Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Words of the Day: “Innocent” and “Child”

I am highlighting two words of the day—“innocent” and “child”—mainly because to many, or most, people they equate to the same thing. “Innocent” in a child may mean being without guile, being too young to be capable of consciously forming malicious motives with the intent of causing harm to others. But how “young” can a child be before such a “pass” retains credibility?

 After all, a few years ago the media provided us with an image of a fresh-faced boy who was described as an “innocent child.” The problem was that he may have been one when the photo was taken, but five years later, this “innocent child” was anything but. But he was still treated as “innocent” by school officials—probably because his parents were upper-middle class professionals—and merely suspended from school for breaking-and-entering school property with the intent to commit burglary, for drug-dealing, and for being found wandering in the halls playing “hooky” and in possession of jewelry that was later found to have been stolen from a nearby residence. This “innocent child” was also accused to assaulting a gym teacher and a school bus driver, although these apparently did not rise to the level of “suspendable” actions. I won’t name this person; you would know who it is if you were interested in facts at the time, and if you don’t know, it is likely it doesn’t matter to you anyhow. 

There is no such thing as an “innocent child” over the age of eight these days, thanks mainly to our social media age. When I was a kid, there was only television with a half-dozen channels, filled with mostly comedy and music “variety” shows, hard-luck, dry-witted private eyes getting their asses kicked before solving a crime every week, and family-oriented sitcoms, while the radio played mostly “feel good” music. There were no “smartphones” or even personal computers that opened a non-stop “information” age—or more accurately, the “age of confusion.” These days, “kids,” no matter how young, have access to vulgar language and boorish behavior any minute of the day or night, and violence is nothing more “harmful” than a video game, and on occasion acting out what they “learned,” with or without “parental guidance.”

A few years ago I encountered today’s version of the “innocent child.” I had just boarded a bus after work, and few stops later four 13 or 14 year old “innocent children” attempted to get on the bus. One of them was carrying a basketball, and apparently they had been playing a pick-up game at the nearby YMCA. But the bus driver was not allowing them on, which irritated me a bit because I wanted to get home. I didn’t have any “love” for this particular bus driver, either; she was an older white female who always seemed to have a noxious comment to make about the current generation of bus patron, particular in regard to a person or persons of a different race or “ethnicity.” More than once I commented to her face about what I perceived to be her rude and prejudicial behavior, and more than once she used her ability to be rude and  offensive whenever she saw me waiting at a bus stop alone.

Thus it did not perturb me overmuch when I saw that these “innocent children” were annoying to this driver. What was going on? Apparently they thought they could get on without paying a fare, being “innocent children.” Unfortunately, the driver wasn’t buying their pose; they had to pay the student fare, or get off the bus. Now, if they had simply boarded the bus and ignored her, I don’t think there would have been much she could do about it would appearing to be the bigot that she undoubtedly was. 

Instead, the “innocent children” deboarded the bus after a few minutes of discussion.  Maybe they were “innocent” after all? Any such conclusion was quickly dashed by the sound of a basketball repeatedly bouncing off the bus windows, and this wasn’t kids just having some “fun,” but trying very hard to break a window. When the basketball failed to do as desired, one “innocent child” still at the front of the bus practically put his fist through the bus door, cracking the glass from top to bottim. I confess I was astonished by the chain of events, having never witnessed anything like it before (except during the Rodney King verdict “riot” in downtown Seattle).

The driver didn’t seem to be particularly nonplused by the whole episode, however, probably because it merely “confirmed” her own stereotypes. I was curious about how she explained the damage to her supervisors, though; she was hardly the “innocent” party, given her prejudices, and they might not have been “sympathetic” to her “handling” of  the “children.” But the driver should have known better; there is no such thing as an “innocent child” in this day and age.

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