Saturday, January 13, 2007

Will someone think of the children!

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was the target this week of Sen Barbara Boxer's awkward attempt to make parenthood, or the lack thereof, a litmus test on who has the moral authority to commit American troops to combat. Earlier in the war Maureen Dowd made the same claim in a more strident and absolute manner, saying:
But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

Call it the "Mommy Clause". Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made much of her role as a mother and grandmother and the qualifications that gave her to lead the House of Representatives.

Can another Million Mom March on Washington be long in coming, this time to protest the gun violence in Iraq that is killing our children?

The real problem with saying that only the mothers of servicemen in Iraq, or fathers for that matter, have absolute moral authority with regard to the war in Iraq, beyond explaining what that absolute moral authority should translates to with regard to the conduct of the war, is that all servicemen and servicewomen serving in Iraq or in any other theater of conflict are adults who have volunteered of their own free will to serve in our country's military. Sorry mom, but adults make decisions for themselves.

The idea of giving absolute moral authority to mothers basically infantilizes the men and women who serve this country. It symbolically denies to them their status as autonomous moral agents responsible for their own decisions, and turns them into passive victims helpless to fend off the predations of an imperial ruling class. As Christopher Hitchens rightly labeled it, it is "sinister piffle".

We should start to call the Democrats the "Piffle Party".


Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I would love to be able to write like Hitchens.

Dowd, on the other hand ...

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

Reveals her to be a bimbo with a vocabulary. Off hand, and even with some effort, I don't think I could come up with a sentence that is both grammatical and even remotely as meaningless as distillation of self-contradicting bafflegarb.

Okay, let's grant that absolute moral authority.

What do you get when one parent asserts it was all a horrible waste, while another says her son's service, and sacrifice, was essential to our country's well being?

Two mutually exclusive absolute moral authorities, that's what.

How Dowd continues to get publised is, to me, the single greatest mystery in the universe.

January 13, 2007 11:31 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

BDS creates a big audience for such writers.

Dowd is a moron. She also is a terrible stylist, not that style is much of a consideration in choosing newspaper columnists.

Only a very few, like Donald Kaul and George Will, are graceful writers.

January 14, 2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, I think this is a little more complcated than we might think. Young men don't become "autonomous moral agents" at eighteen just because the law ordains them to be qualified as such. This is as much about absent or retreating Dads as it is about Moms vs. Sons.

Many young men are (sensibly) terrified of war and look to their fathers for direction/inspiration and courage. Cindy is by no means the first Mom to go ballistic about her son going to war. It's not all that modern a phenomenon. Robertson Davies's fantastic novel, Fifth Business, recounts the story of a small town Ontario boy whose domineering mother tried to stop his enlisting in WW1. Even though his peace-keeper father had given into her on everything else since he was born, he put his foot down on this one, and she deferred.

And that is the modern dilemna. Sons have traditionally gone to war because their fathers inculcated a sense of expectation and duty, and that trumped whatever Mom thought. Today, if the father is there at all, he grew up raving about The Great Santini and boasts about his commitment to gender equality. I believe Casey's father has made it plain he doesn't agree with Cindy, but he sure feels no need to follow her around and challenge her day-by-day. Casey deserves a better paternal memorial, but who can't forgive his Dad for being tongue-tied by the Zeitgeist.

This, in a way, is the fault line between the West and the Muslim world on family. We live in an age where formal gender equality and symbiosis are so ingrained that even conservative women think that their mother's inability to get a credit card without their father's signature is a human rights outrage right up there with genocide in Rwanda. Muslim women rail consistently against male oppression, but it is clear most of them are comfortable with the idea of well-behaved paterfamilias's under family and religious scrutiny, which we can no longer understand, let alone defend. OK, you can argue it's a better world for it, but don't complain when mothers do everything they can to keep their sons out of the military conflict and Dad ducks because he is out of words and, besides, he is late for his baking class.

January 14, 2007 4:49 PM  

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