Curtain Raiser

Teaching the Kids Well, Colltalers

Explaining the Great Swindle of 2016, and how Americans fell so easy to the Con of Trump, is now a full-time job for those in the business of the ‘yes, but.’ Sure, there were the Russians, the hackers, money in the campaign, a corporate-serving media and an uninformed electorate.
But adding it all up and more hasn’t been enough to provide a definitive set of actionable answers many seek. A few psychiatrists threw the mental card on the table – is the president really fit? Yet others brought up an intriguing theory that offers fresh insights: bad parenting.
Pointing to flaws in the way kids are raised in this country, it traces a correlation between political apathy and either overprotective parental interference, or full neglect. All helped by a mostly uncritical educational system, and demands of a gadget-driven social media culture.
Before going further on this venue, though, it’s worth mentioning that this is no theory. Not yet, anyway. Like the punditry of the Trump administration by prominent psychiatrists, invoking parenting to explain matters of government is no serious academic research, and books and studies in the matter are yet to be published. Apart from several articles, there hasn’t been any scientific endorsement of this approach.
Neither there are sociological papers on the matter and, as far as it’s known, no academic institution has promoted research on such subject. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth delving into it or that one day, it won’t branch out as a scientific theory. Let’s hear it from the moms, then.
Several books about raising kids, written by Americans living in mostly contemporary European countries, focus on their radically different approach to parenting. The works often sound like indictments to values we hold high, and end on a similar note: we’re spoiling our children, preventing them from experiencing life as it happens, and imbuing them with false notions of safety and ultra-rigid moralistic attitudes.
To jump to the conclusion that all this ‘helicoptering,’ and puzzlingly almost irresponsible, culture of raising insulated kids is what has eroded our collective common sense, or that it boosted racism, class struggle, and political alienation, is a stretch. But when the president himself is accused of sex misconduct by 20 women, and

has publicly defended wife-beaters and white supremacists, any theory is worth taking a look.
Thus one mother was shocked to witness a kid being beaten by another on a Swiss schoolyard, with no intervention from officials, another was startled at a scheduled parent-free sleepover at her four-year-old’s German school, and a third couldn’t accept that in France, she could not drive her child to school. To them, such nonchalance toward violence, or underage public nudity, granted calling child protection services.
Except that they were not in the U.S. And considering Americans who had children unjustly removed from home, due to an unfounded, and anonymous, call to the ACS, only to see them thrown into a deeply flawed foster care system, we should all be glad that it wasn’t an option.
So, for the most part, they all survived, and adapted, and their children thrived, arguably better for the experience of living overseas, all brutal cultural differences notwithstanding. At the very least, they’ve got a valuable insight on why the current generation of American kids seems so uninterested in taking active, flesh-and-blood part of social themes relevant to their era, while struggling with issues of isolation and fear.
It’d be easy to judge on prejudice, and sanctimoniously, conclude that, in the light of street violence, pedophilia, and countless other dangers the young faces everyday in America, is the Europeans who need to wise up and catch up with the new realities. But then Trump happened.
Suddenly, the nation that used to hold its leaders, at least while in public office, to a supposedly higher standard of behavior and correctness, demanding its presidents to be sworn-in with a hand on a bible, decides that it doesn’t count any longer with the 45. All (moral) bets are off.
And for almost two years now, that’s all we’ve been doing: giving breaks to the bully-in-chief, publishing his every fart of a thought as if breaking news, and allaying his disturbing, and terrifyingly dangerous, threats to the press, other nations, and the entire world’s survival.
It’s not new in history that proud nations and powerful empires have fell prey to more determined, albeit smaller, conquering armies. Pretty much every indigenous, native peoples in Asia, Africa and the Americas, were relatively easily vanquished by invaders often with a fraction of their numbers, scientific grasp and even spiritual enlightenment. It’s a puzzle anthropologists are still to understand about the Discovery Era.
But just a couple of years back, an American president with no discerning mental brilliance other than that of a snake oil salesman, who’d brag that he could kill a man on 5th Ave and still manage the votes to get elected – lying and subtracting some of the real factors that lifted him to office – would be unthinkable. Let alone someone who may have been helped by a foreign power, and got richer while at it. And yet, he is.
What was lacking for so many Americans and prevented them from putting up a bigger fight against such a huge threat to a political regime, that although far from an ideal Democracy, has still been instrumental for a U.S.’s rise to world leadership for over a century and counting?
Was it something that can be traced back to schoolyards and playgrounds carefully designed to prevent bodily harm, and a generation raised on preventive measures to avoid conflict, and skills taught to divert violence and cruelty? Why then this is also a nation that simply won’t even report daily gun massacres of innocents, and despite its economic might, has a rising poverty level comparable to the developing world?
Why a country of children being forced by parents to share their most precious toys with strangers, still votes for an individualist, whose inheritance of wealth and lack of empathy to the less fortunate should disqualify him from even attempting to run for office? And why in the birthplace of Women’s Lib and the #metoo movement, the president is still favored by a large swatch of white, urban, professional women?
Would it be our rush to shield our young from the unpleasantness of sharing the world with strangers what’s making them to altogether shut it off? Is that why they’re so addicted to tiny screens broadcasting a glamorous reality they increasingly deem themselves unfit to belong to?
Is that the same principle that breeds anti-abortion zealots with no interest in applying for social service, so to make the option they hate so much someone else has chosen, less appealing? Is it the same oven baking notions of tolerance-zero to moral flaws, as long as they’re not of a certain race, class, and gender? Is it there where the war on drug addiction gets its funding, while the drug addicted get their early graves?
And yet, there’s the yes, but. Yes, we need to investigate all reasons behind this catastrophic perfect storm of electing an incompetent to lead the world. But we also need to let our children play and be children on their own for a change. Even if the busybody next door may report us.
If there’s something that can be applied to both is the power of repetition. We teach our kids to brush their teeth as many times as necessary, so they will brush their teeth as needed. Why not hammer the administration, over and over, with the few, but crucial issues, that are relevant?
Mr. President, you’re lying. Mr. President, let’s talk about those charges against you. Mr. President, why are you promoting policies that are proved to be harmful to the environment and the future? Mr. President, Mr. President, Mr. President: shut the hell off now and listen to us.
Repeat, repeat again, don’t let the conversation change, don’t get distracted; tell them again what’s important, just like you’d do it with your own children. They will lie, and may even become skillful liars. But they need to know the difference. And that they don’t fool you or anyone.
For those thinking about the difference, one is set for tomorrow, at midnight: party people may decide to extend Carnival or Mardi Gras beyond Fat Tuesday, while the devout start their 40-day penance. Whether just having fun, or getting set to feel guilty, we still have kids to raise and a country to run. Let’s make sure the former are ready to make the latter a better one. Let’s set the best example. Cheers. WC


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