by Lenore Skenazy.
I SEE YOU HAVE A FAMILY DECAL ON YOUR CAR...
NOW I WILL KIDNAP YOUR KIDS!
OK, folks: Quiz time! What are the glaring problems with this letter to Annie's Mailbox -- and Annie's response?
"Dear Annie" (wrote a lady): Years ago people put little placards in their kids' windows so that firefighters could find them in the event of a fire. But then, she continued, these "proved dangerous because pedophiles also knew which bedrooms the children were in."
Americans oh-so-wisely scraped these pervert attractors (and potential child-savers) off their homes, the writer says. But now she sees a very similar problem with the little stick-figure decals that people put on the back of their cars. You know, the ones that show how many kids they've got, and which gender? "Yesterday, I saw a car with two soccer ball emblems in the back window, each with the name of one of two girls. I assume those two girls were their daughters. To me, this is as dangerous as the window placards because any pedophile could follow the car home and target the children in the future. Should I be concerned for these children?"
And she signed herself (perhaps anonymously, so the members of Pedophiles R Us could immediately track her down for ruining their fun): "New York."
So here's pretty much what Annie wrote back: Not, "You fruitcake! Seriously, how many reruns of 'Law & Order' do you watch a day?" But rather: Good point! "Publicizing the fact that you have young children by displaying emblems on your home or car windows (especially with names) can invite trouble. While it is extremely unlikely that a pedophile would follow your car home, it is still a possibility that should not be ignored." The chances of something earthshakingly bad happening are "remote, but not impossible." Signed -- Annie
Here are the glaring problems as I see them:
1. Pedophiles were looking for placards to find children's windows? Like that's a big danger to kids -- predators with great vision and climbing abilities? Does Annie understand that about 90 percent of child abuse doesn't even involve a stranger, much less a cat burglar/predator hybrid?
2. Pedophiles can't figure out if you have children if they don't see a family decal on your car? I guess the car seat and Happy Meal boxes in the back seat are just too ambiguous?
3. Even though something is extremely unlikely, we should nonetheless be thinking about it, and preparing for it and devoting advice columns to it? OK, then let's think about that guy who recently chopped off his own arm because it got stuck in a furnace. Possible Annie response: "While it is extremely unlikely that this will happen to you, you may consider chopping off your arm now to prevent it from becoming stuck in a furnace in the future."
This is the kind of "What if?" thinking that drives me bonkers. "What if" a predator sees your family decal? If that's really too terrible to even contemplate, shouldn't we peel off all the, "My Child is Student of the Nanosecond at Happy Valley High" stickers, too? Why didn't those worry Annie? Why don't toys on the lawn worry Annie? Why don't houses worry Annie? After all, why would you live in a house if you didn't have adorable, vulnerable jailbait living in there with you? Parents! For God's sake, sell your house, bury the kids' toys, trade your minivan for a Smart Car and when anyone asks, "How are your kids?" Shrug and say, "Kids? What kids?"
Otherwise, they're just not safe.
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