Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Go find me a switch
you little lawmaker

I think they should pass a law allowing corporal punishment within the state Legislature.

That way, when our elected ding-dongs do something silly like trying to ban spanking in the home, we can go over there and smack 'em.

Politicians in Hawaii seem to be the last in the country to get the message that people want less government in their lives instead of more. And the government can hardly intrude more into private life than to attempt to dictate how a family handles discipline.

This idea is so wrong that it almost defies rational discussion.

But let's take it one little step at a time, and maybe the geniuses who wanted to make spanking illegal might begin to understand why their thinking is so muddled.

First of all, government exists for people, people do not exist for government. In other words, the government should view the family as a sacrosanct unit with constitutional protections, not the least of which is the right to privacy. Under the Constitution, government has to assume that families will do the right thing. There are governments that assume that individuals will behave badly and need to be controlled before they do anything foolish, but these governments generally fall under the description of "police states."

Secondly, the reason "spanking laws" are wrong-headed is because the people who dream them up suffer from selective amnesia. They somehow convince themselves that government will operate effectively in this new enterprise when the evidence shows that it can't even handle its current responsibilities. For instance, a system that allows a man twice convicted of murder to go free from prison to kill a third human being is hardly the system that should be telling people how raise their children. If a system cannot handle discipline on a macro level - a statewide court and penal system - then how can it possibly be trusted to dictate discipline on a micro level within private families?

THIRDLY, too many people in government also suffer from what I call the "talk show audience mentality." The Ricki Lake show features people on stage whose lives are screwed up beyond belief. In the audience are people who apparently feel their lives are so perfect that they can tell the panelists how they should live. But the truth is that audience members are just as screwed up as the guests.

Fourthly, discipline is a matter of individual culture, faith and belief. I was spanked with a wooden spoon, belt and switch. But the worst form of discipline I suffered growing up, the one from which I never recovered, was having to take cod liver oil. Should the government make it illegal for mothers to force their children to drink cod liver oil? Yes. I mean no. It's not the government's business.

Fifthly, if one culture believes in corporal punishment, another believes in time outs and another believes in cod liver oil, who is the government to choose one over the others?

Sixthly, (I don't think I've ever gotten to a "sixthly" before), the problem with our country is that there is not enough spanking, not too much.

Seventhly, all those other reasons against this silly proposal does not mean that it's OK to beat the hell out of your kids. Kids do not deserve to be brutalized. They should not be injured. They should not be humiliated.

But they should be disciplined. They should learn that life is composed of rules and responsibilities. The fact that our prisons are overflowing and that life appears to be cheap is not because of a failure of government, it's a failure of family. And that's something only we can correct.

Eighthly, and finally: Hey, legislators, how's balancing the budget and lowering our taxes coming? Why don't you do your jobs before worrying about how we are doing ours?

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite" Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send E-mail to 71224.113@compuserve.com.

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Honolulu Lite by Charles Memminger is a regular feature of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin. © 1996 All rights reserved.


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