Smile Politely

How to Politicize Child Safety

With our country so divided these days, it is good to note scraps of hidden unity among fellow citizens. I discovered one such example the other day as I walked my kids to Dr. Howard Elementary School in Champaign. No matter whether you wear a “Chief Now and Forever” or a “Racial Stereotypes Dehumanize” sweatshirt, we are able to agree on at least this: Motorists should not run over children while they are walking to school.

Of course, this seeming unity can quickly fall apart once we decide to choose one method of achieving it over another. For example, most everyone agrees that poverty should be eliminated, but only some of us think that giving tax rebates to wealthy people is the way to get there. Child safety strategies can suffer from the same problem, especially if we work hard enough to shoehorn them into different political ideologies.

At Dr. Howard, there are three basic approaches to preventing motorists from running over children. The first and most common one maps to political moderation. Park a police car on the side of the road with its lights on and have a police officer chat amiably with the crossing guard, who shepherds children across the road. Occasionally the officer yells at some bonehead who doesn’t notice the presence of children, a crossing guard, a squad car with its lights on and a police officer yelling at him. But most cars do slow down, and social peace is maintained with a minimum of partisan bickering.

However, one time I noticed a police officer employing a second strategy. Park the police car on a side road, a little bit hidden, and point a radar gun out the window. Then arrest cars after they go too fast. This is the wait-for-someone-to-mess-up-and-then-punish-them approach. I believe this approach maps onto a conservative ideology, because conservatives aren’t big on prevention, but do like punishment.

The third strategy is a bit more complicated, and is employed by an officer who takes child protection very seriously. Park a police car with its lights blaring in the middle of the road two blocks in front of the school. This requires cars to slow down and drive around the police car to avoid hitting it. Then, station the police officer — who is big enough to play defensive end for the Bears — in the middle of the road and have him hold a radar gun straight at approaching drivers. Make sure he holds the radar gun like a real gun so that motorists become very concerned about their own safety.

This approach can be called “creating an environment where law abiding is encouraged.” I must say I have never seen a more effective way to slow down motorists in front of school children. I can’t even think of a safer way to do it, short of shooting the tires out of each passing car and forcing the motorists to walk the rest of the way. It maps to a liberal ideology because it requires a lot of extra effort, is unnecessarily complicated, but guarantees a social good for everyone.

Of course, there’s more to political ideology than right and left. How might others solve the problem of motorists running over children? Some ideas are below:

Neoconservatives: Shoot at cars that look suspicious to them, then taser motorists who complain about it.

Anarchists and Libertarians: Just expect people to drive safely without needing police officers or laws. If there are speeders, citizens themselves would encourage the speeders to slow down, either by throwing eggs at them (anarchists), or shooting at them with their guns (libertarians).

Free markets capitalists: Encourage motorists to self-regulate themselves. After a few kids get run over, grudgingly agree to offer tax credits or vouchers to those who do not run over children.

Green Party: Convince people there is no difference between the liberal and the conservative approach, thus clearing the way for the neocon approach.

Communists: Ban the use of cars and require everyone to take a bus which breaks down well before it reaches the school.

Karl Rove: Combination of neocon and free-market capitalist with addition of smear campaign against children. Claim they are bratty much of the time, usually not interested in learning, and often come from homes where they are taught to hate freedom and America.

I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to offend people by describing their political ideology in divisive and unfair ways, but I’m out of room for now. I’ll close by saying that, as a parent, I am grateful for moderation, and also that free-market capitalists don’t entirely run the world yet.

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