Trying To Figure Out the Sex Scandals? Blame It On Jack and Diane

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Remember when singer John Mellencamp went by John Cougar? (In this case, it was a stage name that did not catch on.)

Anyway, Mellencamp’s biggest hit, in 1982, featured an acoustic guitar and catchy opener: “Little ditty about Jack and Diane …”

Back then, kids in my high school youth group at church loved the song and could belt out the refrain with ease:

“Oh yeah, life goes on. Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.”

Like any youth director worth his poverty pay, I made a teaching moment of those lyrics (why should the thrill ever be gone?). But there were other lyrics I should have been concerned with:

“Diane’s sittin’ on Jacky’s lap. He’s got his hand between her knees. Jacky say, ‘Hey Diane lets run off behind a shady tree.’ Dribble off those Bobby Brooks. Let me do what I please.”

Just kids having fun, right? Can’t stop them, right?

Is that what Jack thinks? Every bit of cultural influence is telling Jack he is in the right. The music he listens to. The movies. The TV shows. His friends. He should go for it. It’s natural, after all.

Because Jack has been educated in our culture to think about Jack.

What of Diane? What of any fiber of conscience raising notions of right and wrong? Those questions only get in the way of what Jack wants. And shouldn’t Jack be all about getting what Jack wants? Carpe Diem, baby.

Go ahead and listen to “Jack and Diane.” (Turn on an oldies station and give it 10 minutes.) Thirty-five years after that song came out, it’s become a narrative for the near-daily explosions of sexual assault and harassment allegations against the rich, famous, and powerful.

Oh yeah, life goes on …

Why are we surprised at the allegations? This culture is sexed-up to the hilt. As I’m typing this, my wife is showing me an App that allows girls as young as 12 to obtain birth control, without mom and dad knowing.

Twelve-years-old … The sexual revolution continues to account for more casualties.

But, back to the current state of sexual assault accusations. With each allegation – whether it be against politician, producer, actor – comes the aftermath in the media. Twitterstorms and talking heads. Who gets the ultimate blame? Seems that Donald Trump and Bill Clinton get mentioned a lot.

The media helps us keep score. Which side is the worst in this scandal? Democrats or Republicans? Liberals or conservatives? You can sense the Republican glee when Democratic senator John Conyers’ name recently was elevated to pig status.

This is our version of stone throwing, as the mighty are falling. We might pause before throwing, but not to account for our own sins. But, rather, to see what side the target is on. If he’s on our side, maybe we don’t throw as hard. 

But while we’re casting blame – and saying what this guy did is not as bad as what that guy did – we miss the point. There are really two sides:  right and wrong.

When you don’t respect another person, when you misuse the beautiful gift of sex and procreation, and when you take delight in another’s misery, you are on the wrong side. When you love, which is patient and truthful with no limit to its forbearance, you move toward the good.

There was this little ditty about Jack and Diane, and Jack should have kept his hands to himself.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.