tive veneer to a socict)- founded upon brutalit}’ and exploitation:rninsisting that people choose the correct fork for dinner whilernpeople were being lynched outside. A good case can be made,rnthough, that appeals to manners had at least as much of an effectrnas law in improving people’s lives, in extending their lifechances.rnI think, for instance, of Mark Twain’s commcntar- onrnthe Chinese of California and the American West in RoughingrnIt, where his most powerful argument for treating this “kindlydisposed,rnwell-meaning race” with the respect and decencyrnthey deserved is that this behavior is an essendal part of goodrnmanners. The Chinese, he wrote, “are respected and well treatedrnby the upper classes, all over the Pacific coast. No Californianrngenrieman or lady ever abuses or oppresses a Chinaman,rnunder any circumstances, an explanation that seems to bernmuch needed in the East. Only the scum of the population dornit—they and their children.” Manners mattered, mannersrnshaped behavior, and the sense that you were beliaving like arngentleman or lady was a potent sanction against wrongdoing.rnAs in this instance, a sense of civilit’ and manners helped beginrnthe eradication of casual racism in American life: As Twain wasrnasking his compatriots, do you really want to act like scum?rnThis notion of civility may seem like a luxury for a tiny eliternof the well-to-do, but we shoidd never underestimate thernenormous power of social emulation, the desire to act like yourrnsocial betters. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th century, diernspread of these ideas of manners, the ideology of a gentieman orrnlady, had an incalculable effect in the civilizing of American society,rnlong before the law could do anything in this regard. Inrnno particular order of priority, these notions of civility and goodrnbehavior assured that lynching was confined to the extremernbackwoods and byways of America. Thev transformed ideas ofrnappropriate sexual behavior and spread the notion that a rnanrnwho beat or demeaned his wife was a brute unfit for civilizedrncompany, as was a persistent wolf, groper, or lecher. Ideals of civilityrnhelped to transform American interpersonal conflicts,rnminimizing such traditional horrors as the knife-fight and therneye-gouging contest. ‘I’hey taught generations of Americansrnthat, while being drunk occasionally was acceptable, tiie properrnbehavior in this condition was humorous .stupidity, not boorishrnaggression, much less violence directed against the weak. A socialrnrevolution in American life had been accomplished longrnbefore World War II, without benefit of law.rnIt is useful to stress all this in view of the currently popularrnview of what the American past was like before the blessings ofrnsexual-harassment law, hate-crime protections, and other recentrnlegal panaceas. I am exaggerating .somewhat, of course,rnbut most of our college students seem to imagine the Americarnof the 1950’s as an age of daily lynchings, a time when nornwoman was safe from casual rape and the nighttime streets werernlit by the carcasses of burning homosexuals and communists. Irnam not exaggerating when I point out tiiat most Northernersrnconfidentiy believe that the word “nigger” was freely used by allrnresidents of Southern states before 1970 or even later. Theyrnreftise to believe that it had been many years since anyone withrnthe slightest pretensions to decency, civilit}’, or manners wouldrnhave used such a word. To adapt Twain’s Roughing It oncernmore, the word was the preserve of the scum, “they, and, naturallyrnand consistently, tiie policemen and politicians, likewise,rnfor these are the dust-licking pimps and slaves of tiie scum, therernas well as elsewhere in America.”rnTo understand the process of historical falsificafion so busilyrnat work in our textbooks and in the popular media, we must appreciaternhow emerging interest groups project their ideas in arnsocict}’ like ours. Primarily, they must show that there is a grievancernthat cannot be accommodated within tiie existing socieh*rnand which, therefore, requires some kind of Icgislafive changernto serve as a landmark of the group’s success. In order to justif}’rnthis legislation, it has to be .shown that the .state needs to intervenernto achieve those things that could not be done by mannersrnalone, by the natural evolution of standards within culture andrncommunity. The past must thus be painted in the grimmestrnpossible terms, ignoring or understating the real progress thatrnhad occurred and was occurring. Once legislation passes, it hasrna natural tendency toward “legislation creep,” the expansion ofrnlaw into matters once regulated by informal controls. There isrnno law so well written tiiat it cannot be stretched bevond thernbounds of absurdity’, and laws designed to order people how tornlive together in civility arc anything but well written.rnSexual-harassment legislation offers a classic example here.rnDuring the 1970’s, the emerging feminist movement madernrape one of its central themes, an issue as momentous as lynchingrnwas for civil-rights groups. Once rape legislation wasrnchanged across tiie country, new areas of concern had to bernidentified, and this meant Hie discover)’ of both child sexualrnabuse and sexual harassment. Harassment was a particularlyrntempting target in an age wlien millions more women were enteringrnthe workplace and struggling to define appropriaternboundaries with male colleagues. Everyone agreed, moreover,rnthat harassment was wrong, at least in the terms in which thisrnmisconduct was defined in the mid 1980’s —namely, a form ofrnextortion in which your job prospects could be advanced byrntrading sexual favors. (Harassment in these terms had been recognizedrnand condemned as a social problem for decades, notrnleast in the 1940’s, the age of Rosie the Riveter.) But once harassmentrnwas brought into the realm of law, the declared scopernof the problem began metastasizing beyond all recognition.rnHarassment ceased to mean sleazy extortion and became a thoroughlyrnill-focused term suggesting generalized bias or sexual innuendornin the workplace. Ill-focused, unspccific, and hard torndisprove: In short, harassment was lawyers’ heaven.rnPhis rhetorical inflation is not unique to sexual relationships.rnWe can .see obvious parallels in the devaluation of the conceptrnof “hate crime” over the last decade or so, from cros.s-burning tornthe speaking of bad words and, increasingly, to the expression ofrnunpopular (but nonracist) opinions. How long will it be beforernit is declared a hate crime to oppose reparations for slavery, or tornchallenge the propriety of gay marriages? Quite possibly, I suppose,rnby die time this issue oiChronicles has gone to press.rnWliat these diverse examples illustrate is a subtie but perilousrnshifting of usage that indicates a fiindamental change in thernconcept of government and the state. Interest groups are demandingrnthat the community must intervene to effect certainrnchanges, and that the only acceptable form for this action is legislationrnbv the state. The state, it seems, is the comniunitv’, therncommunity is the state, and only the state can declare howrnstandards are to be shaped. The notion is dangerous, and notrnjust for the reasons outiined above. At present, it is possible tornbe an enthusiastic member of the community, of the socieh’,rnwhile detesting the government and all its works; in die newrnformulation, however, to oppose tiie state and its laws is, perforce,rnto challenge the communih’, to reject society. One becomesrn—to borrow a term from other nations that have exploredrntiiesc concepts in richer detail —an Enemy ofthe People. ^rn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn