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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beware men who give a damn about kids!

I'm fuming about the recently publicized list of signs that a man may be a child molester. I gather Oprah had something to do with spreading this around -- if so, she should be deeply ashamed of herself.

This list essentially suggests that any man who shows any inclination to help, nurture, or teach children who are not his own should be regarded as a likely child molester. One would think the societal disadvantages of this approach are obvious enough. It's not bad enough that many children in this country don't get enough time with their parents, or their sole parent -- now we're sidelining any male adult who might partially fill that gap. Do these people think the number of child molesters compares with the number of decent human beings who just want to show kids how to care for farm animals, or hug a troubled student, or coach a softball team? Do they think the number of kids who may encounter a child molester is great enough to impoverish the lives of many, many times that number?

I know this list is just summing up and continuing what's been going on for years. Which is no excuse whatsoever.

This skewed look at the world of adults and children is related to our society's current paralyzing obsession with safety, which I have been lamenting for years. (On this blog, I did most of it in May of this year, if anyone wants to go to the archives and look.) Most people have no intuitive understanding of what it means to live in a country with hundreds of millions of people -- let alone a world with how-many-billions-are-we-up-to-now. If they read about some nasty class of events three times in five years, they start believing such events are a looming threat, justifying curtailing otherwise normal and healthy activities, altering time-honored habits and customs. Ironically, this pursuit of safety has its own risks, and many of its own casualties -- but they are harder to sum up in an AP article or sound bite. For example, people not cured by new drugs that don't get invented or marketed don't make the headlines. More fundamentally, the effects of working so hard for safety -- the opportunities not pursued, the experiments not tried, the initiatives smothered, the lives cramped -- undermine key elements of the American spirit.

Will the tide ever turn? Will common sense, a sense of proportion, or maybe a sense of humor, ever lead us to shake off our ever-increasing restraints and get on with living?

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