Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Palins have a grandson

Lisa Schiffren in NRO posts the good news:
Congratulations to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson on the birth of their healthy baby boy, named, in the family tradition of non-traditional names, Tripp. I'm sure the baby will be much loved and a joy. It also seems clear that the baby will be gorgeous, as are both young parents.
I don't care much for "non-traditional names", but if this is a tribute to Rex Linn's character on CSI:Miami, then OK. Maybe they could name the next one Brass. At any rate, they could have done worse:
If there is any left, put it away for Trapp's education.

What struck me about this opinion piece was the same thing that occurred to me months ago when Sarah Palin first became a candidate for VP, and the media erupted over her daughter's pregnancy. It was reminiscent of something C.S. Lewis wrote when advocating the reading of old books:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

I found that same common assumption in all the discussion of the Bristol Palin pregnancy, even among the friendly voices on the right. You can read it right here in this Schiffren piece:
Apart from the normal personal anguish of an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, Miss Palin endured a pretty awful dose of media scrutiny and derision, mostly aimed at her mother, of course. But, for a young woman who was not a celebrity, nor any kind of public figure, the ordeal must have been especially hellish. In our perverse, celebrity-driven culture, however, there is payback. In this instance, it comes in the form of cash. The picture magazines will be paying the couple on the order of $300,000 for first pictures of Tripp. The price went up as the story gained in value this month with the arrest of Levi's mother for drug-dealing. Perverse? Cynical? Gross? Sure. But useful.

Sometimes celebrities make a big show of giving the baby pix money to charity. If I were advising the couple, I'd tell them to have a nice little wedding as soon as possible.("Soon" being the operative word here.) And use the rest for college for both of you — including whatever babysitting you need to pay for.

What could be friendlier or more well-intentioned? But it's there, all the same: having children is a distraction from the REAL business of life in the 21st century - getting into the workforce and making money. From leftists who stood by, hands on hips, berating the Palins for not living up to their stereotypes as Christians by turning their wayward daughter out into the snow, to right-wingers who sneered at the opposition for finally finding an example of copulation too outrageous for tolerance, the basic assumption was the same: these young people have ruined their lives and made themselves contemptible by using their strongest, most productive years by producing a baby instead of dollar bills.

Schiffren is kind enough to suggest that they can make amends by getting back on the career track as soon as possible, but her hint is unmistakeable: this is an unfortunate detour in the road of life, not to be mistaken for a destination.

I think this is the culture of acquisitiveness that Pope Benedict and before him Pope John Paul II warned about. It's the same sort of cultural dead end that is inhabited by the abortion-mongers; the idea that "choice" is paramount, but only the correct choice. In this case, the convention is a little different; where pro-abortionists set their faces grimly toward murder, these "pro-choicers" take a more moderate path: "No, no, we don't want you to KILL anyone. But you can at least keep the little hindrances bottled up for a few years. And failing that, be so good as to admit that you've disgraced yourself and work to be forgiven."

It may seen odd that I don't take the thunderously moralistic tone of "They SINNNNNNNNNNNED!" but compared to the pinched miserliness of this sort of wage-slave boosterism, it seems like a mild fault, and one that at least has the advantage of youthful hope and warmth. Maybe it's the tales of all those rascally popes during the Renaissance, but there are worse things than, as Shakespeare put it, a woman having "a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed". It may be that "this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for", but it is wrong to act as if the birth of a child equals the ruination of the parents. There are always things to be chosen, and who are we to tell people that a lucrative career should always outweigh children?


Anonymous Toral said...

It seems to be be taken as normative that women will

1) have a career or at least remain open to doing so at least until and unless they have discovered themselves to be among the unusual minority who prefer to be homemakers; and

2)consequently have no children until they are ensconced in a career or at least in a sure path toward one, in which case they may have no more than two children.

And what do the most read conservative women writers like Lisa (and Peggy Noonan and Maggie Gallagher and Katherine-Jean Lopez etc.,) have in common? They all have full-time careers (sometimes taking maternity time offs) and no more than two children. Even those most sympathetic to us have indeed internalized or compromised with or been shaped by Lewis's unstated beliefs of the age.

6:02 pm  

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