In a CNN/ORC poll released this past week, 77% of the American people think that Congress acted like a bunch of spoiled children in the debt ceiling debate. If this perception holds ' and heading into an election year there is every reason to believe it may ' one begins to wonder how long it will take before someone suggests that Congressional representatives no longer be allowed in public.
Why do I say this, you ask? Because, in case you haven't noticed above the din of all the shouting regarding the deficit and the nation's credit rating, there is a movement afoot ' finally
, some would say ' to do something about the children. This erstwhile most-favored-constituency group, which has been used for political gain by everyone from LBJ in his infamous Daisy Ad to Sarah Palin ' who has used her Down's Syndrome baby, in the words of the Huffington Post, "like a circus prop" ' is about to get its comeuppance.
For too long politicians and society alike have handled the members of this group with kid's gloves, extolling their virtues and formulating any number of policies in ways that were meant to protect them from the worst of the educational system. Or global warming. Or fast food and racy entertainment. Or sex education and the future. Or terrorism, abortion, hunger, violence, stupidity, bias, and air bags.
For the longest time, in fact, it hasn't seemed to matter what
the issue has been. The minute someone has mentioned that "it's about the children," the debate has ended. Hell, even Wu Tang once declared, famously, for the children. No one, it seems, has been able to resist their ineluctable charms.
Well, no longer. The kids, society seems to have decided after all, are not
alright. And a rising social movement ' named by the simple but descriptive moniker, No-Kids-Allowed ' has decided to do something about it.
In June the trendsetting Malaysia Airlines announced that it will soon begin to ban babies in its first class cabins. While one may rightly ask why the airline stopped short of even more drastic action ' say, banishing babies altogether, or placing them in the cargo hold, or insisting that they be strapped to the wing ' one admires the pluck of this revolutionary move. And in fact, it was taken by others as the necessary sign that the bloom is off the rose, and many companies have followed suit. In Pittsburgh, McDain's Restaurant ' an eatery attached to a golf course, a fact that should do nothing
to suggest that they are preaching to the choir, that they are not brave in their efforts to form a vanguard ' simply and starkly announced in July that anyone under 6 years of age would no longer be welcome in the establishment. Old Salty's, a restaurant in Carolina Beach, NC, proved true to its name and posted a verbal warning at its entrance that screaming children would NOT be tolerated. A theatre in Texas held kid-free screenings of Harry Potter.
Given these beginnings of a trend, can it be anything more than a matter of time before such franchises as McDonald's and such film series as Toy Store and Diary of a Wimpy Kid fall into line? If you doubt it, consider that even Disney World has packages that cater to the childless among us.
The kids-free movement has its own Facebook page (as well as a backlash page organized by none other than "kids"). It also has its leading correspondents, journalists like Charlotte Savino of Travel and Leisure (who declares herself "a misanthrope" when it comes to the "screaming banshees"). It has so far been featured primarily as a parenting concern, but it has been featured in places like NBC's The Today Show. This, for a nascent movement just learning the game, is like hitting a homerun the first time up at bat. The movement, to be sure, is only beginning to flex its muscle, gather its strength, plumb the depths of the people's willingness to go along' but it will push forward. Such movements inevitably do.
As a parent myself, I can't say that I necessarily disagree with some of the movement's basic arguments, which seem to revolve around a desire for a peaceful night out for adults, without the bother of being verbally and visually assaulted by ungrateful little cretins. When I was a child my father would say that children should be seen and not heard. The No-Kids-Allowed movement simply wants to take this one step further, to make sure they are not even seen. This is perhaps because, given the state of lax and undisciplined parenting these days, coupled with the fact that the kids themselves seem to have begun to believe the hype regarding how special and privileged they are, when they are seen
' believe you, me, brother ' they will
Short of taking them away from their parents and placing them in re-education camps, therefore, the next-best-alternative seems to be to organize a few nights a week or an occasional wedding or two in which children are asked to stay home.
But of course this raises the question: By whose authority are kids to be asked to stay home?
I had a conversation about this with a friend recently, a childless woman who is a normal and dependable democrat. After expressing some relief that for once someone was looking out for her, she suggested that it was reasonable for businesses to operate within guidelines they choose, and that if they thereby suffered from any loss of profit due to, for example, a backlash against instituting child-free policies, businesses would have to take corrective measures.
And this explanation seems fine, as far as it goes.
But I asked my friend if the same justification could be applied to businesses that wanted to ban, for example, gays. Or fatties. Or fat gays. Or smokers or non-smokers. Or elderly drivers, teenaged boys with droopy pants, the uninsured, illegal immigrants, women managers, Muslims, Christians, Jews, the homeless, sex offenders, homophobes, union workers, blacks, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, talk radio hosts, university faculty, people with Kennedy or Bush or Clinton or Gingrich as their last name, goths, reality TV stars, southerners, Yankees, people with loud stereos who drive around in cars, Hollywood types, liberals, conservatives, the rich, the poor, or guys who mow their lawns at 8 am on a Saturday morning.
Or her. Simply her. Let's say businesses got together and decided to ban simply her. Because she chews her food too loudly, let's say. Or because she sometimes smells like onions when she cooks. Should they be allowed to do so?
She paused for a moment, not quite knowing how to respond.
I was reminded of the quote generally attributed to the German pastor Martin Niem?ller, when he decribed the inactivity of the German intelligentsia in the face of the Nazi's rising power: First they came for the Socialists, then they came for the trade unionists then they came for the Jews' then they came for me. Because he hadn't opposed the Nazis when they were imprisoning these other groups, there was no one left to oppose them when they knocked at his door. I thought how that that applied to my friend's case, or would eventually. But even more I thought how it applied to the children. Having been used as a foil to justify every kind of social advance of both liberal and conservative agendas, the kids had not said anything, but had merely gone along for the ride.
And now they are getting theirs.
So I will ask the question, is all of this fair? I ask it not because I am a parent who likes occasionally to go out in public with my beautiful and well-behaved daughters, and not even to play devil's advocate before we all rush to judgment and jump on the slippery slope, but because I am worried that in the wake of this powerful new social phenomenon called the No-Kids-Allowed movement' if I don't speak for the kids, who will?