13 April 2009


A batch of right-wing congresspeople have dug up and dusted off an old, old chestnut among zany religious conservatives: fear that U.N. Gummit Boots will come into your home and prevent parents from wantonly beating their children. In this case, they're proposing a constitutional amendment of "Parent's Rights" to block the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every member nation except the United States and Somalia. We keep such wonderful company on these matters.

There are various other items in this amendment, but they are mostly there to fill up space and give the illusion of this thing having some more meat to it. The real fear percolating on the right for years is that corporal punishment will somehow be forbidden, as a great many people still have forlorn faith in the magical disciplinary powers of spanking. Just a few weeks ago someone told me that the problem with "my generation" was that we weren't spanked enough as children. I don't expect there is any evidence to support this claim, but then again, academic inquiries are for homosexuals.

Anyway, I have personal experience to disprove their case. I was spanked occasionally as a child, and generally the only thing it did was give me a healthy disdain for arbitrary, ill-gotten and poorly-wielded authority. This being exactly the opposite of its intended effect, I reckon that worked out not at all.

When a new teacher would come into a frontier schoolhouse in the 19th century, he would commonly find the biggest kid in school and beat the shit out of him to establish his will. If the student won the fight, the teacher had to go looking for another place of employment. Parents, unfortunately, can't go looking for other kids once they've lost the ability to enforce moral authority by physically overpowering them. Ironically, then, spanking hardliners are at risk for the same kind of ensnarement they warn against--parents powerless to discipline their kids.

The need to establish a proper hierarchy based on might, of course, isn't something that ends in childhood for the right-wing imagination. A person's ability to destroy you is always a marker of his God-given authority and, consequently, his moral rectitude. It goes from cradle to grave. American military might proves the righteousness of its interventions. Don't join a union; instead, accept your boss's divinely-ordained wisdom. Slaves, be obedient to your masters. Oops, bit of a shame about that one, eh?

I haven't mentioned violence yet, which is the primary reason I'm opposed to corporal punishment and, even if all else were neutral, is reason enough to abstain. Interestingly, the concern about instilling proper Christian values in your children seldom extends to non-violence. But then, why would I think it should?