for the children

for the children

I was reading the most delicious allegory about the United States in Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables when it reminded me of a Bill Mahr routine. I’m not judging, just reporting. The transcription I found on someone’s web page may not be accurate, but as I recall it’s true to the spirit of the routine:

Fuck the children.

Day after day it’s shoved down our throats: We have to love the children and prepare them for tomorrow. We’re supposed to prevent them from falling down wells and out of cars, and we’re supposed to keep toxic chemicals out of their reach. We’re supposed to change the babies’ diapers and call a doctor when they stop breathing. Christ almighty, when do we get a break? Do the children ever stop taking? For just once, let’s let the children fend for themselves.

They were spouting off the same crap back in the ’60s, about how
we have to take care of the children because they’re our
planet’s future. And you know what happened when we didn’t
take care of them? Nothing! They grew up and became adults, and
the planet didn’t end!

I swear, if I hear one more word about the goddamn children, I’m going
to choke somebody.

Babies are dying, children are starving, teenagers are turning to drugs
and prostitution. Blah, blah, blah. How many times can you hear
about kids living in cardboard boxes and young girls being sold
into sexual slavery before you just have to say, shut up about
the goddamn children, already?

Of course, Hawthorne’s response is a lot more subtle and nuanced, and told through an observation about chickens:

All hens are well worth studying for the piquancy and rich variety of their manners; but by no possibility can there have been other fowls of such old appearance and deportment as these ancestral ones. They probably embodied the traditionary peculiarities of their whole line of progenitors, derived through an unbroken succession of eggs; or else, this individual Chanticleer and his two wives had grown to be humorists, and a little crack-brained withal, on account of their solitary way of life, and out of sympathy with Hephzibah, their lady patroness.

Queer indeed, they looked! Chanticleer himself, though stalking on his two stilt like legs, with the dignity of interminable descent in all his gestures, was hardly bigger than an ordinary partridge; his two wives were about the size of quails; and as for the one chicken, it looked small enough to still be in egg, and, at the same time, sufficiently old, withered, wizened, and experienced, to have been the founder of an antiquated race.

Instead of being the youngest of the family, it rather seemed to have aggregated into itself the ages, not only of these living specimens of the breed, but all its forefathers and foremothers, whose united excellences and oddities were squeezed into its little body.

Its mother evidently regarded it as the one chicken of the world, and as necessary, in fact, to the world’s continuance, or at any rate, to the equilibrium of the present system of affairs, whether in church or state. No lesser sense of the younger fowls importance could have justified, even in a mother’s eyes, the perseverance with which she watched over its safety, ruffling her small person to twice its proper size, and flying in everybody’s face that so much as looked towards her hopeful progeny. (140-1)

I suspect the whole “for the children” thing is one of those excellences (or oddities, depending on how you look at it) that is deeply rooted in the American psyche. I’m not quite sure what that means.

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