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Trump on Mother’s Day

There was nothing going on Sunday but Mother’s Day and the latest re-hashings of that complicated story about President Donald Trump firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so we chose to spend the morning and the early afternoon with Mom. All in all, it proved the far better choice.
She and Dad started worshipping at Riverwalk after our family’s congregation had folded and back when we weren’t so diligent about weekly worship, then went off to the Philadelphia in pursuit of Dad’s career and wound up involved in the many good charitable works of a Church of Christ there, and in the meantime we desperately re-connected with that much smaller and older Church over on West Douglas. Mom and Dad have joined us there for worshipping and found it reassuringly familiar, so much like the church where they were married and where we once served as a ring-bearer at a cousin’s also very happy marriage, and although there’s usually an Arkansas River and a full hour dividing our Holy Communion it was nice to share it with Mom. She’s the reason that dad worships every Sunday, and her and our Dad’s combined example is the reason we continue to do so, too, even if it’s over that Arkansas River Bridge and deep in to Delano, and there’s no doubting that Mom’s mother was mostly responsible for that. The subject of the sermon was honor they Father and Mother, and given our family history that seems wise counsel on almost any old weekend, and we took it to heart
Dad wasn’t there because he’s recently had some pretty serious spinal surgery, which also involved a neurosurgeon, which worried us plenty, Dad being such a great guy, but he seemed in high spirits when we and Mom joined him apres church, and very much abreast of the latest developments in that Trump and Russia thing, when we met him for a lunch in the health care unit of his very nice retirement home. The lunch wasn’t bad, by semi-hospital standards, and he was in such a good mood that he encouraged us to take Mom out for an afternoon of Wichita culture. Mom had already introduced us to the local arts and music and all the test of the surprisingly rich culture rich traditions of Wichita, Kansas, so it was a delight to drive her over in her fancy care to the WAM’s annual art and book fair. There was a nice collection of pieces from the permanent collection chosen by some of our fine local artists, that internationally iconict and perfect-for-Mother’s-Dy painting by Mary Casatt of a mother and infant child, and we also had a chance to introduce our Mom to a couple of very idiosyncratically Wichita women of our more secular acquaintance.
Before we headed home we warned our Dad that the whole Russian thing with Trump and Russia seems to be closing in on Trump, based on the foreign and and non-cable news we follow, even though we share his hope that it’s all fake news. No matter how that turns out, it was a a great day with Mom and we’ll give thanks next Sunday over on West Douglas.

— Bud Norman

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Mom and Inequality

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a yearly chance to reflect on all the bedtime stories dear old Mom told and all the other loving things she did to create America’s appalling levels of income inequality. That’s the view of one British academic, at least, and it seems the illogical conclusion of the entire egalitarian left’s line of reasoning.
The British academic is Adam Swift, a professor of politics and international studies at England’s University of Warwick, who told an Australian radio interviewer that “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is greater than the difference between those who get private schooling and those who don’t.” The good professor doesn’t therefore condemn bedtime stories, which he acknowledges are useful in developing family bonds that he considers socially beneficial, but he adds that “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.” He’s more adamant about banning private schooling, which he does not find useful in fostering those family bonds that he generously finds some social benefit to having, and we infer that he would also ban anything else a loving mother might do to give her child an advantage in life which does not serve some broader public utility that he can readily identify.
Something about the professor’s last name and logic reminded us of Jonathan Swift’s famous essay on “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” in which he jocularly advocated that the impoverished Irish of the early 1700’s sell their children as food, but apparently the more recent Swift intended his remarks in earnest rather than as satire. We’ve confirmed this from several seemingly reliable sources, including a unsettlingly sympathetic account of the interview on the “Philosopher’s Zone” of the Australian Broadcast Company’s web site, and find it all too believable that Swift should hold such outrageous views. The part about banning or stigmatizing private education is by now a common refrain on the American left, which regards even such half-assed educational reforms as charter schools  as racist, and of course they’re downright apoplectic about those loving mothers who are providing first-rate educations to their children at home, where they’re getting God only knows what sort of idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas in the poor little dear’s heads, of course the left is equally adamant that inheritance taxes should prevent a mother from passing along any money or other property to a child or a grandchild, and a similar worry that any one child might turn out to be better or in any other respect different from another child seems to inform a whole host of other issues.
Swift and his fellow egalitarians are obviously quite right that not all mothers are created equal and their disparate motherhoods create unequal life chances for their offspring. Our own mother was a most excellent bedtime story-reader, and made sure that a memorization of the alphabet and a recognition of its symbols and an extensive vocabulary accompanied us to our very first day of school, and sent us off to school on time each day in clean clothes with a bellyful of healthful food, and took us to symphony concerts and art museums and historical sites, and inculcated a love of reading and learning ,and gave us a few necessary swats on the head whenever we’d improperly conjugate a verb, and she shared with us a sense of right and wrong grounded in the ancient faith of our ancestors, and although it hasn’t resulted in any noticeable income equality that we can brag about, which it probably would have if we’d more diligently followed her advice, we cannot deny that it has significantly increased our life chances in other important ways. We still have the love of reading and learning about music and art and history, the faith of our ancestors grows more important to us with each passing day, we’ve written a couple of novels, and we don’t say anything about how  we seen something, as so many people do around here, so we frankly if snobbishly assess that in many ways we are a lot better off than many other mothers’ kids as a result.
We hope that Mom doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it, though, and we want her to know that we don’t hold her at all responsible for how some of the dullards that we sat with in public school turned out.. Knowing her to be an old-fashioned Okie rather than an up-to-date British academic, however, we trust she has already come to the common sense conclusion that the problem driving all that inequality is not the mothers who read bedtime stories to their children but the ones who don’t. In some elastic senses of the term “equality” can be an admirable goal, we suppose, no matter how unrealistic it might be by any definition, but it’s a most dangerously anti-liberty concept when it means dragging down the best rather than lifting up the worst. Nor can we see how the illogical conclusion of liberal egalitarianism serves any public good.
We’re friends with a fine young sixth-grader whose mother and father are sacrificing to send him to one of those private schools, despite the lack of any apparent racism or class antagonisms on their part, and he was read bedtime stories to boot, and he’s coming along so well that we now expect him to come up with some idiosyncratic and officially unapproved idea that will someday be of great benefit even to the public-schooled dullards with the unlettered mothers. We’d like that that our own idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas, so carefully typed out according to the standard English that our mother would smack us for violating, might yet also provide some social benefit that a British academic can’t readily identify. We’d like to think that all the mothers who have read to their children at bedtime and provided any other advantage they could to improve a young  life’s chances have made the world a far better place.
We’d also like to wish our Mom, and all those other mothers who read bedtime stories to their children, a most happy Mother’s Day.

— Bud Norman

Mothers’ Day

A pleasant spring day stroll through Wichita’s picturesque Riverside Park took us past the spaceship, and once again we were reminded of Mom.
It’s not an actual spaceship, just an antique piece of playground equipment that vaguely resembles a sci-fi B-movie version of one, but it’s real enough that a childhood imagination would take flight in it whenever Mom hauled the kids to the park on a summer afternoon. There were no children scampering up the series of ladders to the cockpit during our recent visit, a consequence of some do-gooder group’s noisy insistence that the entrance be bolted shut lest some unattended urchin injure himself on the steel artifice, and the spaceship seemed lonesome without them. We also felt badly for the children, even though they seemed happy enough playing on some up-to-date plastic-and-wood thingamajigs that looked every bit as dangerous as the spaceship, and not just because they were being denied our fondly-remembered exhilaration on an imaginary tip to the moon. Sadder yet was the realization of a societal assumption that these children didn’t have an eagle-eyed mother hovering nearby to keep them from harm.
No noisy do-gooder groups were needed to get us through childhood. Although we suffered from the usual boyish lack of risk-assessment abilities, ever-vigilant Mom had an uncanny knack for plucking us out of danger’s way at the last possible moment. It could be quite annoying, of course, but in retrospect we can see that she also allowed us a glorious degree of freedom that must have been quite nerve-wracking for the poor woman. Mom would become frighteningly ferocious when her children were threatened, a marked contrast to the ladylike demeanor she exhibited in most other circumstances, and she was no less protective when confronted with well-meaning busybodies who would have placed limits on our sense of possibilities.
Pardon us if a sentimental Mothers’ Day tribute turns into yet another political rant, but there are all manner of collectivist noisy do-gooder nonsense that would be entirely unneeded if everyone had a mother like ours. Countless children could have been spared the wasted time of Head Start programs if they’d had such a mother as ours, who sent who all her children off to Kindergarten knowing the alphabet, being able to count well past 10, having memorized the family phone number, and possessing a vocabulary that already included the word “precocious.” The one-size-fits-all nutritional standards that have lately been imposed on the schools would be unnecessary, as Mom provided healthy meals that fit each of her differently-sized children with a precision no remote bureaucracy could hope to duplicate. Mom saw to it that her children were clothed, cleaned, sheltered, and cared for, and any intrusive social worker dumb enough to think he could do any better would have been in for a hell of a time.
Spend all the trillions you can tax, print, or borrow, but you’ll never fund a program that is an adequate substitute for Mom. Fashionable opinion is fond of an old African adage that “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Hillary Clinton even used it for a book title, but it is the sort of balderdash that has kept Africa poor and backward. In truth it takes a mother to a raise a child, and preferably a good one such as ours. Fathers are important, too, and given current policies their importance might require more prominence, but we’ll return to that theme in June. This weekend should be devoted to wishing a most happy Mothers’ Day to Mom, and to all the other mothers who have done the job well.

— Bud Norman