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I see the mountains that shine before me and a wilderness of trees. This natural beauty conceals beneath it, like a dirty little secret, subdivisions and paved roads and delinquents on bicycles that smoke cigarettes in the shadows of an old overgrown laurel. Yet, I see only the tapestry of green, the electron cascade of photosynthesis, and the folds of mountain ranges.

House Sparrows raise their second family in the little eaved house, copying the dreams of suburbanites, that I built for my daughter; one of three for each of them. One a little dream house with a yard that got stolen after she spent hours decorating it and, in mistaken innocence, placed it on a stump in the woods where it was fair game and was, sadly, stolen. She was sad. Nothing I could do.

The other fell out of the cedar by our windows. Having laboriously attached it to the tree on a ladder I failed to understand the nature of growth, bark and decomposition. The screw, turned into the growing surface of the tree, failed of its purchase - bark is not like a hardwood floor - and the little replica of the American Dream came crashing to the ground one night.

But, reattached much lower now, sparrows live happily in it. Producing two, or even three, clutches of babies. Hurrying on wing, darting and diving among the alders and cedars, filling their beaks with mosquitos, crane flies and other fluttering victims, they return to the strident cheeping of their hatchlings, minute after minute, hour after hour, until, suddenly, the kids fly off to make clutches of their own.

My thoughts turn to child-rearing and how we treat our children.

We are constantly bombarded with pontifications about how much our culture values our children. “Will no one think of the children!?!” This at the same time virtuous working parents, who leave early in the morning and return late in the evening,  are required to become strangers to their children.

Looking beneath the words and examining economic realities gives a more accurate description of the situation. The cost of one second of advertising time during the Superbowl is more than a schoolteacher earns in an entire year. Comparing the wages of pre-school teachers with those of plumbers might lead a Martian to conclude that our toilets are far more important to us than our children. In all the determinations of qualifications for good citizenship we inquire about in our leaders, who tend to be workaholics who never spend time with their families, we never ask how they raise their children. The measure of a successful and productive worker is in earnings and possessions and never in how successful they are as parents.

Is this a culture which values children or is it a cruel civilization which values property and wealth?

The history of child labor in this country is black with cruelty and misery. Any perusal of the development of those large virtuous corporations – our valiant “job-creators” - will reward the reader with numerous tales of long hours and dark conditions. And long hours and dark conditions not limited to adults – look at some old pictures of young children who once worked in the factories for starvation wages.

In unaired rooms, mother and fathers sew by day and by night...and the children are called in from play to drive and drudge beside their elders...All the year in New York and in other cities you may watch children radiating to and from such pitiful homes. Nearly any hour on the East Side of New York City you can see them - pallid boy or spindling girl - their faces dulled, their backs bent under a heavy load of garments piled on head and shoulders, the muscles of the whole frame in a long strain
 (from an article by Edwin Markham in Cosmopolitan, January, 1907)

 A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work... (Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh about the woolen mills in Lawrence Mass, 1912)

In the spring of 1903, I went to Kensington, Pennsylvania, where seventy-five thousand textile workers were on strike. Of this number at least ten thousand were little children...Every day little children came into Union Headquarters, some with their hands off, some with the thumb missing, some with their fingers off at the knuckle. They were stooped little things, round shouldered and skinny... (The Autobiography of Mother Jones, 1925)

 

It was, and still is to a great extent, a very cruel civilization for all those who are not part of the wealthy elite. And “grown-up responsibilities” are cruel enough to the grown-ups themselves. In these modern times children are no longer forced to work by financial necessity, but they still face the hard-hearted realities of that necessity. Now that children are protected, after many long and protracted battles with the captains of industry, they watch both parents abandon them daily for their grown-up responsibilities. These responsibilities are clearly not in raising and caring for their children but rather in being productive members of the work force. A poem written by a pants presser, Morris Rosenfeld, in the 1880’s expresses this separation powerfully:

I have a little boy at home,
A pretty little son;
I think sometimes the world is mine
In him, my only one...

Ere dawn my labor drives me forth;
Tis night when I am free;
A stranger am I to my child;
And stranger my child to me...

Children, in their natural state,  are idle and unproductive;  they play and seek pleasure and happiness merely for the sake of pleasure and happiness. It is quite clear that the irresponsibility and pleasure seeking of children is at odds with the priorities of this supposedly Christian nation. They become innocent victims of  massive campaigns to drive out this pleasure seeking and mold them into productive hard working citizens. This is accomplished by repeated and abusive brainwashing and is what lies at the root of the emotional distress so many good citizens labor under.

In the words of the pastor of the original Pilgrim colony, John Robinson,

And surely there is in all children a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon.
This is representative, in spirit, of the more general sense of the philosophy of growth and progress which forms the peculiarly American gospel of the virtues of individual worldly enterprise as articulated by such worthies as Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, who owned the factories children were laboring in. The virtues of wealth were being proclaimed with religious fervor by ministers like Russel Conwell,
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich...The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community...That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them...I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins is to do wrong. Let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings...
So, people are poor because God has punished them for their shortcomings. These shortcomings are sloth, laziness and pleasure seeking. And children must have these tendencies, their “natural pride,” broken and beaten out of them or they will not become virtuous productive citizens like the paragons of the virtues of wealth we so admire.

A question then arises about these “Christians,” if their Lord, Himself, said:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones [children], it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea... (Matthew 18:6)
Why are not all the practitioners and purveyors of this “virtue of wealth” philosophy “drowned in the depths of the sea” with millstones around their necks? How are they able to continue to profess Christian virtue while at the same time directly opposing the teachings of the originator of Christianity in their practices and behavior? This is a most troubling and incredible hypocrisy.

.

Originally posted to grains of sand on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 11:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the factory is so near the golf links (9+ / 0-)

    That almost every day
    The laboring children can look out
    And see the men at play.

    [anyone know who wrote that? I don't]

    •  Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn (9+ / 0-)
      The golf links lie so near the mill, That almost every day, The laboring children can look out, And watch the men at play

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 04:13:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually kids are still working (4+ / 0-)

        There are two fields of endeavor in the US that still have a large child labor component: one is farmwork, where migrant families are forced by economics to send teenage children out in the fields. Labor contractors wink at this, and labor laws are rarely enforced in agriculture

        The second is prostitution. Pimps want 'em young- young whores fetch a higher price and are easier to control. There is a lot of recruitment around group homes and sometimes even at high schools in poor areas.

        •  People who force others into prostitution, are one (0+ / 0-)

          of the few groups that cause me to consider the Death Penalty just.

        •  Farm kids: stalking horse for child labor's return (3+ / 0-)

          Today's squalid, rancid Republican ideology has shamelessly glommed onto farm kids as their stalking horse to repeal child labor laws. Because who could be against a plucky farm kid helping his dad on the family farm?

          As a rural family doctor, I find it simply appalling. I take care of not one, but two men who lost an arm at the shoulder while working on the family farm as adolescents. Another was dragged fatally into a grain auger. (Just imagine what that rescue attempt was like. The EMT's had nightmares for months.)

          The worst atrocities of the early industrial era are banging at the door, begging to be let loose again. And today's Republican party is salivating with eagerness to open that door.

  •  And so it shall ever be . . . (9+ / 0-)

    so long as some men are allowed to Profit from toil and misery of others, without ever setting hand themselves to labor.  Men like Mitt Romney, for instance.

    Karl Marx was wrong primarily in  his optimism that the suffering, starving, oppressed workers could be roused to fight against those who held them in slavery.  One of the constant techniques of slave-masters is to keep the serfs too busy, too exhausted, too starved, too frightened, and too divided to stand up for themselves and fight together.  Catching them at a young age and rigorously brainwashing them into submission is another typical method.  This is old, old wisdom that goes back to the domestication of animals.

  •  I was, in many ways, a latchkey child (19+ / 0-)

    Born in 1956, formative years in the 60's, with both parents working.  They left for work in the morning before I had to arise from bed to prepare for school.  So I learned to make oatmeal, or Cream of Wheat, or an egg or simply a bowl of Cheerios for myself.

    When I got home from school, they were still at work.  I learned to open a can of Campbell's soup, and make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Once fortified, I went out to play, returning only later in the evening after they had both returned from work.

    We always had dinner together.  I never felt estranged from my parents.  They were there when they could be.  And we were a family in those moments.

    I grew up as part of a family unit, and we each had our own responsibilities.  My parents worked, and I mowed the lawn, took out the trash, did ironing when it needed to be done...I still remember the 7-up bottle with the cork stopper and watering can style top, that I used to wet the clothes with before running the iron over them.  I would have been about 11 years old.  

    Are there things I missed out on growing up because both my parents worked?  Sure there are.  I would have liked my Dad to have had more time to show me how to work on a car, or how to do some handyman types of things, which he was actually quite good at.  I would have liked him to throw the football back and forth with me, or a baseball.  I never, ever played catch with my Dad.

    Just the other day I was walking up to Trader Joes and passed by a young Father who was playing catch with his son...they both had mitts on and were tossing a baseball back and forth.  I stopped and watched for a few seconds, and almost teared up.  I haven't seen that in decades, and I certainly never enjoyed the experience during my childhood.

    But I can't complain.  I was, by dent of reality, forced to become so much more responsible than kids I know of the same age today.  Once, when emptying the dishwasher in the middle of the afternoon after school, I dropped a coffee cup that was part of the "nice dinnerware" that my Mother only used for special occasions.  It was a careless act on my part.

    I got some glue and managed to fix the handle back onto the cup, and the next day, while alone, I placed it at the very farthest part of the cabinet, so that it wouldn't soon be used.

    I then proceded to save up my lunch money, foregoing lunch for several days, until I had a cache of coins to take to the Department Store where my Mother had purchased her dinnerware from.  I rode my bicycle the 3 miles to the store one afternoon, just as soon as I had enough money, and as soon as I got home from school, with the broken cup in my shirt, and walked into the area where they sold dinnerware and fancy glassware and serving ware and all the rest.

    An elderly saleswoman approached me, and was a bit bemused at the fact that an 11 year old kid would be browsing that section of the store.  I took the broken cup from my shirt, and told her what had happened, and asked if it was possible to buy a replacement?  Did they still make that pattern?  I really needed to replace this cup.

    I thought she was going to cry.  "Yes, she said, it's still a popular pattern, and I'm pretty sure I can find a cup in the stockroom."  She disappeared, and then came back, cup in hand.  I think it cost me about $4.00, in 1967.  That was a lot of lunch money.  I rode my bike back home from the store, with the new cup tucked into my shirt, as free as a bird.  Gleeful, even.

    I put it back in the cupboard when I got home...right up in front, and nobody never knew anything about it until about 20 years later when I told my Mom the story.

    She was amazed.

    Working parents can raise good kids.

    It's not the time you are away from your kids that matters so much as how you spend the time that you do have with them.

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 05:15:14 PM PDT

    •  Please don't misunderstand my emphasis (7+ / 0-)

      I mean no criticism whatsoever for working parents. Your story is moving and I agree wholeheartedly with this:

      It's not the time you are away from your kids that matters so much as how you spend the time that you do have with them.
      My emphasis is upon the requirements of a system that created such latchkey kids as yourself (and, by the way, myself). A system that strains working parents to the breaking point and, sometimes,  beyond.

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 05:24:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That system has been with us forever (4+ / 0-)

        It isn't anything recent.  Some kids are born to families that have it made, and some kids aren't.  But this history goes back hundreds of years....before the Gilded Age, before the Industrial Revolution, before, I suspect, the Bronze Age.

        We're not all born on third base, thinking we hit a triple, as the saying goes.  And in 200 years, if we live that long as a society, it will still be the same.

        At the end of the day, a helicoptering, stay at home Mom won't necessarily raise a better kid than a working Mom who has to commute to and from work on the bus, lengthening her days even more.  It's not the amount of attention that a kid gets...it's the kind of attention.

        That's all I'm saying.

        Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 05:50:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I'll have to disagree with you on some of (3+ / 0-)

          this. I don't agree that there has been one monolithic system that has gone forever back in time. Systems change. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes for the better. I agree that wealthy families have, however, always had it made. But the systems with which they have maintained their power and privilege have gone through many changes, imho.

          muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

          by veritas curat on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 06:39:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I was also a latchkey kid (0+ / 0-)

      And it was very lonely and there wasn't much time to talk about things like feelings, so I was stunted regarding that until as an adult I learned how to talk about them.

      What I wanted was irrelevant, because there was no one to talk about it.

      Women create the entire labor force.

      by splashy on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 05:02:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Indeed - Talk is cheap. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    Judge a man by his deeds, not his words.

    Thank You.

    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 05:26:05 AM PDT

  •  Family for me, but not for thee (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, splashy

    Is their concept of "family values."

    "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

    by CFAmick on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 07:14:29 AM PDT

  •  The sooner the end of the Name it and... (0+ / 0-)

    Claim it Movement, thebetter! It's nothing more than Christian Witchcraft!
    A mercenary worldview that uses a god as an excuse to be a judgmental @-hole.  They might as well be consulting magic 8 balls and sticking pins into dolls. It would be more honest, not mention they might learn a thing or two from practicing Animists.

    Good Stuff. I hope a lot of people read this.

  •  Indeed. Very provocative, questions we ask (0+ / 0-)

    from time to time, but you put it all together beautifully. Thank you!

    Why are not all the practitioners and purveyors of this “virtue of wealth” philosophy “drowned in the depths of the sea” with millstones around their necks? How are they able to continue to profess Christian virtue while at the same time directly opposing the teachings of the originator of Christianity in their practices and behavior? This is a most troubling and incredible hypocrisy.
    We never get the answers to these important questions, do we? I asked similar ones of my own sister-in-law, married to a minister (evangelical) and never got an answer.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 09:28:02 AM PDT

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