Totalitarians of the World, Unite!

Whenever I’m in a diner or a family restaurant, I look around for the most cheerful thing in any day’s experience, and that’s a young husband and wife and their children. Today the two children sitting with their parents at the table next to us were a baby boy and his four-year-old brother. The four year old had glossy blond hair, tousled over his forehead, and was all skinny arms and legs, elbows and knees. Foolishness regarding the supposed sameness of men and women cannot stand up against a moment or two of looking at how they are shaped, and that is true even of little boys and girls. In the boy we can see the man-shape in miniature: the straight-angled legs, the shoulders made for throwing, the jaw line, the snowshoe feet. I imagine that it delights the heart of any ordinary mother and father.

Ordinary—but these are not ordinary times. They are dis-ordinary. Try to pretend that they are ordinary: that the most important things in life strike everyone as a matter of course. So the parents of the little boy look at their son, and imagine what he will be like when he grows to manhood. They imagine him as marrying a woman and begetting a family of his own. That is a matter of course. It is what all parents have always done, on the banks of the Hwang Ho or the Father of Waters, on the treeless expanses of Alaska or in the rain forests of Borneo, in the Roman forum or on a village green in New England. It is normal, not in a mere statistical sense, but in the sense of the Latin noun norma: a carpenter’s square. It is what ought to be, when you raise your son in a healthy way. To do anything other would be like building a house with crooked walls. Why would you do that? The thing will buckle.

So they do those things that ordinary parents have always done when they delight in reality. The father rough-houses with him, tackling him or pretending to be tackled by him, hoisting him over his head and dangling him upside down by the ankles. The mother calls him “my little man,” and lets him “help” her when she is digging in the garden to plant some flowers and vegetables. They cut his hair short to show his masculine looks to best advantage. None of this is mere “socializing” or “social construction,” because human beings are by social by nature, and nature helps to determine the social arrangements they are going to have. There never has been a society in which parents have not done for their small sons the equivalent of what I have described, and there never will be—there never can be. It would be like imagining a world in which parents had no special love for their children, or in which men and women were not attracted to each other, or in which people spent all of their waking hours indoors, and only went out under the open sky under state compulsion.

No, we do not need the state to compel us to do what comes naturally. But the state can compel us to do, under sufferance, what does not come naturally, or what is downright unnatural.

Allow me to give a tiresome instance. The mother and father of that little boy, being ordinary people and therefore harboring no diseased love for the dis-ordinary, are not going to buy him a book about a little boy who decides that he is “really” a girl, and who presses his parents and their doctors to pump his body up with synthetic sex hormones. They are as likely to do that as they are to buy him a book about how to commit suicide with no mess or fuss, or a book about people who like to eat dirt, or a pop-up book of Bill Clinton and various female creatures that walk on two legs. That is not because they “hate” people who commit suicide, or who eat things that belong under your shoes and not in your stomach, or Bill Clinton. It is because they are normal. The world is full of natural wonders for the ordinary child. Why preoccupy him with human sickness and madness, drawing his attention away from those wonders, and injecting him with a moral dermatitis?

But that, apparently, is what schools these days are for. Scholastic Books, for instance, is peddling some tens of thousands of copies of a book called George, about a little boy who knows that he is “really” a girl, and who finds a way to play Charlotte in his class’s production of Charlotte’s Web, so that everybody will finally know who he is—as the book’s subtitle has it, Be Who You Are. The author, one Alex Gino, a fat fellow with pink hair, refers to himself as “they” and begs to be addressed with the honorific “Mx.,” pronounced “Mix.” His aim is to inject his own dermatitis into the lives of small children: to confuse them, calling the confusion “diversity.” The School Library Journal is all gaga for the book, saying that “it is a required purchase for any collection that serves a middle grade population.”

Let us stop right here. Should we presume that the children have already read all the real books that they can handle at their age? They have already read The Jungle Book, The Call of the Wild, The Last of the Mohicans, Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, The Yearling, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, The Once and Future King, Ivanhoe, Silas Marner, Oliver Twist, and David Copperfield, so that they can now go on to greater things—to a silly and noxious little book about sexual confusion, written by a man who cannot decide whether he is a man or a woman, or even whether he is one person or two? And this is a required purchase? Such urgency! The poetry of John Milton, apparently, is not a required purchase or a required anything, because a search of School Library Journal reveals no interest whatsoever in that greatest of English poems, Paradise Lost, except for somebody who is interested in angels. Not to worry: it is not interest in the incorporeal messengers of God, but in the flighty spiritual thingies that people really really might be, subcutaneously, as it were.

My mind returns to that couple and their sons. No one would ever say, “It is absurd to suppose that parents would go out of their way to buy a boy a copy of The Call of the Wild.” That is exactly the sort of thing that parents who are themselves readers of literature would do. The very sentence makes no sense. It is like saying that parents would not go out of their way to take their son fishing. What is wrong about fishing? No one would ever say, “It is absurd to suppose that a parent would read The Wind in the Willows to his small son.” Of course he would—several generations of parents have done so. Why on earth not?

But no ordinary father is going to push sexual confusion on his son, just as he would not push heroin or anything else that was destructive. That is where schools come in.

It used to be assumed that the schoolteacher did what the parents had not the time or the capacity to do, but that her authority was delegated by the parents. She was, so to speak, a publicly appointed governess to the children of several families at once. It would never occur to her to want to contradict the parents’ wishes or to undermine their authority. How would that be good for the children? How could that be called an act of solidarity with the community? You hire a plumber to replace a rusted pipe that has begun to leak. He decides, on his own authority, with encouragement from the plumbers’ union and the state, to install a shower nozzle on the exhaust that leads from the toilet to the septic tank. It is a required shower nozzle, meant to instruct us in the wonderfully diverse ways we can appreciate the uses to which human beings have put what “traditional” people, in their narrow bigotry, have only wanted out of sight and smell. Every month a Plumbing Pluralist comes to check the nozzle, to make sure it is still there and that you have not kept it turned off.

“I don’t want that thing in my basement!” you holler at the plumber, but it doesn’t matter, you are getting it anyway, because your house is not your own.

You are also not free. It doesn’t matter at all whether you are granted a vote for Head Plumber. If you are not the constitutional monarch in the castle of your home, you are a slave in an outhouse of the State. The same is true when it comes to the education of your children. If your relation with your children’s teacher is not that of employer to employee, or head of household to governess—even if you are but one among a large group of parents—then you are a slave, and the teachers will use your children to “teach” you a lesson, and you had damned well better learn it.

A further question: Is it likely that people who would use your own children to advance their political purposes, introducing them to things that they know quite well you would find obnoxious, inane, or quite mad, will have any qualms about leaving your churches free to preach the word of God? Only someone with a totalitarian mind would even want to feed your children the latest sexual agitprop; and totalitarians do not become democratic republicans when they come within a hundred feet of the church doors. That is not the experience of the world since 1789, is it?

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

MENU