Yesterday, Pam and I played host to the DeCesare/Goodman/Bergman clan. This meant five kids in the house.
We have a little room, a kind of shed, attached to the garage. The kids adopted this as their own. We were charmed when they appeared to turn the shed into a new country, complete with its own three color flag. "As long as they don’t start singing and marching," the adults joked, and that’s the last we thought of it.
Then the four year old wandered back to the house carrying a slip that read, "Beutyful 2414."
Eventually, it dawned on us that this was her password and security code. Here is the entire manifest. (I give it to you in the strictest confidence.)
Each of the kids has a password and security code. I don’t know how many terrorists there are in my part of Connecticut but clearly the little shed is now secure. Relatively speaking. We could use a metal detector and a rent-a-cop but then the kids will have to start raising taxes, and no one around here wants that, believe me.
Now, it may be that this is the 21st century version of the those hand scrawled signs that have always appeared on tree houses and forts, the ones that read "keep out." (We adults couldn’t help noticing that no one gave us passwords and security codes.) Maybe the kids were just building a boundary the way kids have always liked to do.
But surely these kids are the children of 9/11. I don’t think their homes, education or worship bristle with security, but it’s inevitable they feel boundaries to be imperiled, scrutinized, and protected. Notice that the kids yesterday had passwords AND security codes. Nothing casual about this system. Besides, the passwords are vaguely descriptive (to make them easier to remember), but not so easy that you could just guess what someone’s code would be. This security system is in earnest. It makes a little chill run down your back.
If the pundits are right, technological enablement is going to make these kids as porous as anything. The cell phone is just the beginning. Eventually, all the world is going to be able to find them anywhere. From an anthropological point of view, it’s also clear that these kids are going to be loose bounded, not just the world streaming in but the kid streaming out. Any way you look at it, porousness is the new order of the day.
Perhaps it’ s their sense of this, as much as the heritage of 9/11, that makes them prize the idea of border control. Frost said, good fences make good neighbors. These kids may feel they make good kids.