Sunday, January 29, 2017

How Times Have Changed

Yeah, I’m getting old. One of the telltale signs is when you start dwelling on the past. The other day, for no real reason, I got thinking about something that happened in grade school, and how reactions were far different then than they would be now.

This didn’t happen to me. It happened to some kid whose name I don’t remember. I don’t think I even knew him personally. He was one of those “other” kids you pass in the halls at school, or who sits in class with you, but isn’t part of your immediate friend-or-acquaintance circle. He might even have been in a grade above or behind me. This was in New Jersey, back in the ‘60s—the Precambrian Era, to you folks today.

Short version: some adult in the neighborhood had a cement statue on their lawn of a Mexican dude with a burro. The burro was just big enough that a little kid could sit on it. This kid did. The statue fell over and the kid hurt his leg. I think he may have gone to the hospital.

The overall consensus, among grown-ups and his peers alike, was, “What a stupid kid.” If the statue was damaged, I’ll bet his parents had to pay for it. I’ll also bet he got an ass-whuppin’ when they got home from the doctor’s. I don’t know what happened to the kid because we moved to Pennsylvania when I was eight, but something tells me he never trespassed in anyone’s yard again, or sat on any statues. Unless he went to college and got drunk at a frat party, but that’s extenuating circumstances.

That was the 1960s. How different that story would be if it were told today.

For starters, it wouldn’t be a statue of a Mexican and he wouldn’t have a burro to sit on, because those are hurtful racial stereotypes. Luckily for stupid kids everywhere, there’s still plenty of yard art around, dogs and horses and deer, things like that, that are big enough and look sturdy enough for some kid to want to climb aboard. And they fall over just as easily as they did fifty years ago.

The response today, though, is way different. The kid would be rushed to the hospital, and the parents would rush to a lawyer, to sue the homeowner for having that statue on his lawn to tempt their precious child into hurting himself in the first place. Then Child Protective Services would come after the parents for allowing that kid to wander the streets alone and unsupervised, where any pervert could snatch him. I’m not sure what lesson the kid himself would take away from all this. Don’t fall over?

Y’see, somewhere between 1960 and now, society (or maybe some personal injury lawyer) came up with the concept of the “attractive nuisance.” This is something you’ve got in your yard—a pool, a trampoline, a statue of Juan Valdez—that’s just so overwhelmingly tempting to a child that they’ll ignore any and all lessons they’ve been taught about respect for others and rush into your yard and play on it, and probably either damage your property or hurt themselves in the process. Or both.

And guess what? If the kid gets hurt, they’re not responsible. You are. The law assumes that children (and this extends to older kids) are impulsive, have no concept of the possible consequences of their own actions, have no respect for others’ rights (this includes adults) and are really, really dumb. If you park your Harley in your driveway and some teenager wandering by sees it and decides to climb aboard and the bike falls on him, it’s your fault. You should have known better than to park your own cycle in your own driveway where some innocent child could see it. If some kid climbs your ten-foot privacy fence in the middle of the night to get into your swimming pool and then drowns, you’re to blame, not him. You know how kids are about pools, especially in the summer. You should have known better, you thoughtless person, you.

Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t leave your keys in your car. If somebody steals your car and runs someone over with it, you as the owner of the car can be charged as an accessory. They wouldn’t have been able to take your car if you hadn’t made it easy for them by leaving the keys in. It’s like you handed them a gun and they used it to shoot somebody. And for God’s sake don’t park it anywhere except inside a locked garage. Otherwise some kid might decide to climb on it, and if he hurts himself you could be going to jail.

A couple of years back, while living elsewhere, I had a front yard with some plants in it. One day I looked out the window and saw some kid, maybe around 10 or so, with a stick pounding my plants into pulp. I went outside and yelled at him. The kid went on pounding. Only when he’d destroyed the plants to his satisfaction did he walk away. Not run, which we would have done back in the ‘60s had a grownup caught us vandalizing their property. This kid just strolled off.

I couldn’t do a damn thing. Had I physically tried to stop him, I could have been charged with assault. Or worse, depending on the kid’s imagination. I didn’t know his parents, and talking to them wouldn’t help anyway. It wasn’t their yard that got trashed, so what’s the problem? They’re not going to replace the plants. I could force an apology out of the kid, but so what? He wouldn’t care. He got what he wanted. He probably wouldn’t even remember attacking the plants, if it happened longer than five minutes ago. It’s already ancient history. I’m the crazy stranger lady who’s harshing his buzz right now. Move on with your life already, you old bitch.

I don’t live in that neighborhood any more. Wonder what, or who, that kid took a stick to when he reached his teens? It’s not as if there’d be any repercussions. He learned that a long time ago. Let’s hope he didn’t find a car with the keys left in it. Or a swimming pool.

Somewhere along the way society as a whole lost its common sense, and any hope of passing any helpful knowledge or wisdom on to the next generation. It’s left us with a nation of emotional infants who feel they have the right to sit on your donkey statue, and will blame you if they fall off and hurt themselves. You probably know them. They voted for Trump.

Ah, progress.

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