Perhaps the most important role an individual could play is that of a parent. As a parent, you are directly responsible for maintaining the health and safety of your child. If you fail in this task, it is in the best interest of the child to be taken out of your custody. Sadly, we know that this occurs far too often than it should, but it is right. It is the law.
What law does not particularly dictate is how parents are supposed to raise their kids. To do so would certainly be undemocratic and should never be allowed. If you want to, say, raise your child Christian or Hindu, you should be able to do so. Just because you are able to raise your child as you see fit, however, doesn’t mean that you aren’t inflicting some type of harm on the kid – a harm that might be outside the capabilities of being stopped by the law.
Parenting should be about naturally cultivating a child’s identity rather than imposing your own identity upon the child. Think about, for example, how many LGBTQ teens have had to repress themselves because of their families. The same absolutely can be said for politicized parents; that they may impose their own subjective politics and ideologies on kids who couldn’t possibly have anything more than a facile understanding of complex issues that even their parents probably don’t fully understand. Politicizing young children can be a sad, yet legal form of abuse.
The most obvious manifestation of this is forcing children to participate in protests. While this alone may not be the worst thing in the world for a kid, what needs to be understood is that protests hardly ever offer a comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand. That is the real problem here: that these kids are taught by their parents from a very young age that there is only one side to every story; that they don’t need to learn all of the facts; that they don’t need to develop a sense of empathy for the other side; and that they never need to objectively approach any issue. The problem is not so much that the parents bring these kids to protests and make them carry signs bearing slogans they don’t understand, it is that these parents may stunt their children’s ability to think critically. By all means, that is a form of abuse.
Think about, for example, how many unfit politicized parents there are who hate cops and teach their kids to live by the slogan, “We Don’t Dial 911,” and to never cooperate with police (watch the video here). This type of mentality teaches kids that all cops are bad, not some. Being raised from day one under that mentality, what are the odds that those kids won’t one day engage in some type of behavior that forces a police officer to arrest them? What hope do those children have to succeed in society when they are taught from a young age that society is against them? Does this seem more like a fair upbringing or an abusive one?
Yet it is legal, and it must be so – thus is the tragedy of democracy. This is not something that the state should be able to enforce. Having said that, it certainly is a testament to the questionable character of our education system. Knowing that we have so many bigots who are willing to infect their children with fear of working with the system, it speaks volumes. A healthy skepticism is one thing, but a total condemnation of it is counterproductive. This country should be free, and it should also promote that parents have an ethical responsibility to broaden the minds of their children, not limit them. We have an ethical responsibility to instill within our children hope and love, not fear and hatred.
And what we certainly should never be okay with are the acts of politicized parents that jeopardize the physical safety of their children. Think about how many unfit politicized parents exist who willingly jeopardize the safety of their toddler by using the kid as a human shield against police during an act of civil disobedience (see here). And while that may not be legal, the tragedy there is that even that is not enough to have the state take the child away for good.
It’s hard for us to balance both doing the right thing and being free, but sometimes even when people go too far, we don’t do what needs to be done. Sometimes there is nothing we can do, other times there is no excuse for not doing more. Regardless, we have an obligation to raising and educating our children objectively, because they are the ones who will come to fix our mistakes – or make them worse.