Todays politics and yesterdays punishment

From the support for the death penalty, to the willingness to wage "war", our political life is dominated by the idea that "bad" actors should be punished. The idea has such deep roots that it is almost never questioned. When George Bush the second  wanted to attack Iraq, and the threat of a nuclear attack by Iraq hadn't proved convincing enough, the administration turned to discrediting Saddam Hussein personally.  Why he was so bad, he even gassed his own people. This worked, and GWB had approval ratings of 90% after launching the attack. I want to suggest that, as a nation, our willingness to be swayed by simplistic arguments into committing great violence, has its roots in our societies widespread, though diminishing, support for corporal punishment of children. 

 The idea that a "reasonable" level of hurting children through physical violence, spankings, with or without a belt or switch, or paddling with a bat in schools, will deter "bad" behavior" and teach the children "right from wrong" is not only part of our culture, but part of our laws in Texas and most of the US. It doesn't matter for individuals who have been raised this way that overwhelming social science studies have shown that there is no positive effect of hitting children, that children's intelligence is limited by this practice, and that aggressive,violent and dysfunctional  behavior is in fact promoted by doing so. "I was hit, and I grew up OK" is the usual defense, by people who are so OK that they are willing to hit small children.

That idea is put into practice regularly. On average, 2-3 year olds in this country are hit by their parents once every third day. We, most of us, who have been hit, have internalized the sense that we deserved it, that it was for our own good, and this is the main point, that it makes sense to deal with things that we think are "bad" in the world by violence. People who have never been hit as children universally feel that it doesn't make sense to hit children.  We have grown up under a rain of blows, and have come to think of it as the normal way of dealing with behavior that upsets us. 

If we are to have a sane peaceful society in 20 years, we need to see to it that the children who are being raised now are raised with full respect for their humanity and their widely recognized right to grow up free of the fear of violence from the people who are caring for them.

44 countries have made it illegal to hit children since Sweden became the first in 1979. 8 have done so in the last year. These laws do not use punishment as a means of enforcement, and have been widely successful in reducing violence against children and the numbers of people who support it. The Green Party will be moving to pass such laws here in Texas and the US. Will you join us?

For a recent discussion of the Green Party Position on Corporal Punishment, see


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