richardf8: (Default)
Pharmaceutical Companies advertise direct to the consumer drugs designed to overcome the foibles of childhood. And all our health care costs go up so soccer moms can medicate rather than discipline her kid into sitting still for class.

So here are a few pointers for reducing health care cost:

1) Don't advertise direct to the consumers. Doctors are the ones responsible for developing treatment plans, and the money saved on advertising can be passed to the consumer. Direct advertising has resulted in the pathologization of everything from youthful exuberance to diminished sexuality of age; all done to create markets for drugs that are overprescribed and unnecessary.

2) Psychiatrists should ensure that proper child-rearing and discipline are in place before considering prescribing an ADHD drug. There is a difference between the incorrigible and the undisciplined. Drugs and TV should not replace play and parenting, but too often they do.

I probably have more to say on this, but haven't quite organized my thoughts. Let's just say that there is a certain lack of accountability built into the system.
richardf8: (Default)
Johnny Jihad is a graphic novel that speculates on the Radical Islamization of a typical American boy from a typical American town. It is, of course, inspired by the discovery of John Walker Lindh, but it should be noted that it is not an attempt to recount Lindh's experiences. It is a speculation on what might lead an American teenager down the path that Lindh followed, and what might be the outcome. It is a complex work, a multilayered article of propaganda with apparently confused allegiances, and therefore somewhat difficult to parse. I will tease that bit out a little later, but first I want to talk about the art.

Johnny Jihad is executed primarily in scratchboard, and Inzana does an excellent job with it, maintaining a moody darkness throughout the work. He exploits the tendency toward angularity intrinsic to scratchboard to create a very tense, conflicted look, but he does not became enslaved to it -- when curves and circles are called for, they are rendered smoothly and cleanly. Essential to a work like this is a solid use of shading, and values are rendered stunningly. Johnny Jihad is an ambitious story, and Inzana's art fully lives up to that ambition.

The premise of the story is simple enough. Looking at John Walker Lindh, the author asks himself "how could this happen?" The narrative he develops in answer to this question is, of course, very different from the Lindh narrative. It is Inzana's own answer to this question, his own hypothetical scenario which he weaves into a dark tale of treason and treachery, of multiple betrayals. But, it is obvious that Inzana believes what he is supposed to when it comes to Islamic terrorist networks. The result of Inzana's acceptance of these assumptions, combined with his skeptical cynicism regarding the U.S.'s role in creating the Taliban is a tale in which no heroes emerge.

This book is not, for example, going to win any prizes for creating a balanced portrayal of Islam. By choosing to portray only terrorists, and giving short shrift to those voices within Islam that the terrorists oppose, Inzana fans the flames of anti-Islamic prejudice. He indulges the notion that reading the Koran is the gateway to becoming a terrorist. The first Muslim he portrays works at a supermarket so that he can skim the registers and steal food which he then sells at his own store. And yet, when the protagonist is shown the terrorist group's indoctrination video, Inzana seems to be urging us to look at how we have brought the terrorism upon ourselves.

And so, this book is not likely to win the George W. Bush award for patriotic inspiration, either. It does not show Americans behaving significantly better than their enemies. Once Johnny falls into American custody, we see justice subverted, utterly, as CIA men give him a choice between becoming an operative in Afghanistan or being summarily executed, along with his mother. We also learn at this point that the U.S. is selling Russian weaponry to the Taliban, and that the U.S. put them in place. And yet, Inzana seems ultimately to validate things like the USA PATRIOT act and Military Tribunals by assuring us that these things are for other people.

By creating a protagonist who was basically a sociopath prior to the events narrated in the story, the child of an abusive father and a mother driven mad by said father's suicide, Inzana further advances the myth that one must be desperate and crazed to be vulnerable to recruitment. We know from the John Walker Lindh story that this is not the case. By working as hard as he does to create a protagonist most readers would have little empathy with, he gives us the assurance that this fate awaits other people, unlike ourselves. By defining the protagonist as so thoroughly Other, he contributes to the mythology that allows us to define American citizens as "enemy combatants," and deprive them of due process. The message is clear: unless you're a depraved, glue-sniffing sociopath who builds bombs for fun, you have no worries.

By the time this book reaches its inevitable conclusion, we find very little except a protagonist who has become the thing he hates most. In the end we are left with a son who can only say to his father, in the fashion of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle," "I grew up just like you, dad."
richardf8: (Default)
After reading an article on the conflict between "Child Free" and "Child Burdened" people in America, I must say that I find both sides of the conflict appalling. I, myself, am childfree and live in a neighborhood with plenty of kids. I don't hate them or anything. In fact, sometimes their play is fun to watch. I don't mind paying property taxes to support our schools because I want my neighbor's kids to grow into the sort of young men and women I will want to live among when I am older. Heck, if Saint Paul ever puts a school referendum on the ballot that isn't semantically equivalent to "we, um, need money for, um, stuff," I might even vote for it. Of course, living in such a neighborhood means I have to enforce boundaries. It means that when I see a kid drop something on my lawn I want that kid's respect when I tell him to pick it up. But kids have less and less reason to respect adults today. And that is the primary beef that many Child Free have with parents.

My father had scars on his shin. One day I asked him how this happened. The story goes something like this. He and some buddies had clambered over a fence and was stealing melons and the farmer came out and shot at them with a pellet gun. My father let the druggist tend his wounds (his mother cringed at the sight of blood) and didn't dare complain to his parents because they would have asked why the farmer had shot at him and upon learning the truth would have subjected him to further discipline. If this scenario were to play out today, the farmer would be facing a lawsuit and jail time.

Now I'm not saying I want the right to shoot at the neighbor's kids if they get into the vegetable patch, but I also want to know that I can expect backup from the kids' parents if I find them in the vegetable patch. Too often children are told that the authority of other adults, especially childfree adults, is irrelevant. Children are going to stray, and not always under their parents' gaze. Children need to know that when an adult speaks, it is with authority. Parents who undermine that authority by, say, suing a school that suspends their kidlings for subjecting their underclassmen to physical abuse, become hated by those of us who are child free. To us, that is emblematic of the problem with parents today.

As for work inequities, yes, those of us who are child free may have to pick up the slack if a working parent needs to attend to a kid. I have dealt with this by keeping mental note of this and calling in favors when I need them. For example, when my mate and I moved into our new house from our apartment, we were exhausted and had the truck only half loaded. My co-worker who had recently become a single parent (by divorcing an absolute loser of a woman), and for whom I had provided much coverage, lent me his teenage son. That boy moved more stuff in 30 minutes than we had in 3 hours. Of course his father was the sort who ensured that his kids grew up with notions of accountability, responsibility, and community service.

The other major area of contention is around entertainment. Young children in expensive restaurants or at events not targeted at children irritates us for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is that adults, even parents, need kid-free time and space so that they can talk about adult things without needing to censor themselves. This could be anything from politics to philosophy. Parents who do not understand this are failing to acknowledge their boundaries, their kids' boundaries, and the boundaries of other adults as well. These are the same parents who will raise children who are either extremely dependent or sociopathic because the children were raised with no sense of boundaries. And it can't be fun for the kids to have to wait forever for a meal that, in all likelihood, is not going to be to their tastes. If you can't get a sitter, Red Lobster will be a more enjoyable experience for the family than La Mingotiere, and the kid would certainly rather see "Harry Potter" than "The Piano" (heck, so would I). So ultimately, even in the entertainment venue, I think that parents who truly respect their kids, will take them on outings that are age-appropriate, and leave them with a sitter when they want to do something that is not appropriate for the kids. My parents understood this concept, why don't today's parents understand it?

And that is it in a nutshell. Too many of today's parents think that parenting means that they get to live the same life they had pre-kid, just with the kid in tow. And that is why we who are childfree feel justified in accusing them of selfishness. Because they want their kids, but they do not want to give up any of the bits of the childfree lifestyle that their parents gave up to raise them. And the result is that the kids get dragged into venues where the kid is unhappy and, as kids will, shares the joy.

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