Being Human

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

—I Corinthians 13:11

I think I’m becoming an Anglophile. Besides watching Doctor Who obsessively, learning Monty Python routines by heart, and reading both P.G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams a great deal, I generally prefer the British version of things to the American version. There is something about a British accent that makes everyone sound smarter, drier and most importantly, wittier. Jeff Foxworthy said that the downside to having a Southern drawl is that people mentally deduct ten points from your I.Q. upon hearing you talk. With English people, it’s just the reverse. People have asked me if I’m British, but I’m not. I just speak eloquently.

I’m getting very tired of the way we coddle children. I’m not just talking about making them buckle up and forbidding them to watch scary movies. I’m talking about everything from checking Halloween candy for razor blades to sex offender registries. I know of no recorded cases of razors being found in candy (when you think about it, it would be pretty hard to get away with that) and frankly, if someone is really determined to harm a child, forcing them to live 2,000 feet from a school isn’t going to stop them. One state even shot down a law forcing sex offenders to stay inside and turn off all their lights on Halloween. Why don’t we just tar and feather them every day for the rest of their natural lives? Even if we make the crucial distinction between a sex offender and a pedophile, the latter group has enough on their plate after being saddled with a sexual orientation that they can never act on. Yes, parents have the right to defend their children, and a person who harms a child should be locked up for a good, long time. But if there’s one thing we learned in the wake of 9/11, it’s that strong emotions, no matter how justifiable, are never a basis for rational policy-making.

It’s gotten to the point where even harmless adults often come under suspicion just for treating children like children. Watching old TV shows, I see scenes where a woman coming home from work will see a lonely child sitting on the steps of her apartment building and invite her in for a cup of hot chocolate. How benign is that? But it would never fly today. Some people see childhood as a blissful, carefree time. It was not like that for me. I was plagued by neuroses that I’m only now beginning to understand. Even with my parents, who were not overly protective, I often felt like everything I touched was padded, as if I couldn’t even go outside without a lecture about stranger danger. To my knowledge, the rates of abducted or molested children have not gone up in the past few decades. Yet our own fears have skyrocketed.

I’m not one of those people who believe that what is old is good simply because it’s traditional. By the same token, I dismiss the notion that something that is modern is superior just because it’s new. I’m fairly skeptical of new technology. I don’t own a smartphone, read physical books rather than a Kindle, and have a Facebook but am constantly trying to reduce my usage. We live in an exhibitionist society, a place where the more connected everything is, the better. This runs counter to my notions of privacy and personal space. Only a tiny handful of people have seen me naked. Their number is likely to increase over time, but slowly, and only when I’m ready.

Here’s a trivia question: What is Columbo’s first name? I’ve watched quite a bit of that show, but I have yet to hear anyone mention it. He has a wife who we never see and a boss who gives him all the rope he needs. Today, we’d get scenes of him missing his child’s birthday party due to being wrapped up in his work and getting into fights with his superiors, who regard him as a loose cannon. Is today’s model better? I think not. Imagine House if it were produced in the 1960s. Cuddy and Wilson wouldn’t even be in it. We’d have scenes of House treating the patient, scenes from the patient’s personal life, and that’s it. Maybe there’s something to be said for the soap opera elements of the show, but I think they’re just background flavor. The mystery is what keeps us watching.

Most people would rather stay within their comfort zone than accept something challenging and new. Even close friends of mine often react violently when I say something with which they agree, but use slightly harsher language than they would have. Such arguments are a waste of my time. I don’t spout platitudes, and the curse of my existence is that I’m right about everything, but nobody listens. That has to change. I’m not going away, and the only choice that any of you have is whether or not you’re going to make room for me in your lives. Don’t think of it as being forced to renounce your most deeply-held values. Think of it as growing up. We don’t have to agree on everything, just don’t tell me I’m worthless for saying something that makes you uncomfortable. Freedom is more important than happiness. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we can all be happy.

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One thought on “Being Human

  1. This is an interesting blog today. I can’t really explain why we are instinctively so protective of our children, other than that the first time we see them they are so tiny and helpless and we parents know it is our responsibility to keep them safe and well until they can do it on their own. A lot of our fear is because TV and movies show every possible horrible thing that someone can think of to do to another human being, and I always say that these shows give bad people more ideas that they hadn’t thought of yet! When I was a kid, someone did put foreign objects into Halloween candy. There were also cases of drugs in the candy. A girl named Susan Nason was kidnapped from Foster City when i was in elementary school and that made an impression on local parents.
    Parents will worry and protect, but I think your blog reminds us that there is a line between protection and smothering.

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