Children of Monsters

I just finished Jay Nordlinger's Children of Monsters: an Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators.  The book details the offspring of 19 of the 20th century's most repellent dictators. I found it a text in acute need of editing for redundancy and for awkward phrasing.  It was also in desperate need of the insertion of some family trees to assist in clarity, particularly when multiple wives, mistresses and bastard children were all part a dictator's extended family.  That said, the substance of the text was compelling.

While steering clear of overt psychobabble. Nordlinger did paint several broad-brush strokes. First, almost all of these career and status obsessed dictators were distant fathers who had little involvement in their children's daily lives.  In some cases, their wives were fellow revolutionaries who saw motherhood as an inferior goal to advancing the political cause. 

Second, when these so called strong men did have a personal relationship with an offspring, that child was likely to be the oldest daughter, who was usually doted upon.  In several cases this daughter later became an apologist for the regime, even when her father had ordered the execution of her own husband. Indeed, the author in three cases suggested the eldest daughter would have been the designated political heir if only born a male, but the so-called strongman did not think his nation would accept a female ruler. Even one so ruthless as to prefer her own father over the sire to her children.

Third, in several cases the over indulged sons of brutal dictators proved to be even worse nutcases than their fathers.  That was because the sons often took delight in killing for the sake of killing when their fathers had only killed to further specific political goals. 

Fourth, rebels appear rare in these families: Stalin's daughter, one of Castro's daughters and Khomeini's grandson are the only examples of open rebuke.  Then there is one of Idi Amin's sons, who while refusing to rebuke his father directly has spent his life attempting reconciliation with those who fell victim to his father's barbarism.  

Far more common were the children and grandchildren of brutal dictators who when in school saw how the rest of their nation scraped and scrimped by while their own families lived in luxury.  In some cases this did cause some temporary doubt.  But when family ties were invoked in times of crisis and when fortunes salted away in foreign bank accounts beckoned, these sons and daughters of great privilege quickly reconciled to life in the gilded cage of the political exile.  There they live to this day, comforted by fat bank accounts and by the tweets of nostalgic reactionaries who long for the oppressive days of yore.

I just finished Jay Nordlinger's Children of Monsters: an Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators.  The book details the offspring of 19 of the 20th century's most repellent dictators. I found it a text in acute need of editing for redundancy and for awkward phrasing.  It was also in desperate need of the insertion of some family trees to assist in clarity, particularly when multiple wives, mistresses and bastard children were all part a dictator's extended family.  That said, the substance of the text was compelling.

While steering clear of overt psychobabble. Nordlinger did paint several broad-brush strokes. First, almost all of these career and status obsessed dictators were distant fathers who had little involvement in their children's daily lives.  In some cases, their wives were fellow revolutionaries who saw motherhood as an inferior goal to advancing the political cause. 

Second, when these so called strong men did have a personal relationship with an offspring, that child was likely to be the oldest daughter, who was usually doted upon.  In several cases this daughter later became an apologist for the regime, even when her father had ordered the execution of her own husband. Indeed, the author in three cases suggested the eldest daughter would have been the designated political heir if only born a male, but the so-called strongman did not think his nation would accept a female ruler. Even one so ruthless as to prefer her own father over the sire to her children.

Third, in several cases the over indulged sons of brutal dictators proved to be even worse nutcases than their fathers.  That was because the sons often took delight in killing for the sake of killing when their fathers had only killed to further specific political goals. 

Fourth, rebels appear rare in these families: Stalin's daughter, one of Castro's daughters and Khomeini's grandson are the only examples of open rebuke.  Then there is one of Idi Amin's sons, who while refusing to rebuke his father directly has spent his life attempting reconciliation with those who fell victim to his father's barbarism.  

Far more common were the children and grandchildren of brutal dictators who when in school saw how the rest of their nation scraped and scrimped by while their own families lived in luxury.  In some cases this did cause some temporary doubt.  But when family ties were invoked in times of crisis and when fortunes salted away in foreign bank accounts beckoned, these sons and daughters of great privilege quickly reconciled to life in the gilded cage of the political exile.  There they live to this day, comforted by fat bank accounts and by the tweets of nostalgic reactionaries who long for the oppressive days of yore.