PARENTS, FOREIGN POLICY AND MORAL AUTHORITY

by michael on April 10, 2011

Moments ago I read a posting on Powerline Blog (http://powerlineblog.com) titled Does anybody know what time it is? I was intrigued. I read the posting. The post was a politically-oriented statement about US government policy toward Middle East countries. The gist of the posting is, if I understand it correctly, that there is no logical coherency in the foreign policies of the US toward Middle East countries and there is no logical coherency among the statements made by our political leaders regarding the folks that govern the several Middle East countries.

Whatever. I don’t write about politics. But I felt compelled to bring this fragment of the posting to the attention of my readers because the next few sentences of the posting relate so intimately and directly to parenting and to the ability of parents to establish moral authority. Frankly, between parents and politicians, I’d rather spend my time with parents. I’d rather direct my energies, such as they are, toward parents. But there are lessons to learn by examining the behavior and the rhetoric of politicians, mostly in the category of exactly what not to do.

The author of the posting, Scott Johnson, a super bright guy, went on to write:

“The White House declared when it was time for Mubarak to go. It declared when it was time for Qaddafi to go. Obama himself declared that Qaddafi had lost his “legitimacy.”

“Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power,” the president said in the joint press conference at the White House with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “You’ve seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people.”

Scott Johnson then raises the relevant practical question.

“But you have to wonder: how those things that “must” occur are going to happen. And what happens if they don’t?”

Scott’s question prompted me to see an unambiguous link between the rhetoric of foreign policy and the rhetoric if parenting. Presumably politicians want to establish credibility and moral authority. It’s tough being a thug tyrant all day long, no doubt. Maybe most politicians don’t really care. Well, it’s not business, at least regarding this website.

I give a practical example of this “you must to this” rhetoric. I and my dear friend, the Honorable John Kane, United States District Court Judge, District of Colorado, have lectured together to several continuing legal education audiences. Lawyers persistently argue to him about he must do: “Your honor, you must do this.. you must rule that way… you must find for the plaintiff…. Blah blah blah.”  

At our conferences Judge Kane shared this illuminating reply to such lawyers’ demands. I can almost see his acidic words corroding the marble floors of the courtroom. He interrupts the lawyer and says, “Don’t tell me what I must do. The only thing I must do is attend a federal judicial conference every two years.” Or something close to that. You get the point. The judge doesn’t have to do anything of the sort demanded by the lawyers.

It’s the same with parents . See my posting on dealing with rude children. Parents can pontificate about what their child ‘must’ do but the fact of the matter is the child doesn’t have to do anything of the sort, unless the parent makes the child do it.

 That is to say, unless the parent imposes consequences for the child not doing what the parent said must be done, the parent’s words have the strength of a cobweb. Children don’t have to do anything unless they are persuaded to do it. The point is, parents lose moral authority and credibility when they forcefully demand their child must do something and then have no enforcement policy for making actualizing that demand or impose no sanctions when those things that must be done are not done.

We have little influence over what politicians do. But I urge that parents be more honorable than most of them. In our personal worlds, parents’ actions matter more.

 More later.

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