taking back our homes
protecting your family in a culture that's gone
stark raving mad
rebecca hagelin is vice president
of communications and marketing for the heritage
foundation. her weekly column, "heart beat," appears
on several web sites, including townhall.com.
she appears regularly on television and radio,
publishes in several magazines and newspapers,
speaks frequently to civic, church and school
organizations, and maintains her own web site
at www.homeinvasion.org. most recently she is
the author of
home invasion: protecting your
family in a culture that's gone stark raving mad.
the following is adapted from a luncheon
speech delivered in the dow leadership center
at hillsdale college on march 6, 2006.
the day i signed the contract to write
just so happened to be the day that
six teenagers and i set out in our 15-passenger
van on a 2,000 mile vacation. we always take other
kids along with our own three when we go on our
legendary hagelin road trips. this time we were
heading south from virginia to visit disney world
and the beautiful florida gulf coast beaches.
(i always wonder at such moments why my wonderful
and wise husband, andy, can't ever quite make
it for the "road" part of the trip-he always has
to fly and meet us at our destinationi? 1/2 could
it possibly be that he doesn't want to spend 24
driving hours stuck in a van with six teenagers?
hmm. as i said, he is wise. but i digress).
it was easy to begin composing thoughts about
america's toxic culture as i drove my precious
cargo down the highway-painfully easy. barreling
down i-95, the roadside was filled with tacky
billboards screaming, "topless! we dare, we bare!"
advertising the many topless bars that now dot
the countryside. there was no escape from them,
state after state. i wondered, "ok, i've got six
teenagers in the car-what messages are the billboards
sending them about acceptable behavior? what are
they learning about the value of women in our
society?" after a few hours we pulled into a gas
station that had an ice cream counter. i left
the teens to order and made a quick trip to the
ladies room. when i returned to pay the bill,
there were the two girls, standing at the register
devouring their ice cream right beside a product
called "horniest goat weed: sex stimulate pills
for men and women." so a kid can't even get a
scoop of ice cream without being assaulted by
a sexual message? i waved the girls away while
i paid the bill, only to turn around and find
them standing by a magazine rack filled with pornography.
down the road we stopped at a burger king for
dinner-a safe place, at last. or at least i
it would be an opportunity to just relax with
the kids while we munched on burgers and fries.
we soon discovered that mounted in the corner
was a television blaring the images and sounds
of one of those made-for-tv movies, this particular
scene featuring a naked man and woman bumping
under the covers.
so a family can't drive down the highway, get
a scoop of ice cream, or even eat hamburgers without
being assaulted by garbage?
everywhere we go, from the grocery store check-out
stands with their tacky women's magazines, to
the mall with windows filled with mannequins and
photos of young women in their underwear, to the
video store with ultra-violent and pornographic
movies, to the sexually graphic books many public
schools are using to "teach" our kids, our sensibilities
are under attack.
but tragically, the toxic culture that is poisoning
the hearts and souls of our families and our children
isn't just "out there." often times the american
home has become the sump for cultural sewage.
it used to be that the home was the nurturing
oasis providing relief from outside dangers. it
used to be that a parent's greatest worry was
looking out for the guy in the trench coat lurking
in the shadows at the edge of the school playground.
well, that guy in the trench coat is now in our
don't believe me? log on to the internet. according
to the london school of economics, nine out of
ten children who go online, usually to do homework,
will stumble across hardcore pornography. let
me repeat: 90 percent of children will fall victim
to pornography in their own homes. and then there's
intentional porn consumption by kids. oh, children
might pass around a pornographic web address at
school, but it's in the safety of their own homes-often
in their own bedrooms-that they close the door
and consume hours of pornography. over 50 percent
of kids who enter chat rooms-where conversation
is often raunchy and racy-say they have given
out personal information to complete strangers.
chat rooms and sites such as myspace.com have
become playgrounds for sexual predators, often
luring kids to situations of abuse and even death.
online pornography is more than a $10 billion
a year industry, working 24/7 to make porn addicts
out of our kids-and too often succeeding.
tired of internet porn? turn on the television
and flip to mtv. why? it's what your teenagers
are watching. as a matter of fact, mtv is the
number one viewing choice for teen girls. and
if you haven't seen mtv in a while, well, let
me just say that our kids are not just watching
artsy music videos anymore. today's mtv programming
is filled with reality-based shows that feature
kids dressed in teeny-weeny bikinis licking whipped
cream off each other. or "pooh diving"-a "sport"
in which teen boys swim in open sewers filled
with human waste. or the infamous "pooh cams"
where kids watch other kids go to the bathroom.
think the problem is just on cable? why not switch
, the third
most popular television show among today's teens.
by the way, a recent kaiser family foundation
report on media uses of teenagers reveals that
68 percent of children say they now have a tv
in their bedroom, and the vast majority say their
parents have no idea what they are watching.
had enough internet and television porn? check
out the video games our teen boys are playing.
the second most popular of these games is grand
theft auto, in which the player actually becomes
the character who steals cars, rapes women, has
sex with a prostitute and then clubs her to death.
and that's not to mention the decapitation of
if that's not enough, check out the books.
is one of the most popular romance
series for girls ages 12-16. published by simon
and schuster, recurring themes are incest and
graphic sex among children. what about some of
the books our kids are reading for school-assigned
reports? when i was researching
i decided to thumb through a few books from a
list of those recommended by the american library
association for ages 12-14. good teachers, well-meaning
teachers, hand out such lists at the end of every
school year-i'm sure you're familiar with the
"summer reading list" concept. after that, good
moms everywhere drive their kids to the library
and say, "honey, go pick out a few books to read
this summer and get started right away on that
report. go up to your bedroom and read if you're
bored, because i don't want to hear you complaining
that you have nothing to do." well, i pulled a
few novels off the shelves and what i found disgusted
me. one described a sexual encounter between fourth
graders. another was written from the perspective
of a 14-year-old boy who describes, in detail,
watching his first homosexual encounter. in one
book, you only need to get to page four for the
first of many uses of the term "motherf---in."
so moms and dads should know that sometimes when
susie is upstairs being a good little girl reading
her book, her mind is being filled with rot. of
course you should also check out the sex-ed class
materials that may include contests where kids
race to put condoms on dildos and cucumbers.
and then there's the music. the number one music
genre of choice for today's youth of all races
and socioeconomic groups is the often verbally
pornographic and violent rap and hip-hop. according
to the media study i mentioned earlier, our kids
are consuming six-and-one-half hours of media
every single day. and as i've described, the vast
majority of it is sexual, violent, uncivil, and
often plain stupid.
but what's the harm? isn't this just entertainment?
well, let's see. corporations spend billions of
dollars every year on advertising. why? because
they know that media affects behavior. today's
youth are the most marketed-to generation in the
history of the world. our kids are spending an
estimated $200 billion a year on trinkets and
toys and clothes and media. marketing executives
at mtv and other youth-oriented media do not brag
about how they know what kids want, but about
how they have learned to manipulate the teenage
mind. they are selling a "lifestyle" to our children
that robs them of their innocence and their best
futures, and capitalizes on the natural raging
hormones that mark the teen years. instead of
helping channel that energy into worthwhile activities,
the media fuels the flames in an effort to keep
them tuned into the programming.
these marketers are teaching our young girls that
their lives are all about their sexual power and
our young boys that life is all about who can
be more crudely funny or irresponsible. sexual
activity is expected and has no consequences.
civility does not exist. and the only brand of
respect that's taught is a twisted brand of "self-respect."
the harm, then, is that in addition to the obvious
degradation of our humanity; to the destruction
of common decency and morality; and to the virtual
death of civility; our children are paying a terrible
price with their bodies, their emotions and their
a september 2004 report in the medical journal
reveals that children
who watch a lot of sexualized television have
twice the rate of sexual activity as teens who
don't. one out of three teenage girls will become
pregnant at least one time before she is 19 years
old, giving the u.s. the highest teen pregnancy
rate of any industrialized western nation. twenty-five
percent of sexually active teenagers will contract
a sexually transmitted disease that they will
carry with them for the rest of their lives. half
of the new std cases in this country every year
are in young people ages 15-24. the suicide rate
among children 14 years old and under has increased
75 percent in the last ten years. according to
chronicle of higher education
freshmen are entering colleges in record numbers
with clinically diagnosed depression. the college
suicide rate is the highest it has ever been.
and have you ever heard of "cutting"? it's a heart-breaking
phenomenon of self-mutilation now common in middle
schools across the country. our teenage daughters
are using razor blades and knives to make slashes
in their arms, just so they can feel alive.
are we crazy? has our culture gone stark-raving
before we point the finger at hollywood, the government,
or the business community for what is happening
to america's youth, we must look at ourselves.
i've worked on family public policy issues for
20 years, and i know the solutions to these problems
do not rest in washington, d.c. most of the solutions
can be found in active, loving parenting. it doesn't
take an act of congress to take back your home.
the last time i checked, a 13-year-old boy didn't
have 60 bucks to buy a video game unless his daddy
gave it to him. eleven-year-old girls can't drive
themselves to the mall, nor do they have the cash
to buy trashy clothes that make them look like
street walkers. and who pays for the cable television,
orders the internet connection and buys cds for
christmas presents? well-meaning moms and dads
who are too busy or too absorbed with their own
lives to see that their kids need them to push
back against the toxic culture, not invite and
pay for it to invade their homes.
many parents are more concerned about being their
children's friend than they are about parenting.
but kids don't need more drifting friends; they
need their moms and dads. our children are feeling
around for boundaries, for a firm foundation on
which they can build their lives, for love and
the greatest gift we can give our children is
to teach them that there is a god that loves them;
that he knows their names, and knows how many
hairs are on their heads. they must know that
god created them as unique individuals, in his
image, with unique contributions only they can
make to their fellow men. we must teach them the
two greatest commandments: to love god with all
their hearts and to love others as they love themselves.
and we must teach them to tell truth from lies,
good from evil.
we should remember that it is adults who create
pornographic web sites and spam our children's
inboxes with pornographic e-mail; adults who design
and build trashy billboards and run topless bars;
adults who design thongs for ten-year-olds; adults
who create mtv programming and own the record
labels and publish trashy teen romance novels.
in other words, our battle is not with our children,
but with adults who hold a corrupt view of the
purpose of life.
please hear my heart on this matter: modern technology
is not the enemy. i believe that modern technology
has the potential to be a great liberator of families,
allowing more parents to spend more time working
from home. my goodness, the world is at our children's
fingertips, enabling them to access information
and do research in minutes that used to take hours
to complete. but there are a lot of people who
use this technology for harm, too. we must harness
the good and filter out the bad. i wrote
as a wake-up call to parents and
as a handbook for how to take back their homes.
i didn't want just to talk about our societal
problems; i wanted to provide resources to help
people fight back. so it lists counseling organizations
that can help if someone in the family is addicted
to pornography; resources on educational choices;
information about controlling internet infiltration;
and research on the tremendous impact that simple
acts like having family meals together can have
probably the single greatest safety act you can
perform today is to download an internet filter.
the one i use takes a few minutes and a few keystrokes
to download, and costs about 50 bucks a year.
as far as the television, don't throw it out;
just monitor how it is used. if you subscribe
to digital cable television, you can obtain parental
controls at no charge by contacting your local
cable provider. what about the movies your kids
see or rent at the video store? be smart. check
out movie reviews written by people who share
your concern for decency. internet sites such
as pluggedinonline.com are excellent tools in
there are several practical resources available
to help us make wise choices for our kids. but
the best tool we can use is our expression of
our love for them as people. and sometimes, that
commitment is difficult. i know what it's like
to have my 13-year-old daughter look at me with
tears streaming down her face and say, "but mom,
all my friends are going to that movie." it rips
my heart out. but in those moments, i sit kristin
down and i say, "you know what, kristin? god made
me your mom, and i love you more than anybody
else in the world could possibly love you. i have
to do what i think is best for you. please allow
me to be your mom, allow me to love you, allow
me to protect you the best way i know how. i might
make mistakes, but as long as there is breath
in me, i will be here for you." and then, we always
find something else to do that's fun for her.
those situations could easily turn into ugly scenes
where i scream, "no, you're not going to that
movie and i don't care what you say! go to your
room!" or they can turn into moments where i give
in, too tired to fight another battle, sending
my daughter off with the message that standards
only apply when i'm not worn out. instead, when
i remember that i'm the one who is supposed to
model love, forgiveness and integrity, those situations
turn into wonderful bonding moments that we both
cherish, and that children desperately crave.
we must remember that our kids want us to be involved
in their lives. they don't really want or need
another gadget or the hottest video game. what
they really want is more time with mom and dad.
they need us desperately, not to build walls around
them that shut them off from the world, but to
build within them a moral compass that will guide
them when they go out into the world each day.
not only will they be spared much harm having
this compass, but they will succeed better as
adults. and maybe, just maybe, if enough of us
commit now to taking back our homes, there will
one day be enough adults to reclaim our culture.
editor, douglas a. jeffrey; deputy editor,
timothy w. caspar; assistant to the editor, patricia
a. dubois. the opinions expressed in imprimis are not
necessarily the views of hillsdale college. copyright
(c) 2006. permission to reprint in whole or part is hereby
granted, provided the following credit line is used:
"reprinted by permission from imprimis, the national
speech digest of hillsdale college,
subcription free upon request. issn 0277-8432. imprimis
trademark registered in u.s. patent and trade office
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