The Freedom to Say Yes

7 Jul

One thing about getting older is your perspective on things changes. I certainly thought about this over the July 4th weekend in relation to freedom of speech issues. As a former print and television journalist, my livelihood depended on the First Amendment. But last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down California’s ban on the sale of extremely violent video games to children is a win for no one but the gaming industry. It supports video game makers’ freedom while enabling young people to virtually participate in unimaginable brutality. I don’t know constitutional law, but I know that this is not what our Founding Fathers’ had in mind with the First Amendment. Seriously, the idea that this kind of expression needs constitutional protection is laughable.

The common argument to support the Supreme Court’s decision is: it’s a parent’s job to control what a child is exposed to. That’s the argument I would have made before I had kids. And I still believe it, to a degree. But as a parent I wish I had a little more help from the world at large.

Let’s face it, we are shaped by what we consume. What we read. What we see. What we eat. What we hear. Why else would parents play Mozart to babies and take toddlers to art museums? Exposure. Children take it all in – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Most of us have a moment from childhood when we saw something that disturbed us, and that image has stuck with us. For my husband it was the movie The Exorcist that he saw at a friend’s house. He had nightmares for years. For me it was a scene in a black and white movie of a woman drowning in a tank of water while others look on and didn’t help her. The movie was made before Technicolor®. How bad could it be? But that image still haunts me. We each had these experiences when our parents weren’t around – my husband was at a friend’s and I was at my grandmother’s house. And that’s the point. Parents aren’t always there to monitor what kids see and hear.

I already have to say “no” to so many things my four-year-old son would like to do. Cars 2 is the most recent example of that. Our house is full of Cars stuff – toys, tissue boxes, books and sippy cups. We loved the first movie, and we were ready for another visit with our friends in Radiator Springs. But the silly explosions and pointless shoot ‘em up violence in the Cars 2 trailer are enough for me to wait a year or two to let my oldest child see it. Unlike uber-violent video games, this is a movie that’s made for children and families, and it has a G rating. I wish I didn’t have to be circumspect about something approved for General Audiences.

Even if I think the First Amendment has been stretched completely out of shape, I am still thankful for the right of freedom of speech. Having said that, I wish popular culture gave parents the freedom to be less diligent in monitoring everything their kids see. I also wish I had the freedom to say “yes” a little more often.


4 Responses to “The Freedom to Say Yes”

  1. Buddy Harris July 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Hi Kathleen,
    I look forward to reading more of your blog, especially since, I too, am ambling toward 40. I think I have less of a problem with the legal fidelity of the Supreme Court’s ruling than I do with the First Amendment being…um…bastardized to provide cover for stuff like this that’s so obviously unhealthy for us personally and culturally. Maybe it’s not a conversation for the courts, but it’s clear the courts are going to provide us an unimpeded pathway to cultural destruction if we want to go that way.

    By the way, DON’T see Cars 2. Took my niece and nephew this weekend. It was def loud and violent. But most of all, it just sucked. For more of an in-depth higher-level critique, hit me up off line.


    • 40countdown July 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Hey Buddy ~ Thanks so much for reading, and it’s great to hear from you! I hope I didn’t sound too preachy in this post … I’ve been thinking about writing about the Supreme Court ruling since it was announced last week. It’s a little off-topic from the theme of the blog, but I certainly feel differently about media content than I did 10 years ago, and the overall lack of support of family (do I dare say values) by media, government, corporate American and the most insitutions that influence our lives … I never thought I would be the Mom forbidding Happy Meals. Do you have a blog? If so, I would love to read it. Kathleen

    • Anonymous July 8, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      The courts have been allowing us to abuse ourselves for decades now, so this is nothing new. Like it or not the only remedy is a strong moral compass and a healthy dose of common sense.


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