I'm Not Buying Bicycle Helmets

by James Leroy Wilson by James Leroy Wilson

I do not doubt that there are many blessings and joys that come with fatherhood. But from the perspective of a single, childless man, there are some hassles in parenting I wouldn't want to deal with. I don't mean the diaper changing or the 2am cries, or the patience, or the disciplining. Those are tough enough, but are part of the package, things a responsible parent deals with. What I mean is the b.s., the government telling me how to raise and what to teach my children.

Take bicycle helmets, please. I once saw a kid with one on a tricycle, for goodness' sakes! I wasn't the world's most active kid. But even on hot days, I would ride my bike to friendsu2018 houses, or to the convenience store, or just to bike. What else is a kid going to do on a summer day? Especially as I got older, I'd bike all around town. Would I have done so if I felt too hot and sweaty because of the helmet? If I had to take a shower after every time I biked?

It is this attitude that makes me a poor candidate for fatherhood: I would never buy my children bicycle helmets no matter what the law says. The risks of a head injury sustained at slow speeds and small heights are too small to justify the cost and inconvenience for the kids. I don't want to send the message that riding a bicycle is unsafe. Besides, kids are supposed to get cuts and bruises, and wipe out once in a while. It toughens them up.

In what other ways would I be a bad Dad? From education to alcohol, from arts to medicine, I would try to do what's right regardless of the law or social expectations. Obviously, my course of action would have to take these into account; no one wants to go to jail or not have enough money. But while I would want my children to learn prudence and responsibility, I wouldn't want them to value conformity, especially to an unjust regime and absurd social order. I'd rather home-school in a trailer park and be free than have a huge house in the 'burbs and send my kids to a "good" indoctrination camp.

But my biggest crime as a father would be that I'd discourage my children from going into law enforcement and the military. Rather, I'd want them to be constantly skeptical of the government's claims that its wars are necessary and its laws are just. Yes, I would also want my children to be courageous. Physically courageous, ready to lay down their lives to save somebody in peril. But I would be a bad Dad, because I would teach my children that love of country is not the same as faith in government.

I would not want my children to sneer at cops or soldiers, or doubt their motives – although let's admit that these branches of the State do attract their share of bullies who want to "kick ass" legally. But the patriotism of decent, honorable soldiers will not excuse them when they lay down their lives for their "country," if their country is in the wrong. And the badge is not a moral exemption from civilized behavior. A cop who falls in the "line of duty," when that "duty" is raiding the homes of marijuana growers or gun dealers, is not a hero. Not any more than were storm troopers who met the wrong end of Han Solo's blaster. Storm troopers were not bad people. They just trusted their leaders and obeyed orders. But I don't want my kids to become storm troopers.

I would be a bad Dad because I would not want my kids to trust their leaders and obey orders. It might sound attractive to join National Guard for the scholarships, or enlist in the Marines to learn "discipline." The trouble with that is, once you're in, it is hard to get out, especially when the country is at war. The war may be clearly unjust and against the nation's interests, and the President may be incompetent, insane, or in the clutches of sinister people. But none of that will matter when you're court-martialed for going AWOL. Between joining the military in the hopes of a peaceful stint, and not joining the military at all, the wiser course is clear.

Dedicating one's life to the military, or to law enforcement, is an act of faith. Often described as a faith in "democracy" or our "republican form of government," or "the rule of law." Yet faith that is not grounded in history and reason, is foolishness. And neither history nor reason can demonstrate that in democratic republics:

  • the best rise to the top;
  • the only wars that are fought are unavoidable, necessary, and defensive in purpose;
  • the right to be left alone – the right to liberty – is respected;
  • the best ideas are embraced and bad ones rejected;
  • Constitutional checks and balances prevent anyone from acquiring too much power;
  • the government is capable of honestly and fairly checking the "excesses" of free markets, even as special-interest lobbyists dominate the capital city;
  • individual rights and property are protected from collectivist programs;
  • the government is effectively guarded against infiltration by foreign powers, organized crime, and secret organizations.

Of course, other forms of government are no better. And that's the problem; the State is the problem, no matter where it originated, how it is structured, or the virtues of the occasional honest politician. This isn't about, "If we had someone like [insert your favorite President here], faith in our government can be restored." I agree wholeheartedly with Cindy Sheehan that her son Casey was killed in the wrong war fought for the wrong reasons. But I think we must emphasize that all non-defensive wars are wrong, no President can be trusted, and faith in the government defies history and reason. And thus it would be foolish to risk one's life doing the State's bidding.

The State is, after all, composed of petty tyrants who believe it is their responsibility to make sure Junior doesn't get on his bike without a helmet. And force him to sit idly in a mini-van child-seat when he could be wrestling with his brother in the back of a station wagon. And "protect" him by banning smoking sections in restaurants.

In South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein told us that "you have to be carefully taught" racism. Well, you also "have to be carefully taught" statism, too. If I ever become a father, I would try to carefully teach freedom. From an early age. Even if it makes me a bad Dad, setting a poor example for the other kids and their fathers. Some things are worth the hassle.

James Leroy Wilson Archives