When Everything’s Up for Grabs

Not quite real, but a good reality check nonetheless.

I got sucked in by a photo yesterday (pictured) that turned out not to be exactly accurate. But the karmic universe balanced out when I was able to correct another friend a few hours later, showing that Mitt Romney did NOT say he was too important to go to Vietnam.

Meanwhile there’s a photo that some say provides definitive proof that President Obama, a constitutional law scholar and former editor of the Harvard Law Review, may or may not know how to spell Ohio using his hands.

My kids don’t watch a ton of commercial television—we’re PBS partisans, for the most part—but stuff leaks through. No big deal, except that they’ve started to needle me for all these amazing products they’re seeing on TV. Like Packit, the freezable lunch bag. The product is so ingenious, you see. And the spokesperson is very chipper. Surely we need one! Or many!

It’s a testament to my kids’ sincerity and powers of persuasion that I want to buy one of these even though

a) I work from home (and thus eat lunch at home) multiple days a week

b) Robert and I both have fridges at our workplaces

c) the girls eat sandwiches for lunch, and a few hours in a backpack isn’t going to ruin honey ham.

They were puzzled by my gentle pushback. But the TV people said it was awesome! And they were so certain about it! It was a good teachable moment. It also broke my heart a little, because they also have to deal with doctored Mars photos and partisan Internet hoaxes. Outrageous marketing claims on the the teevee feel so quaint and old fashioned in comparison.

When the origins of the Mars picture were pointed out to me I lamented, “Good Lord, do I have to factcheck EVERYTHING?!?” It gets tiring to be skeptical all the time, though I’ve resigned myself to it.

But my three amigos haven’t.

At the risk of getting all won’t-someone-please-think-of-the-children here… how do we prepare young minds to live in a world that can so easily deceive them?

You might say that relationships trump everything. You can count on love, because while the Internet can lie, love cannot be faked. But anyone with a broken heart knows better.

Besides, after I took Caroline to see Bolt (about a dog who discovers that his whole life is an adventure show) she had nightmares for weeks, and once tearfully asked me, “How do I even know you’re really my mom?!?”

Oh honey.

And there are faith implications to this. If my kids grow into adults with a strong belief in God/the Holy/the Really Real/the Great Whatever/the Life-giving Story/what have you, well, of course that’s fine. Good. Beautiful. Potentially life-giving.

But ignorance of inconvenient scientific facts in supposed service to that belief = not OK with me.

What say you, Gentle Reader?

6 thoughts on “When Everything’s Up for Grabs

  1. Bob Braxton

    Let me get this straight. The three see this as awesome and want you to get these for yourselves (as opposed to themselves). If not, if they want to get for themselves, what did the trick for me is to begin the allowance and then the choice is each person’s. This allows direct experience – they can see how “awesome” can turn quickly into “buyer’s remorse” – a lesson that cannot “take” through admonition alone and one, once they feel the personal pain, may last their entire lifetime. Just thoughts.

  2. bookgirl

    I HIGHLY (and then some) recommend Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. She’s a professor and a person of faith and the book is all about this phenomenon of which you are writing. She writes of her college students who come to school having been lied to–in the ways you mention–all their lives, having to sift through everything they hear and seeing. And she calls us to respond to that carelessness of language by caring very deeply. It’s terrific.


  3. Rachel Heslin

    I remember reading about the “doublespeak” of the former Soviet Union, in which the government would do things like label a goat path a major highway on a map, because one day, Stalin willing, it would become a major highway! And everybody knew it was fake, and that expectation of falsity became part of their lives.

  4. Hugs, Kisses and Snot

    Just last night we were having a discussion at dinner about special effects and cg in movies. Our 7 yr old was wondering how the actor who played young Anikan was able to fly his speeder in Episode 1..b/c he was just a kid and kids don’t know how to fly an aircraft. We explained that he wasn’t really flying, the speeder wasn’t real and the computer was doing all the special effects. He realized that it wasn’t really real and was a little disappointed to learn the truth. I then realized that a little bit of the magic of childhood innocence just escaped and was a little sad.
    The best I can say for now is that as more and more innocence is lost it’s up to us as parents to help him navigate what is trustworthy and what is not. We have to stay vigilant to what he is seeing on the computer and tv and discuss what happens in the movies we watch. We also talk a lot about using his brain and thinking tools to discover answers for himself instead of just believing what his friends or the tv says and then come and ask us. I wish there was a “parenting guidebook”

  5. Pingback: Some levity (and gravity) for your week - Children

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