Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NYTimes: Parents Seeking Danger by Lisa Belkin

Lisa Belkin, Parents Seeking Danger - The Motherlode, New York Times, February 18, 2011

After the “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan was brutally attacked in Cairo, one Web site asked today whether she was a bad mother for being on the scene in the first place., which more usually spends its bandwidth on stories about whether Jennifer is sneaking around with Brad behind Angelina’s back, yesterday all but said that Ms. Logan was partly to blame: “Her bio says she is the mother of two small children. So, do you think she’s really brave, or completely irresponsible for putting herself in such a dangerous situation when she has two little kids waiting for her to come home?”

In last weeks entry in The Motherlode (the New York Times blog on parenting), Belkin highlights the response to the sexual assault of journalist Lara Logan in Cairo during the uprising in Egypt. (While Belkin highlights Katie Dunn, writing for, Media Matters has a long list of those who decided to play 'blame the victim') Ms. Dunn's words immediately brought to mind several people I served with in Afghanistan and many firefighters and police I know, all with young children. And I thought "Are these people completely irresponsible for putting themselves in dangerous situations when they have little children waiting for them at home?" And my answer is NO!

But this is an attitude that has been spreading. I remember being told that there is no place for heroes (I had made the mistake of going looking for and finding someone who got lost and was calling for help during a backpacking trip). And many of my activities are dispised by others around me, who think there is no place for people who prepare themselves to go towards scenes of danger. Kipling's Tommy could look around and nod in recognition.

Of course, I am in regular contact with people who deserve the title of hero. And our son will grow up doing so as well. While my wife and I may have some differences in our hopes and what we consider desirable for our son, one thing we agree on is we will not hide him from the realities of the world. As he grows and gets older, he will identify the ugliness of the world. The dangers and hazards. What needs to be done to be safe in dangerous environments (natural and manmade). How to recognize danger or safety (and what is only the appearance of danger or safety) That not everyone is kind and helpful and there are those who will despise him with all the wisdom their God has to give. That things that are worth doing are hard, and the path can very well include failures, with consequences. But even with all that, there are things that are worth it. The confidence of knowing you can survive and thrive in adversity. That in the heat of the moment, you can act and live. Of being called 'brother' by those who would hold that term for those who have earned it. And this is worth the disapprobation of lesser men.

Is this a guarantee? No, he will grow up around those who disagree. But he will know both sides. And we hope he chooses ours.

Feelings of journalists change when they have children. So do feelings of police officers, and soldiers, and firefighters, and coal miners, and airline pilots. And that leaves all of the above with two choices. To limit your personal risk, which is one way to protect your children, and one that I would never criticize. Or to increase your commitment, which is another way to protect your children. And one that I would never dream of questioning.

Come home safe, everyone.
- Lisa Belkin

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