A few weeks ago, these signs started showing up everywhere in my neighborhood:
This is in addition to the cones, flags, and other portable signs that appear frequently cautioning drivers of children about, whether there are actually children about or not. For the record, many a time, I have driven by signs and flags demanding “SLOW!” speeds when there was no child in sight. Roads are no longer recognized as primarily serving the purpose of automobile passage; they are now considered by modern, entitled suburbanites to be playgrounds catering to the whims of their children and their particular leisure needs, to supplement the many existing parks, playgrounds, and natural reserves nearby.
One can imagine the idiocy (and eyesore) if everyone took this approach with signs, but for different classes of people who needed special protection – “Drive Like Your Grandparents Live Here” – “Drive Like Your Blind Brother Lives Here” – “Drive Like Your Cats Live Here” – “Drive Like Your Father Who Suffers From Dementia Lives Here” – or ultimately, better yet, don’t drive at all, because that of course would be the surest way to prevent pedestrians from being injured.
The unsightly red plastic signs lining the blocks of the neighborhood were not enough. Within a couple of weeks, these started showing up:
Undoubtedly, next, police officers will be stationed at every block to harass motorists who dare go over 10 miles an hour, in the event that some parent might fail to monitor their child, who might then run unexpectedly in the road, might get hit, and might get hurt. When suburbanites reach the level of insanity such that they believe motorists should bend over backwards for errant, unsupervised children, and essentially be forced to drive around speed counters, ugly signs, and cones, as if navigating obstacle courses were a natural matter of daily driving, there is something seriously wrong.
There is in fact no speeding problem in this neighborhood. To my knowledge, there has not been a single instance of a child being injured, much less killed, by a speeding vehicle. Yet, neighbors glare as drivers “speed” by at a mere 15 or 20 miles an hour, even when children are nowhere close to crossing the road, and are playing safely in their yards.
For the record, there is no problem with children playing in the streets. The problem is the idea that children have no obligation to watch for cars as cars do for children, and the attitude that children should be free to roam in whatever dangerous situations they wish, while motorists who should rightly have access to streets are viewed as unilaterally responsible for their safety. This kind of approach may be a grave annoyance to drivers, but it can be deadly for children.
There was a time when parents believed the safety of their children was almost exclusively their responsibility, and that of their children (depending on their age). Now, for whatever reason, people feel they have the right to foist the responsibility for the safety of their children on complete strangers, whom they expect to be inconvenienced, or shamed, for doing nothing more than making use of roads to drive to their homes.
These attitudes are not only irritating for those inconvenienced; it seems self-evident that such coddling would not be conducive to raising independent, self-sufficient, or responsible children. Even worse, people of this philosophy refuse to limit their ill-conceived child-
rearing coddling to their own lives, and insist that everyone participate, or meet strong-armed enforcement.
Thus, it is not surprising that the United States is increasingly a police state, in which peoples’ lives are ever the more regulated and controlled, all in the name of “safety.” Parents are not infrequently subject to violent punishment for deviation from stringent laws prescribing “security” and “order.” If you want to be a nanny-state sanctioned helicopter parent whose children will be forever be dependent and incompetent, you are free to do so and will find that society encourages your methods. However, if you would like your children to exercise some independence or self-reliance, or alternatively, you for other reasons fall short of the stringent dictates of the state’s child-rearing policies, you should surely fear for your fate.
Recently, Debra Harrell of North Augusta, South Carolina was jailed after she left her nine-year-old daughter at a park for several hours. Ms. Harrell is an employee of McDonald’s. For most of the summer, her daughter played on a laptop at McDonald’s while her mother worked (making use of free wi-fi offered by the fast food chain). When the laptop was unfortunately stolen from their home, her daughter asked to play at the park while her mother worked instead. Ms. Harrell provided her daughter with a cell phone, and allowed her to play at a park. On the third day of this short-lived arrangement, adults who had seen her daughter alone at the park called the police. Ms. Harrell was arrested (more here).
Not so long ago, another father from Pennsylvania, Govindaraj Narayanasamy, similarly faced legal consequences when he was charged with child endangerment for leaving his 6 and 9-year-old children at a local park while he went to Walmart and LA Fitness. He returned between 90-120 minutes later, but a woman had noticed the children by themselves and called the police (more here).
Of course, not all parents who are punished by the state are glowing examples of responsible parenthood. In June of this year, Eileen DiNino, a Pennsylvania mother of seven, died in jail while serving a two-day sentence for her children’s truancy from school. She had incurred substantial fines for her children’s absences from school, and served the sentence as a result. Her children may have had a wayward mother before, but now they have no mother at all (more here). Such stories are not uncommon. Another mother in California, Lorraine Cuevas, was sentenced to 180 days in jail for similar violations in 2012.
In another instance in 2012, a mother from Arkansas was charged with a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a minor, after she made her child walk 4.5 miles to school as punishment.
In another egregious incident in 2012, William Reddie of northern Michigan found himself in trouble with the police and Child Protective Services over an allegation that the scent of marijuana was detected at his home. Police alerted CPS, and Mr. Reddie became agitated when CPS attempted to take his son (more here). This escalated into police shooting and killing Mr. Reddie. It should be apparent to sensible people that a father who smokes marijuana is better than a dead father, and a mother who tolerates truancies is better than a dead mother; but sensible people can be few and far between these days.
No matter how minor of the offense of the parent, the general public seems comfortable with police intervention, jail, and violence as the “solution.” Ironically, when police abuse, beat, taser, throw flashbang grenades at babies, and/or kill children, they are viewed as heroes, and in those circumstances, the blame still falls on parents who were not in compliance with state regulations and various nonsensical draconian measures.
Everywhere in the U.S., people are embracing the idea that children have no obligation to learn how to navigate dangers, and that the responsibility for their safety falls not solely on their parents, but on total strangers, and that anyone not in compliance with nanny-state parenting styles should have to answer to the police, through violent mechanisms of arrest and/or criminal charges.
This seems particularly absurd in the United States, where violent crime has been on the decline for five years; total crime has been on the decline since 1990, and violence experienced by children has also declined.