Thursday, March 23, 2023

For the Record: Parental Rights


From New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January 1980). Art by Kurt Schaffenberger, via Wikipedia.

Pretty sure I really mean that. People affecting to believe in a big sociocultural wokery conspiracy trying to change "our society" (the society those gents thought they owned) are at bottom angry with their kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews, for being smarter and stronger and better looking and eventually getting more sex no doubt (that's the human condition all parents must live with), but more particularly for challenging their authority—not just for being irreligious or sexually different, though those obviously matter when they happen, but especially for being broad-minded, not narrow, liberal for want of a better word, going beyond what the previous generation wanted to allow. I'm not saying all conservative parents are like this, either, or that only conservative parents have conflicts with their kids, but that this particular kind of conflict is directly connected to this particular kind of political conservatism.


Alongside this discussion came a conventional silly dorm-room argument—is Superman political?—that weirdly rhymed with this one:

Actually is this a new discovery? That Ma and Pa Dunham raising the child of their extraordinary and difficult anthropologist daughter are in some sense the same thing as Ma and Pa Kent with their gift from another planet?  I can't believe I'm the first to think of it, but maybe the lesson I want to draw off it is kind of new: Ma and Pa Kent really do model for us what you might call good conservative parenting, supplying the roots without discouraging the child from rising above them, even if it's confusing.

As far as Obama goes, I wrote a while back in admiration about my favorite bit of his biography, Stanley Dunham's startling friendship in Honolulu with the Marxist Black Chicago poet Frank Marshall Davis, just a couple of old guys hanging out in the presence of this powerfully observant mixed-race kid, but I now want to see it as having an enormous significance: giving young Barack an opportunity to see himself as Black and even get woke, which a white Kansan grandfather in Hawaii never could have done for him except in this remarkable way. Not that the relationship was in any way calculated, but that Stanley must have had a clear intuitive sense that it was good for everyone involved, and so it was. Obama, given the tools in this way to negotiate between the strangeness of his origins and the conservative solidity of his upbringing, really did grow into a kind of Superman of the commonplace, not miraculous but just so well-adjusted in spite of his unique circumstances that it really was a kind of miracle, so good that it's something we can aspire to for our kids (as you know I'm a parent of mixed-race kids myself, so I can mean this in a pretty literal way, but I think I mean more).

Or flee in horror, if you're one of those other people who want their kids to be less than they are themselves.

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