'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
WHAT TO DO ABOUT DISTRESSING SITUATION?
Many of us have encountered this distressing situation: you’re walking down the aisle of a store, minding your own business, and suddenly you hear someone yell, “Knock it off, or I’ll kick your f****** a**!!”
As uncomfortable as those words make you feel, you hope and pray that two adults are angry with each other. But no, as you turn the corner you see one adult, bending at the waist so that his or her face, twisted in rage, is right next to the face of a terrified six-year-old child. And your heart sinks. In an instant your imagination fast-forwards two decades into the future, and you can see that same little child, now an adult, repeating the cycle of abuse and screaming angry threats into the face of his or her offspring.
The question is, what are we suppose to do when we stumble onto such a situation? Do we keep on walking because it’s “none of our business”? Do we intervene? If so, how?
Personally, when I stumble upon a public display of Jerkitis Parentis (the technical term for this behavior), my gut instinct is to yell, “Hey moron, pick on someone your own size!” and then jump in and kick the parent’s, um, backside. This, of course, is a bad idea for a number of reasons. First, if I did kick the parent’s butt, then I would be arrested and sent to prison, where I most likely would encounter many of the parent’s friends, who would then kick my butt on a daily basis for the entire duration of my sentence.
More likely, however, since I haven’t been involved in fisticuffs since the seventh grade, the angry parent would mop the floor with me, and after getting treated at the emergency room, I’d still be arrested for starting the whole thing.
Most of all, this course of action sends the clear message to the child that violence is acceptable when you’re angry—just make sure you’re bigger and stronger and more violent than the person who is making you angry.
Do we instead get the government involved? What if there are no obvious signs of physical abuse? Is it against the law for a parent to scream profanities at a child? I hope it’s illegal, but I’m not so sure in our current “anything goes” culture. Courts have ruled that people have the unlimited right to free expression, no matter how rude and profane and offensive that expression might be to everyone else. Who are we to trample on a parent’s First Amendment right to free speech, huh?
And how exactly would we go about it? I’m not sure it would be very effective if we went up to the angry parent and said, “Um, excuse me, I noticed that you have terrible parenting skills, so could you please wait right here for about twenty minutes as I go and make a few phone calls to the police and DCF, and have this child removed from your custody? You will? Oh good. Just wait right here.”
The most important occupation in society is being a parent. And yet, it’s the one occupation that requires no education, training, or skills. Imagine if that were the case for other occupations. “What do you do for living?” “I’m a brain surgeon.” “Oh, how did you get into that profession?” “Well, I got drunk at a party one night, and the next thing I knew, nine months later I was a brain surgeon.”
Boy, I sure wish I had some answers. The only thing I can think of is to avoid going out to stores.
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