days a week between certain hours, paid taxes, and made sure we did indeed have arts-and-culture discussions at every meeting. Strict in that we weren’t allowed to chew gum. The reason given was that chewing gum was detrimental to being fully engaged in our arts-and-culture forum. I also suspect he just couldn’t stand the sight of his panel looking like a bunch of mindless cows. Hey, his house his rules. I no longer have that habit and not just because Gordon retired and moved to a commune. I guess I grew out of it; being substance free became more interesting.
At one meeting there were seven of us seated around a wooden table, six men and myself. Three of the men were gay, including the dealer, and three were straight. Gordon, although in his forties, had just been to a gay bath house for the first time and wanted to talk about it. The bath houses were closing left and right because of AIDS, and he wanted to experience that aspect of “Gay Culture” while it was still there. Since he was celibate, it wasn’t a sexual adventure. He was celibate because about two years before AIDS hit, he was strolling through Central Park and suddenly experienced a thunderbolt of intense physical and mental awareness, accompanied by an urgent command that popped into his head: Stop having sex NOW. Deeply shaken, he knew he must not ignore this “message the universe sent me.” So he went to the bathhouse as a tourist only. He told of sitting in a hallway filled with naked men, sex acts of every kind on all sides of him. Nobody spoke, a direct look was the only permission needed, no concern over a refusal, just move on to someone else. (Hopefully my beloved editor hasn’t keeled over with a coronary.)
Gordon concluded the story by saying he was profoundly affected by the experience in a way he couldn’t articulate. I asked him to try. He said there was an emotional energy in the air that was palpable, electric, and it wasn’t to do with the sex itself. So, if it wasn’t arousal, what was it? He couldn’t name it. I asked him to think of something else in his life that reminded him of it. He searched his mind. A look of discovery came into his eyes and he blurted: “Mother wasn’t watching!” Every man at the table, both gay and straight, nodded in agreement and sighed: “Yeah.”
All those fellows were well into adulthood, had steady jobs, were reasonable people. I realize that six is hardly a sufficient control group for a sociological study, but their unanimous reaction was keenly felt! If you’re a man and reading this, does “Mother wasn’t watching!” push your buttons? How ironic that women, still fighting our way out of second-class citizenship, might occupy such a powerful spot in the male psyche, even if blundered upon accidentally. Other female-oriented adages come to mind: “Women have a civilizing effect on men.” “The hand that rocks the cradle.” They make for a potent psychological presence. There’s a male counterpart too: “The Man.” A slang term that refers to the government or anyone in a position of power. Perhaps all of us have two sets of parents, those who gave us life (whether still in our lives or not), and these archetypes that dwell in the subconscious, as omnipotent as our parents seemed to us when we were very young.
The latest horrific school shooting, as of this writing, happened on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos slaughtered 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. Beginning with Columbine in 1999, it’s been one after another. The more lethal events include the following: In 2007, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho killed five faculty and twenty-seven students at Virginia Tech; in 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, killed twenty children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; in 2018, Nikolas Cruz, also 20, opened fired on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen. A hideous image from the May shooting in Texas sears the memory: Ramos decked out in an army-style tactical vest, clutching his weapon as he advances on a grammar school to blow away a bunch of little kids. This jackass saw himself as a soldier on a mission! Where did he get his marching orders? There’s a plethora of opinions about the root causes for this type of Angry Young American Male, and the violence is not limited to schools. There are teenage gang members firing into crowds, gunfights on city streets with no respect for human life, children caught in the crossfire. Where are they getting their marching orders?
The demeanor of the pro-abortion front is tone-deaf and blind. Two events appeared in the news last August that underscore this in dramatic fashion. Call it accidental media. During the inept pullout from Afghanistan, heart-wrenching images of people desperate to get out before the Taliban took over filled the television screens. A man clinging to landing gear as the plane took off, a father pushing his toddler up into the hands of a U.S. soldier. Cut to women lining up in Texas, “desperate” to get their abortions before the state’s Heartbeat law took effect—their “plight” presented by the sympathetic liberal press with the same poignancy as the tragedy in Kabul and without a hint of irony.
Ugly visuals abound. Footage of pro-abortion rallies show women, their faces distorted with rage, shaking their fists at the mere idea of their “right” to kill a baby even being questioned much less canceled, and male politicians coming to the defense of these Damsels in Distress with an affectation of gallantry that would make an honest man blush. But in the realm of the subconscious, accidental media is reporting that The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is shaking that fist while The Man stands beside her with shoulders squared and at the ready. If Mother Wasn’t Watching can lurk in the recesses of the male psyche, what damage might Mother Doesn’t Care be doing? Only the mentally unstable would take this as Parental Consent to slaughter fellow humans at all, much less little kids, but look at it from their point of view: Why should the very young be exempt? What makes them so special?
I anticipate that this idea that potent female archetypes deep in the male psyche might be connected to the Angry Young Male syndrome will be met with great umbrage. Indeed, even as simply a recognition that we women may wield a powerful subconscious influence on the governing gender, it’s a trap if it’s another “empowerment,” like abortion, that sticks us with carrying the heavy end of the furniture. So let’s not forget that The Man is lurking in there too. Maybe it would be wise for our culture-of-death society to look in the mirror, and then, when wondering what’s wrong with the boy, “check in on the folks.”