Thursday, October 20, 2005

Poor, poor, pitiful me?

There is a columnist fellow from SF Gate, named Mark Morford, who wrote a particularly odd column full of bile against the family whose faces appeared briefly on the mainstream media and then disappeared. The title of this column was: "God Does Not Want 16 Kids/Arkansas mom gives birth to a whole freakin' baseball team. How deeply should you cringe?"

Children, who do we call our Father? God! If He is our Father, what does that make us? Children! Does this extend to every member of mankind? Yes! How many children does God want?

The introduction paragraph runs thus:
Who are you to judge? Who are you to say that the more than slightly creepy 39-year-old woman from Arkansas who gave birth to her 16th child yes that's right 16 kids and try not to cringe in phantom vaginal pain when you say it, who are you to say Michelle Duggar is not more than a little unhinged and sad and lost?

And furthermore, who are you to suggest that her equally troubling husband -- whose name is, of course, Jim Bob and he's hankerin' to be a Republican senator and try not to wince in sociopolitical pain when you say that -- isn't more than a little numb to the real world, and that bringing 16 hungry mewling attention-deprived kids (and she wants more! Yay!) into this exhausted world zips right by "touching" and races right past "disturbing" and lurches its way, heaving and gasping and sweating from the karmic armpits, straight into "Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with you people?"

Touching, isn't it? According to the column, large families waste resources, contribute to overpopulation, result in unstable children - but Morford does not claim that large families are without joy, he merely mocks that notion and sets it up as an impossibility.

Overpopulation is a myth, it is, it is, what with European countries and their negative birthrates. What's more, it is amusing to note that although overpopulation such a concern to liberals, not one of them will whack themselves in the name of the perceived common good. Children eat less, require less food, less clothing, and do not drive around and pollute the air, being content to toddle around or ecstatic to ride on horses.

Unstable? If anything, more stable. There is no room in a large family to retreat into some psychosis. G.K. Chesterton, in the Poet and the Lunatics, spoke of one man who verged on madness because he thought he was like a god. The Poet went after the Lunatic with a pitchfork and tied him up to a tree, leaving him for several hours to struggle against the binding ropes until, exhausted, he had to admit that he was not a god and was bound by reality as much as the next man. Siblings are that constant check on the imagination, as well as a constant path to humility, and a constant and ever-present opportunity for patience.

Siblings also draw out (or crush) the aspirations of a family member and help shape each others personalities. I am from a big family. There are projects lurking in every corner, artistic flights of fancy dotting the walls, yarn stuffed into nooks, crochet hooks, needles, a sewing machine, swords, bokins. We do ballroom dancing, gymnastics, fencing, kendo, we read books, we volunteer, we appreciate Fr. Ted, Monty Python, science fiction - we write, paint, draw, and er. sing. Critics agree we are also exceptionally skilled at the kazoo.

Many of these recreations have been encouraged by some member of the family, wisdom passed down from older to younger, and so on and so on. Ours is not a family devoid of any state of mind.

Much more could be said, but there are too many points to address in a small blog.

Fitting news reached me today. One of my best friends has become engaged and she has always planned on having upteen children. Several girls from my college, you see, entered into a contest on who could have the most children.

Nothing, though, could match my friend that I shall call Herbert who wants seventeen children in seventeen years. Hi Herbert!

Article found here:


JHP said...

how miserable could the author be? Has he never seen children or toddlers?

Problem is, which one of the kids would he get rid of?

Augustinianus said...

The most telling comment in the article is the remark about the family's bad hair. This column is a perfect storm of class superiority mixed with religious, or anti-religious, bigotry.

Deirdre said...

jhp: one must be very miserable indeed if such precious cargo is seen as unwanted waste. No one can be happy without charity and he doesn't seem to understand what it is, what it seeks, or able to receive it in all its forms (or actually able to receive it from a large family). That must not improve the liver. I hope he will someday see the beauty that resides in large families and appreciate the love that abounds within them.

augustinianus: welcome! It is indeed, although it is mostly against the largess of the family rather than its religion. The religion and the politics seemed brought in to bolster dislike rather than being the main thrust of the column. The column exuded a fear of large families. What do you call a large-family-phobic?

Augustinianus said...

Tokophobic? That would be a fearful dislike of those who give birth to children, not of large families specifically, but it's the best I can dredge up during my first five minutes in the office.

You're right, of course, about the thrust of the article; I'm afraid my own, uh, issues emerged in my comment. Though I'm an academic and a Catholic and a Democrat, all my very large extended family are rural evangelical Republicans; and it seems I can barely have a conversation with my university colleagues in which I don't hear some easy contemptuous comment in which class superiority masks as principled criticism of the putative gullibility, bigotry, and fanaticism of folks like my Aunt Frances.

But this, as I say, is not your problem...

Deirdre said...

I'm an academic, Catholic, and a Democrat as well. The Democrat bit can come in handy as a foil against accusations of being a right-wing drone: "Actuaaally I'm a Democrat, opposed to the war on Iraq, and for limited use of the death penalty..."

Both parties are pretty horrid, though.

If you're going to the university I think you're going to (judging from the ip address - it's a pretty campus! hard to navigate, though), then I'm not too surprised. It's a sad thing. To an extent, I agree with reasoned criticisms laid upon hard-core Republicans, but such criticisms are no justification for contempt of them as human beings, a contempt that makes public slander or maltreatment seem deserved as is voiced by this one fellow after hurricane Katrina: A large part of me still believes that many of these W-worshipping numbskulls deserve to suffer and to die. They brought it on themselves. Let them look to Jayzuss for aid: It's time they stopped leeching off the more productive blue staters.

No. No no no. This attitude, however much or little of it there is (and to be fair: the writer of the above is the exception and not the rule), is one that should never be entertained.

Signing out before more incendiary links are put forth to endanger the blood pressure of hapless readers,

Patrick said...

Well, that article was sure, um, honest. People who are of those opinions generally do a more thorough job of channeling the hatred into snarkiness.

I might mention belatedly that I was really impressed at how well your younger brothers and sisters comported themselves during the symposium.

Augustinianus said...

Thanks, Deirdre, for that disgusting and terrifying link, which is indeed a psychotic instance of the sort of thing I meant. In my youth, I'm afraid I signed on to the unacknowledged idea that holding the right political opinions made one morally good, and vice versa; this sort of inhuman contempt is the poisonous fruit of that self-congratulatory assumption.

I can't keep my bearings on this bloody campus either, but I'm only a guest here. Ordinarily I teach a little to the north and east--straight across the Bay from the places in Oscar's beautiful photos.

Deirdre said...

Patrick: We try to pretend we're civilized when people over. So far, we have had no recourse to the cattle prod.

Augustinianus: What do you teach?

Augustinianus said...

Deirdre-- Literature. And what sort of academic are you?

Deirdre said...

Mea culpa - not an academic as is understood, but a student in philosophy. This is what comes of looking up the dictionary definition (and I did to assure myself that I had a grasp on the word) and applying it to self: "1. A member of an institution of higher learning."

But in regards to teaching capacity, I am not an academic. Perhaps one day, but now - no.

Augustinianus said...

Deirdre-- Sorry, wasn't trying to be a snot; I just used "academic" the way, well, academics use it. Just coincidentally, I was reading last night a collection of essays on theology, philosophy, and academic freedom that Pope Benedict published a few years ago; they're extraordinary essays, and rather humblingly reminded me that ours can be a high calling--whichever side of the desk one happens to be sitting on at the moment.

Glad to see you're reading City of God; if you haven't yet read De trinitate, you might try it next. It's the least read of Augustine's greatest works, and it's a brain-bender.