Suffer the Children
How Can the Young Flourish Without Peace?
by Anthony Esolen
Peace," says St. Augustine, "is the tranquility of order." It is not a cease-fire. It is not some never-land in which each man desires what he will and obtains what he desires. It is not a continual social ferment, managed at the boundaries by government force. It is not the transgressive, the irreverent, the novel for novelty's sake, the twisted, the static without steadfastness, the progressive without aim.
Peace is the tranquility of order.
A World of Disorder
Disorder is strife, constant strife and confusion. A man walks into a women's bathroom, but the offense is supposedly all right, because he bases it upon stark madness, saying that he's really a woman in man-flesh. Confusion. Satanists set up a display on the grounds of a state capitol, to warm the hearts of fellow travelers on their way to the everlasting bonfire. That offense is supposedly all right, because it surges from a hatred of the love of God for man. Strife, disruption. The Boy Scouts are compelled to accept boy-eyeing men as scoutmasters, but that's all right, since boys deserve to have their last wildlife refuge burnt to the roots. War, war without end. A city in England has been trafficking in girls for a decade, but that's all right, because the Pakistanis who live there hate their adopted country. Dissimulation, disintegration.
Half of the children born in Quebec come into the world without a matrimonial haven in which to lay their heads, but we can sleep well at night, because prudence is a vice and charity a check from the government. Teachers introduce children to perversion and obscenity, but that's right sweet, because it entices them away from the detestable idea that men and women are made each for the other, in marriage. Films pullulate with filth, but that's all right, it's the mark of genius. Millions of young people, shacking up, play ball with nitroglycerine, but that's all right, because it makes men appear to be the savage beasts that feminists dearly wish they were.
Nine lawyers in a room in Washington will decide what a marriage is, but that's all right, because we have nine hundred thousand bureaucrats hopping and scraping across the land to tell us what everything else in the world is. That is called freedom.
And now we have Christians, well intended, our brothers and sisters in the faith, who are impure in their inclinations, as all the rest of us sinners are, in one way or another. But these Christians are attracted to members of their own sex, attracted to confusion. Yet they preach to us the good news, that their proclivity is a blessing, so long as they do not act overtly upon it. Ordinary people make ordinary friends with members of their sex, but they and they above all make spiritual friends. It is like saying that having a hankering for someone else's silverware is really special, so long as you don't filch the forks and knives, because you can then illustrate to humdrum people who observe the order of physical ownership just how illuminating spiritual sharing can be. We are to be mollified to consider that their proclivity, unlike that of the thief or the coveter, is for what is itself unnatural and perverse.
No peace, no peace, not enough for the ordinary man to pick himself up off the sidewalk, rub the dirt and blood from his face, arrange his coat, and try to remember where it was he was going before the last beating.
Vulnerable Boys & Girls
Who suffers worst from the chaos? Those who are most vulnerable, that's who.
We're not asking for perfection. We don't expect heaven upon earth. We are asking for some peace, for the sake of those who are hurt the worst by our heedlessness.
Here is a boy, eleven years old. Everything he learns in school, everything he sees from his father and mother, everything the neighbors model for him and expect of him, should lead him gently and firmly into the fullness of manhood. So we nod with approval as he takes his dog and a pellet gun into the woods. We roll our eyes and smile when he and some of the other boys re-enact battles in the cellar. The father shows him how to swing an ax so it doesn't get stuck in the tree. The grandfather takes him to the bridge to fish for bass or catfish. The mother asks him to carry in the groceries, making him proud and happy to be of service.
She dresses him in a coat and tie for the school social, embarrassed though he is. When he gets there, he will spend more time arguing about baseball players with his buddies than talking to the girls or dancing with them. But he will dance with them; his mother has taught him how it should be done, and his father has taught him that it should be done.
The girls, too, will have been brought up, gently and firmly, to flourish in womanhood. That will include the tomboys in their happy years of girlish play with their rougher brothers. What is wrong with a fondness for dolls or small animals in those whom nature has destined to care for the most helpless of small animals, the human infant? What is wrong with gentleness among those whose bodies themselves are gentle? The arts of womanhood are many, and require cleverness and care. Why should we praise a woman if she cooks for strangers, but scorn her if she cooks for those she loves?
These are the people who should be first in our minds, these boys and girls. The world we've given them is worse than squalid. It is mad. The boy knows nothing about soldiering, but a lot about sodomy—more than his grandfather knew even after his turn of duty in the world war. The girl knows nothing about ovens or looms or pianos or poetry, but plenty about diaphragms, spermicides, and condoms. The boy and girl yawn at old-fashioned fornication, laugh at the Bible, and blush to admit that they blush over anything.
We should protect their innocence. They should be shepherded into manhood and womanhood with a matter-of-course expectation of normality. They should not have to be addled by the confusions of their elders. We cannot say, "What will be, will be," as if there never were boys or girls teetering on the brink of the perverse, or struggling along a more difficult path towards marriage.
They need us to give them years and years of the ordinary, just as they need fresh air and healthy food and a married mother and father to love them. They need what is natural, in the fields before the church where they pray to the God who made them male and female after their kind. They need millstones to be in mills where they belong. They need people to help them, not confuse them, for God is not the author of confusion. Those who cannot help them, they need to keep still. Their reticence would be charity.
They need peace, and so do we. Peace is the tranquility of order.
—Anthony Esolen, for the editors
Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books), 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 Press, 2019). He has also translated Dante's Divine Comedy (Random House). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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