Destruction of property

As we were driving back to the ‘burbs from an outing in San Francisco today, we saw a rare sight:  an older lady nattily attired in furs.  Standing near her was a young woman, screaming into the lady’s face.  The children were mesmerized.  First, they’d never seen furs and, second, the spectacle of a public screaming intrigued them.  As we drove past, they asked why the women were fighting.  Mr. Bookworm said that they could just be two women who knew each other, but he and I also posited that the young woman might be a stranger who launched a verbal assault against the fur-clad woman simply because the latter was wearing furs.

The kids were perplexed.  Mr. Bookworm and I explained that in the old days (a la I Love Lucy), lots of women desired and wore furs.  We also explained that, while some furs (such as mink) were harvested pretty much like chicken, other furs were the product of very inhumane trapping (foxes) or clubbing (baby seals).  We also explained that the anti-fur people had gotten more and more aggressive, to the point of throwing paint all over women’s fur coats, regardless of whether they were farmed fur or fur obtained through more brutal approaches.

What fascinated me at that point was my daughter’s comment about the paint throwing:  “That’s a really good idea.”  And in a way she’s right.  I think it was the risk of paint more than anything else that stopped a generation of women from wearing furs.  It just wasn’t economically viable to wear a $20,000 fox coat and take the risk that it would be destroyed in an instant by someone wielding a pot of paint and then vanishing into the crowd.

On the other hand, if my daughter accepts that the paint strategy was a good one, she’s also accepting that it’s perfectly okay to destroy other people’s property to achieve your goals — and that way lies anarchy.  My husband may be a liberal, but he owns a car and a house, and he perceived the same problem with her delighted acceptance of an “end justifies the means” philosophy.  We therefore asked her to imagine whether it was okay for someone who does’t like global warming to smash up our car — while we’re in it.  Or for someone who thinks it unfair that she has luxuriant hair, while sick kids go bald, to cut off her hair on the street.  Those examples, which hit close to home, brought her to an awareness of the fact that we like to think that our property is (and should be) inviolable.  Our next step with her is to brainstorm ways to change policies with which we disagree without personal attacks or destruction of property.

All in all, though, the whole conversation was interesting because it showed me how easy it is to convince children that violent attacks and property destruction, because they are effective, must be good — assuming that you agree with the end goal.  It’s a reminder that, because there’s little reason to believe that Ayers has changed his ideology, and he’s been very vocal in his belief that his violent tactics “didn’t do enough,” we really do need to be vigilant against seeping Ayer-ism in an Obama administration.