Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do You Believe

When someone tells me: "The media is liberal," my first thought tends to be: "Wow. Figured that out by yourself, did you?" Not because I buy into the idea that "the media" as an institution, has this deep liberal agenda that it's attempting to advance, but because for the most part, the people who go into journalism feel that they doing a service for the public and it's a line of work that doesn't pay particularly well, except at élite levels. Sounds just like the kind of career that draws young conservatives in droves.

The idea that certain careers have a given political bent more or less as a characteristic became clear to me back when I was working with children. Child care/social work, as you might have guessed, is also a very liberal line of work, perhaps even more so than journalism, given that it's very much rooted in the public and/or non-profit sectors.

As is often the case, groups of like-minded people start to fall into an orthodoxy, and woe betide you if you aren't with the program. And one of the more strident bits of orthodox thinking that everyone was expected to adhere to back in my child care worker days was "weapons are bad." This lead to more than a few disagreements about things. I made the mistake of expressing my skepticism about a television portrayal of the dangerousness of weapons, and wound up having to defend a position that television programs should value accuracy over promoting "social responsibility." Another time, I became embroiled in a particularly heated argument with a co-worker because I couldn't see the pressing need for the immediate destruction of every nuclear weapon on the planet. (She told me that I was "unfit to work with children" as a result of this position.)

Of course, children don't always buy into the groupthink, regardless of what the staff thinks about it - they have an entirely different set of concerns. (Surprising, I know.) Most of them have loss, abandonment and protection issues that rate much more highly for them than esoteric concerns about public safety or world peace. One of the children I worked with bumped into this dichotomy when we were preparing for a group outing to the park. There was a new staffer along, and she'd started quizzing him to test his commitment.

"If we're at the park," she asked, earnestly, "and someone tries to snatch me, would you shoot them?"

"I don't believe in guns," the staffer answered, seeming to (in my estimation) miss the basic point of the question.

The response was immediate and sincere. "They're real."

This, of course, triggered everyone else within earshot to crack up. There is nothing that's funny in quite the same way as a child stating the obvious. Especially when they do so in a way that cuts through some of the BS that we in the "adult" world tend to wrap everything in. Sometimes I think that we should be just as up front about things. We could all use the laugh. And, perhaps, the lesson that there are more important things in life than orthodoxy.

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