When you think of America, what thoughts come to mind? Hope perhaps? Freedom or liberty? Courage and integrity? Faith? Family? You may have a long list, or a rather short one, but I would venture to guess that sex, abortion, gender identity, and eating habits don’t make the list. They certainly would not be the first things I taught my children about America, nor anywhere near the first or most important, especially to children under the age of ten or twelve. Perhaps though, it needs to be somewhere on my radar. Perhaps before I spend time talking with them about clothes, food, animals, toys, their friends, or their favorite music, I need to spend a little time talking with them about these other more uncomfortable topics.
You may be thinking “this guy is crazy.” Kids are kids just for a little while and they need to enjoy it and so do we! In past years I would have been inclined to agree with you. A recent article by Dave Seminara in the Wall Street Journal about the children’s section at Barnes & Noble, as well as my own trips to this beloved bookstore chain, brings that line of reasoning into question, though. As Mr. Seminara notes in his article there are a number of books prominently displayed now that describe the “mistreatment” of illegal immigrants, the life and musings of socialist or communist Supreme Court justices, and portrayals of vegan t-shirt wearing heroines. My own trips with my children can add to this list how-to books on being a feminist, and books on the need to be understanding and encouraging toward lesbian relationships. These books are not hidden in a corner somewhere but proudly displayed in the front and middle of the children’s section and promoted as books on empowering or encouraging children to be leaders.
The first question that may come to mind is why Barnes and Noble feels it necessary to set up multiple book displays across the country promoting illegal immigration, feminism, socialism, veganism, homosexuality. There are certainly enough different forms of media which send out this message. Everywhere from radio to television, the internet and magazines, movies, and newspapers blare these messages out constantly. To quote Mr. Seminare, “unless you lock your children in a screen-less cave in Idaho” they are going to get this message on a daily basis; truly on an hourly basis. This may get your heart rate up and your blood boiling a little; it certainly did for me. Once you calm down though, your vision clears, and you have hustled your children away from the book with a baby in diapers yelling though a megaphone about how to be a “feminist”, you realize the question of why is not the important one. Barnes and Noble is a private company and they can do as they see fit. No one is forcing us to patronize them, and really, we already know the answer to why. There are, however, at least a couple of salient points to learn from this, lessons that need teaching or reminding of at least.
First, the world’s interests are not our children’s best interests. In fact, there is a large chunk of American and Western society that has interests that are decidedly dangerous to our children. We should not be surprised that a nationwide bookstore chain which promotes selling everything under the sun has inappropriate and immoral titles more and more frequently in the children’s section. Just because a book is written doesn’t mean it is worth reading. We should recognize this and realize that we have to be vigilant with what our children are exposed to … constantly. Even if you are in places that have always seemed a safe haven to you or your spouse, that doesn’t mean they remain so forever. As the old proverb says, “riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation.” One source may provide wonderful and accurate information to our children for a while, but with new leadership and a new generation, that may well change.
The second point is that perhaps in addition to talking about all the good things in America we need to have some further conversations with our children. Not to put too fine a point on it, but perhaps we need to stop being so selfish, cowardly, and lazy. These days, at family functions, at work, in the church, and even in our own homes, it seems that non-confrontation is the chosen method of communication, at least if you have conservative views. I get it. I am the most Charlie Brown, go-along-get-along, want everybody to like them kinda guy there is. Perhaps though talking about the new pet or the latest increase in our Instagram followers, the new job, the new bed we got, how great our last golf game was, the new Christmas decorations we bought, or even how awesome the last deer hunting expedition was, we should be talking more about the things which will affect the lives of our families for years or decades? No, we don’t have to talk constantly about them. No, we don’t have to talk about them from the point of view of one political party or another. And no, we don’t have to be harsh or rude when we talk about them. But as the so common line goes about teenagers and sex, “if you are not talking to them about it, their friends are.” This is just as true for morality, history, politics, and our country across the spectrum. My mother-in-law once told me “you cannot assume other parents morals are the same as yours, no matter how much you know them.” Well, we cannot assume that with booksellers, teachers, or their friends either.
I mention schools here briefly, for it is a much larger and more important topic than a bookstore simply for the fact that the bookstore is not forcibly requiring attendance and taking your tax money to teach your children what it wants with very little input from you. My oldest came home last night explaining how cruel and mean the colonists were to steal all the land and imprison all the Native Americans. Now, before all the drivel about how true that statement is begins, there is nothing stopping any of you from voluntarily giving your home, land, and money back to any one of the many Native American tribes still in existence today. America has done a great deal more good than harm over the centuries of its young existence, particularly compared with other countries. Of course all of this good stems from the source of creation of our laws and statutes, and that is our tie to Jesus Christ. As that tie fades we find our good fades too, hence a “reputable” bookstore selling children books on homosexuality, socialism, and promoting crime.
In the end I would offer a few thoughts. One, we need to draw a little closer to Jesus in all aspects of our life, not just on Sunday in a pew. Two, we need to spend a little more time amongst our friends and families talking about the things in life that affect our future and a little less about the superficial things that only affect our here and now. Three, we need to be a lot more involved in our children’s education, whether that means more PTA meetings or homeschooling. And lastly, we can never grow complacent. Fight the good fight continually, folks. God bless you and yours and America!
–JT Cope IV