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We License Marriage, But Not Procreation?


This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 18, 2010.

Recently, on Southwest Airlines, one of the parents of a 13 month old child noted it was crying and hauled off and slapped the kid, a wise encouragement for quieter behavior. Since no sane person can imagine a reason for anyone, even a near infant, to be unhappy flying our friendly skies with any of our beloved airlines these days - even if it were the child's first introduction to cabin pressure - reasonable conclusions by Real Americans are that the child may have been spoiled by watching too much Hollywood product with its liberal values, although not on that flight because they don't show movies anymore, thank god, and have returned to traditional American ways. This year, if you ask for a beverage on an American airline, you're granted permission to lick the windows or air conditioning ducts.

Of course, the child may have been a terrorist, embedded to cause a distraction, but before the air marshal could waterboard the truth out of him, a flight attendant, encouraged by a number of fellow passengers, took the kid away and held it till the plane landed. Officials chatted with the folks and witnesses and nothing more seems to have come of it. But this display of Hillary's Village is a warning to all right thinking Americans.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that beating the crap out of the parents to encourage their better behavior rather than hitting a kid years away from a fully connected brain would be a better option. Except for the fact that it might encourage the parents to take even firmer steps in the future when their child proved unhappy, it's a understandable conclusion. You're either a fit parent or you are not.

But slapping a 13 month old near infant for crying and then being punished for it would recall to me the story of the British Admiral Byng, who was executed in the Seven Years War for a stupidly lost battle. Byng was shot to detract public attention from the monumental incompetence of higher British command or perhaps, as Voltaire put it, to "encourage the others." His death was neither just nor constructive, but it deflected attention from the question of what such an incompetent was doing in charge of anything. That parents know best is a delusion that doesn't really stand up under anything beyond a cursory consideration. What is actually being said is: We won't turn you in for beating your children bloody when you're drunk if you don't turn us in for having allowed our kid to serve booze at his high school graduation. This doesn't encourage good parenting; it protects bad.

The institutionalizing of regard for various social units like parents has proven of no constructive value beyond that of marketing product to them, requiring extensive buttering up. The issues of punishment for inappropriate and sadistic behavior towards one's own child are argued over rather than the bigger issue: should people be allowed to have children in the first place and inflict them on others unless they themselves are willing and able to be good parents within established parameters? On an overcrowded planet with diminished ability to maintain, it's not a irrelevant question, nor an invasive one.

We all have a Libertarian streak, perhaps an anarchist gene, and most of us would object to anyone outside of the parents having a veto over either parenting choices or becoming parents at all. But in these matters, clearly the individual in aggregate has failed.

I know a fair number of bad parents who should have never been given the nod. They're not all bad people, just bad parents. Parenthood should not be entirely based on wealth or brains, but quiet resolve to backburner your time, ambitions, emotional balance, and private life for another, and on behalf of kids who won't recognize or appreciate those sacrifices for years, and have no ability to do so. Meanwhile, they cry a lot and throw tantrums, but that's understandable behavior for a kid 13 months old when scared or uncomfortable. And while it's not society's right to micromanage a kid's discipline, it is society's right and obligation to weed out bad parents ahead of time. The long term effect of bad parenting is too costly in every sphere to be tolerated.

We license cars, ability to donate blood and, idiotically, marriage, but we don't license procreation. For that, we deserve to be shot far more than Admiral Byng ever did, and because of all the bad parenting, we have increased the odds we will be.