Monday, April 11, 2005

Television, magazines, schools, the Internet everywhere today, says Rebecca Hagelin, parents see “sex, violence and depravity” in popular culture threatening their children. In her new book, “Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad,” Mrs. Hagelin tells parents how to fight back in what she calls “the struggle to preserve childhood as a place of innocence.”

Mrs. Hagelin, a mother of three, is vice president for communications and marketing at the Heritage Foundation. The following are excerpts of a recent telephone interview:

Q. You use the phrase “cultural terrorism” to characterize the worst aspects of popular culture. “Terrorism” is a strong word. Why did you choose it?

A. Our children are under attack by a killer culture, a culture that seeks to rob them of their innocence, of their youth and their best futures. … Because our kids are being raised in a culture that does not have their best interests in mind, the best that our children can become is being destroyed. …

When parents understand that basic morality and traditional American values are being attacked by our culture, you can see how there are similarities in what we know as terrorism. …

The Roman Empire did not fall from an enemy attack, it fell from within. So while we are rightly trying to protect our country and our lives from foreign aggressors and madmen, we also need to be building up and protecting our children’s character development.

Q. Of the many dangerous trends in popular culture today, which do you think are the worst?

A. The most dangerous trend is the lack of parental oversight and guidance to our children through the pop culture. … Many parents who grew up during the ‘60s hippie generation never learned to deal with peer pressure themselves, and they’re having a very difficult time teaching their own kids to say, “No,” and to use discernment in making choices. …

We like to say, “Oh, these kids today.” … But I would submit that the real problem isn’t “these kids today,” the real problem is these adults today.

Adults are the ones creating the oversexualized culture. Adults are the ones creating the television programming. … Adults are the ones who have created the rampant pornography available through the Internet. Adults are the ones who created MTV. Adults are the ones who created the “if it feels good, do it” sex education that pervades our schools. …

It’s mothers who drive their daughters to the mall and plunk down money to dress their 10-year-olds like Paris Hilton. … We have to step back as adults and see how we are failing this generation of children.

Q. Some people say that attempts to protect children against sex and violence in the media are overprotective. Do you think there is a danger in sheltering children from these influences?

A. No. … People often accuse me of being overprotective. Overprotective? It’s a loaded word that keeps parents from doing the basics of protecting their kids.

Am I protective? You bet I am. I’m the mama. It’s my job to protect my kids.

Mothers, in particular, should be like mother bears rising up to protect their cubs. And, instead, many moms are shrugging their shoulders as they’re renting R-rated movies that attack the sensibilities of their 13-year-olds. …

It’s so pervasive, a lot of parents who are good, decent parents and have good instincts feel helpless. They feel overwhelmed.

I wrote “Home Invasion” to be a wake-up call for parents. I wrote it to provide help — real help — for parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, anyone who’s sick of this oversexualized barrage on our children, and who wants to fight back. …

The children who grow up with higher standards … and practicing respect for authority, and who have pride in themselves and their own values … and learn how to say “no,” these are the kids who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. …

There is no better gift we can give our children than developing good, strong moral character.

Q. Is there a role for government in addressing the problems you’ve documented?

A. The answers to these problems do not lie in government. They rest very simply in the hands of the moms and dads.

We all know how government programs tend to fail miserably. … And the solutions I talk about in my book can start being implemented today, without an act of Congress. …

The first step is for parents to examine what are their own values and principles. What type of adult do they want their child to become? … What are the things I hold firm on and on which I will not compromise?

If parents reflect on it, we all pretty much want the same thing for our kids. We want them to be respected, we want them to grow up and have happy families of their own. No mother wishes that her teenage daughter would become pregnant. No father dreams that their 14-year-old son would be a goof-off. But yet we don’t always keep a vision of where our children should go in our minds, and so we forget that each day is a building block to help them achieve their happiest future.

The other thing is for parents, once you’ve decided what your principles are, is to just simply realize that it will be a battle every single day to impart those values to your children and to fight this culture that’s gone stark raving mad. But it’s a battle well worth fighting, because it’s for our children.

Q. Is your book written from the perspective of a Washington political activist or from the perspective of an ordinary mom?

A. I’d written a column [at] for several years … and I examine social issues through the eyes of a mother. And I’ve received so many thousands of e-mails over the years … that I began to realize that parents today feel overwhelmed by the challenges of this violence-filled, oversexualized culture in which we live. And they need help and encouragement. So I wrote “Home Invasion” as the mother of three teenagers, as somebody who’s in the battle.

I wrote it to encourage other parents that it’s time to push back on this culture. It’s time to push back, for the sake of our kids.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative. … Parents really do tend to put politics aside and share the same dreams for their kids.

My hope is that “Home Invasion” … will transcend politics and really give parents the encouragement they need to have kids rise above the status quo.

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