Sunday, January 13, 2008

Little Children

I really want to start off by saying that little kids are prigs, but since the evidence for this rests entirely on my own childhood, and a couple of anecdotes about other people, I guess I should just say that I was a prig as a little kid.

Things I was appalled by: cigarettes, premarital sex, lies, drunkenness. My attitude towards drugs was straight out of reefer madness. The idea of letting someone look at my homework sent me into a state of near-hysteria. They sent us to DARE (drug abuse resistance education; now known mainly for the number of Silver Lake types who wore that distinctive DARE t-shirt, red lettering on a black background, a few years ago) and I thought it was awesome. I was glad to see someone taking a stand against the drug menace, and when the police officer told us that if we knew drugs would be at a party we should not go to the party because of the likelihood that our drinks would be spiked with LSD, I nodded along vigorously.

This was not really a problem that faced me because I wasn't getting invited to so many parties anyway.

Evidence (dubious) that I wasn't totally alone in my priggishness: when my fifth grade class had a debate on the death penalty, nobody wanted to argue the anti side. The guy who eventually volunteered was also the guy who would mime the sex act with the shrubbery in the playground at recess, another complicated feature of childhood. Also the horrified fascination with which people would pretend drunkenness.

I wish I could say that by the time I was seventeen this had all gone away, but I pretty much continued priggish until I was well into college. The details might change, not so much, but the attitude of appalled indignation stuck around. I remember telling someone I knew from high school about my sophomore year roommate (first half) who was a wake and bake girl, and he was like, so, have you softened your position on drugs, and I said yes.

Other than the dubious pleasures of re-living my childhood, why am I bringing this up? I don't know. I think it's interesting, the passion with which children take moral positions. My best friend went to visit her grandparents when we were both in kindergarten, and when she came back we had this detailed political discussion about Ronald Reagan's "teach a man to fish" line and trickle down economics. There's something about not knowing anything about the world that allows these kinds of things to stick to you with greater force, to seem vitally important, especially when you're trying to make sense of what the hell is going on.

At least that's how it was for me. You?

1 comment:

Noko Marie said...

I'm trying to remember. I wasn't a moralist about drugs or drinking or sex or bad behavior. I did cheat on a fourth grade geometry test once. On the other hand I guess it says something that I still remember doing it after all these years.

I was a moralist -- an uninformed moralist -- about war and violence and meanness, though. I remember MASH reruns making a big impact on me.

That's amazing about your class, though. Wow. I was the kind of little idealist who figured you had to be crazy to murder someone so shouldn't all those people be in hospitals instead of jails? It's likely that I wouldn't have said this in class, I guess. I was also easily frightened by majorities.