Blood and Water
A society that teaches its children to despise their elders will collapse.
The poet Allen Ginsberg’s sexual proclivity for little boys is well known, not least of all his membership in NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. His most famous remark about children, however, was not in any sense erotic. “We’ll get you through your children!” he screamed at Norman Podhoretz in 1958, at the end of a heated argument that saw the two men part ways as friends for good. This wasn’t a specific threat to Podhoretz, neither of whose children had been born yet. Instead, Ginsberg was issuing a prophecy about the fate of American, indeed Western, society as a whole. The revolution may leave you—the squares and the sticks-in-the-mud—untouched, but it will touch your children and your grandchildren—and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
Just how fateful a prophecy this was was revealed in the past week, when one Klint Ludwig appeared on CNN with erstwhile host Don Lemon. Ludwig is the grandson of Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old man accused of the attempted murder of Ralph Yarl. Lester is alleged to have shot Yarl, an African-American teen, after Yarl rang his doorbell late at night. Despite his injuries, Yarl was able to escape on foot. He and his supporters maintain he had simply rung Lester’s doorbell “by mistake” when he was going to pick up his siblings.
Ludwig explained to Lemon how he “lost touch” with his grandfather, because he was into “conspiracies” and “weird, random, racist things,” including “Q-Anon level conspiracies about election denying and Fauci dogs” (the latter presumably a reference to Anthony Fauci’s supposed involvement in experiments involving beagles and flesh-eating sand flies). When asked by Lemon why he was speaking out against his grandfather, Ludwig replied that it was “the right thing to do.” “In this country, it happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed innocent black people… people need to speak out.” Ludwig characterized his grandfather as a “stock American Christian male… older, that’s just how they are.” Lester was “caught up in the 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations [which]…reinforces and galvanizes racist people.” He “watched Fox News all day every day blaring in his living room.”
Even before the Lemon interview, Ludwig had already gone on record with The Kansas City Star to denounce his grandfather as a conspiracy theorist and a racist who shot Yarl just because he’s black. Other members of the family, however, including Ludwig’s older brother Daniel totally dispute this characterization of the old man and of the role race played in the shooting. “It’s just sad and I wish it didn’t happen,” Daniel told The Star. “It seems like a bunch of mistakes in a row that resulted in a tragedy. I mean, a lot of mistakes all the way around, unfortunately.”
We should be in no doubt what Klint Ludwig is trying to achieve. He is not simply airing in public personal grievances against a family member—something most of us rightly feel is a pretty shabby thing to do but which nonetheless happens quite regularly, including on national television (remember Ricki Lake?). No: he is willfully participating in yet another media and activist circus, a circus that will make it impossible for his grandfather to get a fair trial. And that means, effectively, that he’s condemning his grandfather to spend the rest of his life in prison. Even if Lester isn’t convicted, he’ll be harassed for the rest of his life. Some might argue that Klint Ludwig is just a brat, a snotty young man, but his history of involvement in radical racial politics suggests quite the opposite: he knows exactly what he’s doing.
Such maneuverings are now par for the course in any trial with a political and especially a racial element in America. Against the inevitable background of violent mass protests, nightly news coverage, denunciations by major political and celebrity figures, and the information overload of social media, it gets harder and harder to put together a jury that doesn’t already have strongly-held preconceptions about the case under examination. Unfortunately for men like Andrew Lester, one side in particular seems to be making it increasingly their business to disguise their political beliefs during jury selection. This may have happened in the case of Daniel Perry, who is likely to be pardoned by Texas Governor Greg Abbott after being found guilty of murder for shooting and killing activist Garrett Foster in 2020. Perry’s lawyer has moved for a mistrial in light of an allegation that a juror conducted research at home during the overnight break and then presented it to the rest of the jury while they were deliberating.
If we’re talking about people denouncing their own family members for political reasons, it’s impossible to avoid talking about Pavlik Morozov. Morozov, the story goes, was a 13-year-old boy in 1932 when he shopped his father to the Soviet authorities for stealing grain. The father was sentenced to hard labor and then executed for his crime. In retaliation, Pavlik’s uncle, grandmother, grandfather, and cousin clubbed together and murdered Pavlik and his younger brother. All of the killers, except the uncle, were rounded up by the political police and executed by firing squad. It’s not a surprise to discover there are serious doubts whether Pavlik Morozov ever existed outside the fervid imaginings of Stalin’s propagandists. But whether real or not, his story quickly spread. Within months, Maxim Gorky was addressing the Communist Youth Organization about the “heroic deed of Pioneer Pavlik Morozov.” Stalin, however, was less impressed: “What a little swine, denouncing his own father!” he is said to have remarked. Pavlik became a martyr to the cause: songs, plays, poems, an opera, and six biographies were written of him. A Sergei Eisenstein film based on Pavlik’s life was made but never released. Pavlik was venerated in the Soviet Union right up until its fall in 1991. Klint Ludwig, by contrast, is likely to experience only the most transient of fame. Nobody’s going to build statues to him or put his corn-row-studded head on a postage stamp.
To feel revulsion at the behavior of a Klint Ludwig or Pavlik Mozorov is only natural. Such behavior strikes at the very heart—the biological foundation—of all human societies, simple and complex, that have ever existed. Ancestor worship is the basis of primitive religion and, for that reason, the basis of all morality. Offenses against ancestors, living and dead, have always been subject to grave taboos and punishments. Patricide, in particular, has usually warranted exemplary treatment. In ancient Rome, for instance, the traditional punishment for patricide was the so-called poena cullei, or “punishment of the sack.” The offender was first sewn inside a leather bag and then thrown into water to drown. Sometimes the sack would also be filled with such animals as a snake, dog, monkey, and chicken.
Rome, unlike the West today, was rightly called a patriarchy, with only fathers having full civil and political rights, so an attack on the paterfamilias was, by enlargement, an attack on society itself. The punishment therefore had to have a symbolic element to it, to make a statement about the truly reprehensible nature of the criminal and the crime. In a speech defending Sextus Roscius, who had been accused of this shocking crime, Cicero describes how the poena cullei was intended to “cut the parricide off and [separate] him from the whole realm of nature, depriving him at a stroke of sky, sun, water and earth—and thus ensuring that he who had killed the man who gave him life should himself be denied the elements from which, it is said, all life derives.” Patricides “die without earth touching their bones; they are tossed by the waves without ever being cleansed; and in the end they are cast ashore without being granted, even on the rocks, a resting-place in death.”
It’s not for no reason that, in one of his most radical moments, Jesus promised “the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Luke 12:53). Total familial strife—a war of all against all at the most intimate level—is the complete overthrow of the existing order, a situation appropriate to the coming end times and Last Judgment. Much is made of the quasi- or sub-religious structure of modern leftist, especially Marxist, ideology, but it’s seldom noted that the desire to overthrow the traditional structures of the family is itself a millenarian one. Marxists have been quite explicit about wanting to do this since the very beginning. In fact, the destruction of familial structures, and especially the nuclear family, is the sine qua non of the communist revolution.
In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels made the argument, on the basis of some rather shoddy anthropology, that human societies had their origin in so-called “primitive matriarchies.” In these early pre-class societies, everything was held in common, mating was “promiscuous,” and, because they had control over their own reproductive functions, women in certain respects actually had the upper hand over men. The first class society, when men created ownership, was also the first patriarchy, because that newfound ownership was extended not just to things but to women, who became the property of men. Patriarchy and class society, then, are inseparable. One cannot be overthrown without the other. The unspoken implication is that the inevitable victory of communism would be a return, full circle, to primitive matriarchy.
So much of the dysfunction we see today, from “non-traditional” partnerships, polyamory, and “ethical non-monogamy” to the behavior of little twerps like Klint Ludwig, is the result of a full century or more of determined attempts to disparage, discredit, and ultimately destroy one of the central institutions of Western civilization. But we shouldn’t forget that the completion of this aim also entails the destruction of Western civilization itself. When blood runs thinner than water, nothing will be as it once was.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.