A couple years back a member of our staff playfully rewrote a famous Biblical passage dealing with the punishment of sinners.1 Somehow our essay ended up in the inbox of Senator Mike Lee (R, Utah). This isn’t surprising, for in addition to being a stalwart supporter of good literature Senator Lee is also a keen eyed critic of the modern human condition. Proof of the former can be found in his choosing to read our little publication, while the latter can be substantiated in comments Senator Lee has made about climate change. In May of 2019, Lee offered these gems during a debate about the Green New Deal:
“Climate change . . . is a challenge of creativity, ingenuity and technological invention. And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans. More people mean bigger markets for innovation. More babies mean more forward-looking adults — the sort we need to tackle long-term, large-scale problems.”
Lee then clarified his point about adding more humans, noting that, “American babies, in particular, are likely going to be wealthier, better educated, and more conservation-minded than children raised in still-industrializing regions.”
Lee plowed on and concluded with a rousing call to American procreation: “The solution to climate change is not this unserious resolution (silly Green New Deal), but the serious business of human flourishing. The solution to so many of our problems, at all times and in all places: fall in love, get married and have some kids.”
The testing of Lee’s thesis
One interesting way to test Lee’s proposed solution is to examine the choices made by Fred and MaryAnn Trump. Good Americans that they were, the Trumps (preemptively) followed Lee’s advice: they fell in love, got married, and had five kids, one of whom later became President of the United States. Upon losing his re-election bid, that former-American-baby/President then encouraged his followers to disavow the results and violently overthrow the government. When he was subsequently impeached for those actions, he was defended by fellow former-American-baby Mike Lee, who argued that:
“Look, everyone makes mistakes, everyone is entitled to a mulligan once in a while.” 2
To be fair, Senator Lee is right: everyone does make mistakes, even Americans birthed by Americans.3 As for Lee’s second clause — “everyone is entitled to a mulligan” — that’s less self-evident and thus up for debate. The first thing one might wonder is: According to whom? Who has determined that “everyone is entitled to a mulligan”? (Besides obviously Mike Lee, Tony Perkins, and a host of other powerful white dudes?)45
Lee’s last little tidbit, snuck in at the end, is by far our favorite part of his entire proclamation — “every once in a while.” Readers who look up the definition of willfully vague in the dictionary will find this very statement in 28-point, bold, Fuck-you-&-the-serifs-you-rode-in-on font. We tip our hats, Senator Lee: there’s not an ounce of fat on that punch line. It’s impeccably lean and every word pulls its weight. We could bore our readers with playful wonderings about how often “every once in a while is,” but we respect them too much to do so. Instead, let’s pause and consider the mulligan.6
The part where we consider the mulligan
A mulligan consists of two things: First, it’s a do-over: things didn’t work out like you wanted, so why don’t you take another swing?! Second, there’s no penalty for that do-over. In short, it’s a penalty-free do-over. Now ask yourself, dear reader, When in your adult life have you gotten one of those? This injunction isn’t rhetorical, and readers are encouraged to take a moment to ponder this question.
It’s possible — even likely — that you have received a mulligan for an honest mistake made over a relatively insignificant issue: maybe you entered your hair appointment in you calendar on the wrong Tuesday or meant to order a decaffeinated coffee instead of the punchy, high octane stuff. These things happen and the best response to them, especially when they occur in retail/service settings, is a mulligan.
Now ask yourself: have you ever received a mulligan for a choice freely made that had massively significant repercussions?7
If you need an example of such a situation, let’s think about marital infidelity: Any readers ever gotten a mulligan for that? The old — Oops, I fucked Karen from payroll… 8 Does that scenario ring the mulligan bell for any readers?
Maybe you didn’t accidentally fuck a porn star while your wife was pregnant with your soon-to-solve-the-world’s-problems-American-baby.9 Instead, let’s imagine you repeatedly lied about objective reality, lies that culminated with you inciting a mob toward treasonous insurrection in which multiple people died, many more were injured, and incalculable amounts of psychic and physical damages were inflicted?? Any readers out there received a mulligan for something like that??
The part where we conclude
There’s little value in wrapping this up with appeals to morality. After all, this is America — rhetoric aside, we just don’t make decisions like that. Besides, anyone who’s ever been an American baby already knows the moral arc of this story. Presuming Senate votes are cast according to plan, the only salient question is: How many more mulligans will our elected officials get? Based upon the results of the last election, the answer is probably Far more than they deserve.
That dour thought raises a specter of ongoing incompetence that truly “is a challenge of creativity, ingenuity and technological invention.” And as we know, “problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans.” After all, “more people mean bigger markets for innovation. More babies mean more forward-looking adults — the sort we need to tackle long-term, large-scale problems.”
So to our dear readers, all those former-American-babies whose eyes are scanning the rancid, fetid field of rottenness that is our political landscape, a terrible terrain spotted with interminable potholes of self-appointed-mulliganees, we say: Let’s get down to the serious business of human flourishing. We’ve fallen on fell times and your country needs you to enhance the markets of innovation. So get out there, fall in love, get married and have some good old American kids!
- The post was written in response to comments made by Tony Perkins, the head of a conservative Christian group conveniently titled The Family Research Council. Upon learning that then President Donald Trump had had an affair with a porn star while his wife was pregnant, Perkins suggested that the appropriate response to Trump’s infidelities was to give Trump a “mulligan.” After all, if anyone in life has confronted challenges that merit a punishment-free do-over, it’s Don-Don.
- Attentive readers may have noticed that for a party historically associated with personal responsibility and self-determination, Republicans sure play loosey-goosey with their mulligans and are positively liberal with their applications of entitlement.
- This acknowledgement would seem to undermine Lee’s thesis that babies birthed by Americans are better positioned to solve the world’s problems, rather than cause more of them. That said, it remains possible that Lee’s point is valid and American babies truly are superior: we shudder to imagine a world devoid of American babies to offset the stupidity of babies from other, more shitholey countries.
- A position they seem dedicated to when — and ONLY WHEN! — the mulliganee in question is a fellow powerful white dude.
- Obviously, the above is rhetorical, but it’s worth taking it literally for a moment and asking: When was this fateful pronouncement made? — When God gave Moses the tablets? When Jesus forgave the crowds that mocked and crucified him? When Lincoln freed the slaves? For such a manifestly significant and expansive ethical standard, why didn’t I learn about that in my history or religion classes?!
- For those who are curious we offer the following window into the machinations of our intra-office politics: We had a protracted and serious debate about the title of this post, and while we ultimately chose to go with, “The Serious Business of Human Flourishing” — a phrase that truly captures the fecund, sticky-spoored spontaneity of Mike Lee’s virile red-bloodedness — we all agreed that “consider the mulligan” was beyond question the best phrase anyone on our staff had written in months.
- Yes, we just added some extra terms to our argument, but isn’t that the way of mulligans: their application is situational. For instance, if you’re slopping through the back nine with a handful of brews at a rundown city course and someone flubs their drive: who cares? — give ’em a mulligan. But if you’re playing for green jackets in a little tournament in Georgia — well, there’s no way in hell anyone’s getting a freebie.
- Honestly, hon, I don’t know how it happened. We all went out for drinks at Ye Olde Shenanigans to celebrate the end of the fiscal quarter and next thing you know — there was my penis inside Karen. Golly, isn’t life crazy sometimes!
- Editor’s note: No one ever has said or will ever say this phrase about any of the Trump progeny.