Dear Nephew, my impish one,
You seem to have grasped the point about eviscerating distinctions of any serious content. I am delighted to witness the scenes of domestic discord, and you coached young Bud wonderfully in the donnybrook with Mother Smith. She seems rather shaken, fretting, as any good American must, about whether she is in fact unduly curbing her young son's high-spiritedness and “freedom of expression.” Keep up the godless work. There may even be a bonus come No Saints Day. May I instruct you briefly on several other fine points in the distinctionlessness in behalf of which we must all put our shoulders to the wheel.
My first example is victimization. We must promote this idea and encourage everyone to find a grievance—a gaping, voracious wound that must continuously be fed. The worst possible outcome for us would be a restoration of human self-respect. So long as we can convince these gullible creatures that they are always menaced by something outside their puny selves—that what they call evil (our own delectable goodness, in other words) is outside “the self” and any nastiness on their own parts has somehow been implanted by others—we put them on the sure and certain low road.
No doubt, my little fiend, this sounds mysterious to you. But it is really quite simple. Our Father Below's great demiurgic allies planted the Manichean notion eons ago that evil was its own autonomous principle, a great and gloriously destructive force. The saying, “The Devil Made Me Do It,” although turned and twisted by noxious humans into something of a joke, really expresses our sort of Truth. So long as we convince people that they are not responsible, so long as we encourage them to whine and moan and whimper over any slight, so long as we encourage them to disdain any distinction between a snub and slavery (each creates victims!), our side can breathe easier.
A second example. I know you will lap it up eagerly with that purple tongue of yours. Convince as many as you can that “family values” is whatever anybody says it is. What finer example of distinction riddance could we hope for? The media once again are enormously helpful. Although much of the data shows how “ordinary people” continue to daunt us somewhat, they are in the direct line of fire by our allies. For example, 49 percent of top television writers and executives believe adultery is wrong, but 85 percent of “everybody else” find it so. I say, look on the gloomy bright side. We are half there with the entertainment moguls. I find myself so cheered every day by the way statistical abuse plays into our hands my temperature drops by 10–15 degrees. Recently, for example, I read that only one in five families fits the Ozzie and Harriet model. When people read this they believe it means only one in five families consists of two parents with children. Not at all, my uncuddly one! Sleight of hand is a great thing. It means that only one of five families consists of a father who is the sole wage earner, a mother who works for pay not-at-all, and two, precisely two, children. How delectable! And how the social scientists line up with us: we have so many recruits from sociology and political science we have had to add clerks to our Higher Education for Lower Purposes division. A wretched fellow named David Blankenhorn keeps trying to put out accurate information on this score, but I am determined that you not have precise information on what he calls “the truth” for fear you might inadvertently let the cat out of the bag that the vast majority of families consist of a mother and father with children.
I read a definition of family the other day that would suit our purposes if we could strip it of all humor. Unfortunately, as written, the description evokes laughter and perhaps moments of recognition on the part of those not solidly in our camp. I include it here but please do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances, permit this to circulate in its present funny form. What we must do is get this or a similar definition accepted as solemn “truth”: family (n.) A social unit involving a mother, a father, and children; a father, a father, and children; a mother, a mother, and children; a father and children; a mother and children; children and children; a social worker and children; a lawyer and a child; the Children's Defense Fund, lawyers, and a child; or any group of people who appear together on “Donahue.”
I know we are making serious headway when the current superstar of country music, one obnoxiously nice chap named Garth Brooks, includes a song called “Freedom of Choice” on his most recent album. It is a marvel of distinction erosion and particularly effective coming, as it does, from such a decent fellow. Fortunately for us, he is naive, as he has swallowed wholesale our statistics and proclaims that those who proclaim traditional family values “believe family values are June and Walt and 2.3 children. To me it [family values] means laughing, being able to dream.” Then he goes on to offer up in all seriousness the definition of family as any arrangement that makes people happy and healthy.
This may—just may—disqualify a truly estimable story that I clipped the other day about family values as no values at all. A pregnant singer named Courtney Love posed, large with child, for Vanity Fair with a smoldering cigarette between her fingers. She confesses to “her long love affair with the painkiller Percodan and with heroin, which she says she used during the first trimester.” In fact, she and hubby, a punk rocker named Kurt Cobain of a group called Nirvana (they thanked Satan for their MTV music-video award on the annual show, a real high point for me), used “a lot of drugs” and “copped dope” and decided to get pregnant because it was a “bad time” to do so and because she and hubby “need new friends.” Need I add that Demonica, the force majeure behind this delicious debacle, was dishonored recently by Our Father Below with an Infernal Hall of Fame membership at our annual awards ritual.
You have much to aspire to and I want you to step up your efforts with young Bud Smith. He remains glum around his mother but he continues to accompany the family to church. This must stop.
Your affectionate uncle,
Jean Bethke Elshtain, to whom the contents of the Newtape File were originally leaked, teaches political philosophy at Vanderbilt University.