Glass Half Full: In private, make certain jokes — but not in public
Special to the Bonanza
At the risk of offending half of Incline Village, I feel compelled to ask the question: Am I the only one who is deeply puzzled by the inconsistency between our tendency, as a nation and as a parental culture, to cry “Bully!” if anyone so much as looks cross-eyed or inadvertently says or does something that might possibly smack of physical intimidation and the huge outcry in support of the movie “The Interview”?
My understanding is that the premise of the movie includes a very direct, if jocular, threat to assassinate the leader of North Korea.
Please don’t misinterpret. I do not support dictatorships. I believe strongly in human rights and universally abhor mistreatment of people of all ages and both genders. I do not support the government of North Korea.
That said, I read (and hear) with tedious frequency the outrage expressed by parents across the country when they perceive another child has “threatened” theirs by doing something as inane as brandishing a squirt gun at a pool or “bullying” by cutting in line.
Again, please do not misinterpret. I have spent my life working to make the schools in which I work be safe havens for boys and girls of all ages.
While I take real threats seriously, most often what is needed is education. It is our job, as parents and educators, to teach our children about the power of words and actions.
We live in an era in which it is never appropriate, in a school or public setting, even to joke about any kind of violence. Heck, when I was a child, two of our favorite games were Cops and Robbers and something called, with great clarity, “Best Faller.”
The latter involved whoever was “It” describing the way the rest of us should “die.” When called, each of us would run down a grassy hill and be “shot,” whereupon we would stage a humorous, slow, realistic, or otherwise named demise.
A winner would be determined by “It,” and the game would continue. And still we managed to grow up and be productive, thoughtful, responsible citizens.
That was a different world. Today we are very clear with our children that they are neither allowed to talk about weapons of any kind nor even to pretend to use or talk about using them.
We make it very clear that such language does not constitute “free speech.”
Why, then, is it acceptable, is it considered a right accorded by the Constitution, to threaten, directly, albeit “humorously,” the living leader of another country?
How do we intend to make that distinction to our children? It’s certainly not one I can make to myself.
When my students say something mean or threatening and try to tell me they were “just kidding,” my response is always: “Who was it funny for?”
You and I, as adults, can make whatever jokes we want privately. Publicly, we should hold ourselves at least as accountable as we do our children.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.