I came across a special kind of lunacy last night. CNN ran an opinion piece on its homepage titled, “’Go the F*** to Sleep’ not funny" by a woman named Karen Spears Zacharias. It is the most ridiculous example of privileged, upper middle class guilt I think I’ve ever seen. To point this out, I’m going to rip her crappy argument apart, FJM-style.
Two quick things before I get started: 1) I don’t have kids. I’m not telling you how to raise yours, I’m saying this lady is an idiot. 2) I’m liberal as all holy hell. I see nothing wrong with being “p.c.,” because “politically correct” essentially means being nice to people. Which is good, generally. But there’s a line. And Karen Spears Zacharias went screaming past it.
Here we go:
"Go the F*** to Sleep" is being hailed as a cathartic children’s book for parents. Beautifully illustrated and written in the same witty prose style as generations of beloved bedtime storybooks, this read has made a startling climb to the No. 1 spot on Amazon and as a New York Times Bestseller.
Who can explain it?
As the title suggests, “Go the F*** to Sleep” mocks the parental frustrations of trying to lay a child down to bed. Crass in concept and execution, this is an expletive-filled bedtime story intended solely for the amusement of parents.
Well that doesn’t sound so bad, as I’m sure parents, who are grown-ups, will be able to tell the difference between satire and out-and-out child abuse. I’m glad we settled tha-…
Oh, you weren’t done…
Joan Demarest is an attorney in Corvallis, Oregon, and the mother of three young boys. Demarest told me that initially she thought the book was funny. That was before she read it. “Now I find it unsettling. I don’t like violent language in association with children.”
I’d love to read Joan Demarest’s review of other literary works. “For Whom the Bell Tolls is a great book! I haven’t read it, but I love music!,” or “If you like baseball, you’ll love Catcher in the Rye. I’m assuming!”
She has good reason to be concerned about the message behind such a parody. Demarest was the prosecuting attorney in one of Oregon’s most high-profile child murder cases. She understands the fear that far too many children endure because the lines of what’s appropriate parenting have become blurred.
Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect.
Joan Demarest would know about abusive language like the kind in this book leading to violence because she PROSECUTES GRIZZLY CHILD MURDERERS WHO ARE SICK PEOPLE WHO WANT TO MURDER YOUR CHILD WHILE YOU SLEEP COMFORTABLY IN YOUR HOME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T TURN OFF THE LIGHT.
But no one is suggesting there’s a correlation between this book and and violence against children. Besides me. Because I am. Just a few sentences ago.
Still, there’s no denying the reason “Go the F*** to Sleep” should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children.
[taking notes] Keep… a… book… with… cussing… away… from… kids. Got it. But I can still let my toddler watch “The Wire,” right?
"Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos," says Dr. David Arredondo. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths.
And what if it were about aliens? Or rabbits? Or those little holders you stick into the sides of corn on the cob so you can hold it without getting butter all over your hands? What then? MADNESS.
It is hard to imagine this kind of humor being tolerated by any of the marginalized groups Arredondo cited. Consider the lines on page 3:
"The eagles who soar thru the sky are at rest
And the creatures who crawl, run and creep.
I know you are not thirsty. That’s bulls**t.
Lie the f*** down, my darling, and sleep.”
Good point. This fictional child being read a story by his or her fictional parent, neither of whom actually exist, is a lot like these marginalized groups who have been beaten, discriminated against at a governmental level, prejudiced against throughout history, and murdered in huge numbers. “Cuss words are a lot like fire hoses and gas chambers in that way,” says noted scholar Dipshit McNoOne.
The irony, says Arredondo, is that the people buying the book are probably good parents.
"The people reading this book are educated parents, who actually care about their children and are frustrated that often their children don’t behave the way storybooks display."
Oh. So there’s literally nothing to worry about then?
Parents often don’t act in the way storybooks depict either. Putting kids to bed can be a challenge, and it may be an even bigger problem for this generation of parents because the sacred bedtime ritual of reading to children has gone away.
"I think it’s pretty important to note that most kids in this country do not get read to at all when they go to sleep," Arredondo says.
That lack of interaction between parent and child troubles him.
Also, I think it’s important to note that most children do not get a warm glass of milk to help them fall asleep. And some children, believe it or not, don’t have Spiderman footie pajamas to keep their wittle toesies warm and pwotected from the chiwwy bweeze at night. And I think you’ll be especially shocked to hear that some children grow up without a nanny, or independently wealthy parents who retired at age 30 to devote their lives to raising their children.
I know. It’s a little like Darfur.
"It’s a big problem" he says. "There is nothing in the cosmos, nothing known to man, that comes remotely close to the complexity and the elegance of the architect of every child’s brain as it is developing. Neglect of a developing child’s brain is a terrible thing."
We hex our children when we fail to read to them, he says; a child’s developing brain makes connections at the rate of 1,000 per second. That’s why children require copious amount of attention and stimulation. When they are denied that, they suffer.
To recap: By not partaking in the “sacred bedtime ritual” of reading books like Curious George Goes to the Zoo, “we hex our children” and their complex, elegant mysterious brains!
"Ooo-OOOO-oooo, tongue of frog, eye of newt, I hex you to a life of wearing construction boots!"
Author Adam Mansbach is undoubtedly the kind of father who heaps love, affection and attention upon his daughter. (He reportedly had the idea to write the book because of his exasperation with her at bedtime.) But sadly, his book accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up.
Yeah, good, loving parents who DO read to your kids at night and therefore enjoy this work of satire because you understand the difficulties of getting your child to sleep. HOW DARE YOU LAUGH AT SOMETHING WHEN OTHER SOMEONE ELSE SOMEWHERE IS SAD?!
And Jesus H. Christmas, finish your dinner. There are starving people in Africa.
For far too many kids, the obscenities found in Mansbach’s book are a common, everyday household language. Swearing is how parents across the social, educational and economic strata express their disappointments or anxieties, their frustrations and outright anger at their children. Sometimes the biggest bully in the neighborhood lives in the same house you do. Sometimes it’s your parent.
This is the rhetorical equivalent of saying no one should wear a belt because some shitty, terrible people use theirs to beat their children.
Also, did you know that some people use swear words to express anger and disappointment? I thought this was America.
Perhaps the reason Mansbach’s book resonates isn’t so much because of the humor, but because of the truth behind it.
The violent language of “Go the F*** to Sleep” is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who’d care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them.
SOME CHILDREN ARE SAD AND I BLAME THIS AUTHOR WHO I JUST SAID IS PROBABLY A GREAT PARENT! AND SWEAR WORDS, TOO!
You know, like all those parents depicted in all those beautifully illustrated storybooks.
And what ever happened to “Leave It To Beaver”? You should watch that show. Unless you support CHILD ABUSE!
Look. Read to your kids when you can. And love them, and play with them, and support them in whatever they want to do, and whoever they are, and whatever they want to become. And if you do all that and ALSO see the humor in a satirical work about the difficulties of doing all that while working a high-stress job in a down economy that leaves you exhausted and strapped for time and energy, great. Don’t let this lady and her first-world guilt trip take that away from you. And ESPECIALLY don’t let her tell you what’s funny. Ever. She wouldn’t know funny if it crapped on her organic edamame.
I guess what I’m saying is this: Shut the fuck up, Karen Spears Zacharias.