Friday, June 3, 2011

Essay: Fear Mongers

Fear mongers - a word that in and of itself sounds slightly terrifying.  

I hate fear mongers.  I hate how they approach life with a righteous sense that the worse that can happen not only will happen, but is probably happening right at this moment.  I hate the people who think sexual predators lurk around every corner, in every park, waiting to snatch their children.  Seriously, there is about one-millionth of one percent chance of a stranger kidnapping a child.  But that doesn’t stop the fear mongers from blathering on about “Stranger Danger”.

I hate how politicians use fear to sway the populace into accepting fairly one-sided compromises, exchanging freedoms and liberty for a fake sense of security, while the politicians reap monetary rewards from the fallout.  I hate the woman who freaked out in Walgreen’s because my 8 year old daughter waited patiently for me in the car.  She ran around shouting, “There’s a child trapped outside!”  Why?!?!  Because of fear!

I hate how the media uses fear to boost ratings.  It must be a conscious choice - they even made a show called “Fear Factor” to hook into the current national fear.  I hate how every minor incident gets more publicity now that previous presidential elections.  A child just got snatched!  A woman is missing!  Lightening struck the same man twice!  Honestly?  The child was taken by a parent in the midst of a divorce.  The woman decided she did not want to marry the worrywart of a man. And lightening?  Don’t stand next to the man who keeps getting hit - it’s really not that hard, since he lives in rural Colorado.

But what I hate the most about fear mongers is not how much they are screwing up the present, but how they are screwing up our futures.  Because of the fear mongers, parents teach their children to be scared of the world, instead of curious about it.  Helicopter parents hover around their children, not letting them walk to school alone, play alone in a park, or walk around their own neighborhood  because a Stranger might get them.  These parents refuse to have their children do chores, learn how to cook, make their own beds, or clean anything for fear that “something will happen”.  After all, the home is the number one place for accidents, right?

These parents have kept their kids wrapped up, with a bow on top, for so long that  these children have no idea how to function.  They do not know how to make decisions - they cannot even choose their own clothes.  They do not know how to be responsible - their parents force them to act responsibly without letting them choose or learn responsibility, without letting the children actually be responsible.  They have no coping skills for when the world does not go their way - their parents run ahead and pave the road for them, so these children never learn how to cope.

What happens when these pampered trophy children become adults?  How will they handle the world, handle life, when they cannot even handle their own laundry?

3 comments:

  1. I really like this talk on "Dangerous things you should let your kids do."

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html

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  2. To be fair, there are reasonable and unreasonable safety precautions. I don't have a lot of patience for those articles that say things like "In my day we never wore seatbelts and we ate lead paint and we turned out just FINE!" But there's a balance to be struck. I want my kids to make smart decisions, but not be afraid of the world.

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  3. Exactly, Tara! I want my kids to be brave enough to go out into the world, and not cower in fear, indoors.

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