New York Made History Last Night

I think, no matter where you stand on the political or religious spectrum, it’s likely that most us have loved ones–family and friends–who are LGBT. The way I see it, by accident of birth, I have legal rights when it comes to love (that basic of tricky, wonderful, painful, enlightening, maddening things) that some of my fellow New Yorkers were denied until last night. Religious groups got extra protections to make sure that they may still run their organizations according to their faiths, and New Yorkers became more equal. There will be more jobs here due to this legislation. We will welcome more tourists. All New Yorkers will benefit somehow. And all it took was bipartisan leadership, state senators listening to what constituents wanted in the state, and careful deliberation. It’s easy to be jaded with the political system sometimes. And other times, it actually works.

New York: Attempting to Replace Parents with Legislation

I honestly wonder if any of these legislators have actually ever played video games. Or were they simply spoon fed 30-second clips of acts, taken completely out of context, that you would not have to search hard to find in a book or a film? Fed scare tactics and one-sided surveys that say video games are dangerous or ruining children? I honestly wonder what led them to vote for these two related, yet completely misguided bills.

Last year, I abstained from voting in the New York Senate race because of a video game related issue. Hillary Clinton supported measures to criminalize the selling of M or AO games to minors, after jumping on the "Hot Coffee" controversy bandwagon. She even included this point in her campaign, and on that issue and Iraq, I could not vote for her with a clear conscience, so I abstained, knowing she would win, but that I could not choose her to represent me this time around.

Let's take a look at the facts here for a moment. The MPAA rates movies, and theater chains enforce those ratings as a matter of company policy only. There are no laws that criminalize or force compliance with movie ratings. Music is also rated independently. Some stores choose not to carry music with Parental Advisory labels, but not selling such music to minors is, once again, merely voluntary and subject to store policy. Books are not rated or regulated, and can be purchased by anyone, of any age. Some library systems offer parents the ability to restrict their children from borrowing outside of the children's section, but that doesn't limit what they have access to while in the library itself. Books are full of violence, sex, drugs, and other things that one will also find in games, but no one is going to try and criminalize book sales. Imagine the uproar.

There needs to be a similar uproar. These politicians are fast-tracking bills that will take away a parent's right to raise his or her child as that person sees fit. For example, my mother is disabled, and she couldn't always accompany me to rent or see movies, but if I cleared it with her beforehand, then it was permitted. Blockbuster had then, a provision where a parent could sign off on allowing a child on the same account to rent any materials from the store. My mom did that, but I still advised her about what I was seeing, and she knew she could trust me.

That is parenting for you. But if these politicians have their way, what my mom allowed wouldn't even be possible when it comes to video games. Such a thing would be a criminal offense for the person behind the counter. So much for mobility-impaired parents' right to raise their kids how they wish. So much for any New York parent that wants to take responsibility for their own child.

How ridiculous would it seem if these senators decided to take it upon themselves to try and outlaw minors from purchasing Shakespearean works, for example? They're full of murders, bawdiness, revenge plots, and many rather adult themes.

Books, like video games, are a form of interactive entertainment. As such, many adults with little gaming experience or knowledge, like many of these legislators, are scared by all the hubbub made in the media and by instigators like Jack Thompson, and fear that such interaction is dangerous. I read Lord of the Flies at the age of twelve. I didn't start having murder and coup fantasies about my classmates. I play Grand Theft Auto. I've never killed anyone or stolen any cars. What these politicians need to do is to sit down and learn more about the subject. Yet, how can we expect such a thing when only six out of 100 Senate members read a classified intelligence document prepared as a justification for the current administration's decision to invade Iraq?

Many of these legislators are parents, and it's understandable that
they wish to protect children, but this is an incredibly ridiculous,
uninformed, and shortsighted approach. Legislation does not replace good parenting, and yet encouraging parental responsibility is not on these people's agenda. Sadly enough, it looks like
they've even roped Governor Spitzer into their camp. I hope if these bills are signed into law, that they're quickly slapped with injunctions and declared unconstitutional. It makes me so
ashamed that my state is doing this. That it's my fine state, usually
the ground of many freedom-protecting laws and progressive thinking, is
falling flat on its figurative face with what is no more than
a hypocritical knee-jerk reaction to an element of modern culture that
most of those responsible simply do not understand.

Drawing the line

On Friday, some kids here pulled an early April Fools' prank on their classmates, lacing some donuts with laxatives, just like on an MTV show they'd watched. Now, while I think it was an awful thing to do, considering the potential effects on anyone who may have eaten one, it was still a childish act. The children are now facing criminal charges.

Of course, there's a difference between right and wrong, and these 13 and 14 year old boys were known as jokers. However, the severity of the action is just one example of how adults are rushing children to grow up so fast these days. I'm not ignoring that the prank was shown, apparently with instructions, on TV, merely analyzing the reaction by officials.

We're living in a world that makes thongs for pre-teens and overreacts by sending in the bomb squad over a harmless ad campaign. What, years ago, would have simply been written off as a harmless teenage prank punishable by perhaps a week or two in detention is now being handled by the police. Think about that.

I wouldn't have wanted to be one of those people who ate the tainted donuts, but the effects of a laxative last a day at best. There would almost certainly be no permanent damage. When it comes to more severe incidents, such as when kids deliberately attempt to poison their teachers, then perhaps police involvement might be more suitable. However, perhaps they should try to give kids a warning first instead of arresting them. Work with their parents. Heck, even scare them a little bit. When I was in kindergarten, we took a field trip to the local police station, where they locked us up in a holding cell for a few minutes. Even when you're five, that can have an impact.

There are just so many aspects of today's society that are making childhood shorter and shorter. Arresting children can leave them with a very negative self-image, and it can make them feel hopeless. If it happens more than once, and I've met some people who'd been through the juvenile system, it really does damage their sense of hope.