I've already shared this one with a number of friends over the past few days. Vance was standing with me on Joel and Jennifer's backyard deck when I was hit with the inspiration. Joel was there for the first retelling. Steven, Robin, Doug and Jillian were witnesses to the second. Kim had to endure the third. You, loyal readers, are granted the fourth. Here goes. Imagine the following slogan, perhaps on a bumper-sticker, poster or a T-shirt:
We need to stop belting our children and start belting our children.
The beauty of it is that it can serve vastly different ideological positions. The reactionary hard-ass who fondly recalls the days when children rode around in the back seat without any restraining devices and still managed to survive to adulthood can use the slogan to advocate corporal punishment as a means to reviving the strong and fearless America of right-wing fantasy. The liberal who wishes the advances of the 1960s hadn't been sacrificed on the altar of conservatism, by contrast, can deploy the slogan to advocate an end to corporal punishment and promote a culture of safety where young people are treated with care and delicacy. The scary thing is that these two radically different ways of interpreting the slogan are closer to the reality of the present-day United States, with its sharp division between "red state" and "blue state" thinking, than anyone would have predicted during the Nixon administration which was, incidentally, the era when car seats for children really took off.