Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chasing Armageddon

Because of the movie, which I have not yet seen, I decided to read The Watchmen, the 1980s graphic novel and so far it's interesting and provocative. No, not in a sexual sense, but in a provoking thought sense. The whole concept of a human being bombarded by nuclear material reassembling himself over several days into a blue skinned, blank-eyed hunk is quite startling and innovative, but the idea of costumed adventurers battling for good and evil is even more so and it makes me think about the state of the world now.

Ozymandias's plan to bring the world to the bring of nuclear war to create peace is not a new concept and could have been taken from Star Trek, the original series, when Gary 7 detonated a nuclear warhead about 10 miles above the Earth's surface. The same idea was put forward in the war with the Shadows on Babylon 5 where two separate factions from ancient races battled it out with the universe's races and the Shadows believed that all out war brought out the best in humanoids so they were forced to evolve quicker. But where does all this evolution and using the threat of nuclear annihilation take us?

For some reason, it took me into a dream of driving down a hall where children were frantically and gleefully ripping books off shelves, throwing them onto the floor and stomping on them. My partner and I stopped the vehicle even though we were in a rush to question the children. I wrote down their names and tried to get information on their families while deciding whether I should contact their parents by phone, letter or in person. I was appalled that the children would treat books in such a fashion and despaired of the human race if that kind of behavior continued. That scenario is probably a direct result of having talked about a similar subject with Lynn yesterday.

I have trouble understanding why when I was in grade school a teacher could handle 30+ students without paras and aides and all the extra staff needed today. Granted, Lynn works with mentally retarded and developmentally disabled children (MRDD), but even in regular schools the teachers need help. Why? Because children are out of control and their parents are becoming less and less involved in teaching them social skills and discipline.

The first response on my lips when someone tells me about a child or teen who has talked back to a teacher or abused an adult is that I wouldn't be here today. My parents believed in corporal punishment, although I got less of it than my brother. Jimmy seemed to need a minimum of twice daily spankings: one in the morning when he got up to remind him to behave and one at night before he went to bed for anything he did that was missed and not punished. (It's only partly a joke.) Soap was my mother's favorite tool of punishment for because caught with the taste of banned words and a chair facing the corner or one of us standing in the corner with our nose to the wall the second favorite form of punishment. There were spankings with belts, switches (we had to cut them ourselves) and whatever was closed to hand at the moment of discovery and the occasional backhand in the face when soap was not available, but we were by no means abused children -- well, at least the other three weren't abused. Anything at school that resulted in a visit to the principal or vice-principal's office for a spank meant a repeat performance at home, but then all of us were more afraid not to bring a note home from school than to bring one home.

Punishment really isn't about spanking but about setting limits and sticking to them. Kids need limits, and so, in my opinion, do most adults. Kids do best with limits and learn quickest when there are object lessons about cause and effect. Steal something and get punished and you're less likely to steal again -- or you'll become more efficient at getting away with it. Somehow it was easier to face the owner of the goods and apologize than to face my mother's wrath if I got caught, so stealing was out of the question. The real issue is parents being involved and aware of their children's actions. My parents were involved -- sometimes too much, but that turned out to be a good thing . . . most of the time.

The strange thing about my dream wasn't just the children, but the way the teachers and adults in the school responded. They remembered me as a student and said that I had exceeded their expectations and they knew about me. I found myself in the bathroom before I could find out what they meant and that was the signal for me to wake up and go to the bathroom for real.

What I wonder still is how close children need to get to nuclear meltdown before parents take over again, but that presupposes there will not be a nuclear war with missiles fired from North Korean or Iran and there will still be children to worry about.

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