Saturday, April 28, 2007

Peggy Noonan Thinks Of The Children

The crazy next-door-neighbor lady is out of the front porch again, chain smoking and squinting at all the neighborhood kids with that intense stare of hers. Don't worry, kids, Peg's just worried about the loss of your innocence.

Listen, won't you, to this account of Peg's Wonder Years:

Very few people in America don't remember being scared by history at least to some degree when they were kids. After Pearl Harbor, they thought the Japanese were about to invade California. If you are a boomer, you remember duck-and-cover drills. The Soviets had the bomb, and might have used it. I remember a little girl bursting into tears during the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was in grade school.[*]

But apart from that, apart from that one huge thing, life didn't seem menacing and full of dread. It was the boring 1950s and '60s, and the nice thing about a boring era is it's never boring. Life is interesting enough. There's always enough to scare a child.

After you give up trying to make sense of that last paragraph, consider this: The only scary thing about the 50s and 60s was the arms race. Those church bombings and lynchings and death threats had no effect on the kiddies. The idea of growing up, getting drafted and getting killed in Korea or Vietnam never phased the young'un of yore. Childhood disease didn't exist back then. And that media-wide embargo on stories of murder, assassination and riot left the tykes in blissful ignorance. It was prepubescent paradise when Peg was a pup.

I'm starting to miss the Peg who hyperventilated about suitcase nukes.

* Noonan was 12 in October 1962. It sounds like she was held back a few years.

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