“It’s for the animals” — Leftist indoctrination of children

Conservatives often talk about the fact that Progressives use children as a wedge issue for everything.  Changes in immigration law?  It’s to protect those poor children whose parents illegally dragged them across the border.  Changes in health care law?  It’s so that children, right up until the childlike age of 26, can get full health care, regardless of their parents’ economic or lifestyle decisions.  Gun control?  It’s for the children, never mind that statistics indicate that children die in greater numbers when gun control increases even as cultural brakes decline.

Barack Obama surrounds self with children for gun control

Barack Obama, of course, took the “it’s for the children” approach to public policy to sickening new heights when he surrounded himself by a gaggle of youthful darlings to herald his stale and ineffectual “gun control” orders.  He then followed this unsavory photo op with heart-rending videos of children pleading for an end to guns in America.  Yes, children are our future, and yes, we want to leave them a viable world when we pass on, but Drudge was right when he noted that only demagogues surround themselves with children to justify increased tyranny.

I’ve established (to my satisfaction, at least), that Progressives misuse children in order to co-opt their parents.  But how do Progressives co-opt the children?  Easy:  “It’s for the animals.”

In the old days, animal stories and movies used to be about a kid’s relationship with his animal, whether the animal was a yearling, a yellow dog, or a black horse.  The child learned and grew because of his responsibilities for the animals and, often, because of the hard, human choices he had to make regarding the animals.  Animals weren’t better than humans, but they existed artistically to help children learn about love, responsibility, and tough decisions.

Baby Seal

Starting with the baby seal campaign in the 1970s, though, the Left realized that it can bring kids on board by making them feel that ordinary human activity is devastating for animals.  The starting point, and it really wasn’t a bad one, was to focus on the animals that were being driven, quite unnecessarily, to extinction, such as the baby seals beaten for fashion fur, the dolphins killed by careless tuna fishing methodologies, or the various African and Asian animals being minced and powdered for aphrodisiacs (and no, I do not want to hear that there’s nothing frivolous about the man who needs an aphrodisiac).  There really wasn’t a credible reason for these animals to be subject to mass slaughter.

Polar Bear with Cubs

Lately, though, the Left has been using animal education with children, not because the animals are a target of foolish, wasteful behavior, but because their deaths are a byproduct of necessary human behaviors that the Left hates.  Thus, we saw the whole spectacle of polar bears who were supposedly being driven to extinction because Mommy drives a minivan, or spotted owls being driven from their habitat because nasty humans insist on living in houses.  It’s one thing to heed the Biblical injunction that we are stewards of the earth, something with which I heartily agree.  It’s another thing altogether to teach children that, if at all possible, we should vanish from the earth entirely.  (Something that’s looking surprisingly likely, given world-wide demographic trends.)

The reality of life is that anything that living creatures do on this earth affects other living creatures.  This is true for plants (kudzu, for example), animals (the balance of wolves and deer in Yellowstone, for example), and humans.  Because humans have the greatest geographic range and the most inventive minds, we have more scope to affect our surroundings than do plants or animals.  Moreover, even when we seem to be changing for the better, we still manage to mess with nature.  When we had horses and carriages, the world was awash in filthy, germ-carrying urine and feces.  When we got cars, the urine and feces vanished from cities and towns, but we got dirtier air.  When we eat meat, we use resources to feed the animals, the animals produce waste, and we have to kill the animals to take advantage of their protein.  That all sounds yucky, right?  Except it turns out that when we seek protein alternatives (and even Progressives won’t deny that we need protein), we starve indigenous people who are dependent on these alternatives, rather than eating them just because it makes them feel very politically correct.  In the same vein, our decision to use corn for fuel, because it’s “cleaner” than fossil fuels, led to starvation and revolution in the Middle East.

Humans, like any animals, have to fight for resources — we fight with each other, and we fight with animals.  Because we’re human, we have the gifts of a greater, more flexible intellect and of a moral compass, so we are obligated to mitigate the negative effects our actions have on others.  Mitigating those effects, however, is not the same as vanishing altogether — which is pretty much what the Leftists are suggesting to our children is the best solution of them all.

The West’s perpetual adolescence — affluence and socialism create a nation of Peter Pans who refuse to grow up

One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year.  I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26.  I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation.  Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.

I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued.  Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.

That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm.  What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents.  Necessity required the Founders to work and grow.  A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.

Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18.  In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years.  The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.

For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18.  The middle and upper classes send their children to college.  For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility.  Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge.  Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real.  Some of them get married and have children.  Too many, however, continue to be adolescents:  they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance.  Partying remains important.

The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education.  Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc.  They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field.  I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money.  When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field.  The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States.  I went to law school instead.

People need to grow up.  They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly.  I realized the truth of this when I had children.  Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid.  Nothing I did really mattered.  When you have children, everything matters.  Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect.  I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back.  I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.

What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain.  Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year.  By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives.  Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.

In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.

Obama’s economy and his health care plan come together in the restaurant business

On Monday, I noted that ObamaCare regulations requiring employers to provide full (really full) insurance coverage to all employees may make running restaurants, which have a famously low profit margin, so prohibitively expensive that many will go out of business.

It turns out that we needn’t fear this eventuality, because we’re about to see a perfect confluence of two Obama policies.  Restaurants can avoid the costs of ObamaCare by hiring only part-time employees.  This is so because ObamaCare says that employers don’t have to provide health insurance for part-time employees.  The down side of this is that the poor, part-time employees will have to provide their own insurance (or pay a penalty), not to mention struggling to pay for food and housing on a part-time salary.  Or will they?

As you might have noticed, the economy has not improved measurably under Obama.  Indeed, thanks to Obamanomics, college graduates are barely getting by:

In California, it’s long been the joke that prospective actresses come to the state to become waitresses. Now, thanks to the Democrat-created economy, so do college graduates. The newest census shows that between 2006 and 2011, the number of college graduates working as waiters doubled. Approximately 260,000 California college graduates below the age of 30 worked in low-level menial jobs in 2011, an increase of 60,000 over 2006.

And there you have it:  the Obama economy provides ready-made part-time employees for a restaurant that can no longer afford full-time employees.  Even better, these part-timers will live in their parents’ basements and, until they’re 26, get their insurance from their parents’ employers.  Right now, we won’t worry about what happens when their parents’ employers can no longer bear the cost of providing for their own full-time employees, plus an increasing number of Obamanomics-created dependents.

What we’re seeing is the perfect symmetry of an imploding Leftist-managed economy.

Is the rise of bullying at schools tied to Progressive education policies?

There are a couple of things about modern life that are hard to understand.  The first is why so many more children have potentially fatal peanut allergies than did in my youth.  I have no idea why this is so, and probably never will.

The second thing that’s been mysterious to me is why bullying in school has suddenly become so epidemic.  When I was young, there was certainly bullying (and I, being small, near-sighted, and socially awkward, came in for more than my fair share), but bullying really wasn’t a big deal the way it is now.  For one thing, I don’t recall a single instance of someone committing suicide in San Francisco due to bullying during my school years, and I was one of those wonkish kids who read the paper daily (explaining, no doubt, why I was targeted for harassment). Lately, though, I’ve come up with a couple of theories about the rise of bullying.

There’s no doubt that social media is responsible in part for bullying.  The fact that children can use Facebook and texting to bully from a distance makes the whole process so much easier.  It’s one thing to insult a person to her (or his) face.  That requires a certain amount of chutzpah.  It’s another thing entirely, though, to add your “like” to a derogatory comment on someone’s Facebook page.  That’s practically anonymous and gives one an emotionally safe distance from the emotional damage one is causing.

Even social media, though, doesn’t account for the atmosphere in schools that makes relentless bullying socially acceptable.  And really, when one considers the omnipresent anti-bullying campaigns that are an integral part of every schools curriculum, it seems odd that bullying is equally omnipresent.  Or does it?  Could those anti-bullying campaigns be part of the reason bullying is on the rise?  I think so.

The schools in my community perfectly exemplify the modern educational approach to bullying.  They certainly don’t ignore bullying.  To the contrary, they talk about it constantly.  They hire touchy-feely gurus to come in and have the kids “open up” about their feelings, apparently in the belief that doing so will increase the average 14-year old’s empathy.  They also have peer groups of “specially trained” students who walk around ordering other students not to engage in bullying and who are supposed to mediate school-yard quarrels.  I have it on the best authority — the kids’ themselves — that these peer advisers have all the warm, cuddly qualities of a member of Mao’s youth brigade.  Just as anti-bully campaigner Dan Savage turns out to be something of a bully himself, those teenagers vested with the power to stop bullying tend to let that power go to their heads.  (Not all of them, of course, but enough of them to make other kids sour about the peer advisers.)

Kids who are caught engaging in bullying are counseled, made to do “reparative” work, overseen by faculty members and peer advisers, and otherwise made the objects of a great deal of attention.  Unsurprisingly, when these bullies do get caught, they do not have warm and cuddly feelings towards those students who presumably ratted them out.

Oh, and here’s the really important thing to know about how schools deal with bullies:  self-defense is not an option.  The only recourse for a bullied child is to tell the school authorities.

In theory, this sounds lovely.  It does away with vigilante justice and minimizes the fights that used to be fairly common on school playgrounds.  That’s the theory.

In fact, making self-defense a crime is a bonanza for the bullies.  The alpha child with a mean streak quickly figures out that, if he acts first to create a reign of terror, the other children are powerless to stop him.  He’s figured out that it takes two to tangle sufficiently to get the authorities’ attention.  As long as he’s dishing out the bullying, but no one is fighting back, the bullying is virtually invisible at the adult level.

Schools will tell you that they also counsel children how about how to avoid becoming victims.  This is a semantic gimmick.  To the extent the schools “teach” children how to avoid bullying, it doesn’t involve basic physical self-defense (which includes things as simple as walking in a confident way) or verbal self-defense (ways to take control of and deflect a potentially hostile interaction).  Instead, it’s all about “feelings.”  Well, the only “feeling” the bullied child knows well is fear.  Being told to “express” that feeling doesn’t prevent the bullying. Nor does all this “feeling” talk defer the alpha child who’s intent on doing a bit of no good.

The enterprising bully is also unfazed by the fact that the schools have rules against punishing whistle-blowers.  After all, the schools also have rules against bullying in the first place, but that’s clearly not stopping anyone.

In the old days, school yards meted out a form of rough justice: fist fights.  They weren’t common in my day, but they happened.  Two boys would hit the ground in a tangle of fists and feet, all the other children would gather around hollering “Fight!”, and, after a few minutes, a teacher would come along and break it up.  That was usually the end of it.  Fighting wasn’t encouraged, but it was tolerated up to a certain point, because it constituted community policing.  The kids took care of things themselves and, along the way, they learned how to be responsible for their own safety, rather than dependent on others.  (Please note that I’m not advocating kids beating each other up, nor am I confusing the rather innocent fist fights in my middle class schools with the brutal knife, gun, etc., gang fights that take place in America’s more dangerous schools.)

There is a perfect analogy for what’s going on in the schools:  gun control laws.  Those communities that have banned guns, and that have made even home defense a criminal act, blithely expected crime to go down.  Instead, of course, it went up.  Knowing that potential victims were helpless didn’t make criminals feel a sudden gush of compassion.  Instead, it heightened their hunting instincts.  Even the most thick-headed amongst them was able to figure out that the home robbery situation, rather than representing a risk, suddenly had all the fun and profit of hunting fish in a barrel.

On the street, the saying is that, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.  The same is true in the schoolyard, only it’s worse.  When seconds count, the school authorities aren’t there at all and, if a brave child tattles on the bully, either by telling his parents or by telling a school official, the bully suddenly becomes the center of the kind of attention that can only make the victim quite nervous about subsequent repercussions.

The best way to prevent violence is to have a population that can defend itself.  While Progressives think that everyone who knows how to fight is a potential bully, I believe that everyone who knows how to fight and who is taught about justice, morals, and decency, is a bulwark against bullying, because he can protect not only himself but also those smaller and weaker than he is.

Being honest with children, without abandoning your right as a parent to pass judgment

So much of parenting is about communication.  Because children listen with their hearts as well as their minds, that communication had better be honest.  If it’s not, your child will instantly know you for either a fool or a liar.

Being honest, though, is not the same as being judgmental.  There is a time and a place for both.  Most parents have discovered that, occasionally, passing judgment on someone or something simply encourages a child to push back, thereby turning into a fight something that ought to be a deep and principled discussion.

A good example of the way to be both honest and effectively judgmental (meaning getting your child to acknowledge your principles without pushing back) is the drug talk.  Most parents of high schoolers have made the sad discovery that a certain percentage of their child’s peers are doing drugs.  When you, the parent, hear such stories, you can be simultaneously honest and judgmental by stating your principled position about drug use.  Mine is that drug use is very dangerous for children and teenagers.  Even ostensibly mild drugs such as marijuana have a damaging effect on a young person’s intellectual and emotional development.  (You can imagine the rest of the factual lecture here, because I’m sure you’ve given it yourself.)

What the wise parent avoids, though, is leveling an attack, not against the drugs, but against the drug user.  As sure as the sun rises, if you attack an individual, your child will spring to that individual’s defense:

Mom:  Boy, is that a stupid girl to be smoking pot at her age.

Child:  She is not stupid.  She gets really good grades.

That’s the moment the parent has lost control of the conversation. It’s now going to wend its way through various pointless rhetorical pathways, with the parent trying to prove that a teenager she’s never actually met is an idiot, while the child vigorously asserts that the teen is a paragon of virtue, but for the drug use.

The better way to keep the conversation going is to offer an honest opinion about your emotional response to that errant teen, or your sense of that same teen’s emotional status:

Mom:  That’s so sad.  In her Facebook picture, she looks like such a lovely girl, but drug use, especially when you start so wrong, is damaging at so many levels.  She must be deeply unhappy or insecure to throw herself away with drug use.

Child:  How can she be insecure?  She’s always bossing people around.

Mom:  People who have a genuine, bone-deep confidence, don’t feel the need to throw their weight around, or medicate their insecurities with illegal drugs.  [And so on and so on.]

A parent who is honestly sympathetic to a child’s plight can be judgmental without forcing her child into a defensive posture. Using this technique, you can have conversations with your kids about hard topics – drugs, sex, social challenges – that are deep and without embarrassment, because the kids know that the parent will honestly talk facts, but avoid labels that trigger a self-defense, or peer-defense, mechanism.

Honesty also has the virtue of cutting straight through the euphemisms all people — and especially teenagers — use to hide the fact that a certain behavior is morally wrong or simply degrading. My favorite example of this is the talk I had with some girls I was driving to a high school dance.  They were chatting excitedly about whether or not they would be asked to dance (yes, even in this modern day and age, the boys still ask the girls), and whether they should let a guy freak dance with them.

I couldn’t resist chiming in.  “You know what freak dancing is, don’t you? Freak dancing is when a strange guy masturbates against your bottom.”

From the back of the car came a chorus of disgusted squeals.  “Oh, my God!  That’s so gross.  I’m never going to freak dance.”

(Since they were in the back, they didn’t see my fist pump.)

I doubt I could have gotten such a dramatic, heartfelt response if I’d allowed the girls to think of freak dancing as “just a dance” or tried delicately to address the matter as “a sort of dance where the guy rubs himself against you.”  Also, by going straight to the heart of the matter, without waffling, I also signaled to the girls that the type of dancing they were contemplating is something that they can talk about with me openly, without the need for embarrassment.

I am consistently honest with my children, and I’ve never regretted that decision.  Even when my children catch me being dishonest (for better or worse, I’m a big believer in social lies that enable others to save face when it comes to issues that do not involve core ethics or morality), I explain what my thinking is and why I’m doing what I’m doing.  I’m the magician who shows every aspect of his tricks.  And yet somehow, the magic is still there, because my children have absorbed my morality and values, and apply them to their daily lives.

The joy of the “disabled” child

Earlier today, I wrote that fearing a bad genetic outcome is the wrong reason not to get pregnant.  Tonight, completely coincidentally, I had the pleasure of attending a talent show in which the performers were all developmentally disabled children.  It was the best show I’ve seen in I don’t know how long.  Despite disabilities ranging from autism, to cerebral palsy, to what was to me undifferentiated mental retardation, each of these performers gave his or her all to the audience.  Surrounded by love and approval, they had no stage fright, no performance anxiety, no artistic neurosis.  They just got out there and sang a song, danced, or played a musical instrument.

It is quite obvious that each of these children is a challenge for his or her parents.  Long after their siblings have grown up enough to give Mom and Dad some free time, these kids need constant supervision.  And when a brother or sister is making his way alone in the world, these children will continue to need full-time care.  I’ve known several parents of handicapped children over the years, and all of the parents were worried about what would happen to their children when the parents’ strength and/or money ran out.

Those worries are real . . . and yet!  Those kids brought so much joy.  With fully-abled children, we take their accomplishments somewhat for granted.  We expect them to read, sing, dance, play music, or whatever else.  When they do well, we applaud them, but we also think, “Of course that’s what they’re going to do.”  With the children tonight, however, everything they did exceeded expectations.  Every note sung or played, every dance step, every happy chortle was special, because these kids are special.

I feel blessed every day that my children were born physically and mentally intact.  I honestly don’t know if I would have the moral courage, not to mention the mental and physical stamina, to raise a handicapped child.  Watching the children tonight, though, I was reminded, as I often am, that disabled children are not only a greater burden, but also a greater gift to their parents than so-called normal children.

Incidentally, while I’m on the subject of children whose disabilities are offset by tremendous gifts, I’d like to recommend a website that an autistic young man writes:  Ido in Autismland.  Ido has confounded autism experts because, contrary to theories about an autistic child’s empty mental and emotional state, Ido is an academically gifted young man who is thoughtful, articulate, and an extremely good writer.  Reading his blog provides a rare opportunity to see behind the often blank face of autism.

Is a familial genetic legacy the right reason not to have a baby? No! *UPDATED*

PJ Media has had two interesting posts about whether familial genetic legacies are the right reason not to have a baby.  David Swindle passes on an article about the fact that well-known “comedienne” Sarah Silverman (I use the scare quotes because I don’t think she’s funny) announced recently that she will not have children because she and her family have a history of depression.  Silverman can’t bear the thought that any children she has might suffer the same fate.  Conservative blogger Kathy Shaidle also thinks that her family’s genetic possibilities — in her case, shortness — makes having babies a bad deal for the babies.  (Shaidle offers up a number of other reasons why she wouldn’t have a baby, all of which make it clear that she’s thought the subject through carefully and really isn’t the maternal type.)

Neither woman is concerned about a life-threatening genetic problem, the kind that mandates that the child will suffer terribly and die young.  Both are concerned, though, about traits that have affected the quality of their otherwise successful lives.  Within this framework, Silverman and Shaidle are both wrong.  There are many reasons not to have children, but their genetic concerns aren’t the right reasons.

To begin with, there’s no guarantee that a child will inherit whatever genetic problem exists in the family.  Keep in mind that babies aren’t clones.  They are, instead, the end result of thousands of years of genetic mix-ups.  My great-grandmother had fraternal twin girls.  One was six feet tall, the other five feet tall.  They represented the two genetic extremes in just one family line.  I’m five feet tall.  My (male) cousins on the maternal side hover around 6’7″.  They married short women; I married a tall man.  All of our children are clocking in at average.  Nature does what nature does.  We can make some educated Mendelian guesses about the probable outcome when a couple have a baby, but those are just that — guesses.

Things get scary when we take those guesses out of the hypothetical realm (“I’ll never get pregnant because of this-or-that possibility”) and into the realm of making affirmative decisions about those little fetuses (“I’m pregnant and I know what’s wrong.”).  On the Today Show, Nancy Snyderman, the science correspondent, waxed enthusiastic about plucking “defective” babies out of the womb:

SNYDERMAN: Well, you might learn that a child has a severe genetic problem. It gives parents a chance to decide whether they’re going to continue that pregnancy or not. This is the science of today. It is running fast into the future. And I think the future will be such that you’ll find out that your child may have a genetic hit. You can fix that genetic problem, and improve your chance, a child’s chance of having a healthier –

STAR JONES: When will you know about this?

SNYDERMAN: Well, it’s out there now but it’s too expensive.

DONNY DEUTSCH: But obviously there’s another flip side guys, there’s another flip — Look, I’m a pro-choice guy, but at the end of the day what’s stopping people, “Oh, my son is going to be blond, I want — ” You’ve got to do it for the reasons you’re talking about, but –

SNYDERMAN: I get the genetic-engineering issue. But the reality is we’ve already jumped out of that with amniocentesis.

JONES: Correct.

SNYDERMAN: So, the science is there. The problem is that science goes faster than we have these societal questions. And that’s exactly why we should have these societal questions now.

Donny Deutsch may be a liberal, but he honed in like a laser-guided missile with his question which, rephrased, is “who’s to decide what constitutes a defect sufficient to justify terminating a nascent life?”  Snyderman pretty much brushed him off.  Her answer, rephrased, was “with knowledge comes power.”

Snyderman is obviously an acolyte of the Peter Singer school of ethics/eugenics.  Peter Singer holds an endowed chair at Princeton, which means that he daily gets the opportunity to sell his views to the best and the brightest, young people who move on from Princeton to positions of power and responsibility.  This matters, because his academic output includes such books as Should the Baby Live?: The Problem of Handicapped Infants (Studies in Bioethics), Animal Liberation and In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave.  The title of that first-listed book — Should the Baby Live? — pretty much sums up the man’s philosophy:  he advocates euthanizing handicapped infants.  He is, of course, reviled by the handicapped community (and rightly so).

The moral abyss Singer creates with his euthanasia musings is highlighted by the fact that his animal liberation writings make him a founding father of the animal rights movement — a movement that’s come to full flower in PETA insanity (which analogizes the death of chickens to the death of Jews in Hitler’s gas chambers). Singer explicitly believes that a healthy animal has greater rights than a sick person.  If you need a further insight into Singer’s warped world — and let me remind you that this warped world gives him tremendous status in academia, not to mention worldwide accolades — Singer has no moral problem with bestiality, provided that the animal consents, an attitude that places him at odds with the same animal rights movement he was so instrumental in creating.

I recognize that there’s a difference between refraining from pregnancy because you, the potential parent, are concerned about a hypothetical birth defect, and aborting a baby that is actually proven to have that defect.  The problem is defining “defect,” which leads me to the second reason Silverman and Shaidle are wrong in deciding not to have babies because of family genetic histories.

The fact is that one person’s “defect” is another person’s opportunity.  For example, the Time article to which PJ Media links makes clear that there’s a connection between depression and creativity:

But what the commenters didn’t mention is that the same genes that can cause depression may also encourage the sensitivity and sensibility that gives Silverman her creative talent. Indeed, some research suggests that the same exact genetics that might lead to depression can also lead to mental superhealth, depending on whether a person endured high stress in early childhood or had a calmer, more nurturing environment.

I can actually speak to that point.  Some of you may have noticed that my blogging has dropped off in the past six weeks.  I don’t believe that the timing is random.  Six weeks ago, I started taking tricyclics to deal with chronic, aggressive, and debilitating migraines.  I’m happy to report that the medicine has worked.  My migraines haven’t dropped to zero, but having two mild headaches in six weeks is an extraordinary reprieve from the pain and sickness that was dogging me.

That’s the up side.  The down side is that I’m having a much harder time writing.  The sizzling connections that use to race across my brain and come pouring out onto my keyboard are gone.  I sense them, but I can’t grasp them.  You see, tricyclics are antidepressants.  Although I’m taking a fraction of the clinical dose for depression (about 0.1 of the clinical dose), the medicine is still working on those parts of the brain that would have produced depression and that apparently do produce creativity.  I’m flattened out.  Not completely, but significantly.

I’m currently making the choice to lose some of my creativity in favor of freedom from pain and sickness.  But it’s my choice.  I’m a sentient being and I can make these decisions.  I’m neither a “never was” that never even got conceived or, worse, an “almost was” that got aborted.  In a year or so, I’ll try going off the medicine and see whether my brain has stopped being hysterical, so that I can be both pain free or creative.  Again, it will be my choice.  I live in hope.

Oh, and that bit about hope — it’s the third reason that Silverman and Shaidle are wrong to make genetics a reason not to have children.  Medical advances mean that the same problem that debilitated grandma, and inconvenienced mom, may be nothing to the child.  Having a baby is always a gamble.  We gamble that we’ll stay healthy, that they’ll stay healthy, and that the world will stay healthy.  We gamble that, when we read a horrible headline about a school bus accident, that this type of accident will never happen to our family.  There are no certainties in life.  Just as there’s no way of knowing whether a pregnancy will result in a child with a genetic problem, there’s also no way of knowing whether, in that child’s life, there won’t be a solution.

Anyway, some things don’t need a solution.  I’m only an inch taller than Shaidle, but I’ve found it a problem only when buying a car.  I’ve ended up buying Japanese cars, not only because I like their suspension and reliability, but also because they’re the only cars that have seats that raise up enough that I don’t need to sit on a pillow.  If there weren’t Japanese cars, then I guess I’d sit on a pillow.  Other than that, and the occasional frustration when a tall person sits in front of me at a show, I’ve never felt handicapped by being short.  Heck, I’ve never even felt short.  I have a large personality, which more than compensates for any height deficiencies.  Indeed, it’s so large that most people are quite surprised to learn that I’m “only” 5 feet tall.

Even if medical advances can’t help (or pillows aren’t available), what exists within a person may well be the determining factor in that person’s success.  My uncle was a genius with four fully operating limbs — and he was a complete failure in life, poisoned by a combination of Communism and his own character flaws.  At the other extreme is the amazing, inspirational Nick Vujicic, who was born with only a single little flipper.  Nick does more with that flipper, and with his incandescent personality, than most whole-bodied people can ever hope to do.  We wouldn’t have missed him if he’d been aborted.  That is, no one would have gone around saying, “Gosh, it’s a shame that Nick Vujicic was never born.”  However, his birth, and the message of hope that he shares, is something valuable and, knowing him and what he does, we can definitely say that the world would have been less light-filled without him.

If you don’t want to have babies, don’t have them.  On the down side, they’re hard work, messy, frustrating, and expensive.  (The up side, which all parents know, is for another post.)  Just don’t use your genetic weaknesses as the justification for your decision.

UPDATE:  A true update, regarding an event I attended the same evening I wrote this post.

European Fairy Tales versus American Fairy Tales — and how they affect the American psyche and the school yard bully

I love fairy tales.  I’ve always loved fairy tales.  Growing up, I devoured fairy tale books, with special emphasis on the Disney movies, with their beautiful princesses.  My personal favorite was Disney’s Cinderella.  I saw it once when I was a child and then, in a pre-video era, all I could do was replay endlessly in my memory the wonderful scene when Cinderella’s rags are transformed into a princess’s ball gown.  When I saw the movie again as an adult, I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I needn’t have feared.  The movie was as charming as I’d remembered, and the transformation scene was a perfect piece of animation (and, rumor has it, Walt Disney’s own favorite animation moment):

The message in Cinderella couldn’t be more clear.  First, be beautiful.  But if you can’t achieve beauty, at least be a patient Griselda, one who tirelessly toils for cruel tyrants, with the promise of future reward.

That’s the theme in the majority of fairy tales that originated in the old world:  be good, be passive, and some deus ex machina figure, usually magical, will come and rescue you.  Passivity is the name of the game.  In one fairy tale after another, the lead character, usually the youngest child of at least three siblings, prevails by virtue of being nice.

The other way to prevail in fairy tales that started life in the old world was to use guile.  My favorite in this genre is The Valiant Little Tailor:

A tailor is preparing to eat some jam, but when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He makes a belt describing the deed, “Seven at one blow”. Inspired, he sets out into the world to seek his fortune. The tailor meets a giant, who assumes that “Seven at one blow” refers to seven men. The giant challenges the tailor. When the giant squeezes water from a boulder, the tailor squeezes water (or whey) from cheese. The giant throws a rock far into the air, and it eventually lands. The tailor counters the feat by releasing a bird that flies away; the giant believes the small bird is a “rock” which is thrown so far that it never lands. The giant asks the tailor to help carry a tree. The tailor directs the giant to carry the trunk, while the tailor will carry the branches. Instead, the tailor climbs on, so the giant carries him as well.

The giant brings the tailor to the giant’s home, where other giants live as well. During the night, the giant attempts to kill the man. However, the tailor, having found the bed too large, sleeps in the corner. On seeing him still alive, the other giants flee, never to be seen again.

The tailor enters the royal service, but the other soldiers are afraid that he will lose his temper someday, and then seven of them might die with every blow. They tell the king that either the tailor leaves military service, or they will. Afraid of being killed for sending him away, the king instead sends the tailor to defeat two giants, offering him half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage. By throwing rocks at the two giants while they sleep, the tailor provokes the pair into fighting each other. The king then sends him after a unicorn, but the tailor traps it by standing before a tree, so that when the unicorn charges, he steps aside and it drives its horn into the trunk. The king subsequently sends him after a wild boar, but the tailor traps it in a chapel.

With that, the king marries him to his daughter. His wife hears him talking in his sleep and realizes that he is merely a tailor. Her father the king promises to have him carried off. A squire warns the tailor, who pretends to be asleep and calls out that he has done all these deeds and is not afraid of the men behind the door. Terrified, they leave, and the king does not try again.

Old world fairy tales do not feature epic battles of good against evil, or even minor battles of good against evil.  They abandon the heroic tradition of Greek dramas or even the mighty warriors of the Bible.  Instead, they present a world of little people who prevail because of good deeds or guile.

Different scholars have theorized that fairy tales originated to keep children in line (hence the emphasis on passivity and good house-cleaning skills as the way to achieve worldly success) or as fireside stories, often quite ribald, that peasants told each other during long, dark nights (explaining the tales that featured otherwise insignificant people prevailing through stealth and guile).  Regardless of origin, the net result is a genre that instructs children that assertiveness and self-reliance are much less important than submitting to tyranny with good grace and being sneaky when possible.

American-born fairy tales are vastly different.  Of course, I use the phrase “American-born” advisedly.  Because America is a nation of immigrants, we imported our fairy tales too, which explains why every American child is conversant with Cinderella, Snow White, and Aladdin.  Nevertheless, Americans did create their own canon.

To begin with, American children dined on political hagiographies of our first leaders, with Parson Weems’ delightful, and untrue, stories about Washington leading the pack.  These tales focused on distinctly American virtues:  being honest, straightforward, and physically brave, virtues that are the antithesis of the trickery or downtrodden apathy in European tales.

American tales also dreamed big.  We had the imaginary Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill, whose size or energy literally changed the landscape in which they lived.  Real figures, such as Johnny Appleseed or Davy Crockett had their actual exploits mixed with a large dollop of artistic license, and these tales opened up the West for Americans.  Popular literature imagined dynamic, self-confident young people who made their own way in the world.  They had help, but it wasn’t magical.  Instead, it came from people who were attracted to the hero or heroines can-do spirit and gave them a helping hand.  (Louisa May Alcott and Horatio Alger were masters of this genre.)

That notion of the pushing, striving, dynamic American hero got a spectacular boost when Hollywood came into being.  Old Hollywood quickly discovered that American audiences craved big stories, with big heroes.  Western movies impressed upon Americans that America’s fictional heroes didn’t succeed because they sat around waiting for magic to appear; they succeeded because they blazed trails, fought battles, civilized the wilderness, and generally took control of their own destinies.

World War II movies also emphasized Americans’ fighting spirit.  We didn’t have endless movies about our victimization at Pearl Harbor.  Instead, movie after movie celebrated America’s fighting spirit, both at home and on the battlefield.  We had an enemy, said Hollywood, and we valiantly met in on the field of battle.

In the 1970s, Hollywood started feeling terribly guilty about the cultural imperialism in these tales and came up with the anti-hero.  That played well to a guilty middle class, but was never a dramatic trope that had legs.  The anti-hero works only if he acts . . . heroically.  Americans want the little guy to win because he’s got guts.  The artsy crowd may enjoy a Dog Day Afternoon, but ordinary Americans want to see little ole Luke Skywalker take on the empire, intrepid Indiana Jones fight bad guys the world over, or (with a big thank you to the British woman who dreamed him up) Harry Potter and Co. face off squarely against evil, and win through a combination of virtue and martial skills (all nicely packaged in some sparkly magic gimmicks).

The recent staggering success of The Avengers is just one more indication that Americans want their fairy tales to be proactive.  The characters in The Avengers are pretty (it is Hollywood after all), but their attractiveness — an attractiveness that has generated a staggering $1 billion in ticket sales — comes about because they are strong and aggressive.  They defeat the evil alien force by rock ‘em, sock ‘em, beat ‘em up action.  There is no room for negotiation, house cleaning, or even guile here.  The only “goodness” that counts is one that is folded tightly into loyalty, patriotism, and physical bravery.

The Left is busily trying to chip away at these classic American virtues.  Leftist movies have failed at the box office, but the Leftist challenge to the American virtues of physical bravery can be seen in the Left’s wholeheartedly embrace of the anti-bullying campaign.  Many have asked why bullying has seemed to be on the rise in recent years.  I think I figured out the answer when, in a casual conversation with my kids, I mentioned “school-yard fights.”

I got a surprising response to that throw-away line:  “What’s a school-yard fight, Mom?”

“In the old days,” I said (just like a fairy tale), “when kids, especially boys, would get into fights, they started hitting each other.”

“Did they get suspended?”

“Maybe.  But what usually happened was that they’d start swinging at each other.  Everyone in the school yard would instantly circle them and start hollering ‘Fight!  Fight!’  Then, a teacher would wade through the crowd, saying ‘Come on, everyone, break it up.  Break it up now.’  The teacher would then wade into the fight, separate the two kids, shake ‘em out and, more often than not, tell them to stop fighting.  And that would be the end of it.”

“That would never happen today.”

(Incidentally, I am not talking about gang fights, which are a form of urban warfare.  I’m talking about the old-fashioned elementary school playground battle, where two little kids settled the matter with some kicks and punches.)

No, it certainly wouldn’t.  The focus today is on the bully.  The bully gets suspended and the bully gets counseling.  Kids are told that, if they get bullied, they should immediately get teachers involved.  Good kids know that any type of self-defense is dangerous, as it could lead to suspension.

I hate bullying.  I was bullied when I was a child and, I’m sad to say, when I had the opportunity, I immediately turned around and bullied others (verbally).  I had a sharp tongue and wasn’t afraid to use it.  But that sharp tongue was my self-defense.  A well-timed insult, especially one that raised a laugh from the audience, deflected the bully and kept me safe.  I never ran to the teacher.  I got a reputation for being somewhat mean (which was partially deserved), but people left me alone.  Had I been a boy, I might have punched someone and been left alone.

My point is that the best way to deal with bullying is two-pronged:  First, create an environment in which bullying is frowned upon and mutual respect is the order of the day.  This starts at the top, with teachers and administrators.  In too many schools, however, teachers and administrations treat students with condescension, disdain, arrogance, or fear.  Second, teach the victims how not to be victims.  If you take away the targets, you take away a lot of the bullying.  If students see themselves as warriors, not victims, bullying will become a much less enticing activity for those who are naturally inclined to dominate cruelly those around them.

I can already hear people saying that, if you emphasize the warrior spirit, our schools will start looking like a gladiator camp.  Au contraire.  If you emphasize brutality, that’s true.  But if you emphasize the honorable side of the warrior, one that sees him respecting widows and orphans (so to speak), our schools will actually be much more civil than they are now.  I’ve never known nicer kids than those who are martial arts black belts.  They have a quiet self-confidence about them, that makes it unnecessary for them to lash out.  Moreover, their peers respect them, and feel no need to test them.

It times to take the European Leftism out of our fairy tales, and reinstate an American ideal that involves honor, strength, and the willingness to fight for what’s right.

You’re correct if you’re put off by that Time Magazine breast feeding cover

If you haven’t yet seen Time Magazine’s most recent cover, welcome back to earth from your extended journey to some other galaxy, far, far away.

To bring you up to speed, here’s a copy of the famous (or infamous) cover for you to enjoy:

The Mom pictured on the cover has promised to stop breast feeding her son before he reaches college, perhaps even before he reaches high school.

Yes, I’m lying.  She’s actually planning on weaning him sometime around kindergarten.  That, of course, is three to four years after most American mothers wean their babies.  And by “most American mothers,” I truly mean “most American mothers,” not just “those American mothers who breast feed.”  In America, almost 75% of women breast feed their babies for some period of time during baby’s first year, with or without adding solid foods to the diet.

Breast feeding is a good thing.  Moms come equipped with a natural processing and delivery system that is always ready to provide baby with a wholesome diet, one that comes complete with all the required nutrients and immunizations, and that is invariably served at the perfect temperature.  From Baby’s point of view, everything is just right:  taste, feel, smell, and cuddle factor.  From Mom’s point of view, there’s no bottle shlepping, no messy formula, and food is instantly available when the baby’s in an uproar.  Moms also theoretically loses in pregnancy weight faster when they breast feed (I certainly didn’t).  Best of all, Mom gets a chance to sit down and put her feet up.

So what’s the big deal about the cover?  I’ve already established (at least to my satisfaction) that most American women breast feed and it’s a good thing.

The big deal, of course, is twofold.  First, that kid is no baby.  Assuming healthy dental development, a normal digestive system, and reasonable coordination skills, he’s perfectly capable of eating the same food as the rest of us.  Second, that Mom isn’t bonding with her son as she stares militantly at the camera.  Nope.  Instead, she’s telling you off, you narrow-minded, prudish, salacious American you.

My understanding is that the point of the article, which I haven’t read since it’s behind a pay wall, is that Dr. William Sears has managed to convince a lot of American women that they have to hyper-bond with their child, a system that requires co-sleeping and endless breast feeding.  I was not a Sears acolyte.  I stopped breast feeding my two when they had some serious teeth in their mouths, figuring that they were telling me they were ready for something that didn’t scream when they bit down. Co-sleeping left me awake in an agony of fear that I would roll over and smother the poor things (something that, Sears & Co. forget was a common cause of infant mortality in pre-industrial Western society.)

I’ve been following Facebook discussions in which the usual crowd, after roundly castigating evil right-wing Republicans for their prudishness about the cover, go on to cite approvingly to Third World (i.e., pre-industrial societies) as role models for up-tight Westerners to follow when it comes to extended breast feeding or even ordinary breast feeding.  I made no friends when I waded into this debate to point out a few obvious things:

First, as I noted above, Americans breast feed in vast numbers, so it’s no use trying to pretend that conservatives are offended about the article just because they want all babies to drink formula from plastic battles (complete with profits going to greedy corporations, of course).

Second, women in poor countries have limited birth control options.  If they want to avoid delivering a baby every ten or twelve months, breast feeding can slow the process.  It’s by no means a perfect birth control mechanism, as many women will attest, but there’s no doubt that it does interfere somewhat with a mother’s fertility.  Mom’s over-bond with one baby so that they won’t have to have another one.  American women have other birth control choices.

Third, women in poor countries may have limited options for feeding their children solid food.  Even if there’s food around, poor sanitation often means that those women who wean early watch their children die quickly from food-borne diseases.  Where food availability and sanitation are issues, extended breast feeding may be a very reasonable option.  Last I looked, we Americans don’t have that problem.

In other words, I think the arguments people are making up to defend the photo’s apparent message (namely, that American women should emulate pre-industrial cultures when it comes to breast feeding) are silly.  The photo itself isn’t actually silly, because it’s a photo, not an argument, but you’re right if you think it’s offensive.

That woman on the cover isn’t bonding, she’s advocating.  She’s so “in your face” she practically leaps off the cover, clawing at your eyeballs.  This picture can best be analogized to a porn picture.  In those, the woman, rather than gazing lovingly at her partner, turns her seductive gaze to the camera — and to the viewer beyond.  Just as porn isn’t about love, this photo isn’t about bonding with a baby.  This is one Mom’s statement about the “evils” of American culture, nicely captured on the front page of a magazine owned and distributed by vast corporate interests.  (I so love the irony.)

The uncomfortable feeling we slightly old-fashioned romantics get when we look at that exposed breast is also completely reasonable.  Women’s breasts are wonderfully utilitarian objects, in that they’re dual purpose.  They feed babies and they entice men.  How cool is that?

The smart thing, of course, and the way our culture rolls, is to keep the two purposes separate.  Sometimes we’re in Mom mode, in which case we breast feed, ’cause it’s good for us and good for the baby, but we do so discreetly.  I can guarantee you that, despite having breast fed two children, no one outside of my nuclear family (and that includes the kids themselves) got an eyeful of me.  Feeding mode is not the same as flashing mode.  Nor was I at all inconvenienced by maintaining my [physical privacy.

When we’re not in Mom mode, our societal norms applaud, indeed encourage, showing our breasts — provided that we keep the business parts covered.  Indeed, keeping the business parts covered is important, because otherwise we suddenly depart from Western sexy and find ourselves sliding into Third World utilitarianism, where the breast is constantly exposed by Mom’s simultaneously practicing primitive birth control and disease protection on their children.  Once upon a time, these pictures were exciting for the 13 year old boy, pouring over black and white photos in National Geographic, but that day is long gone. I’m willing to bet that any guys reading this post are not feeling libidinous stirrings as they gaze at the photo below.

When all is said and done, the Time cover is nothing but a publicity gimmick, and I have to admit that I’ve fallen for it — I’m discussing the cover and its meaning.  However, I haven’t gone so far as to buy the magazine and I don’t, and will not, subscribe.  I advise you to avoid the magazine as well.  Sure, a conversation is nice, but lets not get inveigled into increasing one American corporation’s profit simply because it publishes a cover that subtly denigrates America and her normative culture.

Mitt the Bully; Obama the Bully; Every kid the bully

Let’s put aside the laughable fact that the MSM has had to go back to 1965, when Romney was a teenager, to find something bad about him (or, more specifically, something bad about him and a putatively gay person).  This ridiculous attack has naturally generated attacks against Obama and Biden, both of whom, either in memoirs or biographies, turn out to have been bullies when they were children.  Not chronic bullies, but they were mean to other children.

This is insanely stupid, and can reflect badly only on the MSM and the general Democrat establishment.  As Rhymes With Right says:

I work with kids every day.

At some point, virtually every single one of them will engage in some activity that can be defined as bullying.

That may be because of immaturity, peer pressure, or simply thoughtlessness.

Some continue their bullying behavior into adulthood, and some particularly warped individuals — like anti-bullying activist Dan Savage — even manage to find a way to justify their bullying as morally virtuous.

I distinctly (and with a great deal of discomfort) remember being a bully when I was in school.  It probably stands out in my mind because I was most often a victim.  Being a skinny, little, glasses-wearing bookworm was not a recipe for social success.  When someone came along who was an even bigger target than I was, I gleefully joined in with my former tormenters.  I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.  Was it just a child’s natural instinct to pick on those weaker?  Was I hoping to ingratiate myself with the power structure?  The answer is lost in the heavy mists of time.

What I do know is the Greg nailed it:  “At some point, virtually every single one of them [kids] will engage in some activity that can be defined as bullying.  That may be because of immaturity, peer pressure, or simply thoughtlessness.”

Watching the Dems implode is proving to be more fun than I expected.  I only hope ordinary voters figure out what’s going on, and throw the bums out.

Maurice Sendak has died, aged 83

At first, I couldn’t understand why people on my Facebook page were posting excerpts from Where The Wild Things Are.  After the third post, I realized that Maurice Sendak must have died.  And so it is — Maurice Sendak has died, aged 83.  He was a prolific writer and illustrator, but he will always be known best for inventing Max and the Wild Things.

I have to admit that, true to my contrarion persona, I was never a Wild Things aficionado.  Whatever else others saw in that short book, I didn’t see.  I didn’t dislike it.  I just didn’t view it as the greatest American children’s book since . . . well, since ever.

I do remember that one teacher at my high school used to insist that children loved the book because they subliminally picked up on the fact that Sendak had hidden in the back of his illustrations pictures of people copulating.  I never did see that in the pictures, so I must have either a pure mind or be in deep denial.  Or perhaps the book worked so well because it’s something of a blank slate on which people can see their own fantasies, ideas, and fears.

Maurice Sendak — you didn’t touch me, but I know you touched others, very deeply.  RIP.

Life does NOT imitate the Simpsons when it comes to handling bullies

From Season 1 of The Simpsons (waaaay back in 1990), comes “Bart the General“:

After defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz, Bart becomes Nelson’s latest target. Sick of the harassment and torment, Bart, Grampa Simpson, and Herman (a slightly deranged military antique store dealer with a missing arm) rally the town’s children into fighting back against Nelson and his cronies.

In real life, ten-year-old boys who try to defend themselves bullies (and, admittedly, this ten-year-old made a less than mature tactical decision), face quite a different situation– not from the bullies but from the administration:

Police say they have charged a 10-year-old Ohio boy after he told them he brought a BB gun to school to intimidate students who bullied him because he wears ankle braces and is small for his age.

Elmwood Place police Sgt. Kevin Vanover said Wednesday that the boy was charged with inducing panic after he took the BB gun to his elementary school in the suburban Cincinnati village on Monday. He remains in his mother’s custody awaiting a juvenile court hearing. No hearing date is set.

Vanover says the principal reported that some children said they saw the boy with the gun and thought it was a firearm. Police say the gun’s orange plastic tip was missing.

Did you catch that the school charged a frail, bullied 10-year-old with “inducing panic”?  Even in Marin County they’re not that crazy.  The other day, when some teenage boys were playing in the hillside wearing camo clothes and using air rifles without orange plastic tips, residents reasonably believed that there were snipers in the hills.  After a police manhunt, the boys were let off with a warning:

Twin Cities police, with help from Mill Valley police, Marin sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol, blocked traffic on Casa Buena and Meadowsweet drives as they searched for the suspect. After about 30 minutes, police contacted two 14-year-old boys with Airsoft rifles, Gorwood said.

“They were not properly marked with the orange tips,” she said. “They were playing on the hillside, shooting at each other.”

Police seized the guns and released the boys to their parents. There were no plans to seek criminal charges, Gorwood said.

Back to the original report, about the terrorized ten-year-old charged with terrorizing, bullying seems to be a lot worse today than it was when I was young.  Incidentally, I don’t have a blinkered, halcyon view of a childhood free of bullying.  As the smallest, geekiest in any school I ever attended, the kid who had thick glasses and always carried a book with her, I came in for my fair share of bullying.  And I’m very embarrassed to say this, but if a child ever appeared on the horizon who was even more of a target than I was, I gleefully sided with my former persecutors, delighted that their attention was on someone else for a change.  So yes, bullying existed back then.

But back then, it wasn’t in the papers, it wasn’t a cause celebre for every TV show or pop star and — and this is a critical difference I think — kids themselves were expected to deal with the bullies.  That’s what makes Bart the General so fascinating.  It’s the last gasp of an era that sees kids turning to grown-ups for advice, but handling the bullies themselves.  Nowadays, kids who try to deal with bullies, unless they’re lucky enough to have a YouTube video go viral, quickly find themselves in police custody, while the bully gets counseling.

I’m not advocating schools that look like Lord of the Flies, with invisible adults who make no effort to protect the children under their care.  I do believe, however, that children must be able to defend themselves.  They also have to be tough enough to take some bullying without crumbling under the pressure.

What we have here is a situation akin to those poor, disarmed Londoners.  In London, criminals know that, if they get caught, they’ll face some kind of punishment from the legal system, although it will be minimal.  They also know that their victims are completely defenseless.  For the bad guys, it’s party time, because there are no disincentives, either from the authorities or from the folks staring into the barrel of their guns.

Here in American schoolyards, the situation is the same.  Because American kids have been psychologically disarmed by Leftist school administrations, the bullies, the ones who have resisted this mental disarmament, know that there is no real downside to their behavior.  They’re like the delinquents in West Side Story who bait poor Office Krupke by telling him there’s nothing he can do to stop them, because they are society’s victims, and therefore deserving of pity, not punishment.  The American schoolyard bully knows that his victims have been trained to passivity, while the administration is trained in amateur, Leftist, 50s style psychology.  It’s a win-win for the mini bad guy.