Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

No So Different
AJ Robinson

These days, we're always hearing about how different the world is; how America isn't the same country it was years ago. Every once in a while, we'll hear someone speak of the "Good Old Days", and how much we've changed. Frankly, I don't entirely agree.

Okay, yes, we've gotten bigger; we're certainly more diverse, and we're more mobile. We're also a whole lot more honest about what's going on in our country and quite a bit more mature. When I was growing up, in the late 60s and early 70s, the term, "child abuse," was almost unheard, not because it wasn't happening, but because the police and authorities ignored it. Hey, if a man or woman wanted to "discipline" their children, it was their right.

Likewise, any type of molestation was unheard. Oh sure, some families would have a "funny uncle" or aunt and you knew to not play at their house, but that was it. As for child abduction, nope, such kids were "runaways." There was the old joke of kids running away to join the circus, but that was about it.

I never even heard the words "incest" or "rape" until I was in high school, and then only because a television news programme had the guts to tackle the subjects.

So, today, if someone molests a kid, he or she tends to come forward. If a child disappears, the police and the community spring into action and search. No one don't gives up the search and Amber Alerts go out.

Yet, what about the underlying community; what's so different about it? Now that I'm the dad, I think back and compare the two places where I've lived - in my childhood, and now with my own child. The one true difference I saw was this: a sense of community, which is tough given our now highly mobile society. When I was a kid, the same families lived in the same homes for many years.

My parents and I knew the people who lived in the surrounding homes. Now sure, we weren't "best buds," we didn't have them over for dinner or the holidays, but we at least knew them, and they knew us. More importantly, they knew me, the little kid, even though I didn't know that at the time. As a result, when I walked to the park to play with my friends, there were neighbours watching; again, I was unaware of it.

Did kids disappear from my community when I was a kid? Maybe, I don't know why, but news of such events was unheard, all those years ago. Today, with our almost "total emersion" media blitz on society, every detail of every crime, disappearance, accusation, trial, and so on is reported - over and over and over again!

Are child abductions, molestations and other crimes a problem today? The answer is, of course, yes. Is it as big a problem as it was years ago? Ah, now there, I'm not so sure.

Although it is important we protect and safeguard our children, let's try to minimize the paranoia about a monster being behind every tree and around every corner. There was a story about a New York City mom letting her young son ride the subway alone, and people were outraged. While I agree that he was a bit young to be doing it, I applaud her for not caving in to the rampant fears of today.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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