Children and Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about community in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Of course a marathon is seemingly all about the individual– Look what I did– I ran 26 miles– no one carried me– I did it myself– hooray for me.

But the Boston Marathon is also a celebration of community.  A celebration of the families and friends, in some cases trainers and coaches, of the runners.  Moreover it has become a celebration of the entire city of Boston.

And I’ve been thinking about my kids as members of a larger community.  Yesterday, my son and youngest daughter and I played basketball with another family.  My oldest daughter had just come home from sleeping at a friend’s house.  Today, a neighborhood first-grader is coming to our house after school to wait for his parents to come home.  On Tuesday a sixth-grade girl is picking up my daughter from school.  Wednesday my daughter’s best friend is coming over to the house.  And so it goes (to quote Kurt Vonnegut) day after day, week after week.

We are embedded in community.  Of course we are.  Of course we are.

And when this recognition of community breaks down we lose sight of our connections, obligations, responsibilities, and dependence on others.  Who cares about the environment, economic equality, social justice?  After all, it’s just me and my family right?

Which makes the recent conservative outcry against a simple MSNBC promo spot not just ridiculous, but also very telling of the pinched ideology of the right.

In the short promo Melissa Harris-Perry (yes, I’ve blogged about her previously– I do love her…) says that children don’t belong to their parents.  She argues they are part of larger communities and therefore we have collective responsibility for them:

“We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities.”

The right exploded in outrage.  Maoist!  Stalin work camps-apologist!  How dare you suggest that small human beings don’t belong to other human beings!  How dare you claim that a whole society has responsibility for the care and well-being of the most vulnerable members of that society!  Didn’t the dear departed Margaret Thatcher teach you that “there is no such thing as society.There are individual men and women, and there are families” ?????????

In response to Perry, one insightful sage actually posted:  “This woman needs to be shot!!!”  Now there’s a reasoned response.  Kumbaya my lord, Kumbaya…

Next time you meet a parent who lost a child to gun violence, or lack of health-care, or someone whose child died in Iraq or Afghanistan, keep in mind that, according to the right, we can only ever look to ourselves when it comes to protecting or nurturing our children.

“The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.  We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn…”