Saturday, August 11, 2007

But it's for the children...

Samuel Johnson wrote, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” While I have no doubt about the truth of that assertion during Mr. Johnson’s lifetime (1709-1784), I have to argue that Patriotism has been replaced as the refuge of last resort for just about everybody, not just scoundrels.

To properly identify this refuge, I’m going to attempt to coin a new term – “Childrenism” – as in “Childrenism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

So, if I’m going to have the audacity to create a new term, I guess I have to offer up a working definition. Let’s try this one on for size:

child-ren-ism noun (2007) 1: any attempt to restrict personal freedom,
infringe on public liberties, or forward an agenda “for the children” 2: any use of the rhetorical question “what about the children?” to justify a weak argument 3: filler

Be honest, how many times have you listened to, or even engaged in, an exchange of ideas and you’ve heard the person proposing something truly pathetic – or even abhorrent – as being an absolute necessity “for the sake of the children”? By the way, when you say “for the sake of the children”, “What about the children?” or any other phrase associated with childrenism, you must do so with an extremely earnest expression on your face and in your voice – you know, almost whine it out of your very being.

One of the most common uses of childrenism is in the realm of censorship and broadcasting. We’ve all heard the conversation:

Self-Appointed Moralist: You have to sign this petition to the FCC! We have to make sure that these radio stations keep their language clean and stop making crude jokes!

Free-Market Advocate: Um, if you don’t like what they’re broadcasting, why don’t you just switch to another station – I mean, I’m not interested in listening to some of this stuff, either, so I just don’t

Self-Appointed Moralist: Well, yes, you and I can do that –
But What About the Children?

That’s it, end of discussion, thank you for playing, you can pick up your parting gift at the door.

Now let’s go into something a little meatier.

I have two teen-aged children attending a local public school. A while back there were two incidents, one involving some girls taking over-the-counter cough medicine to get high, the other involving a student bringing a starter pistol to school.

The school administration and PTA held a meeting with parents to discuss these incidents and address any questions or concerns we parents had. As you can imagine, there was much more of a focus on the gun incident than the cough medicine. Personally, I found the administration’s approach and answers to be informative, forthcoming, and reasonable.

Then, it happened. One of the other parents started asking about the possibility of installing metal detectors in the school. That’s right, metal detectors in a middle school in Newark, Delaware.

And why would we need metal detectors in a middle school in Newark? Why, for the sake of the children!

Like I said, I’m a parent. I have two children attending this school. If this school were to install metal detectors, it is somewhere in the realm of possibility that at some point a student bringing a gun into the school could be stopped and my children would be safer. If I oppose this idea, then am I saying that I would rather my children live with that risk hanging over their heads?

Yes, I am willing to put them at risk of physical harm. I would rather have them live with that risk than be trained and conditioned to sacrifice their freedom for some added sense of security. And yes, I’m willing to fight for the rights of every broadcast radio and television station to air whatever they think the market will bear even if it means my kids might happen to hear a few naughty words and an obnoxious shock jock once in a while.

Why? Why would I have this attitude? Why would I choose a course of action that could risk my children’s physical and mental health? Well, for starters I would rather they lived with a sense of freedom than a sense of security. I would rather they think for themselves than try to create a false world around them.

Yes, I am doing all of this for the children.

By the way, Samuel Johnson wrote something else, and this one remains true today and will most likely remain true until the end of time: “Hell is paved with good intentions.”


The Cynical Cypress said...

An Aside:
Samuel Johnson is not the originator of the "good intentions" quote. Originally attributed to St. Bernard (1091-1153), the statement began its life as "Hell is full of good intentions or desires." George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentum{1691) stated that "Hell is full of good meanings and wishings", perhaps inspiring John Ray to write "Hell is paved with good intentions" in English Proverbs (1670), which is what Samuel Johnson may have been quoting when Boswell took down his words. For what it's worth, George Bernard Shaw added a bit when he said, in Maxims for Revolutionists "Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones."

Anonymous said...

Ken, I feel similarly in regards to this new vaccine for girls/women to protect against cervical cancer.  The growing incidence of cervical cancer in this country is due to the prevalence of a sexually transmitted virus called HPV.  While the vaccine itself is not a bad thing, the underlying motivation for creating it, I believe, is so that we Americans can continue to engage in whatever immoral and promiscuous behavior we choose.  Instead of teaching our girls (and boys, of course) to behave in a morally and sexually responsible manner, many parents today chicken out.  They have the "kids are going to do it anyway, so I ought to at least teach them how to avoid the danger" mentality.  And that seems to be good enough for many parents.  Now we have another tool at our disposal (other examples: condoms and birth control pills) to help us avoid talking about the morality of premarital sex with our kids. Parents breathe another sigh of relief.

My pediatrician already mentioned this vaccine to me for my daughter, and my daughter is 6 months old.  She said when she is 11 she can get it. Maybe I'll change my mind when she is 11, but for now I think I will refuse it.

Now I realize that she could be an "innocent victim": she could marry a man who is infected with the virus, and he could infect her. Or, God forbid, she could be raped and contract this virus and develop cervical cancer.  Yes, I do recognize that cervical cancer from HPV can affect those who ARE sexually responsible.

But here's where the rubber meets the road. As a parent, I have to ask myself what message might I be sending my daughter by vaccinating her against HPV.  Although I will teach and advocate "sex only within the confines of marriage" to all my children, vaccinating my daughter might be interpreted by her as "Mom talking out of both sides of her mouth." After all, actions do speak louder than words.  If I am going to teach my children that sexual purity is morally right (b/c I am NOT going to chicken out), then they are going to understand that the consequences of such behavior also have a moral component. The GENERAL principle is this: if you live in a way that is morally right, then you need not fear the moral consequences. That which is right is right before AND after our actions and their consequences.  Having my daughter vaccinated against HPV would not demonstrate that I really believe this principle.

Many people are pushing this vaccine in the name of "childrenism."  I say, the real reason they are pushing this vaccine is because they don't want anyone to tell them how they should live. They want to be able to have sex when they want and with whom they want. And they certainly don't want anyone telling them it is morally wrong.

"What about the children?", you asked. Well, those who drive this movement don't care about the children. They're only looking for legitimacy.

Ken said...

cynical cypress -- you get an extra 50 points on the "nerd" meter -- good job on the research.

Ken said...

anonymous -- I think we've seen this shift in society from an ancient reasoning that said "it's good for the King/Emperor/Grand Puba, so you have to do it" to the modern reasoning that says "it's good for the children, so you have to do it."

Of course, the fact that few people are willing to truly question anything allows such charlatans to exercise whatever power they can gain on society.

Good observations and applications -- I think your daughter is fortunate to have you as a mother.