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James Vanden Bosch, professor of English at Calvin College is substituting today for Jennifer Holberg. Thanks, Jim!
“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love.”
––William Butler Yeats, 1928
This may be a moment for some fact-checking, and these lines from William Butler Yeats seem to me to point in the right direction. We Americans have many fantasies, and Yeats is right to note the ruinous results of such a diet, ruinous for individual humans but also for a culture. And one of the fantasies we keep cheering ourselves up with in contemporary American culture is how much we love our children. It is, I think, a fantasy, evident and obvious whenever we take the time to look hard at so many bitter truths:
• more than a million abortions per year over the last 40 years
• the infant-mortality rates in this country
• the number of children growing up in poverty here
• health care for children
• at least a half century of educational failure for huge numbers of American children
• the low pay and status for almost every adult who cares for or teaches our children
• our willingness to eroticize children and to commodify them
• our refusal to admit that we’re sacrificing our children for our needs
“More substance in our enmities than in our love”—or, a perhaps more accurate version for us, more devotion to these other loves and needs than devotion to our children.
We may not yet recognize ourselves as card-carrying worshipers of Moloch, but we seem to have become accustomed to offering our children up as sacrifices to the things we love more or want more deeply—time, attention, money, our own most precious freedoms and rights.
This may be a moment for some national fact-checking.