Although raised in Montana in a traditional home, my husband is not technically a conservative man. His guiding principle is "live and let live." So it is highly unusual to see him incensed by anything, no less a commercial for chicken tenders. But he was so irate that he has committed himself to never, ever buying the product they were selling and spent more than 45 minutes ranting about the decay of American civilization the following day.
The commercial was a thirty-second spot in which a group of teenagers ("punks," according to my husband) rushed into the home of one of the boys in the group. Within seconds they had taken over the kitchen opening every cabinet they could reach, offering unsolicited commentary--all negative--on the food they found there.
Rush to rescue"enter the servant mother with a tray full of freshly cooked (previously frozen) chicken (by-product) tenders.
"Yeah, mom," they barely uttered as they flung her offering down their throats.
"No one I ever grew up with, tough guy or not, would have ever had the gall, the unabashed audacity to walk into someone's home and, forget just rummaging through their pantry, but to criticize what they found?" He was clearly disgusted. "That's just the height of entitlement. That's insane."
Who can argue with him? Even those of us who were raised in more open, less structured homes than my husband's can see the problem in the scenario and, more importantly, the cultural calamity it forebodes.
He wasn't done""I would've gasped if any of my friends had done that in my home when I was a kid"or if I'd found out that any of the kids I raised went into someone's home and behaved like that. God, I'd be thoroughly embarrassed. And today"if I was greeted with a horde of self-centered punks ransacking my kitchen and dissing the food that I'd worked hard to provide, I would not run out and hook them up with a platter of chicken tenders. Tender would be the last thing on my mind."
Commercials as Cultural Microcosms
Although some may rightfully make a case for this being an example of life imitating art, it may more sadly be a slice of art that has been drawn directly from life.
There are many who would say that somewhere in the 70's and 80's a trend that has undermined the natural order of family structure began and has continued unabated. This is not a commentary on who composes a family, but of who runs it--the child or the parent.
There have always been families with only one parent, or extended families with aunts and uncles and multiple parenting figures, or families that followed more creative structural arrangements.
What makes those families work is always the same thing: there is someone in charge who can be counted on, who knows what he (or she) is doing, who provides to the best to his or her ability, and whose primary purpose is to love and care for that family.
Once children became the parents, they were effectively abandoned. No child, no matter how clever, how entitled, how sophisticated in appearance can ever raise himself.
The Nature of True Authority
When I teach first responders and military personnel Verbal First Aid , one of the first things we get into is the need for them to be truly comfortable in and clear about their authority. Taking control of a chaotic situation requires authority. No one is going to follow someone who's confused, insecure, and uncommitted to a course of action, no matter how nice they are. This is true whether we need to follow someone literally (as in leaving a burning or crumbling building) or whether we need to take a suggestion to help us heal (e.g., when we are told to lower our blood pressure or stop the bleeding).
People--particularly parents--confuse true authority with meanness of spirit. They are not the same thing. In fact, a parent who has no authority, who cedes his position to his child has done that child a great disservice.
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