On the pernicious tyranny of innocence

18 04 2007

Of all the many, many ways the Victorian Era played merry hell with our culture, the one that has done the most harm is this manufactured notion of innocence, this cult of the child that creates an idealized, romanticized and utterly neutered ideal. That ideal has become even more pronounced in American culture today, with the resounding battle cry forever resonating, ‘Won’t someone think of the children?!’. In response to that cringeworthy question, I have both an answer, and an observation.

Answer: Too many people think about my children. They’re none of your business, Mrs. Lovejoy. There are too many adults shrieking like moral scolds about every infraction against ‘common decency’ in their endless quest to turn the entire world into a G-rated playground with every ride expressly approved by Focus on the Family for consumption by anyone, no matter her age.

What I find baffling is the willful blindness. Do these arbiters of all things suitable for children actually know any kids? Do they not remember what they were thinking about at six, ten, fourteen? Where do they propose drawing the line on violence, sex…truth? Is it okay to watch documentaries on the Holocaust, but not a TV show where two men kiss? The solution is all too obvious to them: ban it all. Ignorance is bliss. If they just believe it hard enough, the power of their blind faith will rewrite reality so that everything, everyone, everywhere is safe and shiny and milquetoast because why shouldn’t a little kid be free to watch HBO at 11 pm on a school night without fear of seeing a breast? Surely we want our children to be ‘safe’, and to preserve their ‘innocence’.

Surely we want our swaddled children to never hit any kind of wall of reality where their deliberately obfuscated, carefully constructed innocence dissolves in a hail of man’s inhumanity to man?

But there’s the problem, isn’t it? There’s no arguing that the world is ugly. No matter how much you want it to be otherwise, it can be a total horrorshow. That kind of horror is what the scold set would like to shield our children from, but that’s only part of the truth. True beauty is every bit as ferocious as true cruelty. As edgy and real and magnificent.

So what’s a mom to do? Communicate. Judge each show, movie, news program, book on its own merits, and realize the MPAA has an agenda that just might not match up with yours. Don’t freak out when your child asks a controversial question, or sees something in a movie or show that you’re not expecting. Talk about it. I’ve gotten more ‘teachable moments’ out of surprise exposure to ideas or images I wasn’t quite ready to share with the kids than just about anything else.

I also suggest reading Harmful to Minors by Judith Levine. It might shock you, outrage you, and then change the way you look at kids and sexuality forever.

Oh yeah – I mentioned an observation, didn’t I? Here it is:

Stop using my children to promote your agenda.

Every time you pass some asinine piece of legislation that narrows our culture, every time you force businesses to enact ridiculous policies, every time you speak out against ‘the homosexual agenda’ forcing itself on kids, every time you say we have to preserve ‘traditional’ family values, you are hurting my children.

Get that? Let me reiterate. You are hurting my children. You are bubble-wrapping their world, and you are depriving them of the moral context that gives them the power to make the nuanced decisions and choices that lead to real humanity. You are trying to turn my brilliant, funny, ferocious children into automatons.

Ultimately, when it comes to my own kids, you’ll be unsuccessful, but what about all the others? What will this world, this culture look like in twenty years? I like to think we’re starting to see the FoF mindset coming apart at the seams (because unnatural constructs are fragile at best) but it’s hard to be hopeful.

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2 responses

18 04 2007
Kevin

That we actually expose our nation’s children to reality so that when they step out into “the real world.” They have already developed tools and skills to help them carve out their own niche.

Ugh! America, teach your kids that a glass of wine with dinner is acceptable at age 13, so when they turn 21, they don’t feel the need to binge drink.

30 04 2007
phydeaux speaks

In this over-coddled and -medicated world, it’s nice to be reminded that not all parents are afraid to expose their spawn to the realities. Let’s hope yours realize sooner, rather than later, that they are lucky to have you as a Mom.

I like your place and plan to return often.

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