The Breakfast Table

Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Dear Nick,

Sorry for not getting back to you till the lunch hour but conditions at this end–technological, logistical–have been less than optimal. Let me first thank you for clearing up the Middle East peace agreement with a few deft strokes of the brush. In the interest of time management, I tune in only to every 3rd or 4th Middle East peace agreement. So I have noted this one only as a sort of inverse Wag the Dog event–I am pleased to see the President distracting us this time by making peace instead of bombing random pharmaceutical factories, nation-states, etc. The fact that the CIA has got a job out of the deal is particularly inspiring. I hope this does not become yet another reason for bashing the welfare poor, but if even the CIA can find work these days, well then, surely anyone, no matter how sparse or incriminating her resume, can find suitable employment somewhere.

Mostly I have been grumping about the murder of Dr. Slepian, the New York obstetrician and abortion doctor. Between the fact that fewer and fewer medical schools even bother to teach abortion procedures, and the other fact that the penalty for performing them seems to be death-by-sniper shot, pregnancy may soon become an irreversible condition. (You could also throw into that list of facts the anti-choice opposition to RU487.) This leads me to think that women (lay-women, that is) had better start mastering abortion technology themselves. It’s not that difficult–untrained lay women safely and successfully performed abortions in the Chicago underground service called “Jane” in the ‘70s–and might at least give the right-to-lifers a confusingly large number of targets to pursue. No hard feelings, of course: One of them stated on CNN (or was it NBC) over the weekend that Dr. Slepian’s life was “every bit as precious as that of an unborn fetus”–which should be comforting news to his four children.

I was also fascinated by a story on Dateline last night about the family of an approximately 7-year-old terror whose tantrums featured physical attacks on his parents and various household objects. And no, this is not one of those rotten little affection-starved Russian adoptees but a biologically genuine American. After plenty of riveting footage of the family-in-combat, they finally find a kindly doctor who diagnoses the kid as suffering from “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” Imagine that: Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or ODD! And then I got to thinking: Could this be my problem–Adult Oppositional Defiance Disorder? So it was deeply reassuring that the doctor’s advice was for the parents to compromise now and then over little matters like bedtime and finishing vegetables. Presto, the kid was cured. Now can I have a smaller military budget and a larger welfare state, please?