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God Be Praised! The McCaugheys Have Seven!!

Christ on a cracker, what's the matter with people? This is far worse than Kevorkian.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 26, 1997.

There is something surreal about looking at the green teeth of Mother McCaughey and the vacant smile of Father McCaughey on national magazine covers as they reap the benefits of having given legal birth to seven badly needed infants in the wilds of Iowa. Seven squalling infants. Fortunately, we are told, it is the Christian faith of the heroic parents that have kept them together through this trying time. Actually, we have only heard this from the father, whose placid face shows small sign of any strain, thought, or exertion and who well could believe that Christ is the broomstick handle keeping his back straight. What the mother has had to say is less distinct, although of far more interest. Why the father is being rewarded at all is most puzzling, and why none of the myriad gifts has included a massive iron blood transfusion for Mom is most odd and rather cruel. The woman could use all the help she can get.

I like kids, have looked forward to having them, and appreciate the concept of parents, if the reality today is less than inspiring. But human beings do not have seven children in nature, and there is reason to believe that outside of the extreme mathematical possibility, any more than three at once is so rare as to be impossible, and unlikely for the mother to survive. And in fact, the McCaughey did all this with fertility drugs, the Kevorkian at the other end of the lifeline, and required great medical help to reach birth, which was achieved with the attention of a royal passing in the last century.

It is more than passing philosophical interest that heroic Christians who despised Doctor Kevorkian for assisting a death before God’s time often do not hesitate to override the verdict of nature and use medicine to overcome their genetic defects. It should be remembered that if a couple cannot have children naturally, nature is telling them something. If you believe a divine presence should select the moment for death, it only follows that the same presence selects the moment for life, and that all has been deflected by the intercession of medicine.

It rankles me that dime one is spent on increasing the fertility of women. First, because it is the ultimate ego trip of wannabe parents who cannot believe nature has negated their genetic line. Second, it is paid for by private and public research, and could originally only be afforded by the few. Which is to say, a regressive taxation to pay for the continuity of an overclass. If the McCaugheys of the world eventually take advantage of this, so much the worse. Because there is no indication they could have afforded all this without help. Our bucks, by the way. Even if it was only paid for by the insurance company, your rates will ripple to compensate.

But third, this infuriates me that in a world of want and decreasing ability to satisfy what exists, we are rewarding people for increasing the rate of decline. And for what? So some chowderheaded truck salesman from Ringworm Iowa can pose with his exhausted wife on the cover of Newsweek. The last thing the planet needs is more human beings, and if we restricted birth to those who could afford children in affluence, time, and actual interest, the planet would self-regulate. But we make it easy for people who have not much else to do to become parents for the sake of becoming parents. We can’t afford that anymore. Haven’t in fact, for some decades. Can the McCaughey afford these kids? No, clearly. He is a car salesman, unlikely to draw in the salary that nine people - and the couple may have more kids - need to survive. In any case, one adult cannot physically take care of seven children exactly the same age, so Mother will require paid for help after the thrill of publicity is over for would be donors. Will the children be able to count on quality time with each of their parents? No. Will the children be able to count on any time where the parents respond to them as an individual? How? The children are condemned to life as a member of an unnatural litter, the parents to a life of exhaustion. Their lives are, essentially, over. They are only mother spiders letting the children feed off them. That may have been their choice to ask science to provide them with a reason to go on, but it was a bad one.

And far more questionable and disturbing than any of the callers to Jack Kevorkian’s office, and our positive response to this catastrophe is more contemptible than our coverage of his works.