Last Thursday was officially “Diaper Need Awareness Day” in the State of Connecticut. Were you aware of it? There are so many awareness-raising days, it’s hard to keep track. Maybe we could have an Awareness-Raising Day Awareness Day. At any rate, the first annual Diaper Need Awareness Day was proclaimed by Dan Malloy, governor of the Nutmeg State, and they had a big old awareness-raising get-together in New Haven. It’s not clear yet whether they’ve got an official ribbon. We’re running a bit low on ribbon colors these days: It’s not just pink ribbons for breast cancer, but also teal for agoraphobia, periwinkle for acid reflux, pink-and-blue ribbons for amniotic fluid embolisms, and pinstripe ribbons for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We could use a Ribbon-Hue Awareness Day to raise awareness about how we’re falling behind in the race for more ribbon colors.
If you’re wondering what sentient being isn’t aware of diapers, you’re missing the point: Connecticut representative Rosa DeLauro is raising awareness of the need for diapers in order to, as Politico reported, “push the Federal Government to provide free diapers to poor families.” Congresswoman DeLauro has introduced the DIAPER Act — that’s to say, the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act. So don’t worry, it’s not welfare, it’s “stimulus.” As Fox News put it, “A U.S. congresswoman in Connecticut wants to boost the economy by offering free diapers to low-income families.” And, given that sinking bazillions of dollars into green-jobs schemes to build eco-cars in Finland and a federal program to buy guns for Mexican drug cartels and all the other fascinating innovations of the Obama administration haven’t worked, who’s to say borrowing money from the Chinese politburo and sticking it in your kid’s diaper isn’t the kind of outside-the-box thinking that will do the trick?
In fact, the federal government already provides free diapers for at least one lucky American. Stanley Thornton Jr. of California receives Supplementary Security Income disability checks from the Social Security Administration in order to sit around the house all day wearing a giant diaper and a giant onesie, sucking on a giant pacifier and playing with a giant baby rattle. Stanley Jr. runs a website for fellow “adult babies” called BedWettingABDL.com. I believe I first heard of the “adult baby” phenomenon some years ago in London. If memory serves, there was a club, and the members lay around in giant cribs being read bedtime stories by a bosomy nanny. Minor celebrities and possibly backbench Tory members of Parliament may have been involved. In those days, it was what we called a “fetish” and you had to do it on your own dime. Now it’s a “disability” and the United States government picks up the tab. And, if that’s not progress, what is?
Sen. Tom Coburn happened to catch Stan with his babysitter and fellow disability-check recipient on a reality show, and wondered how a chap capable of running a popular website and doing such complicated carpentry jobs as his own giant highchair could be legitimately classified as “disabled.” But the Social Security Administration said Junior qualifies, and Senator Coburn was condemned as heartless: Why, if those mean Republicans got their way, the streets would be crawling with giant babies bawling, “I want my mommy!” Conversely, if Congresswoman DeLauro gets her way and the stampede for government Huggies gets going, Stanley Thornton Jr. will still be entitled to park his giant pedal car in the disabled space while the penniless single mom from Hartford has to leave the Toyota at the back of the lot and hike in.
An able-bodied man paid by the government of the United States to lie in a giant crib wetting his diaper week in week out is almost too poignant an emblem of the republic at twilight. But, as Hillaire Belloc wrote, “Always keep a hold of Nurse / For fear of finding something worse.” Only last week, ABC News reported:
At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.
Oh, no! The horror!
“Self-reliance” is now a pejorative? Nice to have that clarified. And San Francisco, a city that registers more dogs than it has kids enrolled in its schools and in which adults are perforce the children they never bothered having, seems as good a place as any to make it official. In less enlightened times, “self-reliance” was the great animating principle of the American experiment. By the standards of the day, George III was one of the most benign, caring rulers on earth: You were his mewling charges, and he was the regal babysitter. Then a bunch of settlers in small towns clinging to wilderness and thousands of miles from His Majesty the Nanny decided they didn’t need him and they could stand on their own. What’s the word for that? Oh, yeah: self-reliance.
Is it too late for a Self-Reliance Awareness Day? No, there’s no ribbons. Make your own damn ribbon. If that’s too much to hope for, how about a Multi-Trillion-Dollar Debt Awareness Day? The ribbon starts out black but turns deeper and deeper red. How about a We’ve Spent All the Money Including the Money for an Awareness-Raising Ribbon Day? An Impending Societal Collapse Awareness Day?
Yes, yes. I’m aware the cost of diapers adds up over a month, and you can’t use your food stamps to pay for them. Tough. This country’s broke. As I said last week, it has to pay back $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing at all. And that’s more money than anyone ever has had to pay back. Were you aware of that? Distressingly large numbers of Americans still pining for ever more swaddling in the government cradle seem entirely unaware.
Congresswoman DeLauro is thinking too small: Maybe we could all be issued with free diapers. As a casual glance at the headlines suggests, there’s almost nothing you can’t get government to pay for, but that’s no reason not to demand more. At its core, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement (in the political rather than the diaper-filling sense) is a plea for ever more extended adolescence funded at public expense. Don’t knock it. Dozing around listening to drum circles all day is more dangerous than it looks. Last week, several dozen members of “Occupy Las Vegas” occupying land located under the final approach to Runway 19 at McCarran International Airport narrowly missed being hit by a 50-pound slab of what’s euphemistically known as “blue ice” that fell from the bathroom of the president’s plane. Perhaps, as a symbol of the new post-self-reliant America of adult babies, Air Force One should be fitted with a giant diaper.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn