Monday, July 5, 2010

It Takes a Village (of Non-Crazy People)

Sometimes we do things that we probably should not.  I probably should not have bothered watching conservative Jonah Goldberg spar with libertarian Will Wilkinson at Bloggingheads over the issue of patriotism.

On the subject of who it is we mean to share our patriotism with, Goldberg finds a way to work in his great She-Devil, Hillary Clinton for some liberal fascist pizazz:

There's a real irony in calling Hillary Clinton crazy here. A good definition of crazy is someone who stubbornly takes an irrational point of view and then blows it way out of proportion. Yet that is exactly what Goldberg is doing.  Clinton's quote:

"We as a country need to move to a society where there's no such thing as somebody else's child."

Now, his starting point is to take this quote out of context and attribute to it meaning that was never intended. This is deliberately unserious, and intellectually dishonest.

A serious interpretation of what Clinton meant is simply that we all need to share in responsibility for how children in society turn out, with the moral clarity as if they were our own children. This is an ancient progressive refrain, and one echoed in the book he likely got the quote from, It Takes a Village, which itself is from an old South African proverb. It is an expression of the oldest human experience, arguably from which all good laws come, of human brotherhood and empathy. I am my brother's keeper, etc.

A dishonest, unserious interpretation is that this phrase is scrawled on the signpost leading down the road to serfdom and tyranny. Clinton was expressing a crypto-fascist sentiment from which she was calling for a centralized state government that was going to take sons and daughters from their mother's arms, stamp them with a bar-code and make them wards of the state.

Goldberg then states,
"the simple fact is that because we are human beings, we will never be able to achieve that [crazy utopia]. And any attempt to achieve that, in any serious way, would create far more problems than it would solve."

Now, correct me if I am mistaken, but every child born in America is not only guaranteed a free 13 years of education, but is required to attend. Is this not an implicit acknowledgment that all children are, in a sense, our own children. In fact, there are many ways in which children are given constitutional protections that adults do not have, expressly because they are children, therefore not capable of granting themselves access to certain privileges, and if their parents do not provide said privileges the children will indeed be removed by the state.

Putting aside for a second the fact that we do all of this now, and having been doing so - sometimes hard-fought-for - for many decades, is Goldberg arguing that we should not be?

Because, in the end, why else do we not allow child labor, or require parents to feed and clothe their children, send them to school, etc., but for our explicit notion that - in some sense (and one I maintain Clinton is evoking) - "there is no such thing as someone else's child"? And to the extent that we are not doing enough on this front - and NCLB has shown beyond all shadow of a doubt that we are not - who could disagree with Clinton that we need to be trying harder?

For Goldberg to twist her words to his greedy, amoral and deceitful little ends is pathetic. And crazy.

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