Thursday, August 14, 2014

The World Today - Tools for Preparation

Have you got any matches?
Lord of the Flies - Chapter 2

I had some travel planned  that would take me to St. Louis, but where I was going would have me drive right past where the city is erupting in violence. That's not a place I wanted to be as I looked at videos of thugs burning down local businesses and looting.

So I cancelled that little trip and went to work, getting some large legally things off my desk, then a sandwich and quick trip to the store on my lunch break. There, I picked up a few household essentials, one of them some soap for the bathrooms as I was totally out. I usually get Irish Spring for the guest bath, but that day, I saw a bulk pack of Ivory soap and picked it up as that's what I have in my bathroom. Simple soap, good for my delicate, sensitive skin.  It's also what was always in our bathroom as a child. I remember bath time as a small child, a flotilla of plastic boats trying to avoid the floating  iceberg of Ivory soap, little army men jumping into the water to avoid the collision.  What's that noise? Oh No, a waterfall! Arghhhh!

I could stay in that tub until my little fingers had shriveled up into raisins, as long as I could warm the water up periodically. Mom usually had to come in and drain all the fun so I could go to bed.
When I got the necessities home from the store, I opened the wrapper of soap and the smell was as I always remembered. It's like the smell of Crayola Crayons. Not what I'd call a pretty smell, but such a familiar and comforting one.  Ivory was all we ever had as a child, that and Boraxo powdered soap for washing hands after shop and yard work.  Ivory is what I've washed my face with for most of my life. But I can also well remember how it tastes, for once when I said a cuss word, my Mom washed out my mouth with it. It does NOT taste good.

It wasn't the first cuss word to pass my lips.  That was from the arms of my Mom when I was not even school age and I eagerly tried out "my new word!" on the Lutheran Minister who stopped by the house to see my Mom. I likely learned it from my Dad, career military, he came into the marriage with a few words that weren't to be uttered around the little ones under strict rules from Mom. But rules don't always mean they will be followed. For Dad DID have a shop and sharp tools, so it was only a matter of time before a hammer stroke went awry and Barbie and Francie and friends heard the S-bomb.

My Mom, I'm sure, wanted to crawl under the porch after that passed my lips with a smile and a wave, but Pastor E. took it in stride.  He had raised several children,  the children of whom I would babysit as a teen.  My parents tended to some leeway to the rules we had not learned yet, but there was no quarter to those we were aware of.  Hence the Ivory Soap mouthwash a few short years later.
You can say all you want about what our youth are exposed to, violent video games, bloodshed, sex and violence on TV. But I truly believe that as children, what moral imperatives initially form in us are in response to parenting, not society or entertainment. That's probably why I knew that there would be dire consequences if I tried to drop an anvil on my brothers head or blow up the garage with Acme Dynamite like Wily Coyote tried to do to the Roadrunner every Saturday morning.

We were children, but we knew there was a moral code to this world and that the world as well, did not revolve around our every need and happiness. It was how our parents were raised, and how we were raised. Our parents clothed us, loved us, praised us and punished us, not without thought and not with unwarranted decree, but in a manner firm enough it definitely got our attention.

And we did test those boundaries for we were children, finding that with those boundaries came accountability.  One soon learns that a tantrum in Safeway will not get you that toy by the check stand, it will get you a quick and silent removal to the car and home to think about it in your room, without any toys. One learns that if one lies to a parent, that certain things we enjoy are not a right, they're earned by responsibility. One learns that if one tries to jump off the garage roof with a makeshift airfoil, the ground will smite thee only a little less than Dad will. One often, much later, learns that if you carelessly play with what one holds dear, there are consequences for more than just yourself, lessons that stay long after the aftermath.
Now, many kids are given access to most anything good and bad that the TV and Internet has to offer, at the earliest of ages, not as a lesson in choice, but as way of entertainment for parents often absent. Through expectation or demand, children are given possessions so freely that neither the object or the givers have value to them, and if acting out, in their attempts to cajole or control, their actions are forgiven before forgiveness had been even ventured or earned.

As children, my siblings and I were not insulated from the world and its capabilities for harm. We understood the rudimentary principles of physics, ballistics and stupidity.  Current events were discussed, war, poverty, and man's evil against other men, but only when we were old enough to grasp and apply those lessons. My siblings and I read books  in school in the 60's and 70's that are probably banned today as not being politically correct. We had toys that could cause second degree burns.  We had chemistry sets that could actually blow things up.  We learned how to safely handle certain firearms and respect the trust of their use, their purpose, which was not to impose our will or to take something we had not earned, but to provide and protect.
But they were careful not to give us access to things from which we could obtain knowledge for which we did not yet have the wisdom nor demonstrated the reasoning for.  Remember Jack and Roger from Lord of the Flies?  Imagine them with Wireless connectivity, Mom's credit card and free shipping.  There are no laws that will prevent what a mind unbound by honor, ethics or the value of others can destroy, when their own worth is predicated on unlimited attention and no accountability. And certainly there are no laws which will sway the actions of a mind caught by madness, who act not with rational thought of the outcome, but as a man, out of his mind with a gangrene poisoned hand, thirsts for an axe that with its downward stroke will somehow make him whole.
When such evil, by it driven by mental defect or ego, strikes, it does so at the very lie of safety that are the laws that control behavior, that control our tools, our very actions, for evil knows no such laws.  When they strike, there is little left but the invoked ghosts of ones we can never avenge and the media heralded name of one who should be unnamed, forgotten, buried in an unmarked grave in burnt, damned ground. Then comes the cry that yet another law above and beyond the ones they already broke by their actions, would have stopped them. 

From the beginning of time there have been laws, there have been tools that can be used as weapons, including firearms. There has been good and evil. There have been two distinct and competing impulses that exist among humans, one, the instinct to live by the law, to act peacefully except in matters of self defense, to follow moral commands for the good of the group and the other, the instinct to gratify one's immediate desires without adherence to any such law or moral code, using violence, not as a means of protection, but to simply to obtain supremacy over others or force one's will on someone without defense.

Even as children we were exposed to both types of behavior.  How we reacted to it, how we CHOSE which behavior was acceptable, was due to the example set, not just by society, but by our parents.
Our parents talked to us, not as our "friends" but as our parents.  They knew who we played with, who we talked to, and if one of the neighborhood kids exhibited aggressive, bullying behavior, the mothers all knew it and made sure the bully's mother and father were aware. We didn't not worry about "emphasizing" or "understanding" them or "reasoning" with them, nor were we conditioned to blame ourselves because they were the way they were.

If  their Mom or Dad didn't get them in line through societal pressure, we weren't adverse to a well placed punch in the nose when they attacked again. We usually didn't have to, bullies were handled without patience and kids who were a danger to themselves or others weren't sent back out to the sandbox with the innocents with a "you're special" talk and some meds.  They were put where they could do no harm.
 
The rest of us? Well, most of us worried more about what happened by Dad when we got home from school after misbehaving there, than any punishment another kid could give out. Our Dad's were, with few exceptions, veterans, they were present, society not yet promoting the belief that one doesn't need a Dad around to grow up well rounded, simply a check, which the government can provide, right? We had  parents who were hands on parents, hands calloused with hard work and scarred from their own mistakes.
I can tell you there was more than one bit of mischief I would have gotten into had not I feared my Dad finding out.

The abandon and innocent glee that was childhood, remains forever lodged in my mind, just as do those lessons, even the painful ones. I put my hands up to my nose and smell the faint, clean scent of soap, something so plain and simple, much like what once stood for truth. Today, I am trusted with the safety of others, with sharp implements, weapons, power tools and another's honorable heart. But what guides me to maintain that trust, is not a law, it is not the dictate of a ruling body, it is bound in me by the honor of the past and the examples of my upbringing.
I hold the bar of Ivory soap up to my nose one last time, the scent calling to mind days of innocence never to be obtained again, innocence we as a society lost yet again so very  recently.  I put a bar in the guest bathroom, I put one in my shower, where it will be used to cleanse, mud, muck and occasionally, blood.

There is much we can be cleansed of, by the Water and by His blood, but there some things formed in the soul, which can not be bound by man, or removed with reason, things for which we should always be ready. For there will always be those whose capabilities for harm we can not always fathom but we should always dread. For  that I am armed with not just the Second Amendment, but the blued steel of eternal vigilance.

 - Brigid

8 comments:

Chip said...

My Dad always told us not to call from the Police station because he wouldn't come bail us out. We were way more afraid of Dad than we were of the Police so we never tested that statement. Seems our parents learned from the same parenting model.

Sherry said...

Amen.

Rob said...

Glad you did not go near St. Louis and that you are safe.

Keads said...

Ivory soap is here. I remember my Grandmother pulling me out of the tub way back when and the fact that the house only recently HAD a bathroom four decades ago escaped me until recently.

A different world now. I at times long for the past but am grounded in the lessons taught then and willingly face the future. Only with embracing the past and finding friends here that share the same principles would that be possible.

Have a great night.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

"There are no laws that will prevent what a mind unbound by honor, ethics or the value of others can destroy, when their own worth is predicated on unlimited attention and no accountability."

I have never seen that basic premise expressed so well.

As kids, we had a way of dealing with a "spoiled brat" playmate, but when an entire generation is spoiled,ostracism isn't feasible.

Roscoe said...

I stayed at the [business-class hotel chain] in Fairview Heights outside St. Louis a few years ago, just down the street from the IRS and, I'm sure, other Secret Squirrel buildings.

Having grown up in FL and spent time in and around Dade County, that area of IL didn't strike me as "dangerous" in comparison, but within a year of my visit, two nationally-reported race-related violent incidents took place at, respectively, a big box store and restaurant located within visual distance of where I parked my car in the hotel parking lot.

Be careful in that part of The Range. Hopefully the current Chicago mayor doesn't get ambitious and decide to run for Governor. There goes CCW. :)

Ad absurdum per aspera said...

Never got the soap treatment, but when I was small, Mom had a talk with Dad about words and expressions that should have been left in the factory and/or paratroopers. Too late!

The worries were not the tender sensibilities of the clergy, though. The one time we had a pastoral visit, Dad and the priest discovered that the interests they had in common included spirits as well as spirituality, and delved into both deep into the night.

(The pastor survived the drive home, though nobody thought much about that in those days. Turns out that several years later, after we'd moved along, he had a three decade career in South America, then came back to organize a burgeoning need in that part of the Midwest -- a Spanish speaking ministry. He's retired now but still listed on directories. The search engine is an amazing thing...)

Brigid said...

Chip - we heard that too. Seeing as our Mom had been the local Deputy Sheriff for many years, it was easy for her to have them keep an eye on us.

Sherry - thanks

Rob - I'll wait a month, just a visit with another work location that can wait.

Keads - I'm glad those of us here have these shared pasts.

John Peddie - well thank you. Oh yes we had our ways of dealing with them as well. :-)

Keads - most of the governors end up in prison. He'd probably not be any different.

Ad Absurdum - the pastor sounds like a very unique individual