In Iceland, quite a bit actually.
Meet Blaer. Pretty girl. Pretty name. But it’s a name that doesn’t appear on the Personal Names Register, therefore she is not allowed to use it. Blaer and her mother are suing the government for the right to use the name she’s had since birth. In the meantime, she is listed as “girl” on official documents. You can read more about Blaer here and here.
It sounded outrageous to me, but I wanted to do something more than merely blog about it, and complain to others who felt the same way I did. I wanted to use this news story in a constructive way. So on a recent trip to the store, I brought it up in the car with the Little Critter. (Side note: I’ve ALWAYS called her Little Critter online; it’s difficult to stop now that she’s a teen, and also taller than I am.)
When I brought up this story, her indignation was aroused. Her imagination was instantly captured by thoughts of having to fight the government for the right to use her own name. She asked the right questions: Why would a government do this? What is Blaer doing about it? How do people stop stupid things like that from happening?
Then she mentioned something that I hadn’t thought of: she’s a fan of subversive literature. Oh, she didn’t use that term, but her reference to The Hunger Games and similar books struck me. Buried within current teen pulp fiction and entertainment is an emerging theme that resonates naturally with adolescents, and I missed it completely. And this theme is shaping the way they view the world. The LC was ready to have that conversation because she was primed to accept the premise behind it; that governments overreach, that they are not always made up of good-hearted people, that they are not to be blindly trusted with power. The government schools are certainly not going to teach (or encourage) critical thinking skills, and we can hardly depend on government schools to teach skepticism of the government that funds them.
Up to this point, I was afraid that she was unable to make sense of all my political activity: my need to attend meetings, work online, conduct conference calls, or travel. But the combination of rebellion-themed books and movies, and the rather casual discussion of real government overreach (one that affected someone with whom she could identify) seemed to solidify something for her. She’s able to see what I do as more than a hobby, she can connect the dots between why I fight in the political arena, and why she may one day be compelled to.
As a parent, I’ve often struggled with the idea that the culture was another enemy in raising my children with solid values. I still believe the battle for our children is in that arena. But I didn’t expect reinforcements to come from the popular culture as well. Now that I know what’s out there, I fully intend to exploit it for the purposes of continuing the conversation between us. It’s time to use the natural rebellious nature of the teen years, and channel its focus towards bad government, not merely towards parents. It’s time to talk to our kids about liberty, using references that they understand and relate to.
The Little Critter may not yet be a radical, but now I know the raw material is there.