President Bush's speech announcing the so-called "surge" of 25,000 additional troops in Iraq should have engendered a serious-minded debate in Congress and the country. In many ways it has.
But California Senator Barbara Boxer put her foot in her mouth the other day when, as a member of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she allowed her questioning of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to move from aggressive to insulting. As The Washington Post reported:
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., noted Rice has no children of her own to lose overseas. "Who pays the price?" Boxer repeatedly demanded. "You're not going to pay a particular price," she told Rice, because the secretary has no "immediate family" at risk.Boxer was making clear reference to the fact that Rice is single and childless.
Now, it should be said that there is resentment among some parents of children in the military or children of military age toward the architects of the Iraq War who either have no children of such an age or whose children stay away from military service. They're represented by a woman quoted in Wednesday's Cincinnati Enquirer:
President Bush's plan is too much for Donna K. Tumbleson of Felicity. Three years ago, she sent her son - a soldier in the 216th Engineer Battalion - off to Iraq for 14 months of war. If the president wants to send more young Americans to Iraq, Tumbleson said, "let Bush's own daughters lead the way."But Boxer's comments to Rice were, as her comments often are, tone deaf, seemingly reflective of a widespread prejudice in American culture. In fact, it's a prejudice I was discussing with a friend a few days ago, before Rice's appearance before the Senate committee. It's the prejudice many people blessed with children seem to have toward the childless. These folks often regard those who've been unable to have children as second-class adults, devoid of the normal complement of human emotions or even intellectual capacity. I see these prejudicial attitudes toward the childless all the time.
To think that a childless adult is incapable of empathy or concern for the young people who may be sent to war is unfair.
My belief in this regard springs from personal experience. My childhood experience was enriched by the involvement in it of a great-uncle and great-aunt who never had children. I saw them often. Occasionally, as I grew up, we visited my Uncle Marty at the local firehouse, where he served as a lieutenant. On Christmas mornings, he and Aunt Nina would come to our house with gifts for us that Santa had dropped off at their house. I still have the huge BuddyL firetruck that Santa left with them one year. I was married just a short time when Marty died. But I remember being interested in his opinion of my future wife on the day I first introduced her to the family and being pleased when he told my mother that he liked her and thought that I would marry her. I remember sitting in the hospital with him on the day he passed. Losing him was like losing a beloved grandfather. That was the level of care he exhibited for all of his nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews.
The point is: There's no doubt in my mind that a childless couple or a childless person can care about what happens to other people's children and it's deeply disturbing to hear a high public official give vent to one of the silliest and least defensible prejudices there is.
There are plenty of other reasons that Barbara Boxer can oppose the surge in Iraq. Even hard right conservatives like Sam Brownback and mainstream Republicans like Chuck Hagel do, for crying out loud. But it was unnecessary, silly, and maybe even cruel for Boxer to say what she said to Condoleeza Rice the other day.
[For another take on this topic, see here.]
[Thank you to both Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and Eric of Classical Values for linking to this post.]
[UPDATE: Just by way of clarification--although I thought it was clear enough in my original post, the prejudice against childless adults is felt not just by women, but also by men. That's why I used the term adults and it's also why I spoke of my childless aunt and uncle.]
[THANKS ALSO TO: The Economist.com for linking to this post.]
[UPDATE: While I think that Boxer, intentionally or not, gave vent to a prejudice that exists against childless adults, I find no reason to accuse her of race- or sex-baiting. What I found irksome about Boxer's comments was the assumption that childless adults are incapable of empathy or concern for children or their families. I felt the same way about her comments that I felt toward the irresponsible article in The New York Daily News which implied that John Edwards was a hypocrite because, as a person of wealth, he apparently was incapable of empathy or concern for the poor.
To me, in these two instances at least, Boxer and The News are cut from the same cloth. Both made illogical leaps, reflective of their own prejudices and that sought to do damage to people's credibility simply because of the conditions of their lives.]