Not to wax nostalgic about "the way things used to be," but this recent opinion piece in the L.A. Times dovetails with some thoughts I've had lately about the difference between my twelve-year old daughter's experience of the world, and the way I experienced it at her age. Rachel is twelve, and she's never ridden her bike around our neighborhood by herself; she's never gone to the movies with a friend alone; she's never taken public transportation without an adult to supervise her; and she doesn't just "go outside and play." She is, in effect, a prisoner of her parents' fear of the world the way we think it is -- or rather, the way we've been taught to believe it is, by a news media that depends on creating fear to drive ratings, and by politicians who use fear to get votes.
The bizarre thing is, I'm not particularly afraid of the world, or my neighborhood, and I know for a fact that the times we live in are not more dangerous than they were when I was growing up. Don't believe me? Check the FBI's annual crime statistics, and compare the crime rates for say, 1965, to the crime rates of today. Despite the fact that we have maybe a hundred times more people in prison today than we had forty years ago, crime isn't particularly worse today. It's our perception of crime that's worse. And for that, we can lay the blame squarely on the aforementioned news media and the politicians who use bad news to manipulate us.
Or maybe we should really blame ourselves. We're the ones who accept this nonsense. We're the ones who tremble every time we hear about a drive-by shooting on the six o'clock news (only to learn, when we finally get the details, that the drive-by happened in another city, in another state, and was, in fact, newsworthy only because it has become such a rare event). We're the ones who think our children are at daily risk of attack by Sexual Predators -- despite the reality that more than 90% of sexual molestations occur at the hands of family members. We let ourselves be manipulated by fear, and it's our children's freedom that suffers.
Sigh. So, what else is new?