Sunday, May 14, 2017

Interrupting the narrative with a few thoughts on Mother's Day


I have asked the Rev. Know-it-all to allow me to interrupt his thrilling series on Jewish ritual law to wish all the mothers and those who will be mothers a happy Mother’s Day 2017.

I want to thank mothers for their bravery. Motherhood is always heroic, but more so now than ever. Once upon a time there wasn’t much choice about the whole business. If you wanted to marry, you were probably going to be a mother, that is if you were a woman. That situation ended pretty definitively two generations ago in the 1960’s. In fact, Searle Pharmaceuticals produced the first oral contraceptives right here in downtown Skokie and began marketing them in July 1961.

I remember as a boy about that time my frequent trips to Skokie. (I am not making this up.) Papa was the only Catholic in his investment club which met in Skokie. My parents were committed Catholics with seven children, I was the last of the long parade. My parents would schlepp me with them to the meetings, thinking the house would not still be standing when they returned to our home in La Grange if I, at the age of twelve or eleven, were to be left home alone.

I can still remember the very modern split-level home in which the meetings were held. The men would go to the front room to discuss the economy, the children would go downstairs to the knotty pine rumpus room, and the women would go to the kitchen to discuss whoever had failed to attend that month’s meeting. The ladies would all gasp when they hear that my mother had seven children. They would invariably say, “But Mrs. Simon, there were things you could have done.” She would invariably respond, “Which one would you have me send back?”  I always assumed that I would be the one returned to the factory. “There were things you could have done...” 

I didn’t realize but just down the block from where the group met the Searle Company was solving the world’s problems by cranking out birth control pills by the truckload. Before the modern solution to the world’s overpopulation problem, if you were gonna have sex, you were gonna make a baby, sooner or later. Children were a matter of course, not a matter of choice.

The Searle company, in a certain sense is the place where the Almighty posed a new question to humanity -  “Will you accept children if I send them to you? Will you accept life?”  As a civilization, as a species of vertebrate creatures, we said “No way!!!” to the Almighty. And heaven has given us what we asked for: the death of humanity.  Now I want to ease your mind if you are a person who opted for 2.3 children in your family. We were sold a bill of goods.

The pill was first tested on Puerto Rican women, and it didn’t make them too sick, and who wanted more Puerto Ricans anyway?  (I did. The food is fantastic, the music is wonderful, and the people are more fun than you can imagine.) The pill was fine. They didn’t tell us that it messed up a women’s body, gave women less control over their bodies because they had now had no excuse to say, “Not tonight dear. It’s that time of month.” If it didn’t stop pregnancy it aborted the tiny person growing in a woman’s body. No, my generation was told that it was the moral thing to do because there were too many people in the world and there were certainly too many Puerto Ricans, as well as Mexicans and Africans, at least that was what Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood insisted. We were the “Hippie Generation.” Now we are just hippy and not that happy.

My shrink, the famous Dr. Wawel von der Vogelweide, mentioned during our last session that he has noticed a lot of kids these days that can’t stand their parents and break off all ties as soon as they can. Somehow by being excessively nice to our 2.1 children we weren’t nice enough. My generation wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to preserve the planet and the only way to save the whales was to have fewer kids. Searle has done its work well. The whales are better off, but the world population is about to take a nosedive.

Margaret Sanger has not succeeded in getting rid of Mexicans and Africans as she planned, though Mexico is about to plunge below the replacement fertility rate. She and Searle have managed to kill Puerto Rico, most of Europe some of Asia and now Canada. For the first time in history, there are more senior citizens (65 and older) than children (14 and younger) in Canada. By 2050 most countries in the world especially outside of sub-Saharan Africa will be giant nursing homes with too few attendants to change the bedpans.

(Here I offer a brief explanation of replacement fertility rate. Every woman on the planet must have 2.1 children in a developed country or 2.5 children in a third world country to keep the population stable, one to replace her, one to replace the potato on her couch and part of one to replace slackers like me, who have no children at all.) The problem is that if a family gets used to two, or at most three kids, those kids will get used to just one or none because having not taught the little aristocrats to share, we have raised a world of tiny narcissists who are more than happy to stick us in a nursing home as they go about the pursuit of pleasure just the way we taught them. That means when population plummets there is no way to say where the plummet will end.

This may please ecology types, but it means that in 2050 there will be lot of starving old people in third world countries, where the population plummet has been the most precipitous in history. For example, in 1970 Iranian women had 7.0 children. Now they have 1.8.  That means the young population will start to shrink and the old folks will soon outnumber them. That should start happening in about 13 or 14 years. That’s a lot of bed pans to change worldwide. Last year Japan sold more adult diapers than children’s diapers. China still has more young people than old people, but with a fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman, it’s going to run out of hard working young people pretty soon. That will be a lot of bed pans. I’d invest, were I you!

I suppose my point is this: Thank you to those women who have chosen to give life. I believe that in the present situation that if you are able to have a big family, it is irresponsible not to have children. When you are quizzed by someone about your decision to have a big family, as was my mother, just explain to them that these kids will pay for that person’s retirement. When they were going to Cabo on a cruise for two, you were raising the hope of the future. They were the irresponsible ones, not you. In effect, they were spending your children’s money. They lived lavishly always expecting someone else to pay for their pension. Do they want to thank you now or later?

Personally, I want to thank my own mother for her heroic generosity and at the same time to thank those valiant women whose faith in God and in life allows them to love so unselfishly in a world that has become very selfish. Thank you for providing, as did our Blessed Mother, hope for the world.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Fr. Rich Simon

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