I’m still getting hate comments about my verdict on the Bon Jovi DirecTV commercial that extols the virtue of erasing one’s children from existence, so this piece of New Yorker satire, by real parents about a real newborn child, gave me pause. Here is how “An Honest Birth Announcement” starts…
Dear friends and family,
Jen and I are utterly horrified to announce the arrival of our son, Jasper Heusen-Gravenstein, born May 21st at 4:56 A.M. For nine long months, we’ve wondered who this little creature would be. Well, now we know: he’s the living embodiment of our darkest imaginings, with a nefarious agenda and Grandpa Jim’s nose.
At seven pounds four ounces, Jasper may be small, but he’s large enough to have triggered our most primal fears. We’ve already been driven to the brink of madness with unanswerable questions such as: How can we sustain the life of a creature whose incessant, bloodcurdling screams communicate nothing but blind rage and indeterminate need? What if he senses our fear and, like a wild hyena, is instinctively triggered to attack? Will we ever finish the most recent season of “House of Cards”?
It goes on in that tongue-in-cheek-but-you-know-we’re-half-serious-right-fellow-parent-vein…
But it names the child, who is, or course, helpless, blameless and defenseless, and creates a permanent record of parental faux-hate for Jasper to read…when he’s a parent, and old enough to get the joke, or when he’s 8, and a classmate sends it to him.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Even as obvious humor, would it be ethical for Rob and Jen Heusen-Gravenstein to have this published?
Well, I wouldn’t do it.
I think the sentiment, even as a joke, is ugly, and as with the DirecTV ad, indicates a disturbing trend in the culture toward regarding children as nuisances and burdens. Thus I find the essay unfunny, even while I understand the theory behind the alleged humor by humorist Kira Garcia.
Ann Althouse, who is almost as good an ethics issued scout as Ethics Alarms scout Fred, flagged this essay, and her commenters had some sharp reactions, including speculation on the animus suggested by naming a child “Jasper,” which, I agree, is just slightly preferable to “Jo-Jo.” Here was my favorite comment, only slightly altering the text:
“Jen and I are utterly relieved to announce the abortion of our son, Jasper Heusen- Gravenstein, aborted May 21st at 4:56 a.m.”
“For nine long months, we’ve wondered what this little creature would be.
Well, now we know: he’s the deceased embodiment of our darkest imaginings, with a negated agenda and no chance of having Grandpa Jim’s unfortunate nose.
At seven pounds four ounces, Jasper may have been small, but he was large enough to have triggered our most primal fears….”
Dodging the bullet.
I’m not going to pronounce the gag unethical. All I can say is this. In my baby photo album, lovingly assembled by my parents to chronicle the birth and early infancy of their first child, there are items like my first diaper pin and the hospital’s “Baby Marshall” tag. There is also the note sent to my mother in recovery by my father, scrawled in his barely legible handwriting, after seeing Jack Jr. for the first time. It reads..
“He is MAGNIFICENT!”
I first saw this when I was about five. Then, and now, that note reminds me how much my parents wanted and loved me from my first breath. I am very glad that, and not “an honest birth announcement,” informs me of my parents’ state of mind when I arrived.