Jewish World Review Dec. 13 2001/ 28 Kislev, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Curbing brats -- John Walker Lindh, the young U.S. citizen from Marin County, AKA Abdul Hamid, a frontline Taliban fighter, is a brat. Granted, he's a Page A1, international brat, but a spoiled brat he is, raised in a nation that denies the existence of brats. This is a country of ADHD children and "troubled youths."

While we have tenderized the label, we have a plethora of brats. I cringe at five-year-old brats who call me "Marianne." I am Mrs. Jennings, and would prefer it said with a curtsy. I'd like to backhand 11-year-olds at parties who, in the midst of laser tag, video games and unlimited tokens announce, "I'm bored." Those toddler brats in stores demanding balloons, Jolly Ranchers and DVD players should be sent sailing in a cart across the parking lot. The key phrase for silencing these screaming young materialists, "Stop this and be quiet or we're going where there are no witnesses."

When it comes to the John Walker Lindhs, the Dylan Klebolds and other gun-toting menaces to society, there is a pattern sociologists document, as in Dr. James Garbarino's (he's "Jimbo" to brats) book, Parents Under Seige.

First come the "He was a quiet boy" testimonials. Walker Lindh's neighbors offered the following: "He's a good American kid." Of all the visions I have of "good American kids", upper-middle-class Muslim converts fighting from the caves of Afghanistan against U.S. Marines does not immediately come to mind.

Next the parents speak of their shock. Mr. Frank Lindh offered the following on Larry King Live, "John is the last person you would expect to be a fighter. He is a very sweet person and very devout in the religious sense." Killing fellow citizens is "sweet"?

Therein lies another pattern. The parents are absolutely clueless. It's not that they are uninvolved. They love their children deeply and would give them the BMWs from their garages, but they don't understand kids in general, let alone their own children.

They also have their own continuing struggles for maturity. John Walker Lindh's name came from his parents' desire to name a child after John Lennon. They then added both of their last names to Johnny. The acorn never falls far from the tree.

Mother Marilyn Walker was a Buddhist and Frank Lindh was a Catholic who encouraged their son to find his own faith. My sons can't find their shoes and their pants are always unzipped. We're going to have to work through hygiene and homework before they part ways in their quests for eternal salvation or nirvana. A little guidance from parents when it comes to children finding a faith is not a sin.

John Hamid landed in the Muslim faith, but the mosques in the Bay Area did not satisfy him spiritually. Nay, he needed the authentic Muslim world. So, Frank and Marilyn sent their 18-year-old son off to school in the Middle East. Who sends a teen boy into a culture with radical factions known for their efficacy in turning young men into violent self-destructors?

The media has been playing the innocent parent opus once again. Their stories make it seem as if we too could wake up one day with a Muslim child accompanying the world's greatest outlaw on an anti-American binge.

Mr. Lindh and Ms. Walker, in the same mold as the Klebolds, were victims of the volatile combination of spoiling a child materially and trusting the little dear too much.

These parents are possessed of that baby boomer mentality that buys into nuclear test ban treaties with nations who kill newborns, convinced that a heartless culture and leadership will honor its word. A parent who trusts the judgment and word of a child during the first 18 years (and beyond) is both a child's and an infomercial maker's dream

The mouths of babes lie. The Josephson Institute's 2001 studies show that 92% of children lie to their parents. In our household it is 100%. We assume that our children are guilty until they prove themselves innocent. When a teacher, leader or coach complaints about our children, there are no Miranda warnings, due process or justice. Only on Leave it to Beaver and The Courtship of Eddie's Father were parents mistaken. The innocence of children is highly overrated.

Until parents take charge, annoy children, and sacrifice their status as fun, tolerant friends, they should be nervous when Frank Lindh says he was stunned. I believe he was, but that's the point. He was raising a brat, closing his eyes to reality, and giving that child everything he wanted. Indeed, therein lies the problem. This parenting breeds brats.

Mr. Lindh still doesn't get it as per his closing thoughts, "We want to see John right away. He's been through a horrible ordeal." Tell that to the wife and 3 children of Johnny Michael Spann, the CIA agent killed in the uprising Hamid Walker Lindh started. Abdul Lennon is a brat. Give me a shopping cart and I'll deal with this traitor.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
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03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
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10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
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08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
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06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings