Monday, August 31, 2009
I was a good kid growing up in the 1950s. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were good. We pranked and got mad and broke a rule or two; but, for the most part, we were a Wally-Beaver-Jem-Scout-Little Rascals-breed of kid. Why were we so well behaved? One reason was that we had been taught what was acceptable, and were soundly punished for breaking those rules of conduct. But, a huge factor in our decision-making and proper deportment was the knowledge that we were being watched! We grew up in a time when someone’s mother was always outside hanging the laundry. Someone’s grandmother was always on the front porch shelling peas. Some neighbor was always in the yard tending a garden. We knew their names and they knew ours. Or, at least, they knew our last names and where we lived. Even though we lived in a big city, the neighborhood was like a small town. Everyone shopped and worshiped and rode the buses together. Word of any improprieties on our part would get home faster than Superman, and another slender, stinging switch would come off of the bush!
Then, the preponderance of air-conditioning, laundry and kitchen appliances, televisions, TV dinners and automobiles changed the neighborhood. Once every family had these, the front porches and lawns were deserted. Families moved frequently to neighborhoods of closed doors, drawn blinds, and multiple schools, stores, and churches, all reached by private car instead of bus. The only time kids would see adults outside was Saturday morning when fathers mowed the lawn. Fathers didn’t pay much attention to kids. And fathers were disappearing from more and more homes.
So, hordes of unsupervised, undisciplined kids brought about changes in society. From dubious trends in fashion to radical fads for social acceptance, girls gone wild and horrendous acts for gang admission, the American youth were no longer innocent, but a source to be feared by some adults. Why were these adults surprised? Why didn’t they do more? They had changed, too. They had their own distractions and entertainments that took them from the home and took time away from the job of “parenting” the neighborhood.
Now, parents can “watch” kids again. GPS systems on automobiles, pagers, cell phones, spy cams, corner traffic cams, ATM cams, phone cams, YouTube, MySpace, Face Book, Twitter; the list gets longer every day. Kids are staying out of trouble because they are too busy using their electronics and living in cyberspace. Bad behavior ends up on the Internet, usually posted by a friend from a cell phone. Being “watched” reduces bad behavior.
Why hasn’t the same thing happened with government?
We watch them. We have our cameras and phones handy. We instantly text, tweet and record poor behavior or asinine statements directly to the Internet. One would assume that this would make our elected officials behave. So, why doesn’t it?
One reason is that they are either convinced that their rules are the only rules or that they are above the rules. Another is that they can afford to buy coverage that will put their spin on the incidences. The most glaring example I’ve ever seen was MSNBC’s video to show a racist attitude towards President Obama. Their aired video clip showed an automatic weapon overtly carried at a rally. The entire footage showed the legal barer of arms was a black man. When the media will not meet their ethical and/or moral obligation to report truth, the government is shrouded and allowed to continue in secret subterfuge. When the media does report truth, the government tries to exert power to silence it.
That means we need to be the mothers and the grandmothers and the neighbors watching these “children”. We know their names. We know how to record what they do. We know where to report it. We must be ever vigilant to seek and share truth. We must be watchdogs. We must hold their feet to the fire. They are watching us. We must watch back!