Listening to the news the last couple of days reminded me that I hadn't seen the last few seasons of Penn & Teller's series called "Bullshit!" While I didn't always agree with what they said, watching it was part of listening to different sides of the issue. Their take on the Prius, for example, was a bit exaggerated and unnecessarily negatively biased. However, I do believe that the people who worship the Prius (and there are many) are equally misinformed. I like my car, but I know its (many) limitations. It saves me on gas when I take my long drives out into the country, and my hopes are that my purchase helped give the auto manufacturers a market by which they can improve the technology. It isn't a Corvette, and it isn't a pick-up truck, but it gets me around pretty well.
"Bullshit!" is a neat series. It isn't enough to get me to order Showtime on cable, but being able to see it on Netflix was pretty cool.
However, the show "Bullshit!" doesn't come close to two things I heard on the news over the past couple of days. Prepare for another installment of Blatant Stupidity.
The first news story I heard today, but I didn't take careful notes and am too lazy to look it all up, so I'll paraphrase: The gist was that kids need to forego their Halloween trick-or-treat festivities because the chance of getting the "deadly swine flu" is way too risky. The "expert" who was consulted said that the flu could be passed from kid-to-candy-wrapper-to-kid and, "to attempt to sterilize each item would render the product unsatisfactory." That means that killing the flu virus on the wrapper of the candy bar would mean destroying the candy bar in the process. They went on to suggest not to let children take candy from the bowl, but the candy should be handed-out, and that "hand sanitizer is a must." First, any flu virus is potentially deadly. This is flu season. Flu happens. It sucks, but it happens. Most people don't die, they just have a hell of a bad time for a week or two. The swine flu thing is being blown way out of proportion to its risk. That being said, second point is that whether swine flu is around or not, a virus can pass between candy wrappers at any time. It can also pass on doorknobs, faucet handles, the push-button on the hand sanitizer or the container itself, and so on. The world isn't sterile.
The moral of my story is that kids should stop listening to douchebag paranoid germophobes, go out trick-or-treating, and have a great time, unless you're already sick of course. You'll encounter germs and virii wherever you go, and life isn't worth much if you're going to worry about everything you touch.
The second news story comes from the "They should make a law against that" department. Apparently a divorced mother of two kids (8 and 9 years old) in Amarillo, Texas is having a hissy-fit because their father allegedly forced their two kids, while in his custody, to watch a pornographic Internet video. The mother said, "He took away their innocence. I thought, surely, there must be a law against that." Well, in Texas, the law states that sex education is at a parent's discretion, and that showing this material to the children by their parent(s) is not against the law.
I'll refrain from judgement of the father since I don't know what really happened here. Was this some kind of perverted hick who wanted to screw around with his kids' heads? Possibly, but I'm going to say not likely. What probably happened here is that either (1) his kids asked a question about sex and he felt this would be a good way to answer their question, or (2) the kids were exploring some site and he felt it would be better if he could put the visuals in context. Kind of like the kid who is caught smoking is forced to smoke the whole pack in front of Dad so he'll never do it again. I'd say that the father's real crime here is an absence of good judgement, which seems to be epidemic in society today. If he really is a sick pervert, though, then definitely throw him in jail (usually these kind of perverts have a history of abuse).
My "blatant stupidity" award, though, goes to the mother, and to anyone else who's outraged at the law in this case. I'm close to several families where the parents are divorced and there's kids in the mix. The parents use the kids as pawns in their battle with each other, and the kids have "selective memory" about events in order to manipulate their parents. This sounds more like two parents bickering about parenting philosophy and a counselor over-reacting to a certain situation than a perverted father who forces his kids to watch Internet porn. Seriously, does that even make any sense? The problem is that there is no definitive way to raise children, and kids don't come with an instruction manual. The law allowing parents to show this material was specifically enacted so that the parents could show sexually-oriented material to their kids for the purpose of teaching them about sex. How a parent chooses to teach their child makes an excellent topic for debate, but I'm not sure that the legal system is the place to debate that subject. The time to debate that subject is before the parents have intercourse and pop-out the little tykes. Should the mother be concerned? Absolutely. Should the mother or state start pressing charges against the father? That is a very good question. Was this sex education, kids lying to their counselor (maybe because they watched the videos on their own and didn't want to fess-up to it), a sick and perverted father, or something else? The news story didn't say, and we have no right to judge based on that story. As for the kids "losing their innocence" ... I doubt that even if they were forced to watch Internet porn that the kids would be scarred for life. Save that sentiment for children who are really sexually abused. There are really cases of that, and they need to throw the sick bastards who do that in the slammer and throw away the key.
Maybe if the mother and father of these children had better parenting and sex education themselves, then they would have known better about choosing a mate and what happens nine months after intercourse. I feel bad for these children - not because they saw Internet porn, but because their parents are initiating a legal battle that is taking away from real parenting, and sending a message to the kids that sex is horrible and dirty and bad. I think that this will do far more harm than the Internet porn...