Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When the '60S Began

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When the '60S Began

Article excerpt

I SPENT hours as a child pondering the pictures in the baseball books that were my main reading fare. The thing that struck me was how old the players looked.

Even now, I cannot quite fathom that Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri - members of the famed 1927 Yankees - were younger than I am now. Their eyes were dark and deep, their faces hard in a way that makes today's ballplayers seem kiddies by comparison.

The old black-and-white photographs were not the only reason. These players grew up hard, on Podunk farms or (like Gehrig) inner city streets. Yet for all that, there was an innocence, a sweetness, of which one hears echoes in the music of the era, and in the nicknames, such as "Ducky" Medwick and "Dizzy" Dean.

Today's overpaid athletes may look like kids. But with their phalanxes of lawyers, they think more like the gray-haired tycoons of the 1930s comic strips.

Innocence is a quality much undervalued, especially by those on the forefront of social correction. Take the movement to require politically correct viewpoints in school textbooks and daily speech. The University of Missouri School of Journalism has produced a list of expressions that enlightened journalists aren't supposed to use.

Among them: "Dutch treat" ("implies that Dutch people are cheap") and "ugh," said to be offensive to native Americans. School systems are scrutinizing their curricula, moreover, to insure that various ethnic and gender groups get due inclusion.

Of course, the language should be free of latent bigotry, and of course the various groupings in the ethnic mosaic deserve a fair shake. But fussbudgetry over expressions like "ugh" aside, let's not pretend that the Puritan approach to language and textbooks will produce a nation committed to social justice. Something more is needed.

It is curious - and significant - that the activism of the 1960s grew out of a postwar decade that today seems benighted. Reporters called women "blondes." Jack Benny's Rochester represented blacks on TV. The '50s provided "negative stereotypes" aplenty. But there was also an innocence that made eventual outrage at these possible. …

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