We need heroes in times of trouble. But we need self-reliant, independent citizens at all times. People can’t remain free if they are brought up to be subservient and dependent. And we seem to be doing our best to produce such people.
Did you read about the four-year-old girl who went to preschool with the lunch her mother had made for her? The lunch included a turkey-and-cheese sandwich on multigrain bread, a banana, a small bag of chips, and apple juice. But her lunch was inspected by a state official who declared that it did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. Note how guidelines to advise us easily become orders we must obey.
Accordingly, the intrusive bureaucrat confiscated the child’s lunch, told her it was not “healthy,” and ordered her to eat the cafeteria lunch consisting of chicken nuggets, corn, and chocolate milk. In case you didn’t know, chicken nuggets are tiny pieces of unidentifiable parts of a chicken, which are loaded with salt, then deep fried with batter in some kind of fat − among the least healthful items you could feed a child.
When the mother complained, she was told this was a “misunderstanding.” But soon another mother reported a similar case. Her four-year-old also had the lunch she had prepared confiscated. Instead the girl was fed the cafeteria lunch of chicken nuggets, a sweet potato, bread, and milk. Chicken nuggets again − do school officials have an under-the-table deal with some fast-food establishment? And a sweet potato? Any potato is almost pure starch, and is hardly equivalent to a green vegetable, which is what the guidelines intended.
The mainstream media virtually ignored these stories. But can you imagine the uproar if a Republican were in the White House, and the food police descended on preschoolers at lunchtime? Can you picture the accusations of “Nazi” and “fascist”? Can you hear the ACLU screaming that the Constitution was being shredded? To the mainstream media, a story is newsworthy not for any intrinsic reason, but only if it serves the leftist agenda.
We have multiple problems here:
1. The lunches the kids were forced to eat were arguably less healthful than the lunches their mothers had packed for them. The right to decide on questions regarding children’s health was removed from those most interested, the parents, and instead given to uninterested and uninformed bureaucrats − who based their decisions on guidelines proclaimed by other bureaucrats who were even more remote and even less interested in the individual children.
2. What a child eats is an integral part of child-rearing, which is the legal and moral responsibility of the child’s parents or guardians, and not of the state. Or at least it used to be.
3. The decision of the officials was arbitrary and capricious, teaching children to obey officials without question or thought.
4. The lunches their mothers had packed were uneaten, teaching children to waste food, exactly the opposite of what we were taught as children.
5. The parents were billed for the school lunches they did not want their children to eat. How’s that for a precedent? You must pay if you try to exercise parental rights − even if you are not allowed to do so.
6. The children were taught that their parents don’t know what is good for them, but government officials do know. What’s next − teaching school children to sing hymns to The Leader? Oh wait, we already do that.
7. The children were taught not to complain when their property is seized by officials, a destructive lesson for independent citizens of a free republic, but a useful lesson for docile subjects of a socialized state.
8. If I take something away from someone under an implied threat to use force if the person does not comply, this probably meets the definition of strong-arm robbery, a felony punishable by imprisonment. Yet if a government official does the same, it is not a crime, but just a “misunderstanding”? Really? Under what law can a bureaucrat seize private property that is not an immediate threat, such as illegal drugs or a weapon − in the absence of a court order?
9. If the children’s lunches were confiscated as punishment for talking in class, the officials would be suspended or fired. But the lunches were confiscated for “health” reasons, for the children’s “own good.” Does an impermissible action become permissible merely because the person claims to have a good motive? What tyrant ever claimed to have bad motives?
Our nation was founded on the idea that power flows upward, from the people to the states, and only then to the federal government. But now, this system has been turned on its head. Feds issue guidelines, which are put into effect by state or local officials, and enforced on the people − who have no say in the matter. And many are so used to being dependent and subservient that they don’t care − or even notice − what’s happening.
The problem is not children’s lunches. The problem is the dangerous notion that government bureaucrats can order children around to suit some agenda that their parents never approved. It that doesn’t alarm you, what does?
When leftists say “choice,” they mean only one thing: abortion. They don’t mean the freedom to choose what light bulbs we can buy, or what toilets we can use, or what kind of care we can get from our doctor − and what kind we can’t. They don’t even mean the freedom to choose what our children are taught in school about global warming. But, naively, we thought that at least we could still choose what to put in our children’s lunch boxes. We were wrong.
As John O’Sullivan observed, “In Europe, the fascists goose-stepped; in America, they jog.” Kinder, gentler fascists are still fascists, and we need to recognize them by their actions, not by their words. “Health” is a marvelous cover for all manner of intrusive, stifling regulations − which are difficult to dispute, because who wants to be seen as against “health”?
Hitler wore a uniform and shiny boots, spoke in a ranting style, and talked about racial purity. Stalin wore an overcoat and a soft cap, spoke in a boring style, and talked about building socialism. Castro wore a beard and military fatigues, spoke in an interminable style, and talked about Yankee imperialism. We need to be alert for all types of potential tyrants − including those who wear casual clothes, speak in a folksy style, and talk about “health” and “fairness.” Don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do.
Children are unique individuals created in God’s image. Except for identical twins, each one has DNA unlike anyone who ever lived, or is ever likely to live. Children are their parents’ responsibility, to be brought up as conscientious, trustworthy citizens. Children are not their parents’ property. They are certainly not the property of the state, to be indoctrinated, controlled, and taught unquestioning obedience.
Some might say that the school-lunch fiasco is insignificant. It isn’t. It is a warning sign on the road to total government control of our lives. It is a harbinger of things to come. And they are coming soon, if we do not reverse course. In the words of President Ford, a government big enough to take away your kid’s bag lunch is big enough to take away everything you own, and everything you hold dear − for your own good, of course.
To paraphrase Pastor Niemöller: First they came for my kids’ American flag shirts, and I didn’t speak up. Then they came for my kids’ turkey-and-cheese sandwiches, and still I didn’t speak up. But then they came for my kids, and there was no one left to speak up for me.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.