It was my daughter who first noticed it.
“You have a moral reason behind everything you do, Mom,” she said flatly.
To this day, I’m not sure if that was an accusation or a compliment. Considering she was in her early 20s at the time, it could have gone either way.
Until she made that statement, however, I never really thought of it like that. But she was right.
What she was referring to was not my piety or any virtue at all. It was the fact that I’m always on the hunt for “teachable” moments for my children. I’m the mom that turned a Disney vacation into a 10-day homeschool field trip.
It’s a good parent’s natural instinct to shield her child from harsh, cruel, and immoral influences. But it’s a wise parent that can discern the maturity level of a child and then expose these elements from the safety of observation.
Living in a culture steeped in evil and deception gives us plenty of opportunities to provoke conversations with our teenagers. Teaching kids to navigate popular culture by using it is an extremely powerful and influential tool for explaining destructive ideologies.
If you have impressionable teens, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a great place to start. Before we get into some examples, let’s clear something up first.
Catching Fire is not for young children. Nor is it another Twilight with an audience full of fantasizing adolescents.
There is an element of violence. While not particularly graphic by today’s standards, the reason for the cruelty is beyond the comprehension of the under-10 crowd. My advice here is to wait until the movie comes to DVD, watch it first, and then decide if your child can handle the issues presented.
If a child is old enough to read the books, it’s always best to start there.
Understanding the reason behind the violence takes the movie to another level. Which is exactly what makes this movie an excellent place to start.
3. In the fantasy world of Panem, it’s played like this: “We don’t have to destroy her, just her image.”
In the real world where our children are growing up, that same tactic is taught like this:
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” — Saul Alinsky
In the first installment of the series, Katniss emerges as the winner of a barbaric tournament the government uses as a show of power.
In the course of the gladiator-style battle, Katniss maintains her humanity by choosing to kill only in self-defense. When she outwits the game and saves not only herself but her partner as well, hope is ignited among the people. They see a crack in the wall of their oppressive government.
This new hope is seen as a threat to those in power. As the president warns, “Hope is more powerful than fear.” Therefore, she must be eliminated. The president is persuaded to destroy her image, thereby crushing the spirit of the people with one blow.
While your children might know the name of Sarah Palin, my guess is their first introduction to her might well have been in the form of a joke.
They might not be as familiar with a man named Robert Bork, whom President Ronald Reagan nominated for associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1987. What was broadcast across the television networks was the first public political assassination. Its success made Bork’s name synonymous with destroying a public figure’s image.
As parents, we spend a lot of time teaching our children to tell the truth. We want them to grow up to be honest and even courageous when necessary. In the real world, that can make you a target. Fear of having your character destroyed or demonized is a silent killer of would-be real-life superheroes.
Reinforcing your child’s natural sense of justice, point out that an oppressive government always personifies the problems. It gives them a single face like George Zimmerman or a religion like Judaism to hate and blame for their misery. Then, their oppressors become their benevolent leaders.
It might be interesting to ask your child how many oppressive governments he has learned about in school.
2. In the future world of Panem, it happens like this: “Your job is to be a distraction so people forget what their real problems are.”
Katniss and Peeta are sent on a victory tour. The idea is to paint a rosy picture that all is well. Their whistle-stop tour is designed to get the people lost in their fantasy, believing that there are riches to be won behind the games.
Along the way, it’s Katniss who gets a new insight as to what is really happening. She begins to see the cruelty and suffering on a new level and realizes she is a distraction. For the first time, she sees the bigger picture.
In the real world, it goes down like this.
As parents, we want our children to learn to trust. It’s important to trust authority. But what is equally important is to know when to trust, and what to believe.
We can’t rely on government schools to tell our children about America’s founding principles of “government servants.” The common belief it that serving the people means handing out entitlements, not promoting accountability.
It’s up to us to explain that the most important entitlement we must demand is accountability.
In magic tricks, a distraction is always created so you can’t see what’s really happening. In government, distraction is designed to make people who could make a difference look away and do nothing.
A good conversation about whom he or she does trust and why might be a good way to make the point relevant.
1. In the fantasy world of film and literature, it looks like this: “You’ve given them an opportunity, they just have to be brave enough to take it.”
In the real world, all too often it looks like this exchange between Woody and Liam at the 2:37 mark.
In the fictional future world of Panem, one young girl gives her nation the courage to fight against tyranny. However, our children are growing up in a world where everyone goes home with a trophy and self-esteem is awarded not earned.
Because of a failing school system’s quest to level the playing field so underachievers don’t get their feelings hurt, our children are not allowed to be bold. We have spawned a sea of jellyfish that have the right to vote.
Boldness, strength, and honor are always admired by youth. Role models are important. Try asking your child about whom he admires. Chances are it’s a sports figure. If so, I challenge you to press a little harder and find out exactly what makes him a hero.
Then you can point out that even in sports it takes hard work and sacrifice to achieve greatness. But in the end, what have they really accomplished? That just might open the door for you to share real-life stories of people who when they were given the opportunity to make a difference actually took it.
Children aren’t generally born without spines. However, they are routinely removed by our progressive culture, unless parents find opportunities to strengthen and preserve them.