My son has the unenviable task of taking on a class debate that has him arguing that questioning the government is a bad thing. Okay, he's not arguing. He's debating. Still, if you're a fifteen year old boy, it strikes a dissonant chord somewhere inside. "What? I thought I was supposed to question everything. What am I supposed to do with this?" To his credit, he has been paying attention to his local politics, as he watched the merry pranksters of Occupy Oakland tear up his hometown in the name of free speech.
His parents are the generation of parents who just missed raising hippies, so we find it hard to raise a solid question for authority. We're suspicious, but not paranoid. At least that's what we like to tell the voices in our heads. The ones that make us read the ballot propositions carefully, but then wonder aloud why we are being asked to do the work of our elected officials. How should I know if retailers and manufacturers of processed
foods should be required to label fresh produce or manufactured, packaged food that contain
or likely could contain ingredients made from plants or animals whose
DNA has been manipulated in a laboratory? And how long has this whole DNA manipulation been going on?
You can trust your government. This is a democracy, made by the people and for the people. How far wrong could this go? I suppose if we were all people working from a common blueprint, using some sort of road map or plan, like a list of rules or regulations, then we would be fine. If only we had such a document. It would make trusting the government so much easier. Unless that document was open to wild interpretation and confusion. Free Speech is Free Speech, right? But what if that right was given to you by the very government that is telling you it's okay to speak your mind? Don't shout "Fire!" in a crowded movie house. I get that. How about shouting "ouch" when the weight of the other turtles stacked up on your back gets to be too much?
That's kind of what takes place here, on a regular basis. So I'll be anxious to see what sort of grade my son gets on his debate. And I'll offer to help him with any extra credit he might need to make up for his father's democratic ambivalence.