sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

February 11, 2013

Cotton Mather Parenting

Filed under: Bay Area politics, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:59 pm

With the push for gun control under way the stories about children punished for pretend play involving guns are pouring in.  Iowahawk calls it what it is, government-sponsored and media-promoted hysteria:

Lefties are fond of lecturing (and writing books, and plays, and movies) about the famously dark days of McCarthyism, where right wing Bircher paranoiacs supposedly were looking for a ‘Red under every bed.’ I suppose to a certain extent they had a point, but the sum total impact of that brief 50’s reign of terror seems to be that a couple of Hollywood writers lost screenplay deals.

Contrast that with our new age of left wing paranoia. Now that the national boogie men are Gunnies rather than Commies, there ain’t no bed, or closet, or playground safe to hide from our brave safety crusaders. No one is above suspicion, and so holy is their cause that even crayon-scrawled representations of Demon Gun must be banned. Obviously, we have to arrest children precisely because it’s For The Children. Welcome to New Salem, with the Reverend Piers Morgan as our new Cotton Mather.

Some individuals were living this hysteria for years if not decades.  Here is last year’s advice column from J, the Bay Area Jewish weekly.   First the question:

We thought we’d skirt the issue with our pro-peace, “use your words” and gender-neutral parenting, but alas, our 4-year-old boy wants a gun.  We cringe at the thought, but can also see that he has never wanted anything else with this kind of intensity. Help! Puzzled in Piedmont (Piedmont is a tonier East Bay suburb, – ed.)

Being pro-lasting peace, pro-gun and into gender-functional parenting (I made this one up), I would advise the PIPs to think about the nature of their son’s intense emotions and question their own deeply ingrained assumptions about society.  This would be an honest thing to do because leftists profess to believe that babes have a lot to teach us about the world and that it’s always good to question received opinions.  The columnist Rachel Biale, however, issued a different verdict:

On gender issues, I advise parents to offer, as I did with my children, a full spectrum of toys and activities without gender-pegging: boys with dolls, girls with hammers, etc. I have never encountered parents flummoxed because their daughter wanted a gun. (Please let me know if your experience is different!)  I myself remember vividly how I insisted on playing soccer with the boys and wanted a bow and arrow for Lag B’Omer.  My father was a carpenter and physicist; in those days in the kibbutz you could be both. So he made me a beautifully carved bow and explained the laws of physics governing the arrow’s trajectory and speed.  I even announced in third grade that my name was now Danny and I was going to be a boy.  It lasted till fourth grade, but never in that whole period (nor before or after) did I want a gun.

All snark aside, her dad sounds cool.

I grew up in a culture where toy weapons were commonplace.  I was a girly girl, and I don’t remember myself wanting plastic guns, but I’m pretty sure I played with them every now and then.  If Robert Louis Stevenson is any authority on the subject, boys and girls do play together, often exploring marshal themes.  His absolutely cheek-pinchingly darling poem Marching Song from “A Child’s Garden of Verses” features “great commander Jane” who gayly leads the boys on a war pass.  I take it Ms. Biale’s childhood was not much different.  For one, she implied that it would had been normal for a kid in her community to ask for a toy gun.  And for another:

Our kibbutz was on the Jordanian border and guns were part of everyday life. This is still the case in Israel today. Soldiers on their way to and from home carry a gun, as do other security personnel. But when it came to raising my children here in the United States, without even noticing, I adopted the common American Jewish aversion to guns. (Jews have the lowest gun ownership rate in America.) I, too, felt very uncomfortable with the idea of my son playing with guns.

Whatever happened to multiculturalism?

I do believe boys love toy guns so much because they offer an important avenue for mastering aggression through play. Pretend combative play — cowboys and Indians, space aliens and humans, cops and robbers and superheroes armed to the teeth — is important for  the maturation and “civilizing” of boys.  Allowing opportunities  for play that channels aggressive fantasies reduces the amount of actual aggression toward other kids.

Do tell.  It probably helps to reduce the amount of inwardly aggression as well — if am to take a guess.

That said, it’s important to uphold your values and recognize when something is too uncomfortable and disturbing for you.  It’s perfectly fine to let your child know there are things you find objectionable and don’t want in your house. For example, some parents feel this way about pet rats.  We told our son: “We really, really don’t like guns.  They hurt and kill people.  We don’t want one in our house, not even a play gun.”

The antiquated United States Constitution tells us nothing about the rodents, but, for all I know, the vastly superior founding document of the European Union might have something to say on that subject.  I can see not wanting a rat, but, on the other hand, what if there is a near-extinct specie of rat, and a family gets both a male and a female vermin and tries to get them to breed?  What do we think about that?

But we did let him get a  sword. Why?  Mainly, because it didn’t make us cringe in the same way a gun did and let him deal with aggression through play.  We explained: “Swords are a bit like old tales from ‘Once upon a time.’ A long, long time ago, people used them to fight. But, nowadays, people don’t use swords to kill.” No doubt there is a bit of rationalizing here, but this offered a middle ground we could live with.  Our son, after graduating from swords to the World Wrestling Federation, abandoned these pursuits and grew into a very peaceful, unaggressive person, who does his “fighting” for justice and civil rights in the court of law.

Just about every family I know is cool with plastic swards, but wants no gun toys.  Why, what’s the difference?  One is a lethal weapon and another can shoot blanks?  Nothing against swords or wrestling, but target shooting does promote patience and concentration.

I have no idea what Ms. Biale means by “‘fighting’ for justice and civil rights in the court of law”, but countless books were written on the subject of verbal aggression in Ashkenazi diaspora.  No amount of verbal aggression absolves a man (or a woman) of the moral responsibility to defend himself, his friends and family.  And by “defend” I don’t mean “litigate”.

What does the sword-and-wrestling diet do to children anyway?  I’m not claiming to know what the youth of today think about the 2nd Amendment, but it’s useful to turn to the guardians of the illicit, namely Urban Outfitters, for clues.  Here, at Edge of the Sandbox, we don’t pretend to understand where irony ends and self-loathing begins when it comes to Urban, but the firearms-related gimmicks, currently occupying their sale racks, are hard to ignore.

Shot glasses — Get it? Get it? — are on sale for $7.99

A cooler. I don’t know about that one.

“Freeze!” ice tray is my personal favorite. On sale for 7.99, accompanied by a very interesting video

For a good measure they had a grenade decanter. Being a middle age vino, I don’t know about this one either.

Either the kids sense that guns are not as bad as their parents told them, or they are being defiant or both, but they are not indifferent to the allure of fire arms.

Here is my previous post on anti-gun agenda placement in Parents magazine.  Koch brothers, either one of you, where art though?

UPDATE: Linked by Legal Insurrection — many thanks to Professor Jacobson.


December 17, 2012

The Drama Obama

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:24 pm

barack change

Fellow Americans, how would you like to change for your President?  After all, his better half warned you four plus years ago that Barack will require just that from his subjects.  The public might overwhelmingly believe in the constitutional right to bear arms, and the Supreme Court seems to think that the Second Amendment actually means what it says, but Barack says “change!”  How can we be of service?

There’s been a lot of drama in the Obama administration lately.  The damsel in distress that is his Secretary of State will not testify at Benghazi hearings due to fainting, and the President himself has been crying quite a bit.  He cried the night before the election, for instance.  He was touched by the devotion of the low-paid workers who worked for his campaign.  Barack cares.  Perhaps not for Brian Terry and his family, and we all know that he’d rather hang out with fans in Vegas than deal with the fact that we have a murdered ambassador.  But speaking at a vigil for the victims of the Newtown mass shooting, our President didn’t waste time shedding tears while advancing his anti-gun agenda.  Mind you, that’s before any of the victims were buried.

He’s anything but shy about advancing his agenda.  Four years ago, many of us considered health care the third rail, and yet Obama went in to advance the cause of nationalized health care.  Shredding the Second Amendment should be trickier than passing Obamacare.  For one, unlike 2008,  the GOP now controls the the House.  Gun ownership is popular, and it is in the Constitution, plain and simple.  But I’m looking forward to seeing more of the crying Obama.

April 4, 2012

Repeat After Me: “The Constitution Is Supreme Law of the Land”

Filed under: politics, society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:43 pm

Over at No One of Any Import, Linda was saying that surely Barack Obama knows that it’s Supreme Court’s job to interpret the law, and that when he opined that to declare Obamacare unconstitutional would be unprecedented, he simply appealed to the ignorant masses.  I’m not sure what he knows.

Steven Hayward (via Instie) makes a point that Barack Obama’s knowledge of the Constitution might very well be limited to applications of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.  If I know anything about graduate education in the United States, it’s that it’s so compartmentalized that the students too often forgive themselves lack of general knowledge.  Given his background, I kind of doubt that our President read the Constitution.  For all we know (and we know very little about his schooling) he was never required to read it, and it was simply not a cool book for him to pick up, not like Rules for Radicals or anything.

I do want to know more about our President’s schooling.  I want to know what classes he took in college, I want to read his senior thesis.  My mind keeps drifting back to his Austrian language gaffe.  Considering that much of his schooling took place abroad, what was he required to learn there?  It is possible that he went to a very excellent private Christian school, but it’s also possible that he was stuck in a third world hell-hole with no good teachers.  It seems to me that any American familiar with the history of WW2 would tell you that Hitler was from Austria, a country where German is the spoken language, which Nazis annexed in 1938.


1938 Cartoon depicting annexation of Austria. Obama didn't know?

The Constitution is doubtlessly popular with the Tea Party crowd, but all too often the Left looks beyond it — to international law, human rights, or whatever other doctrine they see more suitable for their goals.

Five years ago, when I worked in immigration, we had a citizenship client, a student at UC Berkeley who looked for help in connection with his criminal record (Oakland police stopped his car and seized a bag of marijuana).  One of our attorneys, a Hastings graduate in her mid-20s accompanied him to the naturalization interview.  At the interview he was asked “What is the Constitution”, to which he replied something along the lines “It’s our rights”.  The attorney defended his answer at the interview, and when she returned to the office, she was still adamant about it.  I had to point out that while the Bill of Rights is a part of Constitution, the answer is not exhaustive.

There were no surprises at that interview.  Immigration services provide the list of questions and answers ahead of time.  Our lawyers read them.

According to my former co-workers, immigration is the kind of glamorous field where all law school grads want to work these days, even though there aren’t a lot of jobs, or at least not yet.  So my former employer got the best and the brightest.

Anywho, I can easily picture Obamster not knowing about Marbury v. Madison.

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