Posts from the ‘What’s going on today?’ Category

Guns, Mental Illness and Infamy…

Innocence LostNothing but tears for the unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations of all the victims of yet another senseless act of violence. Condolences and wishes for peace to all those parents, families and a community tragically ripped apart by yet another unfathomable and inexplicable event…

The fourth US mass shooting in the past year with a total of 54 men, women and children dead.   Over the past few decades, there have been mass shootings in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Norway, and the UK.  And not even China has been immune – though their issue is mass knifing instead of shootings.

The airwaves, television screens and internet are all abuzz with stories and theories and recriminations and calls for action. Hasty exploitive interviews with family and children and neighbours and academics and psychologists and sociologists and criminologists are everywhere – each with their own agenda to provide meaningful insight, analysis and coverage. Special theme music, a CNN phenomenon in the post-Gulf War I era, litter the media landscape – as if this sad event needed any more to stress the poignancy.

And as always in the aftermath, the pundits offer their solutions to forever end these debacles. Whatever the discussion, we need to discuss the issues in the right frame – not misappropriate them for purpose of unrelated arguments on whatever topic we champion.

The biggest argument is the persistent criticism of the US gun culture and their Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The sticking point is whether the person subscribes to the Individual Rights Theory or the Collective Rights Theory. Does it refer to the e individual’s right to own guns, or the State’s obligation to protect its citizens? There is no consensus.

Regardless, CNN reports that in 2009 there were over 310 million American non-military firearms for  305 million people – and shockingly, there were 11,500 “homicides by firearm” in the same year.

Using the 2009 ratios, proportionally Canada’s 33.7 million citizens would own 34.2 million firearms and commit 1270 firearm homicides.  But for some reason we didn’t… in 2011 there were 7.9 million firearms, and in 2009 we had 179 deaths by shooting. The numbers are much less, but sadly they are not zero.

more-guns-more-mass-shootings

I do not believe that today’s society, one that makes money – legally and illegally – from handguns and long barrel guns, will ever cut shooting deaths to zero.

For the record, I am not a gun owner – never have been one, never want to be one. But,  I do enjoy target shooting on occasion. I also understand that hunters love to hunt and do not begrudge them that. I am not against recreational shooting.

But I do believe that if you only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail.  If you carry a gun, you probably view everyone as a potential target. And if by chance an intruder into my house has a gun, I’d bet the chance of someone dying probably escalates exponentially if I introduced a second gun into the equation. I am not arguing whether the intruder “deserves” to face a gun…I am talkng about potential outcomes. I can only conclude that if I put “his already-morally-compromised back” against the wall,  I just become a nail to be hammered.  I know lots will disagree – but that’s just me; I simply poin to the Trayvor Martin/George Zimmerman episode in Florida this past summer.

Anyway, it’s a moot point: the US of A will never give up its guns. I acknowledge that.

But as offered by Nick Kristof in the New York Times, “…shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?” Maybe that will be enough.

Enough about guns.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the mental illness piece. There are so many viewpoints on this topic, too.

Here in Canada we have been trying hard to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is an uphill battle. And rightly or wrongly, we all jump to the issue of mental illness as “rationalisation” for the atrocity –  as if all mentally ill people will inevitably take up arms and slaughter innocents. That is not true.  But, if that is how we brand them, it is no wonder that no one wants to admit to mental issues. But even if we identify the issue, finding help  in this resource-constrained world is difficult.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom takes the issue head-on when she describes her son Michael. “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.”

She then goes on to discuss how her options are now limited after pharmaceuticals, therapy, psychiatry and law enforcement have been unable to control the problem effectively.  Her fear is that he is on the same awful trajectory as all those who have killed others.

Her story offers a new perspective. It is not just about guns – though I am sure that we all agree that a person with mental illness without a gun, or a knife for that matter, is unlikely to commit such a crime of the same proportion.

It is time for a serious look at how we educate ourselves about mental illnes, and how we diagnose, respond, and treat those affected. It should be a high public health priority…

And lastly… I ask what is the media’s role in all this?

In a strange internet hoax, Morgan Freeman, is wrongly attributed for a pointed citicism against the media. It wasn’t him. But I wish the anonymous author would come forward. Their is merit in their words. Sensationalization, voyeurism, instant fame. Anonymous writes on why the shootings continue:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours.

Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Three different viewpoints on the same issue – all trying to learn from the Newtown shooting and to prevent the next one.

Just like we did after the Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting, Colorado’s Batman Cinema Shooting, the École Polytechqnique Shooting in Montréal, the Gifford Shooting Spree in Tucson, the Shooting at Fort Hood, the Virginia Tech Shooting, or the Columbine Massacre…and on and on.

Dozens killed or injured in mass shooting at Colorado cinema

Gun control? Mental Illness? The Media?

I don’t know which is to blame. And evidently people with a lot bigger brains are just as confused, otherwise this would be sorted. All I know is that we need to talk about all of them, how they interact, and then we need to sort it. Hearing and seeing adults, teenagers, children – male and female –  die needlessly at the hands of executioners armed to the teeth is not an acceptable option.  And I hope that our egos and our priorities can be altered to appropriately restrict a troubled person’s access to instruments that can kill – guns, knives, or whatever.

Some say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Okay, I can’t refute that. But surely we can also add a qualifier…”People with guns kill people.” A gun definitely makes it easier…

We have to take away the means (unregulated weapons), address the causes (mental illness, poverty…) and remove the incentive (infamy, notoriety, exposure…) for those who might be inclined to kill the innocent.  If not, we will just continue the same superficial conversations – gnashing our teeth and crying our tears – over another series of senseless deaths.

And while I hope we can all take a moment to think of all those who have been gunned down during the simple act of living their lives innocently, please take an extra moment to remember the little children lost forever, and their protectors who died trying to save them. Offer what strength you can to their families and friends as they deal with indescribable pain and a despair that no one should ever have to deal with…

  • Charlotte Bacon, 6;
  • Daniel Barden, 7;
  • Rachel Davino, 29;
  • Olivia Engel, 6;
  • Josephine Gay, 7;
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6;
  • Dylan Hockley, 6;
  • Dawn Hochsprung, 47;
  • Madeleine Hsu, 6;
  • Catherine Hubbard, 6;
  • Chase Kowalski, 7;
  • Jesse Lewis, 6;
  • James Mattioli, 6;
  • Grace McDonnell, 7;
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52;
  • Emilie Parker, 6;
  • Jack Pinto, 6;
  • Noah Pozner, 6;
  • Caroline Previdi, 6;
  • Jessica Rekos, 6;
  • Avielle Richman, 6;
  • Lauren Rousseau, 30;
  • Mary Sherlach, 56;
  • Victoria Soto, 27;
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
  • Allison Wyatt, 6

Later,

ASF

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What’s wrong with this picture?

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

The furor over the despicable photos published by the New York Post continues.  It is even topping the acute morning sickness of the Duchess – though the subway story may be edged out by the prankster DJs from Australia pretending to be HRH EIIR and Prince Charles.

(Tangent…What is with the totally asinine skew on the news these days – I mean aren’t the Civil War in Syria or Egypt Uprising 2 or the Philippines Typhoon or the Palestinian UN Membership issue more compelling?)

I am sure that I am not the only one dismayed about the tragic demise of Mr Ki-Suck Han – and the complete indignity he and his family suffer through in the name of “news”.

Debate swirls over the actions of the freelance photographer who “inadvertently” snapped several photos of Mr Han’s tragedy, all while he was “frantically” trying to signal the train driver with his camera flash.

He tells his side…you can make up your own mind. So many unanswered questions. Could he have helped? Could anyone have helped?  Would you have?

I like to think I would have tried if I could have done anything about it. One thing I do know…I am sure that I wouldn’t be photographing it or phone-recording it.  I like to think that I would have been running down the platform waving my arms and yelling like a madman hoping to alert the driver. I would have tried to reach the man and pull the man up with all my might…hoping I was strong enough to do the job, rather than justifying after the fact that I didn’t try because I knew I was not strong enough to do it. I would like to think I would be like this guy…  man at railroad crossing (video)

But apparently that is not the norm…the chances of no one helping is greater than that of some stepping up.

Sociologists call it the Genovese Syndrome or Bystander Effect (video)… people do not offer any means of help in an emergency to the victim when other people are present…in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.

I have to admit, I don’t like that such a syndrome exists. Perhaps it is my upbringing as a soldier.  I can’t stand by and watch. I must act. I know all my friends are the same.

I acknowledge that inaction is sometimes inevitable. Sometimes it is beyond one’s ability to rescue someone – ie the risk to your own life is too large. That is why we look at some who have sprung into action with complete awe, they are true heroes. In such cases, recording an event to hand over the pictures to the investigators as evidence is a worthy act.

But that does not always happen.

In my opinion, the Bystander Effect is not the most disturbing thing out there. There is what I call the Tragedy Vulture. The Tragedy Vulture is the bystander who exploits the situation. The person who stands by and records the sadness, when the situation really calls for a reaction that is within the recorder’s ability. Inevitably the Vulture posts the recording on social media or sells it to the media. This is inexcusable.

Sadly, though, it seems to be a recurring theme these days: to stand by and record preventable tragedies and then publicise them.

What’s the motivation? Fleeting notoriety? Greed?

Both of these seem to be the New York Post’s motivation.

To be honest, I hope that it is that simple. I can understand two of the Deadly Sins. And though it is distressing, it is a better option than believing that these Vultures do not care about the dignity and lives of their fellow beings.

That is too depressing.

But, whatever the reason, it is a sad trend.  I hope it stops.

Later,

ASF

The 11th hour of 11 November

And still the dark stain spreads between
His shoulder blades.
A mute reminder of the poppy fields and graves.
And when the fight was over
We spent what they had made.
But in the bottom of our hearts
We felt the final cut.

                                                                      –  Pink Floyd, The Final Cut

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918.  Armistice of The Great War, the War to end all Wars.

And now, a moment of eternal remembrance. A moment to reflect, to mourn, to honour, to celebrate those who have paid the ultimate price in the service of their Country.

Remembrance Day does not glorify war.

It does not glorify death.

It does not discriminate against race, colour, creed, sex, nationality or age – just as Death does not.

And just as Death does not rest,  neither can we.

We must take the time, even if all you can spare is one short moment once a year,  to remember those who were willing to step into harm’s way – choosing to fulfill their duty by honouring the oaths they swore to their Sovereigns and Nations and fellow citizens. Whether they perished in the corner of some foreign land, or peacefully in their beds many decades after defending our way of life, they merit our reflection.

No one is pro-war, not even the soldiers.

Remembrance Day is not about War. It is about those who served – people who lived, who laughed, who loved. Remember them for who they were and honour them for the courage, duty, loyalty and integrity they showed.

Take a moment on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Given what they have done, it is the least we can do.

We will remember them…

ASF

Where did all the kids’ costumes go?

Now, admittedly I have lived in the UK for the past three years, where 31 October just means it is the last day before November – so maybe my Hallowe’en rant  has already been aired (and I do not mean I am upset over the supposed “celebration of evil” thing). Maybe living in a country that considers Hallowe’en an “American Scourge” has insulated me from the furor. If so, I appear to not only have missed the start of the debate, but I also think I have missed the “tween” sexual revolution that seems to be the cause of the latest angst…

What am I talking about? I guess if you are one of those people who closes the curtains, turns off the porch light and ignores the doorbell and high-pitched chorus of “Trick or Treat, smell my feet”, or does not parent a twelve year-old girl, you probably have no clue of what I am talking about.

For sure, I am not talking about the home-made costumes that I recall my friends wearing when I was a kid…you remember the ghosts and cowboys and ladybugs and cats and mummies. No, they were cute and age-appropriate.

Time has been kind to the boys – but what about the girls?? How many news stories and blogs have I seen on the subject of costumes for young girls?  It seems that Cinderellas and Faeries and Raggedy Anns have been replaced by Pseudo-Stripper costumes that look more at home in an Adult ‘marital aids” store than the girls’ costume department at Wal-Mart.

If you are not sure what I mean, how about this for a visual…

If everyone’s complaining about them, who is buying them?

Time for one of my tangents….

What’s happening?  Is it something as simple as believing that young girls want to – or should – emulate the options available to grown women? As one of my Facebook friends commented cynically, the Hallowe’en Party at the local watering hole was shaping up to be a “Slutty Policewomen Convention”…I am sure there were a few skanky nurses to be seen, too.

Is that we want to our daughters to use as role models?

Now I am all about hearing the other side…debate should invite discussion and growth comes through entertaining differing views. But despite several blogs on the issue, include Dan Savage’s commentary that Hallowe’en should be celebrated as Heterosexual Pride Day or Heterowe’en (WARNING: some good old-fashioned “adult” language in the last hyperlink…), I am still unconvinced that we need to “slut”-ify the costumes. I think some of the comments in his article may ring true – and perhaps some have been explored while lying on the psychotherapists couch –  but there are also a few comments I oppose (like seriously, isn’t the term “ass-less chaps” an oxymoron – aren’t all chaps “ass-less”?).

Anyway, he is talking about adults and I agree that adults are entitled to dress any way they wish – as long as they abide by popular (and legal) conventions… and if they wish to play a game of Doctor and Nurse in the privacy of their house, who am I to disagree. (I don’t care, but it is not for me… I look horrible in a nurse’s outfit…)

But…

Shouldn’t such attire stay in the adult realm?  Selling that sexualised notion to “tween” and “teenage” girls is just plain wrong.  Perhaps it is a result of mainstream media or women’s magazines or popular film or music videos. Or maybe it is just a sad second-order effect of depressingly disturbing shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or Honey-Boo-Boo (no pictures…it is just too disturbing).

Whatever it is, I am not a fan. And I guess that I will just leave it at that…

Later,

ASF

Oh Canada…Happy 145th!

I am Canadian! I like beer and canoeing and playing Hockey (that’s ice-hockey for my European friends) and frolicking in the snow.  There are only two types of dress – I am either wearing flip-flops and shorts, or a toque and a parka. And, I like to say, “Eh?”, eh?

And while the Canadian stereotype is funny…it’s so true!  We are polite.  We say please.  We open doors. We say, “How’s it going, eh?” instead of the typical international “passing each other in silence” with our heads down.

And there are so many things that are just uniquely Canadian – things that, unless you have been to Canada, you won’t get it.  Things like suicide wings, mittens with an idiot string, Canadian Tire, “tabernouche”, a double-double and an apple fritter, a wrist-shot, bumper-shining,  poutine, Crown Royal, “Oskee wee wee, Oskee wa wa”, HNIC and Double OT,  “nine-six-seven…eleven, eleven”.  We can say Homo Milk without offending anyone.  And evidently we say aboot and hoose…and we call it a zed (not zee)…

And because we are humble and unassuming , nobody knows that Canadians have influenced sport and music and film and art and science FOREVER…if you don’t know what I mean, here’s just a short list:

Steve Nash  Mike Meyers, William Shatner, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Peter North (yes, that Peter North), Oscar Petersen, Hank “I’ve been Everywhere, Man” Snow, , Bachman-Turner Overdrive…who are always Takin’ Care of Business, Lorne “Bonanza” Green, Mordecai Richler, Leslie Neilsen, Keanu…ummm…uh…Reeves, Kiefer and Donald Sutherland, The Group of Seven, Peter Jennings, Morley Safer, John Candy, Scott Goodyear, Gordie Howe, Bronko Nagurski, Norman Jewison, Lorne Michaels, Pamela Anderson, Fay Wray, WP Kinsella, Margaret Atwood, Jim Carey, James Cameron,  Alex Trebec, Sir Frederick Banting, Stomping Tom Connors…the list could go on and on.

And if that is not enough, Canada is just so beautiful…from “Bonavista, to Vancouver Island, from the Arctic Circle, to the Great Lake waters” (you can sing it if  you want)…Urban beauty and natural wonder hand in hand; a land full of natural resources, of open spaces. Of crystal blue lakes, of hiking and skiing and boating, cottage country – and BBQs!

And what does it mean to be Canadian? It means peace making and peace keeping. It means supporting the weak. It means helping friends. It means never backing down from a fight, and never giving up even if you are the underdog. It is a multicultural mosaic, not a melting pot.

It is Spanakopita on Toronto’s Danforth, Dragon Boat races at False Creek in Vancouver, a midnight ski run in Banff, watching the Blue and Gold on a sunny, but absolutely frigid -40*C afternoon in Winnipeg, kissing the Puffin in St John’s, having a few glasses of Québécois Caribou at the Winter Carnival, racing Chuckwagons in Calgary, the Maid of the Mist at the Horseshoe Falls, or a sun that never sets in Iqaluit.  It is home.

So on 1 July, I will join about 35,000,000 fellow Canadians as we celebrate our nation’s 145th birthday. Our party will be a couple of hours earlier than back home, as we party in Trafalgar Square at the largest Canada Day bash outside Canada.  Not a bad gig, eh?

To all Canadian home and abroad, I wish you all a fantasticly Happy Canada Day, eh?  For our troops in dangerous places, be safe and know we are thinking of you.

“Oh Canada!…The true North strong and free!”

PS And just so you know I am not a calloused, curmudgeonly fellow, but that I am really a softie, it is not just Canada Day…it’s a “double-plus good” kinda day. It is also my third wedding anniversary! Doesn’t get better than that!

Later,

ASF

Happy Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty…

The Queen, née Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, is celebrating her 60th anniversary on the throne.  Most people would be retiring at 60 years of age, yet alone six decades on the job…but Her Majesty, however, appears just to be warming up!  Now you may say what you want…you may be a republican, or you may be an anti-Monarchist.  But I bet regardless of your age, if you ever have the chance to meet any of the Commonwealth’s Royal Family, you will probably regress to a bashful young child.  I did…

I have always been part of the Commonwealth – my parents are from British India, I was  born in Britain and finally, I am a Canadian citizen – and I have only had one Queen. I have lived in what I guess historians will call the Second Elizabethan Era.  As a child, I remember watching the Royal Christmas Day Addresses…it just wasn’t Christmas without the Queen saying, “I wish you all a Happy Christmas.”  And when I joined the Service, she symbolised my commitment to Country and Duty; she is the Colonel-in-Chief of my Corps, the Royal Patron of the Canadian Military Engineers.   And I have met her…transfixed and tongue-tied as I was, as I half-bowed and muttered a confused reply to The Question, “And where might you be from?”.  I recall grinning ear to ear and looking like a complete idiot. “Er…ummmm…Canada, Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”)…you are my Colonel-in-Chief”…as if she did not know that…very insightful and witty banter from a guy who considers himself well spoken.  I suppose everyone reacts like that.  Or at least I hope so…

And how popular is The Queen?  To me, and many others, Her Majesty is an icon. Queen Elizabeth is Britain, and Canada, and the Commonwealth. She is the fight against tyranny – having  served during the War. She is proper British diction and High Tea. She is the stiff British upper lip in the face of hardship, criticism and strife.

And sadly, like all of us, She has felt pain. She suffered through occasions of tragedy and death, and the annus horribilus, full of scandal and strife.  It is the stuff closet-skeletons are made of and things that most of us would desperately try to keep private from prying eyes.  But because The Queen lives in the public eye, her pain and discomfort have become fodder for the tabloids and the critics and she has persevered.  Not many of us could survive that kind of scrutiny and still function – not only function but keep up a diary that would have most collapsing in fatigue. And I can only imagine the small talk she must entertain and endure while fulfilling her obligations…

And like most that serve the public, she has been the object of parody and satire.  Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious wrote an Ode to Her Majesty – not a fawning one either – and She has been parodied in bad Hollywood Movies.  Helen Mirren has played her on film – showing her human side, as has Emma Thompson who has depicted her calm response while dealing with an intruder into her Palace bedroom.

She has been on every coin I ever collected as a newspaper boy.  I have affixed her image to my letters, and I have dusted the Silver Jubilee plates that my Mother placed on the mantle.  She, or her likeness, have been ubiquitous.

She has travelled the World.  Aboriginals from many nations have danced for her and lit peace pipes or shared other ceremonies. Republicans have dropped their opposition and shaken her hand.  First Ladies have hugged her, and Presidents have blushed. She has won over countries that do not even have Royals – unless you count baseball playing ones in Kansas.

And true, she has her detractors. But yet, She and everything she represents, endure. Like everything else that survives for a long time, Her Majesty has evolved; some say the face of the Royalty has changed and that it is more in touch than ever before. The British Monarchy has even embraced Facebook. And with 60 years on the throne, she is still going strong.  I don’t know many other figureheads that have done the same – at least not in my lifetime. And whether you like the idea of a monarch or not, you still have to admire Her Majesty’s dedication and service and longevity. It is leadership by example.

With her colourful hats and her matching coats and frocks, she walks among her subjects and others; wherever she goes, Her Majesty becomes everyone’s Queen.

And even if you are not a Monarchist or a citizen of the Commonwealth, take a moment to enjoy the history of the Day. For my part, I will enjoy the Jubilee. And as I am lucky enough to be in London for the Jubilee, I will raise a glass and toast my Sovereign and my Colonel-in-Chief.  And I will sing the second verse to the Anthem – as surprised as I was to learn there was one! Even if you do not know it, do not fret.  You can send your best wishes with four simple words…

God Save The Queen.

Happy Diamond Jubilee Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”).  Long may you reign.

Later,

ASF

Laissez-faire or Beatings? The two Extremes of Fast-Food Parenting….

My wife and I were travelling by plane a while ago.  Just after the pilot extinguished the seat belt sign, the aisle and area near the front door became a children’s daycare.  Children of all sizes and shapes started running and crawling and jumping in the aisle, blocking passengers from getting to the restrooms. Now, some of you will say I was only distressed because the kids were preventing the attendants from dispensing the miniature bottles, but really…they created a totally unpleasant atmosphere for anyone in the cabin over 30. (Anyone under 30 was too busy with their iPads, iPods and other i-Ignore-U devices.)  Most of the passengers were really annoyed – sharing that beseeching look of “Please. Someone stop this!”  But no one did anything – especially not the parents. What was the parents’ reaction?  Incomprehensibly, it was support, encouragement and the annoying cluck, cluck of “Aren’t they precious?”  Shockingly and sadly, I have run into the same phenomenon at restaurants, cinemas, grocery stores, shopping malls – almost every place where children are allowed.  What the heck is going on?

But honestly, while I may be perturbed by the children’s behaviour, I really was dismayed and angry at the parents.  What were they thinking? How could they possibly believe it was okay  to have little Johnny spread-eagled across the airplane aisle, screeching at the top of his lungs for his soother? There were not enough 50ml bottles of airplane liquor (1.7 ounces for my Imperial-based friends) to deal with this!

I ask myself, why does this happen – especially when I am in a confined space with no escape route?  I read an article in the UK Telegraph (Children out of Control: Britain’s new brat pack by Kate Mulvey) and thought – Bang on, Kate!  She contends that the issue is not the kids; kids act within the boundaries, or lack thereof, set by the parents. She blames the Me Generation’s mommies and daddies. Parents focused on self; parents who allow children to set the boundaries to compensate for their inattention and poor parenting skills; as if treating their children as peers equals good parenting.

Sometimes I wonder who is calling the shots – the three-year old or the 30-year-old. When I was a kid there was absolutely no doubt who called the shots in our house!  And, though it was a long time ago that my kids were that age, I can’t ever recall letting them run around like savage children  – annoying other passengers or patrons with the antithesis of “seen but not heard”.  No, my kids were socialised to the world and understood there were places that were playgrounds, and places that were not.

My kids fit into the dominant culture and adapted – not vice versa.

Lately, the issue of children’s behaviour has become a hot topic in   the UK. The “iffy” Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) mixed with last summer’s riots (particularly as the majority of the violators were hoodie-wearing minors) produce an intense bonfire of emotions centred on effective parenting.

The argument underway now whirls around Britain’s law that limits corporal punishment, and how it prevents parents from controlling their children.

From Wikipedia (and yes, I know it is not authoritative – but the dictionary definitions make me swallow my tongue),

Corporal punishment involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with an implement

(You can imagine how bad the dictionary definitions were!)

And the UK is not the only country thinking about corporal punishment for minors…tranquil New Zealand – the Home of the Hobbits and peaceful shepherds – held a referendum on the corporal punishment question – whether to slap or not to slap?

Seriously, what century is this?  What are we – in a Dickens’ novel?  Do we bring back the workhouses for unruly children? What happens when we bring the children home from the maternity ward – the Government issues all parents a leather strap and a rubber paddle?

I mean, is it ever alright to hit a child? Ever? Some will say that every rule has an exception, but this one is pretty absolute to me – forget corporal punishment.  I believe that effective tough love cuts out the need to train children like scared Pavlov’s dogs.  To me, corporal punishment is a cop-out. It lets a parent or guardian deploy the Bomb before they have even tried to use diplomacy.  With the “let them do whatever they want” technique at one end, corporal punishment is at the other end of the “I-want-parenting-to-be- easy” spectrum.

It’s ironic, that when my wife and I went to the SPCA to adopt our cats a couple of years ago, we had to fill out a lengthy, intrusive questionnaire that asked about our lifestyle, our care plan and our commitment to the cats. It was reviewed by the SPCA powers that be, and after a few days of anxiety, we were deemed trustworthy enough to care for cats.  And I know from friends that it is a much more intimate, intrusive and harrowing process for those who wish to adopt a child.

But, to have a child naturally demands no scrutiny.  All that is needed is the coupling of a complementary set of reproductive organs – no forethought, no plan, no education, no commitment. You need more than that to get a driver’s licence.  That isn’t right.   Many potential parents may not have what it takes to raise children with the care, affection and occasional tough love that is required. They need to prove they do. Why don’t “wannabe” parents need a child-raising licence? Wouldn’t a simple pre-conception education/certification process save a lot of grief for society, aid agencies, the prospective parents and the soon-to-be conceived child?  Aren’t the needs of the child just as important as the rights of the parents? Is it really too intrusive?

I admit that I was not a perfect parent – there was the occasional overindulgence, the extremely late bed time, one too many Happy Meals, the occasional missed bath and woefully, the Tooth Fairy fiasco.  But my kids always had my time and my love – including tough love. When they were little, they always knew when they had overstepped the bounds.   They knew it through a cross word or the”time-out”, always followed by an age-appropriate explanation when the time was right.  And now, they are well adjusted young adults, who I hope learned from my example. They learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t – with no need for smacks, backhands, switches or belts.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was never too hard.

So in the future, when you are suffering the hysterical cacophony or exasperating disruption of the wayward child, perhaps you should curb your desire to discipline the child.  Maybe, just maybe, it is the parents who would behave better after some corporal punishment…

Later,

ASF