Hi Readers! — Some thoughts on how easily we criminalize erstwhile normal behavior. These are brought to us by Ann Sattley, a stay-at-home mother of two boys and author of the book Technically, That’s Illegal: An Experiment in Following the Rules and the blog of the same name,where she questions the efficacy of many laws.
The Home of the (lol) “Brave”? by Ann Sattley
When we say that the United States is the “Home of the Brave,” we must not be talking about our children or their parents. We can’t very well be the home of the brave if we run out and buy every new safety item and are concerned about our children’s eyes being damaged by the glare on notebook paper.
Besides the sundry products that are marketed to (over) protect our children, there are also laws that are selectively enforced based on whether a child was involved. No, I’m not talking about molestation or child endangerment. Those things are heinous. I’m talking about people getting fined and arrested for simply scaring a child.
In Idaho, a man was asked by the police not to wear his bunny suit anymore. He wore the suit in his own yard. I don’t know why he likes to wear the suit, but I do know why he was told by the police not to do so – because it frightened some children. What kind of children are these? When I was young, I would probably have followed a person in a bunny suit expecting to get some candy out of the ordeal. Maybe the children will feel differently around Easter time. Until then, the bunny suit is considered a public nuisance, and the man could be guilty of disturbing the peace — and traumatizing children.
You know what else is traumatic for a child? Witnessing a wine tasting. In Maine, any child under 15 is protected from such audacious displays of wanton disregard for civility. This law intends to prevent any child from even catching a glimpse of someone with a wine glass in their hand at a public event. Having blinds over the windows and doors is not sufficiently protective because a child might happen to glance into the room when the door was partially open. The sensitive child would then go home, cry himself to sleep and wake up deciding to become an alcoholic.
Imagine the precedent we set if simply upsetting a child or his or her parent would result in criminal charges. It upsets me that some people in my neighborhood don’t bother to recycle. It bothers me when young women wear a sports bra with no shirt on to run past my house. Although I’m sure this won’t bother my young sons in a few years, there has to be room for criminal charges in there somewhere.
If we looked for opportunities to help and empathize with our neighbors as much as we look for ways in which we can criminalize their behavior, we might revert to being the home of the brave. Until then, we’ll call the police when something annoying happens. — Ann Sattley