Our Paranoid Society is Too Hard on Kids — and on Parents

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In the latest sign that America has gone stark-raving nuts at the expense of its parents and children, the Rochester, New York Democrat & Chronicle reports that a “mother faces child endangerment charges for letting her 10-year-old hang out in a Lego Store while she shopped elsewhere” in the same mall.

Not a week goes by without a report of parents getting arrested, or having their children seized by social workers, for the “crime” of letting them walk to or from school or a local playground.

Despite the fact that violent crime — including crimes against children — has been on a downward trend since the early 1990s, we’re constantly propagandized about the danger of letting kids out of our sight.

Despite the fact that parents these days almost uniformly educate their kids on how to respond to being approached by strangers (don’t talk to them, don’t get in cars with them, move away from them, scream bloody murder if they touch you), the conventional wisdom is that our malls and playgrounds are veritable buffets for hordes of predators.

But that’s not true. According to Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids (citing US Justice Department Statistics), of the 800,000 children reported missing in the US each year, only 115 are “stranger abductions” (most are teenage runaways and 90% of abductees return home within a day).

I’ve been through this kind of freakish security theater myself. When my youngest was five, he wanted very badly to walk to and from the local deli and buy his own lunch. It made him feel very grown-up. And since the deli was all of 500 feet away over low-traffic residential streets, I let him do that a couple of times a week.

The first few times I secretly followed him to make sure he looked both ways when crossing the street and didn’t talk to strangers. After that, I waited on the front porch for him to return, with an ear cocked for any hint of trouble.

Then one day he was picked up by two strangers who scared him into entering their car.  Those strangers — police officers in uniform — drove him home and chewed me out for letting him make the short journey “unsupervised.” They weren’t pleased with my response, but fortunately chose not to escalate the nonsense when I pointed out that it was, indeed, nonsense.

Most of us who are, say, 50 or older, remember childhoods in which we were substantially free to wander within a reasonable distance of home. Our parents gave us rules, of course, but it was understood that roaming one’s community was part of the process of growing up. They didn’t worry about us unless we were late for dinner.

These days, allowing a kid to leave the house alone if he or she isn’t old enough to drive is treated as a bad idea at best and, at worst, as criminal neglect. That kind of fear-mongering is bad for kids, bad for parents, and bad for society. Let’s stop encouraging, even demanding, parental paranoia.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Who’s That You Called Dangerous, President Trump?

A crew works on a Minuteman II in its launch f...
A crew works on a Minuteman II in its launch facility. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 6, CNN reports,  “President Donald Trump chided North Korea for its recent missile tests, saying it is ‘behaving in a very very dangerous manner.'”  Particularly motivating Trump’s expression of angst was this week’s test of the Hwasong-14,  which the North claims (and the US seems to believe) is “capable of hitting any part of the world, along with nuclear weapons.”

But since Trump wants to talk about dangerous behavior, let’s.

Kim Jong Un’s regime has, in recent months, test-fired a handful of missiles harmlessly into the ocean.

Only two months ago, Donald Trump ordered the firing of 59 missiles at military bases situated on the territory of a sovereign nation with which the US is not at war (Syria).

The US government is worried that the North may be close to developing the launch capability to hit the US with one of its 13-30 atomic fission weapons boasting explosive yields of up to the equivalent of 30 thousand tons of TNT

The US, by the way, possesses nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons with yields of up  1.4 million tons, and 450 Minuteman 3  ICBMs to carry them. It’s also the only nation on Earth that’s ever used atomic or nuclear weapons in war.

North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950 and hasn’t invaded another country since.

How many countries has the US invaded since then? There’s not room here to list them all, but right off the top of my head I can think of six just since 2001 (Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria). The US maintains military bases in more than 70 countries around the globe.

North Korea’s army numbers nearly a million, armed with obsolete weapons and equipment, who haven’t been tested in combat for nearly 65 years.

The US military boasts 1.3 million active duty troops, with state of the art weapons and equipment, who’ve been hardened by a decade and a half of near-continuous combat deployments.

The US military’s annual budget is more than 20 times North Korea’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product.

Who’s that you called dangerous, President Trump?

It’s true that the North Koreans have been working hard to develop nuclear weapons and a long-range missile capability. Who can blame them? Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi gave up their nuclear weapons programs under pressure from the US government, which then proceeded to overthrow and kill them. Apparently Kim Jong Un would rather die of old age than from making the mistake of trusting Donald Trump.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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