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November 17, 2004

Love Flees the Baby's Cries

Theodore Dalrymple is toward the top of my list of writers whom I'd like to know. (Although I suspect that in person he'd only further highlight my lack of refinement by contrast.) His piece, "The Frivolity of Evil," in the latest City Journal (which Lane Core announced as now available) has given my mind material for many a dog-walking ponderation. Given my post on Anchor Rising, yesterday, which touched on the role of love in marriage, this paragraph from Dalrymple stood out (note the parenthetical comments):

My patient already had had three children by three different men, by no means unusual among my patients, or indeed in the country as a whole. The father of her first child had been violent, and she had left him; the second died in an accident while driving a stolen car; the third, with whom she had been living, had demanded that she should leave his apartment because, a week after their child was born, he decided that he no longer wished to live with her. (The discovery of incompatibility a week after the birth of a child is now so common as to be statistically normal.) She had nowhere to go, no one to fall back on, and the hospital was a temporary sanctuary from her woes. She hoped that we would fix her up with some accommodation.

She could not return to her mother, because of conflict with her "stepfather," or her mother's latest boyfriend, who, in fact, was only nine years older than she and seven years younger than her mother. This compression of the generations is also now a common pattern and is seldom a recipe for happiness. (It goes without saying that her own father had disappeared at her birth, and she had never seen him since.) The latest boyfriend in this kind of ménage either wants the daughter around to abuse her sexually or else wants her out of the house as being a nuisance and an unnecessary expense. This boyfriend wanted her out of the house, and set about creating an atmosphere certain to make her leave as soon as possible.

England's problems in this regard are much beyond ours. (Indeed, Dalrymple says the country's "rates of social pathology... are the highest in the world.") But on that basis, it gives stark examples to consider when forming our own policies. Many cultural levers and public policies are relevant, of course, but to highlight just one, it seems to me that marriage is a waste of resources if it isn't a guard against exactly the incident that Dalrymple calls "statistically normal" in his nation.

It isn't about the husband's restlessness; it isn't about helping the mother manage things; although both of these are important parts of marriage. It's about the child. Love and mutual support ought to remain intrinsic parts of marriage's cultural legacy, but if tying both parents to their children ceases to be, then all the rest is just sunshine and ticket stubs.

Posted by Justin Katz at November 17, 2004 4:56 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

That "Frivolity of Evil" is an outstanding article, and a must-read for everyone. Makes me wish i still had a blog to spotlight it on! ;)

Posted by: Marty at November 17, 2004 6:55 PM

Thanks for the notice.

Posted by: ELC at November 17, 2004 7:44 PM