There are relatively few developments in the world’s present socio-economic and cultural moment that gives me much hope–but one of them is the increased frequency in which I see people talking about this:
Insurance underwriters are merely the high priests of what has become our new American religion: the Cult of Kiddie Danger. It is founded on the unshakable belief that our kids are in constant danger from everyone and everything….The Cult’s dogma is taught diligently unto our children who are not allowed to use Chapstick unless it is administered by the school nurse, nor sunscreen, lest they quaff it and die of poisoning, nor, for the same reason, soft soap in pre-k. It doesn’t matter that these fears are wildly at odds with reality. They are religious beliefs, not rational ones….
In a society that believes children are in constant danger, the Good Samaritans are often terrible people. So, recently, when a woman in Austin noticed a 6-year-old playing outside, she asked him where he lived, walked him home (it was just down the hill), and chastised the mom, Kari Anne Roy, for not being careful enough. Then this Samaritan called the Inquisitors. Er…cops. An officer showed up at Roy’s doorstep and despite the fact that the crime rate today is at a 50-year-low, a CPS investigator was also dispatched to interview all three of Roy’s children. She asked Roy’s 8-year-old if her parents had ever shown her movies with people’s private parts. “So my daughter, who didn’t know that things like that exist, does now,” says Roy. “Thank you, CPS.”
Of course, calling out this kind of backyard hysteria for the demeaning, infantilizing, civility-destroying cult that it is doesn’t solve any problems: there is still the reality that whole private industries and dozens of governmental agencies (some federal and state, but most, unfortunately, are local) contribute to preserving the whole infrastructure of paranoia. I’ve written about this before, as have many others, so I suppose the only reason I’m (slightly) hopeful is because in regards to this trend, unlike so many others, there are still actually things individual families can do. Namely, let your children play. Make noise–and enlist other parents in making that noise–at school board and PTSA meetings. I really do believe that there are enough parents out there who still remember fondly the lack of structures and restrictions which characterized their (our!) childhood in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s that, if you’re willing to take a chance, make your voice heard, and be an example, you’ll discover an audience nearly as fed up as you are.