God Does Not Want 16 Kids

Mark Morford, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 19

Who are you to judge? Who are you to say that the more than slightly creepy 39-year-old woman from Arkansas who just gave birth to her 16th child—yes that’s right 16 kids and try not to cringe in phantom vaginal pain when you say it—who are you to say Michelle Duggar is not more than a little unhinged and sad and lost?

And furthermore, who are you to suggest that her equally troubling husband—whose name is, of course, Jim Bob and he’s hankerin’ to be a Republican senator and try not to wince in sociopolitical pain when you say that—isn’t more than a little numb to the real world, and that bringing 16 hungry mewling attention-deprived kids (and she wants more! Yay!) into this exhausted world zips right by “touching” and races right past “disturbing” and lurches its way, heaving and gasping and sweating from the karmic armpits, straight into “Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with you people?”

But that would be, you know, mean. Mean and callous to suggest that this might be the most disquieting photo you see all year, this bizarre Duggar family of 18 spotless white hyperreligious interchangeable people with alarmingly bad hair, the kids ranging in ages from 1 to 17, worse than those nuked Smurfs in that UNICEF commercial and worse than all the horrific rubble in Pakistan and worse than the cluster-bomb nightmare that is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise having a child as they suck the skin from each other’s Scientological faces and even worse than that huge 13-foot python which ate that six-foot alligator and then exploded.

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?

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Perhaps the point is this: Why does this sort of bizarre hyperbreeding only seem to afflict antiseptic megareligious families from the Midwest? In other words—assuming Michelle and Jim Bob and their massive brood of cookie-cutter Christian kidbots will all be, as the charming photo suggests, never allowed near a decent pair of designer jeans or a tolerable haircut from a recent decade, and assuming that they will all be tragically encoded with the values of the homophobic asexual Christian right—where are the forces that shall help neutralize their effect on the culture? Where is the counterbalance, to offset the damage?

Where is, in other words, the funky tattooed intellectual poetess who, along with her genius anarchist husband, is popping out 16 funky progressive intellectually curious fashion-forward pagan offspring to answer the Duggar’s squad of über-white future Wal-Mart shoppers? Where is the liberal, spiritualized, pro-sex flip side? Verily I say unto thee, it ain’t lookin’ good.

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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.

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