It was one of those ready-made fluff stories that we routinely see. A feel-good moment to give us all a little levity from discussing (really, arguing) the sometimes-toxic politics of our time. Not surprisingly it turned into another chance to bash a politician, while offering a fairly sharp image of the very-real cultural divide that separates so many of us.
Eleven-year-old Frank Giaccio sent a letter to the White House asking if he could mow the lawn there. Last Friday, he got his wish, mowing the Rose Garden. During that, he got a high five from President Donald Trump, met Vice-President Mike Pence, and later got a tour of the White House. A nice little feature story, right? Not in these days of tribal politics.
Many who hate the very air that the President breathes derided all of this as a manufactured photo op. And they were right, of course. But others went a little deeper. Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times‘ former labor reporter, wrote a series of tweets equating Frank’s mowing the grass; and Trump’s support of it, as a flaunting of child labor laws. Seriously.
Greenhouse gleefully pointed out that the American Academy of Pediatrics says you should be 12 before operating a mower. Hmm…maybe I could file a posthumous complaint against my father who willfully put me in harm’s way when I was only ten. Somehow I survived. Probably had a lot to do with being taught to use common sense safety measures before pulling the string. And that’s to say nothing of my work in hot tobacco fields as a youngster. I would have LOVED to have seen the look on Granddaddy’s face if I told him he was exploiting child labor.
Greenhouse linked to another study showing that young kids can be injured by accidentally touching hot lawnmowers, and that kids who are bystanders can be hit by projectiles launched from mowers. No word on whether the study also explored the chance of running over a bee’s nest, accidentally cutting down a priceless flower, or angering the fescue Gods for decapitating their followers. If you’re going to conduct a study looking at the potential dangers of an activity, you had DAMNED sure cover all the bases—right?
To equate Frank’s *voluntary* mowing of lawns with children who were *forced* to work 12 hours a day in textile factories, shoving their hands into running looms to clear material, is beyond silly. No serious person would make such a comparison. But Greenhouse (and many others like him) have long since lost the benefit of the doubt.
But I think this goes a little deeper. We live in a society that increasingly sees children as little Faberge Eggs that are to be treated delicately. We fill them with lessons on the sanctity of their self-esteem while shielding them from situations where those assumptions would be challenged. The drawback, of course, is that we have 21-year old college students who curl into a fetal position and require a safe space whenever they hear “problematic” words.
Today, there are few parents who will allow their kids to even go near a bicycle without a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads. Indeed; one parent chided me once for letting my son operate a Big Wheel on our cul-de-sac without the same amount of protection that an NFL lineman would enjoy.
Kids get hurt. They skin their knees, fall from trees, wreck their bicycles and do all kinds of other things that result in injury. STOP TRYING TO ELIMINATE IT! This is a microcosm of the obscene overall social movement to remove any and all risk from society. Our kids are being called the “Bubble Wrap” generation for a reason. I have no desire to see my children, or any other children, injured. But the idea that we can keep everyone safe, happy and free from harm will (ironically) do far more harm than good.
Frank’s industriousness and understanding the value of hard work and a job well-done already puts him ahead of about 75% of adult liberals. He is learning that initiative, coupled with elbow grease, DOES yield rewards. As a result, he is now FAR more likely to grow up with the coping skills that far too few adults have developed—the ability to deal with hard times and tough luck
Don’t be surprised if in 20 years Frank owns his own machining company. He will likely be pulling in six figures a year, employing several like-minded young adults who are earning big money because they—like Frank—learned the value of hard work at an early age. THAT is the American Dream.