At Least They Didn't Name Him 'Sue'

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“Come here, Thanatos,” called the young father, beckoning to a small boy who had surrendered himself unconditionally to an arcade game.

In my astonishment, I performed a double-take of almost comical magnitude, thereby fumbling my attempt to keep my pinball in play.

“You named your child Thanatos?” I exclaimed, a blend of puzzlement and pity coloring the question.

“Yeah,” the dad replied, visibly proud of his cleverness. “It means — ”

“I know what it means,” I interrupted in what I hoped was a neutral voice. “I just hadn’t expected to encounter a child with that name.”

That shopping mall encounter took place twenty years ago. Apart from his bizarre choice of a name for his son, the young father displayed no visible signs of derangement. The boy was energetic, playful, and outgoing, and obviously loved his father.

Yet I can’t help but suspect that under the right conditions today, the child would have been seized by child “protection” bureaucrats, who would consider naming a child after the god of death to be prima facie evidence of parental unsuitability.

For reasons only they know, and haven’t chosen to share with the rest of us, Holland Township, New Jersey residents Heath and Deborah Campbell named their oldest child Adolf Hitler Campbell.

His younger sisters are named Joyce Lynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlnn Hinnler Jeannie Campbell, the latter name apparently an illiterate tribute of some sort to SS Chief Heinrich Himmler.

Mr. and Mrs. Campbell — both of whom are disabled, unemployed, and receive welfare subsidies — insist that they are not Nazi sympathizers. There is compelling evidence that they are avid publicity seekers. Their child made international headlines a few weeks ago when they demanded an apology from the management of a local grocery store when its bakery refused to inscribe Adolf’s full given name on a birthday cake (a customer request that was eventually carried out by a Wal-Mart).

About two weeks ago, child “protection” bureaucrats from the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) materialized in the Campbell household in the company of a police officer. Referring to a conveniently anonymous report alleging some unspecified “imminent danger” to the kids, the DYFS child-nappers seized the Campbell children and placed them in foster care.

Sgt. John Harris of the Holland Township Police was the officer assigned to accompany the child-nappers “to keep the peace and protect the [social] workers,” as he told ABC News. Harris points out that the couple had not been charged with any crime. Nor was he aware of any complaint that had been lodged against either parent for any form of domestic abuse or neglect.

In fact, the police officer, who has known Mr. Campbell for a decade, could actually serve as a character witness: “Just from knowing Mr. Campbell from the past ten or so years, I’ve never known him to abuse his children, and when he has talked about his children he has been very much into his kids. [He’s] very loving.”

This characterization is supported by Harris’s boss, Police Chief Van Gilson. “He loves his kids — there are no ifs, ands or buts about that,” Gilson told the New York Times, adding that Heath Campbell “broke down” on hearing that his children were to be seized and taken away.

These comments summon an important question: Since the Campbells are innocent of any crime, and no complaints had been filed with the police, why did Sgt. Harris permit the DYFS officials to abduct the children? His moral and constitutional responsibility was to prevent the kidnapping of the Campbell children, not to act as an armed accomplice to it.

The role played by Sgt. Harris in this crime illustrates a fact that simply cannot be repeated too often: In our system, the police do not exist to defend our rights, but rather to enforce the will of the nearest state functionary who claims the “authority” to violate our rights.

The Campbells have odd and reprehensible taste in names for their children, certainly. But it was the conduct of Sgt. Harris — who was only following the orders of his superiors — that displayed the same authoritarian conformity that facilitated the evil acts carried out by the National Socialist regime.

New Jersey DYFS spokeswoman Kate Bernyk insists that “We wouldn’t remove a child based on their name,” and maintains that some unspecified “danger” prompted the removal of the children from an eccentric but by all accounts loving home. True to form, the agency has shut the children off from parental contact, slapped a gag order on the parents, and started the familiar tactic of drawing out legal hearings in the matter as long as possible.

The isolation of the children and the use of dilatory measures will help the agency create an after-the-fact rationale for its kidnapping, thereby justifying either permanent separation of the children or the imposition of a “parenting plan” to re-educate Heath and Deborah Campbell regarding their parental roles.

Not including their traumatic separation from their parents at gunpoint, there is only one documented sense in which the children have been recently endangered: Somebody sent a death threat to the parents. If this is the “imminent danger” DYFS refers to, then finding and prosecuting the author of the death threat is the appropriate course of action, rather than breaking up a viable family.

The fact that the Campbell household is entirely dependent on government transfer payments italicizes one little-understood facet of the Welfare State: The same government that pays to feed and shelter the children implicitly claims them as its property, and stands prepared to exercise that claim whenever its functionaries see fit to do so. This principle was laid out with admirable frankness by H.G. Wells (yes, that H.G. Wells), a supporter of Britain’s Fabian Socialist movement, in his 1919 book New Worlds for Old.

After briefly describing the challenges, privations, and problems afflicting British families, Wells informed his reader that “Socialism comes not to destroy but to save” the family through firm but benevolent state intervention. “Socialism regards parentage under proper safeguards … as `not only a duty but a service’ to the state; that is to say, it proposes to pay for good parentage — in other words, to endow the home,” he elaborated.

The Fabian program, continued Wells, was to provide welfare subsidies primarily through the mother. This had — from the collectivist perspective — the very useful effect of making the state the de facto father of welfare children. It also turned the mother into a kind of state concubine; sure, the father retained certain marital prerogatives, but where raising the children was concerned, the mother was to be accountable to the state, on pain of separation from her offspring.

Wells didn’t hesitate to spell this out explicitly: “Neglect [the children], ill-treat them, prove incompetent, and your pay will cease, and we shall take them away from you and do what we can for them….” Who is to determine when a parent is “incompetent”?

In the arrangement Wells describes — which is integral to every welfare state extant, our own emphatically included — that decision would be made by bureaucrats who have strong institutional incentives to rule against parental authority.

It should surprise nobody that Germany’s National Socialist welfare/warfare state operated on exactly the same principles. Hitler and his clique earned the support of many traditionalist Germans by condemning the Communist assault on conventional social institutions.

However, as G.K. Chesterton, the Catholic social commentator who was a passionate critic of all forms of collectivism, pointed out, the National Socialist approach was just as inimical to parental rights and the traditional home:

“Hitler’s way of defending the independence of the family is to make every family dependent on him and his semi-Socialist State; and to preserve the authority of parents by authoritatively telling all the parents what to do…. In other words, he appears to interfere with family life more even than the Bolshevists do; and to do it in the name of the sacredness of the family.”

To examine the case of the Campbell family is to collide with the irony that it is the supposed protectors of the Campbell children who are acting on collectivist assumptions identical to those of the Nazis. To be sure, naming a child after a Nazi is in incomprehensible bad taste — but isn’t acting like a Nazi under the color of government authority a much more serious offense?

Furthermore, it would be helpful if the Regime’s child welfare directorate would make up its collectivist mind regarding the parental rights of people devoted to totalitarian icons.

Less than a decade has passed since the April 2000 raid on the home in Miami’s “Little Havana” where then-seven-year-old Elian Gonzalez, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Communist Cuba, was staying with relatives. Elian and his mother were part of a small group of Cubans who fled to Florida in ramshackle boats that were barely seaworthy. Elian was the sole survivor after his mother was claimed by the sea.

For two days the child was adrift alone before being rescued by two commercial fishermen. In what many regarded as nothing short of a divine miracle, Elian was found — on Thanksgiving Day, 1999 — in the middle of a protective pod of dolphins that sheltered the struggling child from sharks. Once in Miami, Elian was embraced by his mother’s extended family.

His father Juan Miguel Gonzalez — whose marital and legal status at the time of these events was ambiguous — demanded that he be given custody of Elian, who would be compelled to return to Cuba. The Castro regime orchestrated street protests in support of Juan Miguel’s claims — not because the Cuban government recognizes and respects parental rights, of course, but because it claimed Elian as its own property.

A father’s rights are not contingent on the soundness of his religious or ideological views, so it would have been improper to dismiss Juan Miguel’s petition for custody simply because he was an active member of the Cuban Communist Party. Given the fact that he had divorced Elian’s mother, however, there was some legitimate question as to whether he was the legal custodial parent. With Elian in a secure, comfortable, loving environment, the custodial issues could have been worked out carefully and proper deliberation.

However, the same Clinton Regime that massacred dozens of children at Waco in April 1993 wasn’t willing to grant the necessary time for these issues to be settled rationally and equitably. Its designated “expert” on Elian’s state of mind, pediatrician Irwin Redlener, insisted that Elian was in “immediate danger” and “suffering from psychological abuse” by living with relatives whose love and concern for him were palpable.

Poor, abused little Elian Gonzalez,
seen here suffering at Disneyland with his stern and forbidding cousin, Marisleysis.

It mattered not that Redlener, whose name must be one of history’s whimsical little puns, was neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, and that he had never met Elian in person: His was the voice of government “authority” in the matter. So Attorney General Janet Reno, the same maniacal virago who had approved of the assault on Mt. Carmel with tanks and poison gas, ordered a pre-dawn paramilitary assault on the Miami home of Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian’s uncle.

The attack — which was “authorized” by a spurious search warrant — took place on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, a holy day for Cuban Catholics. It was also a high holy day for Communists of both the Cuban and Clintonian varieties — April 22, Lenin’s Birthday, the Marxist equivalent of Christmas.

Wielding machine guns and clad in body armor, a squad of eight federal stormtroopers used a battering ram to beat down the front door. Trampling underfoot the family’s cherished religious icons, the “child rescuers” painted the foreheads of Elian’s unresisting relatives with their laser sights while spitting out such compassionate suggestions as “Give us the f*****g boy or we’ll shoot you.”

A visibly terrified Elian was pried, at gunpoint, from the arms of Donato Dalyrymple, the same fisherman who had plucked the boy from the ocean six months earlier.

Elian was reunited with his biological father, and — more to the point — taken into the proprietary embrace of the Cuban state, which now treats him as a cherished icon of the revolution, which was the whole point of this exercise (in addition, perhaps, to demonstrating that precious little of substance separates the Regime in Washington from the one in Havana).

Because he is so valuable to the regime as a symbol, Elian enjoys privileges not available to typical Cuban children. Whatever his father’s intentions may have been, Elian has been used to embody the regime’s dogma that all Cuban children are the property of the revolution.

This was explained to me in some detail by Rev. Oscar Bolioli, who in 2000 was head of the office on Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Council of Churches (NCC). Although it claims to be an association of Christian churches, the NCC’s ruling ideology is a kind of paleozoic Stalinism; its Trinity is Marx, Lenin, and Castro.

Bolioli was arrestingly blunt in reciting the Communist doctrine of parens patriae. While Elian’s father had a limited role in supervising the child’s upbringing, this had to be done in the interests of socialism, Bolioli insisted. “The state is trying to give the socialist mentality to the child because that is what is necessary for the basic good of society,” he explained. “This is why the state has to limit the decision-making power of people.”

Ah, yes — this is so much better than Disneyland: Castro takes ownership of Elian, seen here wearing the neckerchief of the Communist “Young Pioneers.”

When I asked him why the Cuban state refused to permit the free emigration of people — such as Elian’s mother and his relatives still residing there — Bolioli replied: “In Cuba’s Marxist system, it is understood that the human resources are to serve that society, rather than other societies. It is understood that Cubans must render service to that community.”

It seems clear to me that the reason the Clinton Regime acted with such potentially lethal urgency to seize Elian was not to vindicate Juan Miguel’s parental rights, but rather to prevent Elian from losing the “socialist mentality” he had begun to develop in Cuba — the willingness to consider himself a “human resource” to be used by that state as it saw fit. That is, after all, the same mindset that collectivists of the Clinton/Obama variety are trying to cultivate here in the U.S. as well.

Living among resolutely anti-Communist relatives in Little Havana, Elian was “in danger” of developing individualist tendencies that would have complicated matters dramatically. So Janet Reno sent in the stormtroopers. All of this was done, remember, to prevent the “abuse” of this seven-year-old by removing him from a totalitarian environment.

Now, in the case of the Campbell family, the same child-snatcher apparatus (let’s dispense with the idea that we’re dealing with anything other than a monolith here) has seized three children from parents who named them after the leaders or adherents of a long-dead and unlamented totalitarian regime.

Hypocrisy being the natural consort of tyranny, I suppose this sort of thing should terrify but not surprise us.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] writes the Pro Libertate blog.

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