Thursday, August 11, 2005

Stepping in it.

WHEN MOMS CRY. Since nobody else will say it, I will. This woman is having an ugly nervous breakdown, and if her family have any sense of dignity or propriety they will go to Texas and drag her home.

I understand the circumspection that has accompanied most commentary on the matter of Cindy Sheehan. She's a mother who (gulp) lost her son. Thus, even those who are deeply offended by her rhetoric express it indirectly. They blame the leftist hate machine which has obviously worked hard to exploit her, or they speak on behalf of the military mindset which is not flattered by the attempt to reduce their brave sacrifices to victimhood. You can see this kind of tact well executed by Michelle Malkin, Debra Saunders, and others all over the internet. Ms. Malkin and Bill O'Reilly discussed the matter on television and couldn't begin a single exchange without reiterating their profound sympathy for Ms. Sheehan. I appreciate their dilemma, but there are too many important points at issue here to let it go.

Yes, it is a terrible thing to lose a child. But I'm getting tired of hearing the rote assertion that it's the worst thing that can ever happen to you, you never get over it, and no one who hasn't had the experience can ever understand. It's as if this category of event, "lose a child," represents some kind of emotional tree-line which, once passed, automatically elevates a person into a new state of existence from which ordinary mortals are excluded. It's the Skull & Bones of parenthood, an elite membership which confers extraordinary privilege and exemption from all merely human judgment or criticism.

Pardon me, but that's a crock. On several levels. Anyone who has lived more than a few decades comes to understand that life is largely about loss. The longer we survive, the more we lose: grandparents, parents, friends, lovers, wives, husbands, family, pets, and any number of dreams, possessions, and ideals, including -- for many -- faith, hope, and love. The whole idea that there is a Publisher's Clearinghouse Jackpot of Loss is absurd and demeaning to the human spirit.

A relatively recent addition to our psychological jargon is the term emotional intelligence. Surely it's emotional idiocy to declare all instances of the generic event "lose a child" equal. The perception of "worst thing in the world" is easy to appreciate in the case of parents who lose a small child to abduction, murder, disease, or accident. There is the awareness that there was never any choice by the child, that there can be no compensation of any kind for the loss, and that in addition to the terrible void they must live with, the parents may also feel guilt for having failed to protect their helpless, innocent offspring from the twists of fate before they had a chance to live life.

It may seem mean-spirited to suggest, but I will, that even in these kinds of tragedies not every parent is equal. No matter how many times we dutifully repeat the mantra, many of us must suspect that there are parents who do get over their loss and damned quickly at that. We can also surmise that others learn not to look back with the same degree of agonizing intensity. Most hurts hurt less over time unless we choose to make them into a cross or an excuse. That's not bad. It's the source of human strength. We go on. We live through loss. Otherwise, no culture would survive earthquakes, floods, famines, epidemics, and wars.

Except for losing a child, of course. How many parents have we taught to cling tightly to their grief lest they feel less of it and enter a new purgatory of guilt for not being exquisitely sensitive enough to remain emotionally ruined for all their days?

For whatever reason, we have exalted grief in this nation to a supernatural force that must be honored and appeased rather than overcome. As recently as the Victorian era, infant and child mortality was so pervasive that few large families did not experience it. Before the age of modern medicine, sudden, unexpected death was an everyday companion of the living. They learned to control grief with defined periods of mourning in prescribed clothes and then to proceed with life. And they learned not to lose their faith and humility in the process.

Now we teach even our youngest children that grief is a devouring god to whom they must genuflect whenever the bad thing happens. Every incident at school -- fire, death, insect infestation -- is followed by an invasion of professional grief counselors who carefully implant the idea that what has happened will resonate through the rest of their lives like some gong of doom.

We have taught ourselves to view the grief-stricken as secular saints imbued with the mystery of new age stigmata, and we watch in awe as they bleed continuously from their invisible wounds. In their actions we consecrate what we cannot comprehend, and we collectively offer up to them the key to a kind of free-fire zone, in which they can act out all they want while we do their penance for them in hushed, admiring tones.

Has it helped? No. Are the eternally bleeding really saints? No. The evidence indicates that the death of a child tends to destroy marriages these days, promote substance abuse, vandalize careers, and perpetuate depression. Appeasing and worshipping grief strengthens the power of grief and causes people to lapse into self-absorbed obsessions.

But we must not blow the whistle on Cindy Sheehan? She has contrived to turn her son's death and the whole Iraq War into her own personal soap opera. This was all something done to her. By the President of the United States, no less. Let us take all our cameras to Texas and watch her bleed from her hands and feet. Nonsense. It's time for some plain talk.

Her plight is a very far cry from that of a mother who views the mutilated body of her six-year old daughter at the morgue. Cindy Sheehan's son was a man -- more a full-grown man than his mother is a full-grown woman -- and the sacrifice that was made was his, not hers, willingly given in return for compensations that made sense to him at the time he decided to join the military.

She does defame his life and his memory by behaving like a spoiled adolescent on the national stage, by lying, and by actively seeking to humiliate her (and our) Commander-in-Chief. We do her son no honor by pretending that her behavior is anything other than what it is -- a disgraceful exhibition of self-annihilating selfishness which reveals the sickness of the conviction that every loss is total, inconsolable, and license to revert to the infantile fantasy of a universe with ourselves at the center.

It's also sad and ironic that we entangle her tantrum with the concept of motherhood. Her accomplices in assaulting the national war effort are, lest we forget, of the political stripe which views motherhood as a game of craps, with every player free to plunk her fertilized egg on the "Pass" or "Don't Pass" line, depending on her whims of the moment. They believe that she is to feel NO grief for the innocent life she takes herself while retaining the infinite right to make the whole world accountable if the life she chooses to perpetuate should somehow perish before it reaches the age of mandatory commitment to nursing homes and Medicaid-financed euthanasia. How is this preferable to a short heroic life given freely as a gift for others, in the name of home and liberty?

This is perversion. And it's time somebody said it out loud. Cindy Sheehan, your son died a hero. Go home now and find some meaning in it that isn't just about you and the politics of those who hate their country.

MAJOR UPDATE: 8-18-05. Now that we know who has the moral authority, it's time to put the chickenhawks and other offenders in place for good. Here's how.

POSTSCRIPT. In a seemingly unrelated story, Radley Balko reports on a disturbing new campaign by M.A.D.D. that all parents of teenagers should be aware of.

When they learned that their son planned to celebrate the prom with a booze bash at a beach 40 miles away, William and Patricia Anderson instead threw a supervised party for him and his friends at their home. They served alcohol, but William Anderson stationed himself at the party's entrance and collected keys from every teen who showed. No one who came to the party could leave until the next morning.

For this the Andersons found themselves arrested and charged with supplying alcohol to minors. The case ignited a fiery debate that eventually spilled onto the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving oddly decided to make an example of William Anderson, a man who probably did more to keep drunk teens off the road that night than most Providence-area parents.

Read the whole thing. We'd comment, but we already said something about this way back in 1999 (NSFW). And to close the loop, make sure you click on mom's tear.

UPDATE. Michellanche underway. Thanks to La Malkin. Visitors, feel free to shop around for more outrages and offenses against decency correctness.

UPDATE 2. I pass this along without proof of its authenticity, but perhaps others can confirm or disprove that for themselves. Let us know in the Comments section.

UPDATE 3. A quick look at Michelle Malkin's latest updates discloses that she is once again receiving the kind of high-minded progressive communications that presumably demark the moral superiority referenced by those who are posting their negative comments here at InstaPunk. To save you all a lot of time, don't expect to receive any response to your haughty putdowns if you aren't also prepared to acknowledge that the "right-wing" invective you read here is a far cry from what has become standard (here, here, and here) for the enlightened, tolerant, and peace-loving left wing.

UPDATE 4. Click here for the August 12 InstaPunk entry on the same subject.

UPDATE 5: 8-17-05. Welcome, all you cat fanciers from Obsidian Wings. Here's a little something we clawed up just for you.

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