Sunday, August 1, 2010

Parent-child: no recipe for a mature society's dialogue

In his introduction to "The Wizard of Oz," Ray Bolger quotes Lyle Blair, then director of the Michigan State University Press, who praised the work: "...the book(s) stress 'love, kindness, and unselfishness' and that the Grimm and Andersen tales contain a lot more horror and fear than the Baum books. (L. Frank Baum is the author of some forty "Oz" books.) Mr. Blair issued another statement saying that 'creative people are all for the Oz books,' because they are 'imaginative' books and tend to counter 'a prevailing group thinking disease.' Part of this disease, he said, is 'momism,' which demands that all children be cast in the same comfortable mold. (Ray Bolger, Introduction to The Wizard of Oz, p. ix)
Momism is a word that few have heard. It has more connotations than mere demanding that all children be cast in the same comfortable mold. It has the sense that "momism" is a social value, that wayward people need mothering, or parenting, because they have lost their way, and "mom's" know best what is wrong with the country.
Isn't this the line that Sarah Palin preaches wherever and whenever she opens her mouth? "Watch out for angry mom's! They are going to move this country in the direction it ought to be heading, and not the direction Obama and the Democrats are taking it.
And the premise on which such statements are made is that "mom" knows best, and that the others are little children gone astray and need their mother's guidance, wisdom and maturity to bring them back into line. It is the implicit patronizing, condescending and demeaning of the others that marches through every sentence of the Teapartyers' discourse on their way to whipping up the fears and the anxieties of the crowds that appalls.
The theme of parent-child in American politics, whipped into a frenzy by a dash of feminism gone off the rails, is the wave that Palin is riding.
And that wave is bereft of any intellectual rigour; it is merely a monstrous demonstration of the ability to throw off words that are familiar to every mother and father of every child. Only, in this case, it is the political arena, and while the words may be familiar, they are not appropriate for the adult political debate that is so crucial, especially in the run-up to the November 2010 elections.
If any male politician in any country even whispered words like, "Watch out for angry fathers; we are a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming elections because we are going to take the country back!" the pundits would dub such a man nothing more than a poor comic. And that is appropriate.
Why is it not appropriate for the Democracts to point to the same reduction when Palin speaks?
Maturity comes from a general cultural, political and literary acceptance of the "adult" in everyone and the need to examine every issue in a mature and adult and intelligent and somewhat objective manner.
When E.J. Dionne and the Chairman of the American Conservative Foundation cannot even agree to be arguing "on the same planet" because the conservative will not agree that it is the "right" that has made up facts and sprinkled them into the debate (as in death panels in the Health Reform Bill...there are none!), on a debate on NPR's Onpoint, with host Tom Ashbrook, then we all know that Ashbrook, and the few other hosts who attempt to maintain a healthy, adult, intelligent respect for all political views, have more than enough work to do, for the next millenium.
And if I wrote, "Grow up America," I would be justly accused of "parenting" the American child, from an invalid Canadian perspective.

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