Hillary Clinton popularized the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" in the mid-1990s, but it was hardly a new idea. Clinton was citing a traditional African proverb, but Africans don't have a lock on the idea of collective responsibility for the welfare of children, either. "Your children are not your children," wrote the Lebanese-born poet Khalil Gibran in 1923. "You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth."
Backlash against this sentiment is nothing new either. "With all due respect" to Clinton, said GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in a 1996 speech, "it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child."
So: We shouldn't be particularly surprised that there has been a lot of conservative blowback to a provocative new MSNBC ad (watch above), in which host Melissa Harris-Perry argues that "we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities."
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Harris-Perry is talking specifically about investing in education, but Matt Lewis posits here at The Week that her ad is so "absurd" and "dystopian," Orwellian even, that it must be a "calculated attempt to troll us."
Oh, please, says Harris-Perry at MSNBC. "I have no designs on taking your children. Please keep your kids!" At the same time, "I have no intention of apologizing for saying that our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect, and opportunities of those communities." And, Harris-Perry argues, conservatives should understand this.
"It sounds warm and fuzzy to say, abstractly, that a child belongs 'to the entire community,'" says Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. But "as someone who supports well-funded public schools, a social safety net, neighborhoods with 'eyes on the street' (per Jane Jacobs), charitable work on behalf of needy kids, and an ethos of looking out for any kid who finds him or herself in need of adult assistance, I emphatically believe that 'your kid is yours, and totally your responsibility,' that 'kids belong to their families,' not to their communities, and that the converse formulation is dangerous."
Kids depend on individuals, Friedersdorf adds, not "diffuse collectives," to get vaccinated, enroll in school, steer clear of peanut allergies, and get strapped into car seats. And having parents take responsibility for their own children is "a collective necessity in any pluralistic society."
Of course, such views have plenty of detractors. The conservative "interpretation of Harris-Perry's video is entirely misguided," says one of Andrew Sulivan's readers at The Dish. "She is not saying that anyone has a legal interest in your kids."
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