On Parental Love

March 25, 2005

Parental love is a key source of Social Capital – the glue that enables us to trust and support each-other & so build societies. Social Capital includes altruism and other behaviors that seem to be hard wired. Cultural behaviors are learned, and some societies are better at building Social Capital than others.

Parental love is in the hard-wired category – here are some recent examples.

The first is from an excellent milblog describing a patrol in Iraq.

Firstly when on a patrol wherever your eyes look your weapon is pointed there. For the obvious reason, that you can send bullets should you need to. This response is nearly automatic, but the weapon gets very heavy especially when your muscles are screaming to rest. As I entered what I thought to be a courtyard turned out to be the front yard of a family dwelling. I saw movement to my right and swung around to face 2 young boys. Who came running out to meet the “Mister Mister” w/chocolate. Almost as fast as I pointed my weapon at the movement, the Mother came rushing out to pull her sons back in, she was screaming; “La la la!!!” This is Arabic for No, no, no. She was genuinely afraid that I was going to shoot her children, I was so shocked I literally dropped my weapon…

The mother, rather than hide from the threat, put herself in the line of fire to protect her sons.

Now a robbery in Nottingham, England:

A jeweler was shot dead as she tried to protect her daughter during an armed robbery, a court heard yesterday.
Marian Bates, 64, was hit by a single bullet in the chest when, in an “instinctive act of bravery”, she stepped in front of a gunman who was pointing a pistol at Xanthe, her daughter.

Note the “instinctive”.

You know where I’m heading. Fox News reports:

For a second time, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled against the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who had asked him to grant their emergency request to restore her feeding tube while he considers a lawsuit they filed.
The tube was removed a week ago on a state judge’s order that agreed with her husband, who has said she has no hope for recovery and wouldn’t want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers believe their daughter could improve and wouldn’t want to die.

The couple have been fighting for their daughter’s life for years – helping her within the constraints set by her adulterous husband, and I guess lovingly applying cosmetics so she’d look her best for the cameras. Now they have to watch her die in a way that no decent person would inflict on a dog.

The world is full of similar stories, including many parents who devote their lives to looking after disabled children, even when early death seems certain.

So parental love is the fierce, constant and selfless core of the human animal. In denying it to this woman the American judicial system has exposed itself as, literally, inhuman.