Sunday, March 8, 2009

Generational Dysfunction

I'm often amazed at the huge differences between my life growing up and that of my now 16-year-old son and daughter (not twins, separate mothers). I remember getting up on a summer morning and heading out the door by 10am (I slept longer than my friends, they were waiting for me at 9am). I was 10 years old. My orders were thus: "Be home when the street lights come on". What simple freedom. We played all day, went on expeditions, ate whatever the nearest mom would make us for lunch and didn't stop until the street lights came on.

Fast forward to 2002. My son can play outside as long as his mother or I (I adapted to this strategy after our divorce in 2000) can walk out the front door and see him before getting to the curb. It was only after he was older that he could leave my general sight line. Even then, he had to take a walkie-talkie along in case I got worried. The walkie-talkie would usually get abused in that I would get strange, foreign-sounding messages from he and his friends. I don't think they were tormenting me, just being playful and totally oblivious to the purpose of the walkie-talkie.

We live in a culture of instant news. We have all grown accustomed to the horrors of child abduction in distant communities and have responded by restricting the freedom of our own youngsters. We have nationalized our feers. They are no longer based on those of our immediate community. Our kids are learning that what happens in a New York burrough could just as easily happen at home. We have denied our kids the freedom to enjoy the liberty of living in a "chosen" community, one that we purposely chose because of the schools, safety from crime, ease of getting to friend's houses, etc. Why have we gone to the trouble?

Our kids don't know the true freedom of having liberty. They only know the cautions that we expound to them every time they walk out the door. In other words, they may as well live in a New York burrough for all the freedom that they can enjoy.

We have contributed to a break-down of the sense of community in our children by our own fears. These fears have been bred by the nightly newcasts which sensationalize every single dread that we can dream of. But it gets worse. By hammering our kids with all these worries, which may or may not be well-founded, we have degraded their own sense of community.

It is time to rebuild our communities on a level of trust. We trust that our concerns mirror our neighbors' concerns. Our local banks reinforce that, our local government reinforces that and our schools reinforce that. We go about our lives with a sense of true liberty and freedom. Freedom to not worry about our kids every minute of the waking day when they are out of our sight. Freedom to believe that they will learn everything in school that we were once told was important. And the freedom to create their own lives in their own communities with the very same support system.

We have nationalized our news, we have nationalized our banks, we have nationalized the support structure that every community needs to thrive. It's time to take our communities back and demand local support. It worked when I was 10 years old.

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