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Washington reflects victim/entitlement culture

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Ron Razete knows a little bit about sibling rivalry.

The father of five children, ranging in age from 15 to 26, has them all working behind the counter of a shop no bigger than a walk-in closet — alongside a large KitchenAid mixer, a sizzling hot fryer, racks filled with little doughnuts, a cash register and barely enough room for four svelte customers.

They all work together in some combination at the family sweetery, Peace, Love and Little Donuts, where customers usually wait in line outside for a fresh, piping-hot treat.

Never once did Razete consider the jockeying for attention and seniority between his children as bullying, or as troubling enough to cause “mental anguish.” Yet a study released last week by the University of New Hampshire sounded an alarm indicating just that.

The study looked at roughhousing, destruction or stealing of property and name-calling. It showed one-third of 3,000 children surveyed claimed to have been victimized by a brother or sister the previous year.

Brothers and sisters have been snatching each other's toys and clothes, name-calling and squabbling since the dawn of time, said Razete.

“It's sort of the baseline for how you interact with people outside of your family and how you choose your friends in different stages of your life,” he said. “But this study makes it appear as though we have yet another layer of society to blame for our ability to manage and resolve conflict.”

And it adds to our victim/entitlement culture that rewards everyone for just showing up and allows folks to blame everyone but themselves when things go south.

In today's society, especially in large inner cities and affluent suburbs, we have been enabling at least two generations of Americans who do not know how to win in sports or in academics, by handing out rewards for everyone so no one's feelings are hurt.

Parents and teachers alike obsess over the negative effects of a child losing any sort of competition, ignoring the critically valuable skills of teamwork, healthy sportsmanship and, most important, learning how to lose.

“It's as if, as a society, we are embarrassed to award excellence for fear it will offend someone who is less than excellent,” said Bruce Haynes, a media partner at the bipartisan Purple Strategies consulting firm in Washington. “Rather than a drive to the top, it creates a drive to the bottom.”

In other words, if you build a better mousetrap, you might have to apologize to other mousetrap manufacturers, then to the Humane Society, for your accomplishment.

We've told our extraordinary people it's OK to be ordinary — and they've obliged us.

It would be easy to say Washington encourages this behavior. But politics usually is a mirror of the culture that exists; D.C. more often reflects reality than shapes it.

So a lot of these characteristics more reflect the culture in which politicians came up, not them driving culture in that direction.

To be fair, philosophers have declared the decline of civilization since 700 B.C., when Herodotus wrote his didactic poem, “Work and Days,” centuries before the Greeks' victory over the Persians and the Golden Age of Athens.

Every generation is inclined to view the latest generation as sissies (at least until it proves itself otherwise) but that doesn't mean, sooner or later, some generation won't actually earn the title.

We've had three generations in a row that have accepted — and, in large measure, been corrupted by — an enervating dependency that promotes a welfare state; they are the grandchildren of an industrial society that had no way of improving a Great Depression without creating a dead-end welfare state — or was the New Deal the failure?

So, the next time you feel the need to slather a child with anti-bacterial gel before “co-playing” with a friend on a scheduled “play date” at a rubber-cushioned playground, consider letting them play without you — and, if they skin their knees or get into a fight, let them figure things out for themselves.

The way we teach our kids to handle problems at home, or on the playground, directly impacts the leadership we get in Washington. And, based on opinion polls, we haven't been happy since the Eisenhower era.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or

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