I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. Last Friday I wrote Government /= Adulthood, from which I will repeat here:
Quite while back I quoted one Jeffery Gardener from an April 27, 2005 Albuquerque Journal column, “Save Us From Us.” In it Gardener said:
During the 1992 presidential debates, there was a moment of absurdity that so defied the laws of absurdity that even today when I recall it, I just shake my head.
It was during the town hall “debate” in Richmond, Va., between the first President Bush and contenders Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.
A grown man – a baby boomer – took the microphone from the moderator, Carol Simpson of ABC News, and said, in a fashion: You’re the president, so you’re like our father, and we’re your children.
See? My head’s shaking already. Where did that come from? Would a grown man have told a president something like that 100 years ago – or 50?
We’ve got our wires crossed, and our ability to accept responsibility for our lives – once so ingrained in our American nature that President Kennedy felt comfortable telling us to “ask not what your country can do for you” – has been short-circuited. We’ve slouched en masse into an almost-childlike outlook: You’re the president, so you’re like our father.
The fact that an adult – on national television, no less – would say this and later be interviewed as though he’d spoken some profound truth struck me then, as now, as more than a little absurd. It was alarming.
It’s still alarming.
In today’s USA Today was a letter from G. Bruce Hedlund of San Andreas, California. Mr. Hedlund said this:
Think of our country as a society made up of children and a government made up of adults. It is up to the adults to weigh all the options and provide services in the best interests of the children.
There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start, but I will say that this attitude is responsible for the US receiving the government we’ve voted for.
This “homeland” shit that suddenly started up in the last couple years pisses me off. It reeks of the “fatherland” and “motherland” propaganda shit our enemies used throughout the 20th century. The Nazi regime was “father” to the German people. The Soviet regime was “mother” to the Russian people.
This guy is our uncle and that’s as close as I want the fucker.
I don’t need the government to be my big brother, my parent, my nanny, or my caretaker. It needs to maintain public services (roads, etc.), maintain foreign relations and the military, keep the states from squabbling, and stay the fuck out of my life.
I was doing some web-surfing earlier in the week in relation to the Obama “people are askeered” piece, and ran across a reference to George Lakoff’s book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. I found it in association with Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, which I have read. I can’t find that link right now, but what I found interesting was the reference to Lakoff’s divisor. Sowell divides people into two categories based on their “vision.” One vision, the “constrained” or “tragic,” sees humanity as inherently flawed, requiring a system of government that can constrain the worst acts of the worst flawed. The other vision, the “unconstrained” or utopic, sees humanity as perfectible, and requires a system of government that can enable the enlightened to lead us all to that perfection.
Lakoff, on the other hand, narrows his topic to “conservatives” and “liberals,” leaving out (I would argue) a pretty significant chunk of the populace. According to the Wikipedia entry on Moral Politics, Lakoff says that the conservatives are the party of the “Strict Father,” and the liberals are the party of the “Nurturant Parent.” I’ve heard it expressed elsewhere as “the Daddy Party and the Mommy Party.”
And I think there’s some validity in that argument. That’s what they’ve become. Except they’re the dysfunctional, divorced parents of the modern present, either fighting over the kids or ignoring them.
And they were never supposed to have those roles to begin with.
I have argued on these pages for years that our educational system has been deliberately dumbed-down to produce a pliant electorate. Our media has done much the same. On a fairly recent episode of Vicious Circle, one of the contributors was Tracie, a professional member of the MSM (a newspaper reporter). She mentioned that her AP stylebook instructs her to write to a fourth-grade level, for instance.
Mr. Dubois then demanded of me, “Define a ‘juvenile delinquent.'”
“Uh, one of those kids — the ones who used to beat up people.”
“Huh? But the book said — “
“My apologies. Your textbook does so state. But calling a tail a leg does not make the name fit. ‘Juvenile delinquent’ is a contradiction in terms, one which gives a clue to their problem and their failure to solve it.
“‘Delinquent’ means ‘failing in duty.’ But duty is an adult virtue — indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with. There never was, there cannot be, a ‘juvenile delinquent.’ But for every juvenile criminal there are always one or more adult delinquents — people of mature years who either do not know their duty, or who, knowing it, fail.
“And that was the soft spot which destroyed what was in many ways an admirable culture.”
Government /= Adulthood drew a few links, one from Bayou Renaissance Man. Peter’s take on it was this:
In the USA, both major political parties are equally guilty of passing laws and regulations favoring their particular interest and support groups. People wail and scream about President Obama riding roughshod over US contract and financial law to give major benefits to the unions in the Government takeover of General Motors and Chrysler; but they forget that Republicans did the same for the bankers and businessmen who supported them when they were in the majority in Congress and the Senate. Both parties are equally guilty.
If our society is made up of children, we have no business voting. Voting is for adults. If we’re adult enough to vote, we’re adult enough to demand that those we elect act in our interests, not theirs: and that means holding them accountable as servants of the people, not masters. The day we surrender to them power over us in loco parentis is the day that we’re truly screwed.
I think that day was many years ago. It’s just taken awhile for the damage to accumulate.
In the comments to Peter’s piece, Rauðbjørn of Firepower & Philosophy linked to his post, The Difference between an Adult and a Grown-up. He had this to add:
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my relationships, and why I get along so well with some people, and why others make my teeth itch. I finally came up with an answer. Those people I get along with best are Adults, Grown-ups make my teeth itch.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking, “Rauðbjørn, those words mean the same thing! Don’t they?”
My response to you is “No.” In a word, the difference between an Adult and a Grown-up is responsibility.
Now then, any schmuck can take responsibility for himself. Those who don’t are easy to spot, just sit in on a day’s worth of arraignments down at your local courthouse. Of course there are sometimes a few Adults and even a Grown-up or two mixed in, but by and large, the docket is a hit parade of 30 year old adolescents. Those too impressed by their own fart-smell or the size of their Johnson to have a care in the world, or if they care, are too broken to be able to follow the rules without a post-hypnotic suggestion and a Quaalude.
A Grown-up is someone that pays his bills, meets his rent, saves for the future, keeps his nose clean and to the grindstone. They have a dog and a white picket fence 2.3 kids and barbeques on Sunday. He is John Q. Public.
An Adult is more than this.
Jeffery Gardener in his Albuquerque Journal op-ed was exactly right: would anyone a hundred or even fifty years ago have even considered the idea of telling a sitting president “you’re like our father, so we’re your children”? And it is now not an uncommon outlook. It’s shared by the members of both major parties. They differ on whether government should be Stern Daddy or Nurturing Mommy, but they see their roles as being the Adults, and ours as being at most the 30 year old adolescents who still live at home.
Face it, sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching porn while Daddy puts the roof over your head and Mommy does your laundry is a lot easier than doing the hard work of being an Adult, much less a Grown-up, but John Adams was pretty much right when he said:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Adams said “moral and religious” but what he meant was ADULT.
Unfortunately, it has become obvious that we aren’t electing Adults, we’re electing (at best) Grown-ups. Regardless, our government shouldn’t be our parent, it should be no closer than that distant Uncle.