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My enemy (in the abstract)

March 19, 2014

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world.

It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

― L.R. Knost

Every once in a while (as I may have observed here before), something comes across the Internet, amongst all the kitty-cat videos and trivial “Mmmm, nice lunch!” status updates, that make a reader stop dead for a moment.

I had one of those moments not too long ago, when someone passed the above quote along via Facebook. (L. R. Knost, by the way, is a bestselling author of parenting resources and children’s books; learn more about her at www.littleheartsbooks.com.) Knost’s words clarified something I had been wondering about for some time—a certain cultural attitude, one that I’ve noticed never fails to get my hackles up, one of those fundamental differen-ces in thinking styles and worldview that makes communication across political divides so difficult.

You’ve seen this attitude in action, I’m pretty sure. It shows up a lot in those speeches that get passed around the Net, dubiously ascribed to Bill Gates, or Bill Cosby, or Kurt Vonnegut, or some high school principal in Idaho. It doesn’t just accept the notion that life is “cruel and heartless,” it fairly revels in it. Life is rough, it says to people, especially to young people. Suck it up. Learn to deal with it. Don’t even think about changing it, because you can’t. Why not? Because you can’t, that’s why. That’s just the way it is. (Remember Sarah Palin’s famously dismissive, “Hey, how’s that ‘hopey-changey’ thing coming along?”) Life, by these lights, is a nasty affair, vicious and inherently unfair, and the sooner you accept that fact, buddy, and just shut up, get to work, and learn how to take orders, the better off you’ll be.

Sound familiar?