A friend of mine used to theorize that all conservatism, and therefore all defense of society, rests on the fathers of daughters – FODs, as he called them.
He explained that it is only when one has children that one begins to recognize how fragile is the future, how dangerous the present, and how great our responsibility to protect the vulnerable, such as children.
The problem is that women, for the most part, tend to believe that the world is dangerous only by accident, rather than as a basic, natural condition. My friend claimed that he had never met a woman who would not agree with the statement that “People are basically good.” And increasingly many men agree with them.
Of course, people are not basically good. Any Christian who even slightly understands the doctrine of Original Sin can be in no doubt about this. But most Americans, including most church-goers, would readily subscribe to the “basically good” hypothesis.
As Reinhold Niebuhr put it, “No cumulation of contradictory evidence seems to disturb modern man’s good opinion of himself.” Yet it is modern woman who seems most undisturbed by human nature.
So women, even as mothers, tend to underestimate the degree of the risks their children face in society.
Fathers of sons are susceptible to a belief that “my boy” will be able to take on the world, and nothing can stop him. “Go get ‘em, tiger,” is a common enough attitude. A son can even serve as an opportunity to extend one’s own adolescence – a tendency men find irresistible.
Except for the Fathers of Daughters. Becoming a FOD forces the most immature male to grow up fast. Such men look back on their own adolescence and wince. FODs know that young men (at least) are not basically good, and their daughters are not safe with them. Male adolescents exist in only two types: sexual predators and sexual-predator wannabes. (Almost no women believe this; they think boys are either good boys or confused, troubled boys.)
This knowledge forces a FOD to recognize the necessity for strong societal institutions to enforce strict moral limits on behavior. Without such institutions and limits, no street in America would be safe. The worst sci-fi dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare would be realized.
Anyway, that’s my friend’s FOD theory. When he first explained it to me, Bill Clinton was president. I asked him how Clinton, a FOD, seemed to remain such an adolescent at heart, pursuing any and every available woman as if he were a frustrated 17-year old virgin in an American-Pie sequel.
My friend wasn’t sure, but he guessed that there are some men for whom narcissism or ideology can overwhelm what other FODs can understand so easily.
We talked about many folks we both knew who typified and proved his FOD theory, and a few anti-FODs like Clinton who tested it. I became a partial believer in the FOD factor.
Our new president-elect is of course technically a FOD. With two daughters he must have thought about all this at least somewhat. If so, he may have a personal conservative streak buried deep in his heart that may show itself someday, somewhere, somehow.
Or he may be an anti-FOD, blinded by ideology or narcissism. Conservative pundits have spent a fair amount of ink and electrons debating which of those two pathologies dominate him.
As for me, I will hope (there’s that word again) that his inner FOD will yet speak up.