Ayn Rand as Mom
Posted on March 26, 2002 Posted by John Scalzi 1 Comment
Mail from Libertarians (more than one) discussing the crack I made in the “I Hate Your Politics” rant about them all being disappointed that they’re not the illegitimate children of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. Most are admitting this is true (The Libertarians as a group are being rather good-natured about the ribbing, much like a secure bald guy tolerates jokes about not having any hair), but a couple have expressed a horror contemplating at least one of these authors as a progenitor. The most recent e-mail along this line, solidly in Ayn’s camp, noted: “I would have been satisfied to have Ayn Rand as a mother, [but] to have the author of numerous execrable Lazarus Long novels as my father would cause me to contemplate self-destruction.”
Which of course caused me to contemplate: Given the choice between Heinlein and Rand, which would I want as a parent? Let’s posit that one couldn’t have both — beyond such a union causing the cracking of at least four of the seven seals, there’s a pretty good chance that after about 15 minutes in each other’s presence, either or both of them would have been thumbing their holsters. There can only be one Alpha Male in the room. In a shootout, incidentally, it’d be even money: Heinlein would probably be faster off the draw, but Rand would probably need a stake through the heart to go down. (Before you start: I know about Rand and her thoughts on force. But let’s just see her try to reason with Angry Bob.)
Personally, I’m not so sure I’d want Heinlein for a dad (too much weapons-handling and gruff-but-fair cuffing around the ears), but I can say with absolute certainly that the idea of Rand as my mother fills me with an unholy terror. As, I’m sure, it would fill Rand to contemplate me as a child of hers, or, really, to have any children whatsoever. Some people want children, and some want acolytes, and Rand was well into that second camp. Children are unreasonable. Acolytes aren’t (well, maybe they are, but they know to keep it away from you).
But why go on into detail about all the reasons I wouldn’t want Ayn Rand for a mom when a cheap-and-simplistic Top Ten list will do? And so, without further ado:
The Top Ten Reasons You Don’t Want Ayn Rand as Your Mom
10: Her not-so-secret disappointment that you weren’t able to operate a speedboat the first time you saw one, even after watching the help do it for ten whole minutes.
9: Birthday gifts: Erector sets and a “Lil’ Smelter” kit.
8: Pushing you to date her young male followers after she’s “vetted” them is really kind of creepy.
7: At bedtime, reads you The Giving Tree as a cautionary tale.
6: Wouldn’t speak to you for a week after you admitted that you kind of like useless ornamentation.
5: Her “Birds and Bees” chat to you sounds like a particularly seamy scene in a film by David Fincher.
4: Always ends arguments by throwing down a bunch of pictures of modern buildings; seems angry that you don’t see the logic.
3: Dismisses your desire to visit Disneyland as “Anti-Life.” She’s right, of course, but you’re still disappointed.
2: Tears down the house rather than let you choose the wallpaper for your room.
1: Your Babysitter: Alan Greenspan.
Friends of mine who knew Heinlein well (and who used to hang out at his house every so often) said that he was a pretty interesting guy to talk to in the hour or so before he got onto politics. He did have a great pool and hot tub, though, and clothing was optional, which was nice in the summer in the California hills.
I read with equal parts of horror and amazement his address to to the 1971(1972?) graduating class of Midshipman in which he, among other things, damned the Vietnam protesters in the neighborhood as being “cowards” who “lacked the courage of their convictions” and that the US should build a fleet of nuclear-powered space ships–warships, not explorers. His reason for us doing this was not that there was anyone even in our league technologically at that point that we needed to smack down, but that we were in a position to enforce a Pax Americana (his phrase) on the rest of the world and that, with a fleet of spaceships (which would be able to drop nuclear bombs on anyone from space, right), we could make it stick. (For those who are interested, this was published in one of the SF monthlies at the time; I stumbled over it when I acquired someone’s old SF magazine collection.)
This real-life speech, “Starship Troopers,” “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and many other parts of other books all have something in common: whenever someone gets in your way, you kill them. You don’t necessarily go out of your way to do it, but killing them is always weighed as a viable option. This is not libertarianism, but it is fascism.