The Nation's Pulse

It Does Too Take a Village

So long as it's the real thing, Gov. Romney, and not a bureaucratic construct, Sen. Hillary.

By 4.26.07

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I see that Mitt Romney's being accused of another flip-flop, because he said a few years back that Hillary was right, it takes a village to raise a child, and now he says no, it doesn't take a village.

I hope it won't be seen as an endorsement of any kind (I'm waiting for the strategic moment to throw my tremendous personal weight behind any candidate) if I come to Gov. Romney's defense. I want to defend him, at least, to the extent of declaring the whole question a mare's nest. A humbug. A snow job.

To be more specific, the proverb is correct. Hillary is wrong.

I'm qualified to speak with absolute moral authority in the matter of villages, because I grew up in a village. Or on a farm outside a village, which is almost as good. Better, perhaps.

The village in question is Kenyon, Minnesota, in the southeastern part of the state. A pretty town with a shaded boulevard, home to about 1,600 souls then and now. I remember seeing the words, "Village of Kenyon" on the local police car (singular) when I was a kid. I found the word "village" evocative. It had a pleasant medieval flavor, as if we might expect Robin Hood and his merry men to wander through any day, perhaps disguised as seed corn salesmen. Later the designation was changed to "City of Kenyon," as a result (I assume) of some sort of municipal self-esteem raising project. But nobody was fooled. We were village folk, and everybody knew it.

And it was, I truly believe, the finest environment for raising children in the history of humanity. Crime was low. The schools worked. People left their cars and houses unlocked and learned no lessons from any consequences. Pretty much everybody kept guns in their homes, and nobody murdered anybody (I do recall one small-caliber domestic shooting, but the victim survived). Villages like Kenyon are disappearing today. I suppose even Kenyon isn't a village like Kenyon anymore. And that's a tragedy, for the community and for the republic as a whole.

Because it does take a village. It absolutely does. But a real village. Not the kind envisioned by the sort of people who say "It takes a village."

Why were towns like Kenyon such great places for human husbandry?

Here are a few reasons that come to mind (and my mind is excellent, being village-raised):

* Villages are homogeneous. People who live in traditional villages all belong to a single tribe, often to a single extended family. We weren't a tribe in Kenyon, but we were all one race (mostly Scandinavians and Germans. Nobody had told us that was a sin yet. You and I may not like it, but that's how villages work. Where has there ever been a multicultural village in the history of the world?), all one religion (various flavors of Christian), and all one language.

* People in villages have no privacy. Everybody knows everybody's business. And discusses it. This is an important brake to antisocial behavior. When a kid is someplace he shouldn't be, any passing grownup knows it, and feels perfectly within his rights to tell him to clear out. Then he reports it to the parents (and he knows who the parents are). When a woman steps out with a man she's not married to, she may think it's a secret but that's a side effect of pheromone poisoning. People leave villages, famously, because they want their privacy. Then they kill themselves because they feel alienated in the impersonal, uncaring city.

* People in villages share a single moral view. In ancient villages this agreement was unanimous, and the punishments for violations were draconian. In Kenyon we'd reduced that agreement to about 99%, and we didn't stone anyone that I recall, but we weren't ashamed at all to force our morality down our neighbors' throats.

In other words, living in a real village has nothing to do with anything Hillary Clinton wants. When she says, "It takes a village to raise a child," what she means is, "It takes a bureaucracy to raise a child."

She is wrong. And disingenuous.

Hillary's village is an imaginary place where people of all races, tongues and creeds live together in peace and harmony, despite their complete inability to communicate with one another, or (in the presence of translators) to grasp each other's ideas.

Hillary's village is a place where people love and support each other while at the same time enjoying complete privacy and autonomy. They are deeply involved in each other's lives, and yet have acres and acres of personal space.

Hillary's village is a place where the Shiite Muslim lives next door to the "gay" activist, and both hold each other in the highest esteem. In Hillary's village, the gun owner and the gun hater live in peace (because the gun owner has been disarmed). In Hillary's village the pro-lifer and the pro-choicer dwell in harmony (because the pro-lifer has given up, at last, in despair). In Hillary's village, all the churches (and mosques) are Unitarian.

In short, Hillary's village is a place that has never existed, and by its nature can never exist. It's a fantasy land, less plausible (but more expensive) than Disney's.

And that's OK with Hillary. Because when her village fails, there's always the government to fall back on.

That's why Hillary ran for Senate, and wants to be president. Because she loves the traditional village life inside the Beltway.

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About the Author
Lars Walker is a librarian and Norwegian translator, and the author of several published fantasy novels, the latest of which is an e-book called Troll Valley, available for Kindle or Nook.