From Uncle Sam to Aunt Sissy

I was walking by a park recently and noticed a group of kids playing football, with parents lined up and down the sidelines of the playing field. The game was flag football and I was struck by something new. All of the players were wearing football helmets. In flag football? At the other end of the field was a playground with a ladder, slide, and jungle gym with assorted other apparatus sprinkled about. I was again struck by something, this time something missing. I noticed that this playground had neither a merry-go-round nor a teeter- totter. These two observances are not mutually exclusive, but linked. There is a common denominator here. Safety!

The addition of helmets in a game that never needed them before and the removal of equipment that had been on playgrounds for decades were both designed to “protect the children”. The well-intentioned eggheads would cite the lowering of playground incidents since the implementation of the new “safe equipment” as proof positive that their efforts are bringing about great results, but would fail to mention that no one is playing on the playgrounds anymore (Who would? They’re extremely boring now) and thus the great results. If they ever had the chance to watch me on a swing set as a kid, they would eliminate them as well (I used to swing as high as I could and then at the apex jump out, with three goals in mind; swing the highest, jump the farthest, and land on my feet without falling over).

With these two observances in mind, I began to ponder all of the ways the “nanny state” is trying to remove risks in life (as well as fun and excitement) and attempting to instruct us on the proper way to live our lives. This line from a newspaper article, “It’s all fun and games until someone breaks his glasses or gets his feelings hurt” then goes on to list traditional games being eliminated from school yards around the country; dodge ball, red rover, and Simon says. Oh my! Hurt feelings and broken glasses. They are even debating the choosing of teams; many fear it damages a child’s self-esteem. I don’t suppose anyone asked the kids. From my point of view, they’ve attacked all the fun games. Dodge ball was always a blast. Yes, you might get hit in the groin with an extremely well thrown ball, but avoiding that possibility is what gets the adrenaline pumping and the fun and excitement kick in. A scraped knee, broken arm, bruised head? We can’t have any of these!

What would these do-gooders think of kids flying through the air on a bicycle or skateboard after jumping off a well placed ramp? Or how about climbing a sixty foot tree only to quickly descend to the ground on the attached rope swing? They could chop down all the trees. Dirt clod fights? Bottle rocket wars? Jumping off the high dive at the public pool? All of these activities have risk, but all are extremely fun. When these risks are eliminated, freedom is shackled and fun is stifled.

And then there are the public service announcements that are heard on the radio ad nauseam. Most of these ads are the work of a non-profit agency called the Ad Council. The president of the organization rakes in, with salary and benefits, $651,309 while bringing in a daunting $33.5 million in revenue yearly (I’ve run retail stores that bring in more than that and I made one tenth the salary). No wonder they’re a non-profit. In conjunction with government, corporate sponsors and private donations, they run ads designed to help us all live better lives. Ads with the following titles: High School Dropout Prevention, Reading (This one is designed to let parents and children know the benefits and joys of reading and how much it will help them in later life. Wow!), Hunger Prevention (Supposedly 1 in 5 children goes hungry, which I find hard to swallow (pun intended), what with the billions of dollars spent yearly on food stamps, welfare and school lunch, breakfast, and dinner programs.), Childhood Asthma (here’s an excerpt from the ad):

The voice of a small child, with stereotypical lisp starts the ad, “There’s a monster under my bed.” The narrator then says, “For a child with asthma, monsters are everywhere.” She warns that teddy bears and bath toys can be monsters when it comes to childhood asthma and then instructs the ignorant parents of these helpless children to freeze the stuffed animals. “Mommy, I’m scared. Please bring me my teddy bear, so I won’t cry.” “Okay, son. I’ll get it out of the freezer, but you’ll have to wait a couple of hours for it to thaw out.” “Never mind. I’ll just lie here in bed and cry myself to sleep.” These groups have become masters at having little kids become their spokespersons. It pulls at the heart-strings.

There are ads on Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention, Bullying Prevention, and Buzzed Driving Prevention. One of the ads for better appreciating nature and the outdoors states, “The time U.S. children spend outdoors has declined 50% in the past 20 years.” No wonder. All the fun games have been eliminated. Why go outside?

One ad titled Dating Abuse Prevention touts that, “1 in 4 teens in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed, or put down by their partners (partners!) through cell phones and texting.” It goes on to say, “digital communication is an integral part of teens’ lives” and this “has created new challenges for teens as they start to experience intimate relationships.” Intimate relationships? Maybe that’s the issue here, not the digital communication. Thirteen is still considered a teen isn’t it? At the end of the advertisement, teens are directed to visit ThatsNotCool.com where they are “encouraged to draw their own lines around what is, or is not, acceptable relationship behavior and seek help from their peers.” So, teens are to decide what is right in a relationship and if it gets hinky, seek out their peers? Unbelievable! I won’t get into Mayor Bloomberg and the ban on sodas over sixteen ounces.

In summation: listening to these ads and efforts to eliminate all activities with risk, I’m under the impression that the elites in our government and academia think that all of us “regular folks” as the President likes to refer to us, are helpless, inept, rubes who haven’t a clue how to raise our children or live our lives. The only people who do know and the only ones who truly care are them. They work tirelessly, seeking out and attempting to destroy any and all risk in life. And we stand idly by while we lose freedom after freedom. But hey, it’s for the children!

The iconic image of Uncle Sam was portrayed on many posters during World Wars I and II. It featured a stern looking man, with white top hat and a blue and white star band, pointing a finger and boldly asserting, “I Want You”. What should the new image be? Should the top hat be replaced with a football helmet, the stern look with a whimsical smile, the rigid, pointing finger with a friendly wave, and the call to duty changed to, “I Want You to Want Me”?