Forget Iran and North Korea. The locus of evil is the institution of the family, says poet Stannard, who died in 2004.
â€œThey fuck you up, your mum and dad,” wrote the poet Philip Larkin. Stannard heartily agrees: The dominant-submissive arrangement crushes children, preempting their need for security and affection and stifling their healthy anger, punctuating their days with episodes of verbal and physical abuse. Children become little engines of hate, says the author (though hate can also have positive value, expressing indignation and a sense of self-love). As a child, the author suffered sexual abuse and was the constant victim of her mother’s cruel scorn. The author’s expressiveness testifies to an inner voice, a self-helper, bringing an awareness of suppressed grief and forgotten wounds. She tenders an unrestrained critique of the Bible as a how-to guide for vindictiveness and violence, a reflection of â€œa corrupt and brutal mankind,” with its God â€œthe biggest hater of them all.” She also calls out Sigmund Freud for back-pedaling when he abandoned sexual trauma as the source of hysteria. Eventually, her broad generalizations detract from her message: Yes, the family can be an abomination, and yes, it’s certainly plausible that hate is often the manifestation of a hurt, frightened child. It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that â€œhappy families are largely a mirage,” treating children as â€œinferior species” and â€œlosers.” The author is also prone to such ridiculous statements as, â€œthat the great Gandhi mistreated his children only proves that parents don’t know how to bring up children.”
A sweet call for the unsullied love of children that frequently derails under the weight of dubious argument.