Bill Weir’s nauseating open letter to his newborn son River—GACK! ICK! BLECHHH! —- was so unethical in so many ways that I almost needed a ventilator to finish reading it. When I had finished posting on the monstrosity, I was awash with regret that I hadn’t the space nor the time to write the letter Weir should write, and was hopeful that one of the many acid-penned bards among the talented commentariate here would take up the challenge. I was not disappointed.
Here is Steve-O-In-NJ’s Comment of the Day, one of his finest, on the post, “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”:
The article is utter garbage, written by someone untrained in science, but trained in making up stories. One day when River is grown up, assuming he makes it there and isn’t driven off the deep end by constant teasing, I hope he reads this article and asks him, just like Greta, “how dare you?” How dare you use my birth to push your own agenda and your employers’ agenda? How dare you plaster pictures of me as a newborn infant all over the internet where anyone can see them? How dare you reveal the circumstances of my conception to the world? I’m an individual. I am not an accessory to flash around like a new pair of sustainable dockers. I am not a prop for your causes. I am not an illustration to make a point next to pictures you cherry-picked to tell the story you wanted.
I’m not a half bad storyteller myself, and I’d tell quite a different story if a son were born to me. I always said if I had a son I’d name him Charles James, after my grandfather and father (ironically also now after two heroes of my own writing). So, if he were born, I’d say this:
Welcome to the world, son. Some will ask me if I should even say that, because we’re dealing with a major problem, maybe even a few at the moment. However, I still say welcome. When your dad was born, people said the human race was going to blow itself apart in the Cold War. Around the time your grandad was born, people said mankind was going to tear itself apart in the greatest war this world has ever seen. When your great-grandad was a kid, they were saying both of those things, AND that we were going to all die from a wave of illness. However, we made it through all those things, and I’m confident we’ll make it through this one, maybe even before you’ll be old enough to remember it.
You are lucky. You’ve been born into the greatest nation in the world, with the greatest power in the world, the greatest economy in the world, and a Constitution often imitated but never duplicated. You’ve been born into a world that’s conquered a lot of problems you will never have to deal with. You will never see a house quarantined for diptheria or measles, and you’ll probably never see one quarantined for this problem either, at least that you’ll remember. You will never have anyone tell you not to speak your mind, lest you be arrested for it. You will never hear anyone tell you that you must go to this house of worship or go to jail instead. You will never have anyone tell you that you can’t profit from your own business. You will never have anyone tell you that you can’t marry the person you love. You’ll be able to tap a few keys and find out almost anything you want to know. You’ll be able to keep in touch with almost anyone anywhere in the world at any time. There’s a very good chance you’ll be spared a lot of the pain and discomfort that go with major illnesses, should you be unlucky enough to have one, we’re doing very well there now, and we’re making advances every day. When I was where you are now, many of these things weren’t true.
I’m not going to say we don’t have our challenges now, or that new ones won’t pop up in your lifetime. There will always be those who hate our way of life and will do everything to try to impose theirs. The names and the symbols will change and have changed, but the basic concept is always the same. Some wore the hammer and sickle, some wore the swastika, some hide behind a crescent and a star. We saw through them, and you’ll need to see through them when they come again, whatever symbol they dress up in then. Natural disasters are a fact of life and have been since the beginning of history. The earthquake that obliterated Lisbon in 1531 wasn’t because we did anything, and neither was the Thera eruption that almost wiped out the Minoans completely. They are just things that happen and that we deal with when they happen. That said, we humans mess up occasionally too, and cause oil spills, chemical leaks, and so on. However, we are getting better at dealing with them when they happen and, stopping them from happening in the first place.
The biggest dangers you’ll meet, though, won’t be the ones that come from without. They will be the ones that come from within. Pride is a big one. We are all entitled to be proud of who we are and what we achieve, but never let yourself get so proud that you don’t ask for help until it’s too late. Never let yourself get so proud that you can’t see the value in someone else. Never let yourself get so proud that you overreach. Anger is another. Like a fire it can spur you to achieve, or right a wrong, or help where no one else will. But, also like a fire, it can destroy you if you let it burn out of control. Shame is yet another. Sometimes it is justified, when you make a costly mistake or do something you should have known better than to do. The danger is when you let shame become a chain that holds you back, or a weight that keeps you from even trying.
Remember you share this world with others, and don’t get so proud that you become selfish. Don’t spend all your energy on trying to get even, the books of life just don’t balance like that. Never let anyone shame you into doing something you know to be wrong. Don’t be afraid to stand up to those who are deliberately rude or who try to bully you. Remember, every choice leads to a result. Some we can’t see, but a lot we can see coming a mile away.
We’re Catholic, and that’s what we’re going to teach you. I hope you will embrace the belief in a loving God, the concept of forgiveness of wrongs, and the promise of a life to come. However, maintain a respect for the beliefs of others. Too many bad things in history resulted from those who believed one way refusing to respect those who believed another. Also, don’t become too reliant on faith to rescue you. A wise fisherman prays to God, but continues to row to the shore.
Speaking of history, we’ve got an awful lot of it. Become familiar with it. Take note of the things that keep happening again and again and why they happen again and again. Beware disagreements that can’t be reconciled, as I just said. It is best to compromise, it is usually better to agree to disagree if a compromise can’t be reached, to fight is the least desirable way of dealing with a disagreement, although sometimes it can’t be avoided. Beware too much success too fast. It almost always leads to taking one step too far, which can take away all the gains you made. Beware too easily classifying anyone as good or evil, almost no one is purely one or the other, and doing that leads you to those disagreements that can’t be reconciled. Choose wisely your heroes and villains, and do not base them on fame or popularity.
Be wise about who you trust. Be wiser still about who you trust completely. Stay away from tobacco and recreational drugs, nothing good and a lot of bad comes from them. Beware the excessive use of alcohol, especially when dealing with a problem. No one ever found the solution to his problems at the bottom of a bottle.
Remember there will always be one thing that you can’t see, but you will show constantly. You won’t be able to hear it, yet it will precede you wherever you go. You won’t be able to touch it, but you will hold it all the time. You won’t be able to eat it, but it will put its taste in everything. You won’t be able to spend it, yet it will be priceless. It can, however be stolen from you. If it is, it will leave the thief no richer and you as poor as you can be. That thing is your honor, and for these reasons guard it wherever you go.
One other thing you’ll always have, at least as long as it lasts, is family. You come of Italian heritage, so that’s very important. Your mom and I will always be here for you, and you can always come to us.
This is a lot to take in, and you’ll be able to take it all in in good time. It’s not time yet, though, so for the moment just lie there asleep, and gather your strength for the journey ahead. It will be mostly what you make of it.