First, fellow blogstress Bookworm on TOC’s take on fem-novelist Fay Weldon’s whine that Western women in the 1950s were just as oppressed as Islamic women under radical regimes today–yeah, sure, my mom was forced to marry my dad at age 15, and she couldn’t go to the grocery store without his permission (see TOC’s “How to REALLY Fail Muslim Women,” Sept. 7).

“Reading your post about Fay Weldon’s imagination failure reminded me of Wendy Kaminer’s book “I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional,” about modern America’s embracing victimhood. I distinctly remember a chapter in which she spoke of Cambodian women who escaped the killing fields and got on with life, versus some sort of suburban women’s support group for mild unhappiness. In the world of dysfunctionality, all unhappineses are created equal.”

Right on, Bookworm. Why do we, the most prosperous society in history, have the biggest number of complainers?

And L.M. strikes a similar note on posts by TOC and me about Barbara “Bait and Switch” Ehrenreich’s book-length complaint that she couldn’t get a $50,000-a-year job using a fake resume:

“As one who has been through many layoffs, I read with great interest your posts about the book by Barbara Ehrenreich. Sure, it’s hard to find work if you’ll accept only your dream job. But if you’re flexible, you’ll find something, and you may even enjoy it so much you don’t mind making do with less pay. (This is, happily, my present situation.) Besides, even if you don’t like the job that well, it looks better on your resume to have been working instead of collecting unemployment. I’ve known employers who wouldn’t hire anyone who has been collecting unemployment for the past six months.

“And what’s wrong with being cheerful? When I worked as a customer service rep, I wasn’t very cheerful starting my shift at 6 a.m. But making myself act cheerful for an hour changed my mood. I know this is obvious to most of us, but surly people are miserable to work with. That’s why bosses prefer upbeat people (duh).”

Yeah, duh. But Barbara believes that every job is a class-warfare battleground against Evil Corporate Capitalism. You’re supposed to be surly. Only problem with that attitude: Barb was apparently so surly in the interviews that she never got a chance to be surly on the job.
Now for an e-mail from lild on the speed with which Hurricane Katrina became a platform for playing the racism card–a la Kanye West and Jesse Jackson:

“I don’t understand why when something goes wrong it has to become a racial issue. Sure, there are a lot of racist people in the world today; still,why can’t people just grow up and stop playing the blame game?….What about the mayor of New Orleans? why didn’t he use the school buses to evacuate the people who didn’t have a way instead of letting all of them sit there and get ruined by the waters? While people are looking toward other people and turning on each other, why is it that the normal citizens are helping instead of complaining and pointing fingers and not worrying about what color they are?”
I couldn’t agree more, lild–and fortunately, most Americans have looked past incompetent grandstander/weeper Ray Nagin, who, among other things, failed to provide any police protection, much less food, water, and sanitation to the tens of thousands of his most impoverished constituents whom he sent to the Superdome instead of helping them get out of town. Most Americans have opened their hearts and their pocketbooks to the Katrina victims in an unprecedented burst of generosity that has paid no heed to color or race. Unlike Nagin, Jackson, and West, most of us haven’t viewed Katrina as a platform for racial politics.

Finally, D.D. is back with another e-mail for our debate about parenting classes (see the Mailbag for Sept. 2). I had suggested that the best parenting classes–and the cheapest–are those afforded by one’s own parents, so D.D. responds:

“You are right. Children often parent as they were parented, and this is how it’s been for thousands of years, but this can and does create vicious cycles of abuse and violence that are devastating to children, families, and communities. The quality of a community has much to do with the quality of the parenting happening inside each home. For this reason communities should try to improve parenting.

“The question is…do we identify, round up, and change the behaviors of adults who are criminally abusive or who just have have poor parenting skills, or do we teach parenting to young people at boys’ and girls’ clubs, police activity leagues, churches, service clubs, afterschool programs, etc? ‘Repairing’ every broken parent is near to impossible because there are numerous psychological, practical, and logistical obstacles that hinder and often prevent their ‘repair.’ I suggest we set aside the reactive and act proactively instead. I vote for teaching parenting to kids.”

I agree wholeheartedly with you that there’s a lot of rotten parenting in the welfare culture that’s also responsible for most child abuse. And although I’m all for “rounding up”–and criminally prosecuting to the utmost–all adults who abuse or neglect children, and I completely approve of all the efforts by the groups you’ve mentioned above to teach parenting skills to young people before they become parents (and I’m rooting for your efforts to encourage them), I’ve got to reiterate that the most effective way to teach good parenting–and thereby to prevent child abuse–is to set an example of good parenting inside the home.

That means a home containing a mother and a father if possible. Most chilld abuse is perpetrated in single-parent households, either by the mother’s boyfriend or by the mother herself. I myself live in an urban neighborhood that abuts several large housing projects, and I’ve seen too many mothers slap and scream at their youngsters (often lacing the verbal abuse with foul language) when a simple firm reprimand would suffice. Those women are trying to play mother and father–and they can’t.