We are creatures of habit, no doubt. It could also be said that we in the U.S. are creatures of comfort and creatures of culture. We do what we do, in many cases, because it’s always been done, it’s easier that way, and everybody’s doing it. But I believe that so much of what we choose to do these days comes with some very compelling reasons to do just the opposite. As a recent, local and personal example, I found myself gazing out the window on one of the many rainy mornings we’ve had in the Southeast lately, looking at seven idling cars in a holding pattern at the bus stop, kids and parents comfortable and dry inside their running cars. No lightning, no gale force winds, no raining frogs (I love LA Story), just rain. This seems like the simplest of things; but let’s rethink it:
1. Idling uses gas, which sends damaging carbon emissions into the atmosphere. I recently heard that only 40% of Americans believe in the concept of climate change (so I guess that didn’t include anyone living on recently thawed permafrost, a formerly mosquito- and malaria-free elevation in South America, near the landfill in the Bronx, or a former island), however it didn’t appear that 40% of the parents at that bus stop chose to not drive there.
2. Idling creates toxic fumes, of which a nice little cloud of them were being created right there where all those kids were going to eventually hop out of their moms’ cars and race for the bus.
3. People are dying for oil. More specifically, an awful lot of the children of Americans. Quite simply, we’ve reached peak oil, demand is rising as supply is lowering, the majority of what’s left exists below extremely unstable countries, and young Americans’ lives are being sacrificed in an effort to control and stabilize those countries so that we will continue to have access to it. Yes, the war in Iraq is about democracy and terrorism. But if that were the primary driving force, why have we let millions die under other evil totalitarian, despotic or jihadist regimes? Because they weren’t sitting on a resource that we were desperate for. Education has been shown to combat terrorism far more effectively than shooting back (read Three Cups of Tea?). But the payoff of schools is not immediate: troops are. And we need oil now. Lots of it.
4. Why can’t these children walk to the bus stop in the rain — because it’s … wet? OK, well, for the price of an iPod shuffle, another Wii game or a trip to the movies, you could acquire the high-tech items known as raincoats and umbrellas.
5. What does the simple act of driving to the bus stop on a rainy day say to a child? I think probably something like this: “Rain is an annoying inconvenience that it is my parent’s responsibility to protect me from.” No Impact Man‘s wife says, early in the documentary, “I hate nature.” (She later redeems herself in spades.) Do we really want to bring up a generation of kids who see the immutable forces of nature as something to be changed, avoided, criticized, complained about and ultimately disrespected? I mean, isn’t that what’s sort of gotten us into hot water in the first place? (See Item #1.) And if these kids feel justified in expecting to be protected from rain by their parents, will they grow up feeling justified in being protected from other inconveniences, like work, responsibility, occasional discomfort, empathy for others and integrity? Don’t we have more than enough people like that in the world already?
I recently watched Waiting for Superman and was astounded by many statistics, but most relevant here is this one: while we rank 20th out of the 28 developed nations in the world in terms of educational competence, we rank A#1 in confidence: no group of students feels as successful as American kids, even though their actual performance is near the bottom. The cult of self-esteem and our culture of mollycoddling is coming around to bite us in the ass.
And here’s one more (slightly less compelling perhaps, but nevertheless real) reason to leave the car in the garage: we suit up in our raincoats and matching umbrellas, and if it’s really coming down and the gutters are rivers, we put on our rain boots — because it’s fun.
And speaking of fun, I’m so glad I got to use the word “mollycoddling” again.
Red Pill Mama