The Little Black Book of Virtues

The Little Black Book of Virtues

The Wicked Witch stomps in his defense and the wise old tortoise explains his reasoning. But Mother Courage knows the truth behind William Bennett’s racist comments.



I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I’ve read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last thirty-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn’t–never touches this at all.


Assuming they’re all productive citizens?


Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.


Maybe, maybe, but we don’t know what the costs would be, too. I think as–abortion disproportionately occurs among single women, no?


I don’t know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.


All right, well, I mean, I just don’t know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don’t know. I mean, it cuts both–you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up.


Well, I don’t think that statistic is accurate.


Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could–if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

      —Comments by William Bennett on his radio program,
      Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, aired on 115 radio stations

I. Courage.

Mother Courage stood before the big old kitchen tub, shredding cabbage on the old washboard, her kind face lined with faith, hope and charity, her worn old fingers swollen at the knuckles from try, try and trying again in all life’s many humble endeavors.

“Mother, mother!” came a thin child’s voice. “Oh, when shall I be born?”

“Hush now, Little Sunshine,” said old Mother Courage. “You must be patient, for patience is a virtue.”

Little Sunshine was not a naughty child but she had not yet learned the lessons of perseverance and self-discipline. She had been waiting to be born a mere 150 years and she was getting anxious that her turn would never come. “Has Social Security been funded yet?” she queried plaintively. “Have the lame walked? Have the halt been cured, the hungry fed? And do you think world peace is close at long last?”

“Very soon, I’m sure,” soothed Mother Courage, and a tear escaped from one rheumy eye despite herself.

Seeing her distress, Little Sunshine cried, “Oh, mother dear! How selfish I have been! I shall wait! I promise to be good.” The old woman’s tears turned to glad smiles, and they waited together, happily ever after.

II. Responsibility.

High on Plato’s Peak, the Wicked Witch was pouring her heart out to the Little Red Hen, as the hurricane raged in the valley below. “This Hansel and Gretel thing has been taken completely out of context,” she said. “Yes, maybe stuffing both of them in the oven at once was overkill. But the point is that they should never have been born. Those two were never going to be productive citizens, wandering around by themselves. The Black Forest is a very bad neighborhood. The boy was headed for a life of crime, the girl would have had triplets by the time she was 13. Where’s the credit for a job well done? First the ungrateful Mr. Swift steals my recipe for boiled Irish babies and now Mr. Bennett claims not to know me! I’m his muse! His role model for the responsible single woman! I devour the strays!”

But the Little Red Hen was busy guarding her bread, the bread that she and she alone had baked because she had had the foresight to anticipate the storm, the intelligence to grind the wheat, the individualism to knead the dough and the fortitude not to share any of it with the lowlife. “Back off, old woman,” she clucked companionably. “Pass the salt and back off, do.”

III. Friendship.

“I meant jack rabbit, not black rabbit,” insisted the wise old tortoise. “Really, I did.”

“But you said black rabbit,” said a quick-tempered Brer Hare. “I distinctly heard you say, ‘It is true that if you wanted to address the shortage of cabbage leaves, you could shoot every black rabbit in the county and there would be victuals sufficient for all.'”

The tortoise sighed. “I was making a larger philosophical point, an argumentum ad absurdum. I did add, after all, that it would be morally reprehensible to shoot only black rabbits. If you prefer, I could just as easily have said that you could shoot all rabbits in order to achieve the desired cabbage surplus.”

Brer Hare was not appeased. “But you didn’t. You made it about the ‘truth’ of black rabbitry.”

“Will you never get over that race thing? ‘Tis not about who wins or loses. My point was that it would be wrong to wipe out your kind even if it did make the rest of us feel better.”

“Just as it would be inconsiderate of me to order turtle soup as a means of making the highroad safe for snoozing without fear of epic judgmentalism?”

“Indeed. As ‘twould be less than compassionate to suggest that if you were accidentally reduced to roadkill, we could feel less guilty about rendering your feet into good-luck charms.”

“And as it would be a violation of the social compact to insinuate that an extinction of tortoises would mark a surge in the mirth of the nation?”

“As it would be folly to yearn for a world without the compulsive gamboling of frivolous rabbits who…”

And so they were heard, still arguing as they toddled into the distance, separate but equally vexed.

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