All Systems Go
By Anthony Esolen
It appears that I am doomed to hear the word “systemic” for the rest of my life. Properly used, it should describe the workings of a system, and a system is such by virtue of reasonably identifiable parts that work in concert to produce a foreseeable result. The system does not have to have been established as such from its inception, with either good or ill will. Man is a creature of habit, and, though he does not reason very well, still in his practice if he does one thing, he will end up doing the nearby thing that it implies.
So you want a system? Let me give you a system.
Let us call it systematic family destruction, subheading inguinal.
Every single important statutory law, federal regulation, and constitutional invention in my lifetime that has borne upon the structure, the promotion, and the protection of the natural family – married father and mother, with children – has been destructive. Along with them have come the ceaseless assaults mounted by schools at all levels, mass entertainment, and the mass media.
Then we have the churches, mostly either absent without leave, or working for the other side. Have I mentioned pornography? Have I mentioned the contempt in which boys in particular are held, sometimes by design, as teachers give them lessons precisely to crush their masculine spirits, so that they stand hardly a chance of being ready to marry before they are thirty years old?
Suppose for a moment that racism in the United States were as manifestly systemic as family destruction (subheading inguinal) is. We would be celebrating June as Jim Crow Month, and holding up for admiration not the pederast Harvey Milk, but the likes of Bull Connor and Orval Faubus. We would have new and improved laws against racial miscegenation, forbidding what is natural and perfectly possible, as we now have laws promoting – and God help you, small businessman, if you do not play along – what is unnatural and quite impossible, that a man can marry another man.
We would not have struck gold in the constitutional vein, finding the right to kill in utero the child you have made in doing the child-making thing. We would have struck it instead by recovering and celebrating Justice Roger Taney, maybe with a catchy slogan: “Every Slave a Wanted Slave!”
Turn on the television, and what do you see? Name one current show in which it is considered prudent at least, and nobly beautiful at best, that the child-making thing should be reserved for a man and woman in marriage. Name one. Name one book your children will be reading in school which teaches it – without being malevolently undermined, as lesson plans do to Shakespeare, Dickens, and Hawthorne.
By contrast, what you see, what you read will not only fail to promote the right. It will champion the wrong with flying colors. We are not talking about forgivable and unintentionally offensive tics in Doctors Seuss and Doolittle. We are talking about intentional, aggressive, flagrant, and insistent offense, not chastened by the slightest self-doubt, or the moral warnings that haunted Rudyard Kipling when he thought about the India he loved. Imagine Hollywood wholly given over to the instructive lash of the slave-master, as it is now wholly given over to the whips and lashes of lust.
And the professions? Are they also crankshafts in the engine? Surely the medical profession is. Our hospitals are searching for people to assume the Mengele Chair of Child Mutilation – in the service of lust rather than racism. Which is worse? Let God sort that out, or the devils in hell. Countless physicians are overseers in the system: they who prescribe carcinogens to women to fool the body into a state of permanent false pregnancy; they who push drugs on teenagers because they know they are going to be sex junkies; they who dismember children in the womb.
The “human resource” profession – ghastly name for a metastatic thing – also is. Imagine daring to say, at work, “White people have a lot to answer for, in their shabby treatment of blacks,” with these results. You are haled immediately to the human resource authorities. You have one chance to retract your offense. When you decline, you are held up to public ridicule. You become an image of regression, anti-scientific thinking, hatred of right order, wickedness, and stupidity. You may lose your job.
Or consider the legal profession – a hundred sharks in a tank of piranhas. “Family law” has as much right to its title as “racial equity law” would have, if the latter were written and administered by people to make John Calhoun look like William Wilberforce. The juggernaut rolls on, and crushes the family beneath it.
Show me a single court in this land that will hold an adulterous spouse to his or her marriage vow, or deny to the unrepentant adulterer both alimony and custody of the children. Show me a court that will hold a bored and irritable spouse to his or her vow. Show me a court that takes the marriage vow as seriously as it takes smut.
Marriages come and go, but Belial is forever.
The scholars? Try, just try to say to your dissertation director in sociology, anthropology, biology, or history, “I wish to study the universal differences between men and women, both physical and psychological, to relish their beauty, and to pursue ways to heal the current rift between the sexes.” You will be kicked to the curb and shot. Queer Studies – everywhere. But studies to instruct us in the beauty of manliness and womanliness? Or of marriage? Or of the urgent need for children to have a married mother and father?
Imagine recommending, to an unredeemed George Wallace to the tenth power, a course on the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. Goodbye, career.
And the churches? More on that in another column.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at thecatholicthing.org/2021/06/09/all-systems-go.
Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. He is the author, most recently, of Sex and the Unreal City (Ignatius Press, 2020).
*Image: The Dunce by Harold Copping, 1886 [Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum,