Liar, liar, pants on fire: Childish and childlike
Do you remember as a child how you proved to your friends that you really meant what you were saying? You would say something like, “No crosses count!” or “No Foolies!” That meant what you were saying HAD to be the truth. Simple words that work in the simple, uncomplicated logic of children-a world where if you say something, you either mean it or you can’t play. A world where you play by the rules or wear the humiliating label of “Cheater!” A world where you keep the trust of a friend as sacred as your own, or bear the scorn of “Tattletale!” A world where if things don’t go exactly your way, you STILL abide by the rules instead of taking your ball and going home, or be branded a “poor loser.”
But when you grow up, you are supposed to put aside childish things. The confusion seems to appear when we mix up “childish” with “childlike.” To be childish is to behave in an immature, mentally or emotionally impeded manner. But to be childlike is to see things with purity, idealism, and a beautiful simplicity. The behavior of the former borders on wicked; the mind of the latter cannot even comprehend evil.
So which of these two “children” represents America in the menacing wake of the latest news from North Korea? It would appear to me that we are both. After all, when you play along with another who behaves in a “childish” manner, you do so by lowering yourself to his level.
Last fall saw portentous signs of impending Armageddon the likes of which were unfathomable only a few years ago. The cause-besides the gross appeasement of the Clinton administration and its deliberate ignorance of how appallingly it was being used–has been a long-standing American tendency to close our eyes to the painfully obvious foul intentions of malevolent lands and hope with all our might that if we ignore the problem it will go away. This is childish.
That said, however, this same hope springs from that indomitable American optimism we so exuberantly convey. Because we have a jovial disposition, a great capacity to forgive, and our fervent faith in those ideals that breathed life into the collective soul that is America, we are quick to put words into action by believing-hoping-that the intentions of our fellow earthlings are based on the same glorious ideals. This is childlike.
So if America is a maddening combination of both these antitheses, how do we deal with countries such as North Korea, who fall strictly in the vein of childish, complete with temper tantrums and turning others to their side who will “watch their back?” The answer is, you deal with them as you would a child-not a sweet, innocent child whose errors occur simply because he has yet to reach full understanding and accountability, but a rotten, spoiled child who has gotten away with far too much for far too long.
As North Korea has been and continues to engage in the game of “Nyah Nyah! You can’t catch me!”, our behavior is rapidly slipping from the like to the ish. Now I am all for cutting off aid to this back biting, back stabbing, and backwards country…we simply cannot indulge a spoiled child just to have a little peace and quiet in the house, no matter how many times he shrieks, “Mine! Mine!” But withholding “treats” is not nearly enough when we have already foolishly allowed the child to get so completely out of control. Grounding won’t work either, as this child named North Korea has proven ad nauseum that when we set limits, “he” will not only ignore them, but flagrantly break them over and over again. And neither will constant monitoring, as such a thing is nearly impossible with a child so out of control and completely convinced of his immortality. So I say to hell with timeout…this child is in need of a serious spanking, but fast.
My dear friend, Andy, wrote to me last December, expressing her outrage over the incident in which Scud Missiles were allowed to continue from the heart of America’s oldest enemy-communism via North Korea-into the heart of its more recent threat-Islam via Yemen. “A five year old would figure this one out!” she exclaimed.
A five year old would figure this one out. This ability to interpret such blatant signals from the schoolyard bully is a childliketrait in the face of such gleefully wicked childishness. What she wrote next is another base foundation of childhood reason: “It’s a pity that the Israeli’s did not get to that ship before the US did, because they would have destroyed them in a heartbeat!”
We all remember those kids who stand up for others against frightening odds. Oh they were magnificent in their bravery, gracious in their humility, blessed in their loyalty! America has been that admirable child before, but it breaks my heart to acknowledge that we are no longer playing the role of staunch and determined advocate for our compatriots. Andy nailed it right on the head; we had the chance to stop a very real threat not only against ourselves, but against our friend, and we blew it. Friends don’t do that to one another, and Israel is our friend. Within the margins of childhood, that noun is sacred; or at least it’s supposed to be. You are supposed to stand by your friend when the neighborhood toughs mark him for cruelty or violence, not wait patiently while the urchins gather and distribute stones to throw.
As the childish are girding up their forces to rain down anguish upon the childlike, we have a decision to make, and soon. We can’t go back and undo the damage we have already allowed to accumulate, but do we continue to allow ourselves to be lied to, manipulated, used, and attacked? Do we shrug it off as a “phase” that he will grow out of-that typical, desperate plan of parents unwilling to make the tough choices and enforce them? Or do we take a deep breath and overcome our fear in order to save ourselves and our friends?
One of the saddest and yet most necessary moments for human beings as they abandon the childish for the plainness of the childlike is that point when you realize that there really are monsters in the world, and that you have to decide exactly how you are going to deal with him. Such times are the moments you remember throughout your life-moments that will, in the years yet to come, cause your face to either twist with wretched remorse or soften with the knowledge that you chose wisely. These are the defining moments in our journey, the “God” moments-those epochs when heaven comes close and dusts with Deity an otherwise ordinary man…or child…or nation. These are the times when you absolutely positively must screw your courage to the wall, because the cost of failing is unthinkable. Even if it means that you may have to take a beating before it’s all said and done. When you are childlike, no price is too high to pay for such hope-filled ideals as friendship and loyalty and the indomitable soul of freedom.
So while that schoolyard bully is busy sneering at us with his “I’ll-get-you-at-recess!” threats, we must choose between two children-ish and like. We can no longer afford to bounce back and forth between the two; one moment strong and steadfast against evil, and the next pretending that the pile of stones the childish are gathering will somehow never be thrown. It’s that fantasy of the last-minute-miracle that defines the immature mind, and yet we still see grown men clinging to it. If we fail to stop the bully this go around, our future choices may very well be out of our hands for a long time to come. Nothing defeats the childlike faster than permissible domination by the childish.
I know these are difficult times. I know that one little article written by some dame in Idaho will have little effect in the scheme of things. But I also know that we are capable of magnificent good…our history is definitive proof of that. We’ve done it before, and we must do it again. I believe we can do this hard and painful thing regarding North Korea, and in so doing, perhaps we can save both children. The childlike may lead us, but the childishwill destroy us if allowed. I believe we can turn schoolyard taunts into fruitful outcomes. I believe that we can perhaps even become friends, and put aside childish things. I believe a nation and its people-long oppressed-can yet be saved…both North Korea and America. I believe, I believe, I believe-because hope springs eternal for the sweet childlike. But it isn’t enough for just one person to believe. Our belief must be backed by others who cannot bring themselves to totally abandon hope. I know, I know, I can hear you now with the question “Will that be enough?”
Well, there’s only one way to find out. So in true childlike spirit, let me be the first to throw down the gauntlet with these words: Make it enough…I triple-dog dare you.
Keep the faith, bros, and in all things courage.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”