Generally, I like SF columnist Mark Moford. He’s a bit manic, sure, but sometimes hyperbole is the best medicine and a welcome relief from the mundane, staid, typical pacing of most columnists.

But somedays, I wish he’d shut up.

Today, his targets were the oddly large Duggar family of Arkansas. I’d watched a documentary about them before. They’ve just welcomed their 16th – yeah sixteenth – child. All of them are named with J-names. They wear clearly homemade clothes and sport out-of-date dos. There’s probably much about this family that conflicts with west coast life – or most of American life in a 2.2 child world.

He starts his column by ironically swearing how wrong it would be to judge the family. But then he kicks things into gear:

It’s wrong to be this judgmental. Wrong to suggest that it is exactly this kind of weird pathological protofamily breeding-happy gluttony that’s making the world groan and cry and recoil, contributing to vicious overpopulation rates and unrepentant economic strain and a bitter moral warpage resulting from a massive viral outbreak of homophobic neo-Christians across our troubled and Bush-ravaged land. Or is it?

My first though is “ease off there buddy.” These people manage to feed all these kids without public assistance. They likely pay taxes. The kids aren’t roaming wild down city streets. And that whole overpopulation argument is misleading since most western, developed countries have small birth rates. Some countries like Italy and Germany are almost at zero growth and countries like Japan are facing a critical shortage of kids – with overwhelming percentages of their population over retirement age. This isn’t a problem unless you’re a fan of pasta, beer, or sushi – in which case you should start shipping oysters and spanish fly to those countries stat.

Forget Gavin’s issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples – it’s THIS kind of attitude that builds a wall between us and the vast swath of America lying between us and the other childless coast.

Moford clearly fears the baby boom of midwestern “megareligious” children. What’s the solution? Limit their breeding? Why not start breeding megaprogressive kids out here? At the end of the day, doesn’t it come down to manpower anyway? Isn’t that why we aren’t harder on China with their billion+ population? To be fair, Moford does wonder where the funky tattooed parents of 16 are – but one wonders how he’d handle that situation.

Why is it acceptable to assume these kids will be “homophobic, asexual Christian” righters?

Moford avers that regardless of which God in which you believe, “it’s a safe bet that hysterical breeding does not top her list of desirables.” I’ll leave aside the use of the word “hysterical” (period or especially in this context). Then he really piles it on in the last graf:

Ah, but this is America, yes? People should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want with their families if they can afford it and if it’s within the law and so long as they aren’t gay or deviant or happily flouting Good Christian Values, right? Shouldn’t they? Hell, gay couples still can’t openly adopt a baby in most states (they either lie, or one adopts and the other must apply as “co-parent”), but Michelle Duggar can pop out 16 kids and no one says, oh my freaking God, stop it, stop it now, you thoughtless, selfish, baby-drunk people.

No, no one says that. That would be mean.

“Stop it now,” he says to this woman whom I’m assuming he has never met and who has never done a thing to him, nor have her children done a thing to him. Nor likely will they ever do a thing to him.

I can’t help but recall the film “Cheaper By The Dozen” (good lord, the original) in which a visitor makes a disparaging comment about the size of the Gilbreth family. It was not well received – as it shouldn’t be. Should we emulate China’s one-child policy? Which gender gets left on a mountain top to die here, Mr. Moford?

He’s certainly entitled to his opinion and to express it. But I wonder who taught him that saying such things about someone else’s family – a lot of someone elses’ mother – was polite behavior?

Keep your vitriol for George Bush or corporate America or Osama bin Laden or chicken pox or dog-poisoners or axe murderers. Not some Arkansas mother who fits into your narrative snark for the week. That is bad breeding.

5 Comments so far

  1. Alissa (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 5:31 am

    THANK YOU! I agree 100%. I’ve enjoyed many of Morford’s articles, but lately it seems he’s been going too far. Great post.

  2. k (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 10:24 am

    I agree completely with your comments. As a former SF resident now living in “Bushland” I can attest that this type of narrow minded outlook for the rest of America by the left coast is truly what gives the right fuel for the fire. I love San Francisco and am considering returning but I think there’s a bit of hyprocrisy in the “Us vs. Them” outlook often portrayed there. Being liberal doesn’t end with same-sex marriage and alternate lifetstyles. It’s being tolerant and aware of difference and allowing the different. Hostility toward families and the supposed hyper Christian right doesn’t make you any different from them. It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle. Just a bit of food for thought.

  3. Robin (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 11:16 am


    Also, particularly puzzling is Moford’s insistence that the Duggar’s culture is ‘asexual’ — because, um, clearly not.

  4. cd (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    Robin: good point. It’s funny that one common argument against granting full marital status to same-sex couples is their inability to procreate (themselves), yet this family, which clearly has the procreation part down, is presumed to be less sexually satisfied and/or sexual (in the intercourse way) because they choose to procreate all the time.

    It shouldn’t be necessary to tear down old ideas of marriage to expand the concept, should it?

    K: I agree. After spending some time in West Virginia last year, I revised a lot of my own biases. And it absolutely gets no one anywhere to completely dismiss someone else’s lifestyle. Especially this family whose only sin is existing, apparently. Moford might have issues with their religion, dress, and hair – but these kids aren’t in jail, they are very responsible, they care for each other, help their parents, and will likely grow up to help the common good of their community.

    I see nothing wrong with that.

  5. Bradley Allen (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

    Christiana, I really enjoyed your post. And I totally agree with you.

    Most of us (especially around these parts) could afford to be a little less… tiresome. No point being being as bad, if not worse, than people “not like us”.

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