Fear and paranoia are the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the master manipulators. Those who seek to control human behavior for their own ends know that when people are afraid they become slaves to their emotions, losing all sense of logic, reason, and perspective. Governments have used this weakness, this inherent frailty, to convince people they cannot be kept safe and secure unless they voluntarily surrender their rights while sending their sons (and now their daughters) off to fight and die on distant battlefields. Corporations have discovered that fears of all types can add extra juice to just about any kind of advertising campaign (buy this product and keep yourself safe from intruders, germs, the disapproval of your neighbors, etc., etc.), and of course industry has become quite expert at using their workers’ fear of losing their jobs to exact numerous money-saving concessions.
When ruling institutions are able to inculcate their subjects with fear and paranoia, convincing them that some terrible danger is lurking or imminent, it becomes possible to control people in a subtle and highly efficient way. Get people to do what serves your interests voluntarily, based on their fear of the consequences if they don’t, and you will never have to worry about trying to force anyone to do anything against their will, which can be a messy way to go about your business.
The news media/entertainment complex is another powerful interest that has learned how to exploit and promote fear and paranoia for its own benefit. The old axiom from the news industry about how “if it bleeds it leads” is based on the recognition that the public, in their heart of hearts, are obsessively concerned about crime, and when news programs feature stories about murder, rape, child abduction, carjackings, drive-by shootings, and so on, they know it will mean higher ratings every time. With the advent of the twenty-four-hour cable news channels, the situation has gotten even worse, as we now have entire programs dedicated to publicizing the latest horrific crime perpetrated against some helpless victim. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry saturates the big and small screens alike with graphic images of death, crime, and destruction, taking advantage of the public’s apparently insatiable appetite for this kind of fare. At the end of these TV programs and movies, the good guys usually come out on top, but not before prodigious amounts of blood have been spilled and the bodies have been stacked up into the rafters.
All of this emphasis on violence and death generates tremendous profits for the producers, directors, writers, reporters, and other assorted personnel associated with the creation of this type of programming. But there is a price to be paid for the media’s preoccupation with the darkness that lies hidden in the human heart, a kind of collateral damage if you will. By sensationalizing violent crime for the purposes of viewership and profit, news and entertainment media have helped to create a nation of 300 million fearful souls who are convinced that serial killers, sexual predators, child molesters, and violent criminals of all types are hiding behind every bush and in every shadow, just waiting for the chance to pounce upon any helpless innocents who are unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The climate of fear and paranoia that has been engendered among the American public by the media is largely responsible for one of the newest trends in law enforcement – parents being interrogated by police or even arrested for committing the heinous crime of allowing their children to play outside during the daytime all by themselves.
Yes, you read that right. Something that many of us spent hundreds of hours doing when we were children, playing outside with our siblings and our friends with no adults around to supervise, is now considered a crime in many parts of the United States.
When Fools Rush In…
The phenomenon of parents being arrested for allowing their kids to go outside on their own to have fun recently received national publicity when Tammy Cooper of La Porte, Texas, a quiet and safe community of 33,000 located near Houston, was removed from her home in handcuffs and hauled off to the local jail. And what, you ask, was her crime? It was something truly dastardly – she actually allowed her two children, ages six and nine, to go out to play on their scooters on a quiet street in front of her home while she watched them from inside through the window.
As punishment for this shocking behavior, Mrs. Cooper was arrested and charged with felony child abandonment and endangerment. The police only found out what was going on because a busy-body neighbor called them to report a crime when she saw the Cooper children playing outside without an adult hovering over them and watching their every move. One would have thought that after the police officer sent to investigate had talked to Mrs. Cooper and gotten the real story, he would have dismissed the incident as so much nonsense and gone on his way. But instead, he arrested Tammy Cooper and took her off to jail as her “abandoned” children were screaming and crying and begging him to please leave their mommy alone.
Fortunately, charges were dropped once the court realized how ridiculous the case was. But this did nothing to erase the trauma that the Cooper children and their mother had already experienced, and it did not prevent Child Protective Services from sticking their noses in the Coopers’ business by forcing the family to come in for an interview. The Coopers have been stuck with a $7,000 legal bill as a result of this farce, but they are now suing the La Porte Police Department, their busy-body neighbor, and the officer who made the arrest, so with any hope, the people responsible for this outrage will be the ones who have to pay in the end.
On first impression, this probably seems like one of those isolated anecdotes that gets a lot of publicity, but really isn’t indicative of any larger pattern of behavior. But if that is what you are thinking, then you need to think again. All over the United States, parents who choose to let their children play outside without adult supervision, in totally safe environments, are being harassed and persecuted by the police and Child Protective Services after being turned in by neighbors who apparently believe that leaving a child unaccompanied outdoors in any environment automatically exposes them to grave danger. And rather than using their own common sense in such instances, the police are actually placing these parents under arrest, and local prosecutors are choosing to press charges against moms and dads whose only crime is believing that their kids should have the freedom and independence they need to grow and develop in a healthy, natural way.
The following incidents have all been reported in the last eight months alone, and they provide just a sampling of the kind of abuse that parents all across the country are being forced to endure because they have refused to indulge the hysterical idiocy that passes for common sense these days:
- In suburban Virginia, a couple have been questioned by police on four occasions and had two visits from social services because they have allowed their four children, who range in age from five to early teens, to play outside alone in locations very near their own home without an adult being physically present. The childrens’ mother described one of the family’s brushes with the law thusly:
“I allowed all four of my children (they were all together) to go play in the field adjacent to my house. I could literally see them outside my kitchen window. My ten-year-old ran home to tell my husband and I that a cop had stopped and was interrogating my oldest daughter… No, this was not after dark, it was at 4 p.m. on a Saturday. So my husband walked out to see what was going on, and the police officer even wrote up a report, stating that the children were left outside unsupervised.”
Neighbors have apparently been responsible for much of the trouble this family has been experiencing, and the mother was told by one that “it just isn’t safe to let kids play alone outside anymore.” In fact, it is perfectly safe, and the neighborhood where this woman lives has not had any reported incidents involving strangers even approaching, let alone abducting, children.
- In Manchester, Connecticut, a mother was charged by prosecutors with putting her two children, ages seven and eleven, at risk of injury for sending them out alone to walk down the street to get a pizza. This abominable crime, which used to be referred to as “running an errand,” occurred during daylight hours and required the two youngsters to walk about a half-mile from their home. There is no word yet on whether prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
- A Johnson City, Tennessee woman was arrested and charged with child abandonment after sending her five- and eight-year-old children off to play at a nearby park with friends. The problem started because the kids left the park and went to a neighbor’s home without telling anyone, and when the mom sent someone to check on them, it was discovered they were missing. Mom herself actually called 911, but the neighbor whose home they were visiting walked the kids back home shortly after, and when the cops arrived they decided Mom deserved to be hauled away to jail for her grotesquely criminal actions. In the old days, the kids would have been scolded for leaving the park on their own and no one would have thought of punishing Mom, but in the insane asylum that twenty-first century America has become, an incident like this is considered to be child abuse.
- A suburban Pittsburgh father of two children, ages six and nine, was arrested and charged with child endangerment for letting his kids play unattended at a neighborhood park for approximately two hours while he did some shopping and showered at a nearby fitness club. The father was turned in by a neighbor who knew the kids, saw them alone, and decided that a crime was taking place. In the past, it was of course common practice for parents to let their kids play in safe locations where everyone knew everyone, but now this is considered child abandonment.
If we actually lived in a society like the one we see on TV, where children were constantly being kidnapped, raped, murdered, or sold into prostitution by evil predators, these parents might very well deserve criticism, and the actions of the neighbors, police, and prosecutors might seem justified. But in fact, American children are now safer than they have been at any time since the 1950s; statistically speaking, for any child living in the United States in 2012, their chances of being abducted and killed by a stranger in any given year are about one in 1.4 million – in other words, it simply isn’t going to happen except once in a very blue moon. A child in America is three times more likely to be struck by lightning than he or she is to be kidnapped by a stranger, and for every child who is killed by someone he or she doesn’t know, there twenty-six kids who die in car accidents each and every year. And yet, parents are so afraid of strangers abducting their sons or daughters that they now routinely drive them to school instead of allowing them to walk, even though the American Pediatric Association has released statistics that show taking a kid to school in a private automobile is by far the least safe way of getting them there.
Crime rates – and most especially violent crime rates – have been going down steadily since the early 1990s, and confounding the pronouncements of liberal sociologists who blame crime on poverty, even the latest recession has not slowed this downward trend. But polls reveal that most Americans believe crime is going up and not down, and the overprotective style of parenting that is so intolerant of moms and dads who let their kids go out alone is a direct result of the fear and paranoia that arises from people’s belief that they are living in a land where violent maniacs are running loose everywhere. That’s the way it is on Criminal Minds, CSI, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, so that must be the way it is in real life, too.
The High Price of Overprotectiveness
Some might suggest that even if the risk to kids allowed to go out alone is slight, as long as it is not completely non-existent it is better to be overprotective and not take any chances. The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it overlooks the fact that kids need some freedom and independence if they are going to develop and grow in a whole and healthy way. When children are given the opportunity to spread their wings, without any interference or direction from adults, it does wonders for their self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of independence, and it helps them learn to be more creative in their play and self-sufficient in all aspects of their lives.
Conversely, the overprotective style of parenting has been shown in numerous studies to be detrimental to the physical and psychological health of children. Those youngsters unfortunate enough to grow up in households where Mom and Dad are absolutely determined to keep them inside or under their thumbs as much as possible in order to protect them from any kind of risk are likely to suffer some very negative consequences as a result of this fear-driven behavior.
Some of the documented harmful effects of overprotective parenting include:
- Dependency, manifesting in the inability of children to make decisions on their own
- Decreased creativity and spontaneity
- Decreased empathy
- Higher rates of depression (rates of depression among children have skyrocketed in the last two decades, and 15 percent of all college students are now suffering from this disabling disorder)
- Inability to problem solve or negotiate disputes that develop during interactions with peers
- Obesity (look at any group of kids playing outside during recess on any school ground anywhere in America, and the shocking levels of obesity among modern youth will become readily apparent)
- Addiction to video games, computers, and television (the average American child between the age of six and eleven now spends twenty-eight hours a week indoors immersed in virtual/digital environments)
- Poor self-esteem
- More allergies and less resistance to disease
- Higher rates of suicide (more young people will die by their own hand in the course of a week than will die at the hands of strangers during a whole year)
The bottom line is, keeping kids locked up inside all of the time to keep them “safe” is damaging them in profound and important ways. Overprotective parenting could almost be called a form of child abuse, and it is leaving behind many, many more victims that deviant predators ever will.
What Justice Demands
As for the stance of the legal system, it is certainly important to protect children from abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love and care for them. No one would argue that parents who are actually harming their children either physically or emotionally are perpetrating truly despicable crimes; they deserve no mercy for their actions, and if it is possible to prosecute them, it should be done. But letting your kids play outside on their own, the way children have been doing everywhere forever, is the exact opposite of child abuse. The irrational fear that is turning hysterical, overprotective parenting into the norm is hurting our children, and it is also hurting responsible parents who are doing the right thing by trying to let their kids experience everything that should go with a healthy and happy childhood.
In the name of “protecting” children, fairness, justice, and common sense are being sacrificed on the altar of paranoid imagination, and those moms and dads who are being harassed and persecuted by law enforcement officials and other functionaries of the state for letting their kids do what comes naturally are being victimized by a witch hunt that will do an incalculable amount of harm if we allow it to continue.
©2012 Off the Grid News