Editorials

Mande Wilkes | My week-old son, the socialist

Baby Nathan is lucky, blessed by birth to come into a home with means considerable enough that he’ll have everything he needs and much of what he wants. Some of the babies born right beside him, in adjoining hospital rooms, won’t be so lucky or so blessed, and won’t have anything they need, much less what they want.

It’s with that thought that I left the hospital (the heavy bill for which I can afford) just one week ago, strapping my tiny boy into his car seat (the best one on the market) in a nice new car (the safest money can buy) to head to his first homecoming (a big, warm, comfortable house in a safe part of town with gates at the entrance).

Gates. It strikes me that those gates are in place, probably, for the parents of some of those unlucky babies – parents desperate enough or hopeless enough to do bad things just so they can feed their kids for one more day.

As I was contemplating all of this – the random lottery of birthright – I noticed that one local lawmaker has a solution for the desperate parents of those brand-new babies.

On his Facebook page, South Carolina state representative Phillip Lowe (R-Florence) declared that avoiding poverty is as simple as getting married. Marriage, he argues, is like a vaccine against plight.

It’s a sentiment shared by large swaths of the right wing. It’s a bit less offensive when it’s coming from somebody who lives a totally “conservative” lifestyle. But like so many who preach piety, Rep. Lowe is himself in a relationship with a woman who is neither his first wife nor the mother of his kids. So he’s clearly pretty good at the whole “getting married” thing, but not so good at staying married.

And guess what? I’ve been to his home and, despite his divorce, he’s doing incredibly well. Turns out marriage isn’t quite so closely linked with financial security as he’d have us believe. Good for him, and I certainly don’t begrudge him his success. Actually I couldn’t care less about the private life of a small-town politician, except when he starts prescribing conservatism as a cure for all of society’s ills.

Fact is that wagging sanctimonious fingers in Nathan’s face, or in any baby’s face, is more harmful than helpful. For a political party whose platform is based on so-called “family values,” the right seems to value only certain kinds of families. Lucky for Nathan that he was born into one of those kinds of families that the right values, but what about the babies who aren’t so lucky?

Though I’m still and evermore a fiscal conservative, I’m embarrassed for Nathan to learn that, even while he was growing inside me, I was running for Congress as a Republican. I’m embarrassed for him to find out that until recently I was affiliated with a party who cares more about training him for war than preparing him for life. When he’s old enough for those kinds of conversations, I’m going to have a lot of ‘splaining to do about my era of right-wing nonsense.

There’s no telling what Nathan’s political philosophies will be when he’s all grown up. But right now, at one-week old and entirely dependent from second to second on his parents’ ability to stay firmly rooted in the middle class, my baby isn’t too keen on the kind of capitalism practiced by the Republican Party. In fact, European-style socialism sounds all right by him.

Contact Mande Wilkes, a local cultural commentator, at m@mandewilkes.com.

  Comments