'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

22 August 2011

Freedom and Independence vs the Illusion of Safety

Is it just me, or have we forgotten how to be great? We've forgotten what freedom really means, we've forgotten how to rely on ourselves, and how to take care of others. We've forgotten how to work hard, and how to be creative. My opinion is that we have beaten the independence out of our society through fear tactics, leading to the almost total acceptance of a nanny state to "protect" us.

Let me explain:

In this modern era we have become fanatical about the "protection" of our kids. Every one says that "it's so much more dangerous now then it was in my day!" But is that really true? And does it necessitate the driving of 17 year olds to school every morning? It's no wonder we have an increasingly dependent society when we don't allow our children to grow up understanding what independence actually means.

According to the figure from the Department of Justice, via the FBI, it's most likely safer today then it was when I was a kid, even though the FBI keeps telling us that if we take our eyes off our kids they will obviously be taken from us. So, lets go over the numbers, shall we? I chose aggravated assault, as they don't have numbers tracking kidnapping. Kidnapping isn't assault, per-se, but as it is a physical attack by one person on another, it seemed to be the closest number by idea that was tracked. As my kids are 5 and 7, I decided to use 6 as an average age. The Six was 6 in 1965, I was 6 in 1985, and 2009 is the last year data is available. My oldest was 5, but, eh, close enough for government work right? So, here we go.

Year California population Assault Rate

1965 18,602,000 26,581 .14%

1985 26,365,000 101,185 .38%

2009 36,961,664 99,681 .27%

Population change between 1965 and 1985: +29%
change between 1985 and 2009: +29%

As anyone knows, statistics can be manipulated to show what ever you want them to show. I'm tracking something here that isn't exactly what I want, and it is an overview, and therefore tends towards generalizations. However, all that being said, what I see up there is that when I was a kid I was more likely to be victimized, by statistics, then my kids are now if we moved back to Cali. Generalizations aside, my point is that we are always more concerned with the safety of our children then we are about ourselves. We have the view that we can take care of ourselves, yet our children are on the verge of catastrophe. Understandable, perhaps, but destructive when that fear is taken to an extreme.

There is a website that I follow that helps to confront this alarming trend, FreeRangeKids. On there I learned about a town that has made it law that kids under 12 cannot be outside of the family yard without a parent. I've not verified that information, but it doesn't surprise me. I was inspired to write this post as I'm sitting on an AF base, listening to silence in my hotel room. It's silent in here because my kids are outside playing. They went down the elevator, by themselves, to the park outside. They know the boundaries of where to go, and where not to. Last night they came back up of their own accord for dinner, and again for bed. They keep an electronic card safe in a pocket, they make it through a card reader security door, and up the elevator. In an era where seniors in high school still get driven to school by Momma, this is an oddity. And yet it is also killing us. There are more and more studies coming to the conclusion that the lifestyle we currently lead is causing a number of catastrophic issues to befall our kids, some of which is just as destructive as the feared kidnapping would be. The above links are just three that cover just vitamin D, and they cover areas from MS to autism to bone health. Vitamin D, the vitamin your skin makes from exposure to the sun, is dangerously deficient in most Americans, and our kids are suffering for it. My own kids show symptoms, and I'm in the process of changing our actions to attempt to better their health.

Beyond the danger of a lack of sun exposure lies other issues. Obesity, lack of imagination, over dependence on electronics and parents, and a lack of social development are all connected to being on leash at all times. Social interactions (interactions with kids outside their age group, social interactions without an adult leader, interpersonal problem solving without adult interaction, conceptualizing group dynamics, development of leadership abilities without adult leadership), gaining insight into others actions (learning who is dangerous, and why, learning how to avoid dangerous situations, learning how not to be a victim), problem solving (how do I climb a tree? how do i get my ball out of the tree? how do i play in this same area in a new way, cause I'm bored?), and the most important thing our kids are losing: how to be independent, and how to want to be independent.

We teach our kids that they need us, and without us they are in danger. Except then we are angry that they won't leave the damned house already! Well, duh, they were never transitioned into not needing an adult. In the past there have been social ways to tell a kid how and when to transition from their parents, and it happened at a fairly early age. How many people over the age of 40 talk about their childhoods in terms of where they wandered, on their own, and with whom? It wasn't with Mom and Dad, it was with the neighborhood kids. In my generation, I still rode down to the park on my own, and yet the school bus refused to let me off at that same park because it was on the other side of the street from my house. I had to wait to the very last stop so they could drop me off on my side. God forbid I cross a street at the age of 10.

I still fight the how of the problem. I live in Hungary, a decidedly scary place in idea for me. The cold war ideas of the East still linger in my mind. Fear of my kids being abducted still linger in my mind. So how do I move past this fear? One step at a time, I suppose. We will only be in Hungary for another 6 months, 2 of which will be snowy. I'm not all that keen on my kids walking to the park on icy streets on their own just yet, so that leaves the next 4. Part of my fear in Hungary is also the language issues. Back home if the kids run into problems they can communicate with a near adult. Here they are on their own, as most likely any adult they com into contact with won't understand them. The third issue I have is the dogs. Though the dogs are behind gates, they are all trained to be very aggressive, and even make me nervous. They seriously bother my youngest and I certainly don't want him to be terrorized into disliking dogs!

So, I understand that there aren't always perfect answers to all questions or problems, but there are certainly better answers then putting out kids into perpetual jail. Kids deserve freedom, and they deserve to gain their independence. It is their birthright and I owe it to them.

It is easy to see how this institutionalizing of "safety" has caused an entire country to assume that they can't take care of themselves, and that no one else can either. We need the government, you see, just like children need adults. I'm sorry, but the last time I looked my Daddy stopped holding my hand. I don't need the government to take his place.

As a follow up on both the FBI statistics, and the idea of kid safety, FreeRangeKids wrote a great article on child abductions not too long ago. It's a great read, and it piggy backs on the idea that we are fighting here, that American's somehow need a government program to save them from the dangers of society. Really, society isn't all that dangerous. All the government is doing is to make is SEEM more scary then it actually is. If I think too much about the laws that steal my kids childhood from them I get, er, rather irate.

~The DO


Six said...

Nice post kiddo. You could even put a 2A spin on this and say that we tend to be a more frightened because so many parents refuse or are legislated out of armed defense of their family. A frightened parent is an overprotective one.

Blue said...

Quite frankly, I believe that the government is dangerous...

Excellent article. I was having a similar conversation with one of my employees this afternoon. The thought process has changed, for sure.

Sarge said...

Excellent post Sweetie.

As I read through this I couldn't help but think back on my childhood.I was six in 1951. I remember my sister walking me to the first grade (2 blocks) for the first couple of days of school. Then I was on my own and it seemed like I had to walk for ever. Then I discovered the ditch and the minnows in the ditch. Got my butt kicked for coming home with wet muddy shoes and cloths. My mother would ask where have you been? schools been out for two hours.
As I got a little older I love to fish and the river was about 4 miles from my front door. There was no ride available, so it was either walk or hitch hike. Many is the day I accepted rides from perfect strangers. Just told them where I was going and rolled down their back window stuck my fishing out through the window and jumped in the front seat and away we went. I was never bothered by anyone. I did the same thing when I got older and wanted to go to town. Never never was I worried or molested it was just unheard of when I was growing up. I'm not saying the danger wasn't there it just never happened to me while growing up.