Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thinking about the New Generation

I was driving to work on Friday and I saw something that I've seen many times, but never gave it a thought.

Part of my usual route takes me through Lexington, MA the "home" of the American Revolution. There's a T-shaped intersection that has a crossing guard who directs traffic as well at certain times. One road is a relatively busy street. The other road has a school on it. I always try to get to that intersection before the crossing guard comes on duty because she tends to back up traffic. By the way, the street has a traffic light.

I got a slow start on Friday and indeed the traffic was well and truly backed up. I sat and watched something that gnawed on me the rest of the day. There was a boy about 12 years old riding his bike on the sidewalk of the busy road. He had on all the paraphernalia we make kids wear before they can ride a bike including a helmet, fingerless gloves, knee and elbow pads.

As he approached the intersection, the crossing guard motioned him through and he got off the bike and walked it across. He did everything right and even smiled at the guard. For some reason, though, he became a metaphor for some of what's wrong today--I know a heavy weight to put on a kid's shoulders.

When I grew up so many years ago, we never wore protective gear to ride a bike to school. Maybe we walked a bike across an intersection, but usually not. We were expected to look both ways before crossing and get ourselves to school. Where I grew up, we didn't have crossing guards (your mileage may differ) even on busy streets.

Our parents loved us just as much as I believe this kid's parents loved him. But, they knew life had risks. Today everybody seems to want to roll kids up in bubble-wrap and make sure they never get a boo-boo. Schools punish the bullied kid who finally throws a punch more severely than the bully.

All of this and more strips away American ideals of self-reliance and independence. Our kids can't ride a bike without donning armor, they can't even cross a street until a person in authority gives them the nod, they're not expected to stand up for themselves.

With such attitudes is it any wonder that so many Americans are gun-fearing wussies who don't trust themselves to even touch a gun. Who want high-tech "safeties" added to guns to make them safer. Who want to solve crime by simply passing yet one more law--including taking guns away from the people who do use them responsibly. Who want to get rid of any concept of self-defense--after all, the police are there to protect you (like the crossing guard who always screws up traffic).

As I said, that's a lot to put on pleasant looking kid who was just going to school. Still, I wonder what our society will be like when people who weren't raised believing that all risks can be eliminated are no longer here.

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