Monday, March 06, 2006

Slowly, Slowly, Dymphna Gets Back in The Watcher’s Good Graces

Watcher's CouncilOkay, here we are in the winners’ circle for February 24, 2006.

First place went to a supremely gifted essayist. Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse took it away with his paean toHubert Humphrey, “The Happy Warrior is Weeping In His Grave.” For those of us who remember Mr. Humphrey, it is shocking to realize how much politics has changed. No doubt they molded the Energizer Bunny on Mr. Humphrey. As Rick says, “his energy, humor, quick wit, and sunny disposition made him seem larger than life.”

The 1964 Democratic Convention was my first real introduction to politics as I came to know and love it. At the age of 10, I was already reading the great political columnist Mike Royko whose hilarious insights into the less than honest workings of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago political machine was the stuff of legend. But the convention that year would be my first lesson in politics as theater, a drama played out on a national stage with heroes, villains, and colorful personalities galore. Without a doubt, the most outsized personality on display during the convention was that of the Senator from Minnesota and putative Vice Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey.
Read his elegy to an era so totally and terribly gone.

Callimachus was second at Done With Mirrors with some prefatory remarks about Doris Kearns Goodwin’s’ book Team of Rivals. But this essay takes a sharp turn in direction to address an issue in the book that she touches on but never really addresses. It is one dear to my heart and was important to me long before I experienced the aftermath of my daughter’s death. There is so much unmetabolized pain in the death of a child that resonates down through the generations. It’s like a black hole through which people seemed to get sucked and the survivors are left to wonder why.

For example (though Callimachus doesn’t mention it) there are the 625,000 people who died in the U.S. in a few short months during the flu epidemic in 1918. No one knows how many it really took world wide. Twelve million? Twenty million? It left untold orphans, more than any deliberate man-made genocide could have done.

And so how did we deal with that catastrophe? Think about what followed 1918…the Roaring Twenties. The decade of delirious denial, one so manic and driven to distraction that it brought upon itself the Depression and Prohibition.

But Callimachus goes back further than that to deal with the effect of individual deaths in the 19th century:

Researchers into early nineteenth century families quickly come to accept the high death rates among children as a fact of life in those days. Families were large, medicine was crude, disease ran rampant, and it seems no family was untouched by the tragedy of a child lost.

We tend to think of death as a country for the old. It was not so then. People of all ages were vulnerable, the cold calculus of contagation meant that often if a disease got into a household parents would lose some or all of their children in a matter of days.

Parental bereavement came not only by the sudden stroke of a gunshot or accident; with tragic frequency they had to watch, deperate and powerless as death took its agonizing time with their children, who writhed as parasites dissolved their bowels or languished delirious in parching fevers. Nowadays, parents who lose a child have to go in search of support. No one, it seems, really knows how to talk to them. Parental bereavement is alien to most of us. But 150 years ago, death of a child was a common denominator among American families.
Today, just from my own observation, it is the sudden, smashing death of kids in cars that seems to be a “common denominator.” In our small rural area, the deaths mount every year. I’ve been to too many teenagers’ funerals in the last few years. One father, whose beloved and only son was killed a few years ago, came to the Baron and asked him to sketch some of his son’s favorite things so they could be engraved on the back of his son’s headstone. The Baron met with the mother and dad and then went to the scenes the boy loved and drew them for the engravers to work on… this was before my own child died, and now I understand what the boy’s mother experienced when her husband told me that some days all she can do is go outside and scream… we are fortunate to live in the country, to have the trees and fields to absorb our the ringing echoes of our ceaselessly sounding sorrow.

Here’s one thing your child’s death brings in its wake: you are no longer so concerned about your own mortality. It has taken second place.

The first place winner in the non-council posts was
Dinocrat. In a post about the suppression of creativity and free thought in Islam, Dinocrat examines its recent history of patent applications:

The Saudi Patent Regulations of 1989 established a patent registration system, covering any new article, methods of manufacture (including improvements in either of them) and product patents. In 1996, the Saudi Patent Office granted its first patents since its establishment in 1990.

By contrast, the US granted 157,000 patents in 2005, and is up to about 7,000,000 patents overall…

No culture that so totally represses the curiosity in children, or suppresses the maturing of its women, could possibly produce anything the modern world values. And Islam knows this, in its heart of hearts. It causes a homicidal despair.

Before this became a nominated post, I linked to it and to Planck’s Constant in a post entitled So What’s This About Muslims and Patents? You can pick up links to some great images from Planck’s Constant and read an amusing tongue-in-cheek argument.

The second place post must be seen to be understood. “Bring on the Fatwah” is very amusing, and it may send you off to try your hand at this new way to incite cartoon rage. By the way, “Cartoon Rage” is like Road Rage, except you jump up and down on flags and burn embassies rather than simply trying to cream that stupid driver who just cut you off.

The Watcher is behind this whole thing, counting score and breaking ties. The rest of the story is over at his place.