Yesterday, my sister (who is no longer pregnant), my new nephew, my niece, my brother-in-law, and I went grocery shopping. This was my sister’s first post-baby shopping trip and, understandably, she got a bit tired about three quarters of the way through. She decided to go sit down and leave my brother-in-law and me in charge of finishing the shopping and looking after the kids.
Just a few minutes after my sister left us, the inevitable happened. People who saw us simply assumed that I was the mother of my niece and nephew. Since I was carrying my niece, it probably happened sooner than it might have otherwise. My niece is adorable and charming. My nephew is tiny (relatively) and sweet. The two of them attracted quite a few compliments, many of which were directed at me. Most of them were the “I am so overwhelmed by that child’s cuteness that I cannot even formulate an entire sentence” variety. So cute! So precious! So sweet! Seriously, people don’t get very creative with baby compliments.
Then there was the guy working in the meat department. He first noticed us when my niece attempted to run away. He laughed and made some comment about her escaping. My brother-in-law and I nodded our acknowledgement of his joke and continued walking. Then he noticed my nephew. “You have a little one too,” he said. “You’re so blessed.”
I have, more than once, had people assume that I am my brothers’ mother. The oldest of them is only seven years my junior, so being mistaken for the mother of a couple of little bitty kids wasn’t nearly as bad. At any rate, it doesn’t imply that I look a good ten years older than I actually am. So I shook off the part of the comment where I was supposed to be the mother and looked at just what he said. It’s true. I am very, very lucky to have such an adorable niece and nephew. And then I got to thinking. It is interesting that in a country where the president was elected largely based on promises of free birth control and assurances of easily procurable abortions, little children attract so many, many comments and compliments. They’re cute, sweet, precious, adorable, such a blessing, so much fun. And so, the number of them should naturally be as limited as possible.
I have often thought that when something catches my attention in real life, I am more likely to notice some similarity in a book. After noticing the curious contradiction of the meat counter guy’s comment, I went home and worked on unpacking the boxes of books that were packed up a couple of years ago when my family was preparing to begin full time traveling. Eventually, I came upon a book that I have never particularly liked (I only read it twice) but it was a book, it was in my hands, and I have never been very good at resisting such impulses, particularly when I ought to be focusing on putting books into shelves. So I flipped open the George Orwell’s 1984, skimmed through the introduction and the first couple pages, and in a matter of moments, came across the lines:
WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Here we have three slogans that sum up the ultimate contradictory government. Sadly, they are not particularly far off from where the world is now. We are told that waging war against the most innocent and helpless members of society—unborn children, the elderly, the poor, persons with mental illnesses—we will find peace in our everyday lives and be able to live out our dreams free of unwanted inconveniences. Society tells children to be true to themselves, to break free from the crowd, to march to the beat of their own drums, and then send them to schools where individuality is purged out of them. We are encouraged to listen and to be informed about what is going on in the world. However, what we are supposed to know is what the media is willing to tell us, and we are expected to be satisfied with that. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
In a world so full of contradiction as ours clearly is, there is only one obvious way to get around it. That way would be truth. Truth is the opposite of doublethink. Truth is logical and reasonable, clear and always steady. Wherever there is truth, there is clarity, joy, love and peace. Wherever there is doublethink those things—so vital to human life—are glaringly absent. There is confusion and misery. People who are confused and miserable are easily controlled, and the one thing that they do not do is sit around and count their blessings.
Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving and the holiday season will be kicked into high gear. As consumers throw around more cash than at any other time of the year, there will be speculation about how badly retailers are doing. The media will worry us with declarations of how bleak the season is going to be, and they will tell us what the repercussions will be if we fail to spend enough money to support all of the people working in retail. We will be told that we are going into the most cheerful and wonderful time of the year, and as we go about attempting to buy happiness, they will tell us just how bleak the prophecy for next year is. We will be subjected to the doublethink of commercialism and consumerism.
But the doublethink of the holiday season will be tempered by truth. As we gather with the people who can drive us crazy faster than any others in the world, we will know how important family is. We will know that the way to happiness is in giving the gifts, not in scoring the best deals. We will know that in the end, truth will always trump the doublethink. And so we will celebrate the holidays coming up, knowing that by simply taking a day or two to be really, truly thankful, we are, for a moment winning a battle for truth and goodness.