Scarborough Needs Men by Anthony Esolen


Scarborough Needs Men

Manly Chastity, Hedonism & the Law of Non-contradiction

Scarborough, Ontario, is a sprawling urban growth on the side of Toronto. A large group of people, including children, are attending a block party, when a car driving past sprays them with bullets. Two people are killed and another 23 are injured. One of the slain, the target of the attack, was a young man who had been spearheading an appeal to teenagers before they took to the street gangs and drugs and violence.

Two days later, no arrests have been made, even though police feel sure that many of those attending the party know who was responsible. The chief appears on television, pleading with the people of Scarborough to come forward with information. But terror, or divided loyalty, or some of both, proves stronger than civic duty.

Meanwhile, tearful and angry mothers demand that the government of Ontario "do something about it." That something is a devoutly to be wished "program" designed "to keep kids off the streets." It's taken for granted that streets are and always have been bad places. Gangs are on "the streets." Indeed, the chief of police opines that the attack, too sloppy for the well-established Ontario gangs, is the work of a new one. No one asks why Scarborough is so prolific in the export-import of evil.

The Story of Hospital Hill

Eastland is a small town in Texas, with a population under 4,000. Every weeknight—not Sunday night, because a lot of people would be attending evening services, and besides, Sunday is Sunday—some 30 to 50 men, from the right and the wrong side of the tracks, have been showing up at Hospital Hill, so called for what the Eastlanders had determined to build there. The men include manual laborers, but also lawyers, ministers (note the plural), merchants, and a young doctor. In seven hours one night they poured a hundred cubic yards of concrete, and not a man among them had had any experience of that work. They have laid thousands of feet of steel girders. They have snaked more than ten thousand feet of electrical wire. "One night," wrote reporter Richard Davids, "just above freezing, 35 men put on 4,000 square feet of roof decking in a 20-mile-an-hour north wind."

How do you pay men to do work like that? The reporter knows. No amount of money would do. No payment except "coffee and doughnuts"—gallons of coffee and hundreds of doughnuts, every night, whipped up by the women of Eastland. They, too, have been busy. They've been planning the colors for the walls, curtains, pictures, and bed linens—thousands of hours, working to make the new town hospital a human and comfortable place. The men, when weary, go down for refreshment and chat, showing off their calluses.

Work would halt between 11 p.m. and midnight, and the names of the men and women who had served would appear in the morning newspaper. For nine months the good people of Eastland toiled, until finally they had their new hospital, built without a dime of government money. Its first patient, wrote Davids, was "an 8½ pound Texan, who brought his mother along, and who made the front page of the Telegram that night." A full-page photo shows a huge laundry basket spilling over with sugared doughnuts, and a room packed with happy people: men in coats and ties, women in dresses, and nurses in white frocks and caps.

A Peace That Can't Be Made

It's a nice story, that of Eastland. It's also an old story. I found it in the June 1956 issue of Town Journal, a family magazine (note that there was such a thing). There are plenty of reasons why those men could not build a hospital now, but I'd like to focus on one particular sine qua non: Eastland presupposed a country of marriage. Scarborough is what you end up with when you have battered marriage into the pavement.

It surprises me that Christians still believe that one can have a country of marriage while "tolerating" (meaning: condoning, granting tacit approval to) fornication, cohabitation, easy divorce, and, for those so disposed, same-sex pseudogamy. They believe that hedonism and its uglier cousin, the worship of autonomy for its own sake, are compatible with a free, self-governing society. They believe you can fulfill the demands of feminists and homosexuals and work for a world in which children grow up under the loving authority of their fathers. They want the moral laxity of Scarborough and the moral strength of Eastland. They want Sodom to make peace with Jerusalem. They want to suspend the law of noncontradiction.

Anthony Esolen is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Thales College and the author of over 30 books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House) and, with his wife Debra, publishes the web magazine Word and Song ( He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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