Karen Spears Zacharias, CNN, and the Internet Wringer

Essays, Featured — By on June 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

A month and a half ago, a friend sent me a .pdf of Go the F**k to Sleep. I thought it was fairly funny because it conveyed the universal frustrations of parents in a delightfully inappropriate manner. I didn’t think it was particularly innovative, since McSweeney’s Baby Be of Use series tread similar ground in 2005, and far more cleverly. It’s also way too long. We really need 30 pages to get the point across here?

Anyway, Go the F**k to Sleep blew up, another Seth Godin-esque marketing triumph, and now the book is in print. I wouldn’t be too happy about it, writers, if you ever want to see your book in print outside of a vanity press.

Yesterday, longtime Burnside contributor and accomplished author and journalist Karen Spears Zacharias presented a dissenting opinion regarding Go the F**k to Sleep on CNN. Then Twitter blew up. And Gawker jumped in. And Salon. Then probably a whole lot of other sites I’m not interested in digging up right now. Karen is hitting back on Twitter, which is what I’d do, too, even if the best option is to let it pass.

I feel bad for my friend, getting attacked like this. I know Karen is not “humorless” and she isn’t “the kind of person who also believes reading Harry Potter encourages witchcraft” as a couple tweets put it. If I didn’t know Karen, I might be attacking her too, because, sadly, that’s what we do on the internet. It’s mob mentality, where voices of reason and viewing people on an individual, understanding level are trampled. Seeing the other side is kind of sickening. The people piling on would be well-served to read Karen’s entire body of work. Maybe they will, which would be great for her book sales.

That said, I disagree with Karen’s article. Rather strongly, in fact. Here’s why:

- Go the F**k to Sleep is for adults, not kids. Some moronic parents might read it to their children, but my guess is they would’ve grown up hearing excessive profanity anyway. I’d never read that book to my daughter, but I’m fairly certain she’s heard me drop some questionable rhetoric on occasion. Or daily. At least in this instance, there’s pretty artwork.

- Go the F**k to Sleep does not evoke violence, at least not to the level Karen infers, but I think that’s more a matter of perception. Discussing how the use of “f**k” has changed with time is a matter for linguists, but it clearly doesn’t have the same societal significance as 20 years ago. You can blame moral degradation, shifting language, South Park, or whatever, but that word is used differently now than it was in 1985.

- Dr. David Arredondo’s comparisons to minority groups? Yikes. I don’t think Karen was explicitly drawing a line between the two, but Dr. Arredondo did. Maureen O’Connor at Gawker did have a point here:

“I’d like to have my own Jews someday, but I fear I won’t be able to control them.” See? Sounds terrible. “No Jews are allowed at my wedding.” Also terrible. “I’m so sick of cleaning up after the Jews.” All so terrible! But does this mean people who ban children from their weddings are Nazis?

My wife spent her last rotation as a pediatric resident in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She had five admits last month due to child abuse. Some of the abuse was from parents, some by others. Some of the children were infants, and some were old enough that they would’ve tried to escape their attacker. That’s not even remotely funny to think about. Horrible things happen every day. People die. Wars rage. Tsunamis level towns.

If all we’re doing is cracking jokes, there’s a problem, but humor is one of our only weapons in dealing with these horrors. You know what elicits violent thoughts? Parenting. Sleep four hours a night, then add a child who willfully ignores you, and an approach to parenting that seeks to avoid spanking. I guarantee a few dangerous thoughts will cross your mind. Go the F**k to Sleep is funny in part because every parent I’ve ever known thinks those things at some point. Laughing at the absurdity of it all reminds us what we’re going through doesn’t last forever, it’s making us stronger somehow, and many, many others have made it through okay.

I’m hesitant to post this, since I haven’t talked to Karen, but one of Burnside’s goals is to combat knee-jerk, 140-character responses, to disagree politely and thoughtfully, and I hope Karen is up to thoughtfully disagreeing right back. Or telling me I’m totally right and the smartest person in America. To anyone who may be viewing this outside our community, we assure you Karen Spears Zacharias is absolutely awesome, and you’d love her if she had a glass of wine in your kitchen one day.

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    75 Comments

  • JamesWilliams says:

    I agree with Karen that it is a disturbing idea for a book, and I’m on record as saying I don’t even think the F word is sinful. Even if folks are right, though, about Karen overreacting about a book which was never meant for kids, the levels they are stooping to in the comments on the CNN piece are just as disturbing as the book.

    I do see irony, though, in the preponderance of comments which told Karen, essentially, “Karen, if you don’t like the book, don’t read it.” I say ironic, because by commenting, they are, in fact, complaining about something they just read. Pot, meet kettle.

    Final thought: one of the early comments accused Karen of not doing anything about social justice or important issues which affect people’s lives. They could not have found a person more unworthy of that accusation. It was just ridiculous enough that I chuckled when I read that one.

  • Steve Simpson says:

    Instead of my typical “Burnside is my place to vent and run free” persona, I’ll put my psychologist hat on for this.

    First, this book should never, ever be read to a child.

    Second, this books is not only okay for adults, it’s important.

    Physical abuse of children is common, yet the majority of parents don’t physically abuse their children. Most have only isolated incidents of verbal abuse. The rest is just garden variety dysfunction and shame that’s hard to avoid.

    Parenting newborns and toddlers is stressful and fatiguing. Most decent — not even good, just average — parents seldom take their frustration out on their kids directly. In other words, we don’t tell the kids that the stress is their fault. Instead, parents take it out on each other. Marital conflicts and rates of divorce rise significantly for parents of young kids. You get one guess at whether or not this is good or bad for the children.

    This book allows parents to express feelings they usually suppress and dish out on each other later. My wife and I, parents of six year-old quadruplets, completely bonded over this. If you’re not down with the F word, I totally respect that. This book is not for you and that’s cool. But if you’re a stressed out parent who doesn’t mind the F bomb — or can see it’s humorous use here — then this book could help your marriage. It’s not gonna fix big problems, but it provides the opportunity to identify something very basic that is putting extra strain on your marriage without fighting about it. I’m dead serious about that, as a psychologist.

    Now back to being a punk who writes snarky stuff.

    • Karen says:

      Well said!

    • Prodigal Daughter says:

      I heart this response. Thanks! I’m not one to shy away from the idea that parenting is hard and that sometimes, while I love my children, I’d just like a break or 10 minutes without hearing whining or hearing the most overused word in the English dictionary: “MOMMY!” Let’s just be real. Reading this book isn’t going to make me hit my kids. I just laugh and think, “Thank God I’m not the only one who has ever had these thoughts!”

  • Steve Simpson says:

    And I forgot — Karen is great. We might disagree, but I agree with Jordan that the internet has made it easier to go all black/white agro on people. If Karen and I had a conversation about this, I’m sure it would be spirited but pleasant and we’d leave feeling better about each other instead of worse.

  • EmilyTimbol says:

    I’m inclined to agree with Jordan. Like a friend on my Facebook said, anything that is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson is obviously for adults, and obviously funny. Comparing the book to child abuse, and bringing out the Jew card was just overboard.

    But like Jordan and James said, that doesn’t negate the good things that Karen has done, or lessen the great perspective she brings on other subjects (like the ridiculousness and audacity of the Prosperity Gospel.)

    • JamesWilliams says:

      To clarify: Karen didn’t play the “minority” card. She quoted someone else. I know we all know that, but just in case…..

    • Jordan Green says:

      Agreed, James. She was quoting that doctor, which I tried to explicitly mention in the article. It’s still an op-ed piece, so I’m not sure that absolves her, but I think Karen’s too reasoned to make that leap. I think a lot of the attacks aren’t taking into account some of the more balanced things she says in the piece.

    • aaron says:

      yeah, i dunno… she’s quoting someone else, but it’s her article. by not putting some sort of disclaimer along the lines of “this is clearly insane and i don’t agree with it but…” she seems to be agreeing with it.

    • @Seola1 says:

      I’ve openly displayed vehemently against Karen’s stance. It’s her writing, to absolve her of who she chose to use isn’t fair to real articles.

  • Emeriste says:

    I don’t think she said very much that was reasoned in the piece. The huge negative reaction she has received comes from a gut sense that our society isn’t as free as it used to be. People like Karen Zacharias are always happy to take liberty away from everyone in order to protect the ignorant and irresponsible from themselves.

    I am a single person with no children. Every day I am regulated and restrained. My liberty chipped away to make our society more ‘family friendly’. I think people are tired of this.

    Maybe our society has become sick with child worship. Maybe we should care as much about freedom of expression as we do about children. That way our children could grow up to be free adults.

    • JamesWilliams says:

      The freedoms you speak of: how are they affected by her expressing her opinion? Freedom is only threatened when a government entity prohibits you from saying or reading what you want. Karen doesn’t have the ability, or desire, to take away any of your freedom.

    • Jordan Green says:

      I agree with you philosophically, Emeriste. I think it’s a lot easier to say that when you don’t have a child to take care of, but I do think we go overboard in protecting our children. I doubt very much Karen would ban such a book, but I don’t speak for her.

    • @Seola1 says:

      No Jordan, she wouldn’t want to ban it, she wants parents to hold all their feelings inside so that they explode and can be the topic of her next book…

  • aaron says:

    jordan summed up my thoughts pretty well. the book is clearly not intended for children and i can’t imagine anyone thinking it was. i think that equating the book with violence was a bit much, and think the gawker writer expressed my thoughts on the minority issue better than i could have. my main thinking when i read that was “but you can easily say ‘this book is not for children’ and morally keep it away from them.” if you said “this book isn’t for jews, let’s make sure it doesn’t get in their hands” it’s obviously a huge difference.

    all that being said, i can definitely see where karen is coming from. we can see the humor in the book because to us it’s just ridiculous. if you know children who are actually talked to like this, it becomes a lot more real and painful. i’m not saying the book shouldn’t exist (though i agree with jordan that it’s not incredibly funny and runs way too long), but people should be more aware of her valid points and see that there are valid reasons to be hurt and offended by this.

    • aaron says:

      oh, and also that i have a ton of respect for karen, and i gave her the benefit of the doubt a lot more than i would have for someone else.

  • DD says:

    I’ve often disagreed with her stances and have found her to be a knee-jerk reactionary on issues more than once. She obviously has friends here, but I don’t think she’s necessarily known outside of your circle as someone who usually presents reasoned arguments. What I’ve noticed from her has mostly been impassioned outrage at some popular thing or another.

    The pile-on is always painful to watch, but a passionate argument often brings passionate response.

  • jo hilder says:

    I think Karen is entitled to her opinion, and entitled to express it. I am amazed so many people have jumped to criticise her, and so vehemently. It’s okay for someone not to like a book someone writes, even if you really, really like that book, and vice versa.
    It reminds me a lot of my last day of school when I was 16, when we had all received our school certificates and we stood in a nervous but defiant group outside the school office to all light up cigarettes. Not illegal (back then anyway) and technically not breaking school rules (we were no longer students) but still quite thrilling. When confronted, we defended ourselves with “There’s nothing wrong with this! You can’t tell us this is wrong! We’re just having a smoke!” It was perfectly okay but very, very naughty all at the same time, and that was the thrill of it. When confronted, we defended our right to do it probably a little too enthusiastically. If we’d felt really comfortable, we wouldn’t have cared less who knew about it.
    Blog on, Karen. :)

    • @Seola1 says:

      You cannot understand it? Essentially calling those who enjoy this book child beaters is hardly just a simple thing. Many many parents need outlets, a book can bring that outlet out, open discussion with spouses and friends and help alleviate stresses.

      To make the leaps… no bounds, she made to connect all this together is what caused the outrage.

      As I said in my own blog referencing this – words only give as much power as you let them.

  • Emeriste says:

    @JamesWilliams

    I do not know Karen personally as perhaps you do so I don’t want to make it personal. I speak only of her demographic.

    The views and concerns of her demographic are given more weight than mine. I am a young person without children. When a middle aged woman makes “think of the children!” arguments our politicians listen and often repeat the same rhetoric. I wish that people like me were exempt from all the laws passed to make our society safe for families, but it doesn’t work that way.

    Of course I recognize that Karen does not create these laws. What I am responding to is the attitude of her piece. To me it is the self-same attitude that justifies all sorts of laws that are aimed to tell me what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Choices that are dangerous for a child, or for a parent, or for me might be three different things but our laws usually do not work that way. Usually people like me suffer when people like Karen impose their misguided will to protect the most ignorant and least responsible from themselves.

    Maybe a law could be passed which applies all the self-righteous interventions on only those who chose to have children, and leave the rest of us alone. Until then I find soccer moms like Karen

  • Emeriste says:

    @JamesWilliams

    I do not know Karen personally as perhaps you do so I don’t want to make it personal. I speak only of her demographic.

    The views and concerns of her demographic are given more weight than mine. I am a young person without children. When a middle aged woman makes “think of the children!” arguments our politicians listen and often repeat the same rhetoric. I wish that people like me were exempt from all the laws passed to make our society safe for families, but it doesn’t work that way.

    Of course I recognize that Karen does not create these laws. What I am responding to is the attitude of her piece. To me it is the self-same attitude that justifies all sorts of laws that are aimed to tell me what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Choices that are dangerous for a child, or for a parent, or for me might be three different things but our laws usually do not work that way. Usually people like me suffer when people like Karen impose their misguided will to protect the most ignorant and least responsible from themselves.

    Maybe a law could be passed to limit all the self-righteous behavior control to only those who are children, or chose to have them. Until then I find Karen and her Soccer Mom cohort very threatening and offensive.

  • Adie says:

    I don’t think she’s a bad person, I think she’s an incoherent, untalented writer who boosted her web presence today by slamming the work of someone who’s obviously tapped into a vein of commonality in the American parenting community. Maybe she’s still got her head wrapped around the material that contributed to her book, and I get the “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” concept. I might enjoy a glass of wine in her kitchen if I met her, but today she proved that she can’t express her thoughts in a logical pattern that makes sense to anyone else, and her ability to choose appropriate expert sources to interview for her writing also comes into question. Taken together, these factors are not a ringing endorsement for the book she’s trying to sell.

    • Jordan Green says:

      You created a Twitter account solely to rip on Karen anonymously? Yikes. What do you do about people you’re really angry with?

      That part about the books was facetious. I don’t buy books by writers who make me mad, and I don’t expect others to, either.

    • Adie says:

      Nice try on the callout but I’ve held my Twitter in reserve for when I had something to say. Today was the day. I’ll also say that sending a direct tweet to someone I disagree with is preferable using CNN’s opinion forum to fire a shot across someone’s bow, especially when the only possible purpose of that piece was to draw attention to a book being marketed.

      What do I do about people I’m really angry with? If they’re worth the time, I talk to them directly.

      Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinion.

    • Jordan Green says:

      That just happened to be today? What coincidence! How was I supposed to know? Especially since you were only following one person, had 0 followers, 3 of your 4 tweets were directed at @karenzach, and the other was…uh…a joke? I couldn’t tell.

      As for marketing, that’s how publishing works. If you’re a writer with published books, and you write an article for a publication, it’s likely your work will be mentioned to establish bona fides. There isn’t even a link to the book.

  • Benjamin Dolson says:

    I can’t believe the article received that much of a negative reaction. I mean, that is what CNN “Op-Ed” is for, right? Selling and plugging your book. It’s CNN (basically Yahoo News without a link to your email)…not The New Yorker, not The Atlantic. Weird.

    But about the article: in my opinion, it does seem to unfairly correlate the book with child abuse (the writer doth protest too much, it seems). The experience of reading the article was somewhat blindsiding: we went from reading about a satire children’s book to (bam!) child abuse. So, yeah, a bit of a buzz kill, but perhaps a necessary one (perhaps?)

    Oh, and I drink wine with people I disagree with all the time. It’s such a good idea because at least then you agree on the wine selection.

  • @Seola1 says:

    I wrote a blog on this calling Karen out for strong hypocrisy and her own hateful comments.

    While condemning cursing, she used it in her Twitter to get people to the article. She called a church she disagreed with (and it’s congregation) asses.

    Other snippets from Twitter:
    ~As I say in the essay, I don’t think it’s the humor that’s echoing with people… I think it’s the truth behind it.

    ~Why if someone take a different viewpoint can’t you discuss it reasonably without resorting to abusive bullying language?

    ~Sensitivity training can’t overcome Stupid

    ~Just heard Bristol Palin has a book out!! I must run go grab a copy before they sell out. #Title:MommieDearest

    ~Of course I just saw a gray mullet Walmart where else?

    ~you should seek help

    ~I’d have a lot more respect for what they were saying if they were appropriately outraged about actual child abuse. Their language is abusive and their defensiveness over it is telling.

    Then goes on to call all detractors Bubbas and Bubbettes.

    Sarcasm can hurt a heckuva lot more than hearing some curse words. Her hypocrisy on “oh gee, cursing makes you violent” but stereotyping entire segments of the population (and her, herself cursing) is part of the outrage. No one is addressing this. Many people have commented to me after I’ve found excerpts from her books, other writings and articles and looked back in her time line.

    Not only did she use a source that “saw the title” and it was all cute, but happened to be in horror after she read it, it’s a source for the book she’s writing! Her other source jumps in with a brand of racism (thought the book is published apparently by a Jew and illustrated by a Hispanic). She has to take responsibility for whom she quotes. Period.

    People got into an uproar far more over just “she didn’t like it”. She was a hypocrite, is continuing to be a hypocrite, makes stereotypical statements, but refuses to address anything with people who step to her respectfully.

    • Jordan Green says:

      Wait, “asses” is cursing? On the same level as “f**k”?

      Racism? Hateful comments? Which of those tweets was “hateful”? That’s some hyperbole, I’d say. Did you read her article?

      I respectfully listed out why I didn’t agree with Karen, and she called me today afterward and we talked about it for at least an hour, so I wouldn’t say she doesn’t address people who step to her respectfully. She may not address people she doesn’t know and has no contact with, but that’s hardly unreasonable, because I wouldn’t pay attention to a bunch of random strangers calling me a hypocrite either.

    • @Seola1 says:

      Let me start by the very comment Karen made to me in her comments section:

      June 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm
      You ever heard of a trailer park beat down?
      ‘Cause you are in sore need of one.

      (My apologies for not getting back sooner, vacations are upon us.) Anywho, yes, ass, especially used in context to insult another person or group is cursing. So are we now saying that one curse word is “worse” than some other because of what someone else thinks? She stated all cursing is violent. She cursed (including the F word) to get hits for the piece. How is that not hypocrisy filled?

      You decidedly to selectively miss (and further research) to come after me. For example, I said HER SOURCE jumped in with a brand of racism. Putting a book and theorizing “Well if it was about a race” when there was no race in this issue at all is racist. It’s trying to pit that a “white book” would somehow cause uproar if it weren’t a “white book”. I also make the point however, she is directly responsible for the quotes she chooses to portray for her articles.

      You can be respectful to her all you want. She has chosen not to be respectful – but it’s painfully obvious you have a sense of bias since you are available to her on the phone. She’s addressed PLENTY of people with hate and disrespectfully and the partial list is above. There are dozens of her comments out there, on stories about her and on her own Twitter.

      She IS a hypocrite, discussing why cursing is “hateful”, how we are all bad parents and child beaters if we find this book amusing – but has far more hateful stereotypes and vitriol than some parent reading a satire book. So if anyone enjoys that article, then not only is she a child beater, so is anyone else who enjoyed her article because it curses?

      Comments from her:
      ~Oh. That’s right You all were off reading Go the F**** to Sleep! Prolly sitting in the closet, saying cuss words aloud because that’s what cool people do and you are if anything cool, right hipster?

      ~

      Cursing doesn’t make someone hit their children, hate and vitriol do. Kids growing up under stereotypes, hate and vitriol become hateful members of society, who could very well have so much hate they lash out by violence. The sheer amount of judging people Karen does, by her own sheer enjoyment (she has admitted to) isn’t cause for alarm? Hiding behind God doesn’t mean you can shout over his shoulder anything you want.

      Calling all those who disagree with you variations of stupid, mentally ill (which is painful in MY family where my oldest child deals with bipolar), rednecks, etc. is much worse for children to be hearing and dealing with “those bad parents” she claims to be violent child beaters.

      I won’t even begin to go on about her usage of “military” for profit – the very thing she hates on Lady Gaga for with gays. I am an Army 1st wive, an Air Force wife, Army daughter and niece and Navy granddaughter. I don’t go around preaching it, or directing people towards my own personal gain for it, then cry about Gaga (who I happen to agree is using the gay agenda for profit and said as much before her column was ever thought of). There’s a difference between advocating for our veterans and military families for their betterment and advocating for profiteering. Anyway, yes, that’s hypocrisy. Hypocrisy over the hatefulness in which she addresses others, hypocrisy in her own financial gains, and the very fact she feels she’s entitled to smack around anyone who doesn’t agree with her in such a self-righteous way, I can only ponder whether she is a self-loathing child beater herself.

      The very fact that she has the audacity to write an entire column cursing, because of the appearance of “violent language” after the fact, is disgusting. The fact that she continues to lie and be nasty – makes it even more disgusting. She’s also continuing, almost head-bashingly (new word alert), to say that all parents who read this book and find it enjoyable in whatever context speak that way to their children. I’ve never cursed AT my children, but I’ve cursed around them. I’ve NEVER ONCE said any of the phrases in that book to my kids (or any variation).

      She commented on CNN that bedtime was enjoyable (the irony being I have 4 sons myself, including a set of identical twins who are approaching 6 months old, who had to undergo lifesaving fetal surgery for TTTS).

      ~~”Out of those four children, one slept. The other three did not.”
      ~I never noticed that before. Funny where your mind takes you. You might want to get some help with that.
      ~

      So what she’s saying is that not only did she not have a full time job, but the care and support of a large support circle to help take care of the others while she was playing favorites with one. If her children are so close in age, and every night (as she claims), but then turning around while nursing and insulting every person, that child hears that hateful message far more than an adult who tucks away a book. Her “reality” isn’t everyone’s reality. My twins had colic for 3 out of the first 4 months of their lives, my oldest was becoming immune to meds and my middle son enjoys making not going to sleep a sport. It’s not as simple for some of us to just “rock them” or “nurse them” to sleep. Some children, who have an incredible will to refuse sleep, will stay up HOURS if you are trying to coddle them. When I tried the first attempts with my middle son, he stayed up until 4am and only slept until . My oldest wakes up at 6. The very next night, with no nap… 2am. While this is going on with colicky twins

      She goes on to share what a great parent she is (such as nursing), when in reality, a great deal of parents do exactly what she does.

      She also equates a comment from ONE tweeter making some nasty jokes as all of us who love GTFTS. She’s lumping the nasty comments that are (some of them downright) sickening to all those of us who like the book.

      All this redneck, mental comments to anyone who disagrees (which is incredibly childish) and telling others to grow up. The very fact that she’s so two faced in everything that I’ve only minimally dug up should be cause for concern.

      Her preaching down to everyone who disagrees with her is also hypocrisy. She doesn’t know me from Adam. I’m a child of drunken abuse. I got it less than my brother. I’ve spent time in peer counseling for raped teenagers (peers who’ve experienced the same thing). I lost 5 babies to miscarriage before finding a very minute problem (that the military refused to pay for a $30 test). I’ve almost lost two babies, did a life saving surgery for them ALONE in another city because my husband had to work to support our family. My husband just recently was in the hospital for appendicitis, in which he developed high fevers and I have no family around to help with the children while he spent his days in there, with my praying over him. In fact, given her very limited view of everyone else who is not her, she’s nary experienced anything troubling.

      To say that one has never gotten frustrated with anything dealing with their children is a lie. An outright lie.

      Lastly, in this rant one of her comments that irked me: ~If a parent refers to a child as a “F***king B*tch!” rather than “You’re a Mess!” alarms go off for investigators.

      I would never tell a child “you’re a mess” to convey disapproval to them either! Does that make me a better parent? In Karen’s eyes, I suppose so.

  • Douglas Moran says:

    Good and kind people can render genuinely stupid opinions just as often as obnoxious and horrible people can, Jordan. Whether I would enjoy having coffee and chatting with Ms. Zacharias has no bearing on whether or not I (or anyone else) think her post was silly and tone-deaf.

    See, here’s the thing: if one somehow lands a high-profile place for one’s posts–like CNN, or The Washington Post, or the New York Times, or some such–that comes with certain caveats. First, you’re going to have a much wider audience, so if you say something inflammatory or silly or easily refuted, you better expect to get a *lot* of responses. Second, in the online world, the bar to comment is low, so you’re going to get a lot more responses than you might otherwise expect in, say, a magazine article.

    But most important, it’s contingent on the writer who has been granted such a bully pulpit to make sure that he or she is not putting something out there that is so out of touch or absurd or tone-deaf or silly that it engenders that kind of reaction (and if they do, they better not whine about the reaction that follows). If I have a column in the Boston Globe, and put out an article about why Alex Rodriguez is a God among Men when it comes to baseball, I would be a fool not to expect a furious reaction from the New England branch of Red Sox Nation.

    Jordan, Ms. Zacharias’ article was spectacularly tone-deaf. I don’t know her, so I don’t know if she has any children, but I would be staggered if she did. And frankly, I would feel bad for the children–someone that humorless and disconnected and over-protective as my parent? Ugh! But maybe she does, and they’re well-adjusted and wonderfully functional adults. I have no idea. But that’s how bad her post was–it convinced me she couldn’t possibly have any kids. Or any sense of humor, either.

    So in sum, what kind of person she is matters not a whit; what she wrote does. And what she wrote was absurd, and posted on the CNN web site. And the result is pretty durn predictable.

    • Jordan Green says:

      I’m not going to argue with you on most of this, Douglas. I think any writer understands there’s an inherent risk in putting your words out there.

      What I will argue is whether what kind of person Karen is matters a whit, because it does. If I call your mother a stupid jerk, does it matter to you, even if she’s technically a stupid jerk? If I call a friend of yours tone-deaf, silly, absurd, and stupid, does it matter? It should, if you’re a loyal friend. Hopefully you’d see the matter objectively (as I think I tried to do), but you want to support your friend or your mother, right? I’m just saying, this is what the other side of that looks like. I’m not wringing my hands and crying to the heavens. It’s just kind of shitty that people attack without understanding someone, something I’ve done many, many times.

      For instance, you say, “I don’t know if she has any children, but I would be staggered if she did. And frankly, I would feel bad for the children…”

      Well, she does have kids. Four adult children now, and they’re all incredibly well-adjusted. I think her article was humorless, too, but aren’t there times when all of us are humorless? I think we’d all draw a line somewhere. If someone made a joke about 9/11 victims on September 12th, would you have laughed? Maybe…I might’ve…but would you be particularly angry at someone who didn’t?

  • Jordan: Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this matter. You know I have a ton of respect for you and many here. I was out-of-pocket on a previously scheduled event for most of the day so I have not read all the comments, blog posts, and remarks but I want to clarify some things:

    - I have 4 kids.
    - I had 4 kids under the age of 5 at one time.
    - A set of twins in the middle.
    - I understand parental frustration.
    - Bedtime was not the frustration for me that appears to be for many who enjoyed Mansbach’s book.
    - Mornings were always a lot more hectic.
    - We did not own TV in our home when raising our kids so reading was paramount.
    - I never, not once, thought towards my babes (teens is altogether a different issue) the way Mansbach expressed in his book.
    - I don’t use the F-work on a regular basis and do find it both offensive and crass.
    - I am still and was always a good mother. Not perfect but I enjoyed being a mom. I stlll do.
    - My 4 children are not perfect but they all honor their parents, their God and others.
    - I feel blessed over that but my husband and I worked for it.
    - I never, ever suggested censoring Mansbach’s book.
    - I didn’t call for its removal or burning or trashing.
    - I simply said I don’t find it funny.
    - I still don’t.
    - Just because you disagree with my argument doesn’t mean that my argument is stupid or invalid or f***d up. It’s just a different opinion than yours.
    - Yes, I have worked hard to build my career and a wide audience. I get published in places like the New York Times, CNN and here because I have say things that are important, things that make you think and dialogue… and yes, name-call.
    - The reason I write is not so I can be lauded and applauded.
    - Yes, I write more with passion than smarts. No apologies there. I am doing the best job I know how.
    - If you don’t like my impassioned musings, go read somebody you do like. I suppose somebody you agree with 100 percent of the time, because I can assure you that if you read me, you are going to have to struggle along with me. If struggling isn’t your thing, go find the easy life. I live life in the hard places.
    - I don’t write to tell you what to think — I write to ask you to think.
    - The CNN piece, if you bothered to read it, slowly, before you read the comments made this one point: Mansbach’s book might be funny if it weren’t for the fact that too many children live in homes where they are spoken to in this vein on a daily basis.
    - Rule #45 of writing: It’s not what you write — it’s what the reader brings to the page …
    - Best piece of writing advice I ever got: Ignore all flattery and all criticisms and just keep writing.
    I will.
    ksz

    • Jordan Green says:

      Can we call for a moratorium on grammar and typo police? You realize that article was edited by a CNN editor, right, Emeriste? No need to question someone’s craftsmanship…you name me a single writer who’s never misplaced some punctuation, and I’ll tell you you’re lying. Style books vary, anyway.

    • Jordan Green says:

      Many of your points involving civil liberties are well taken, at least by me, but you undermine them when you say things like, “Yours is the world where an extremist is defined as anyone who disagrees with *both* Mitt Romney *and* Hillary Clinton.”

      Karen is a moderate, and has long been outspoken against Christianity’s mindless following of Republican policies. I have the feeling you assume Karen is a rampant right-winger, simply because right-wingers tend to flip out about stuff like this. I’m tell you you’re incorrect in that assumption.

      As I mentioned in another comment, the ability to find “Go the F**k to Sleep” funny requires distance. If you were raised with your parents telling you to shut the f**k up before they hit you, it probably wouldn’t be so funny, right? And yet, that’s a reality for many kids, right?

      That doesn’t mean it’s not funny. I think dead baby jokes are pretty funny, but if I tell one during a funeral for a 2 year-old who drowned, that’s pretty horrifying. My philosophy is nothing should be off limits for comedians, but there’s still a sense of decorum and civility. I may disagree with Karen’s position, but if she’s not actually passing legislation to ban that sort of behavior (and she isn’t, nor does she advocate that), I don’t think what she’s saying is particularly wrong. She just doesn’t have the same threshold when it comes to humor, and I’m guessing there are people who have a threshold further out than you who would mock you for your stances.

    • @Seola1 says:

      ~”- Just because you disagree with my argument doesn’t mean that my argument is stupid or invalid or f***d up. It’s just a different opinion than yours.”

      Yet, everyone else who disagrees with you means theirs *IS*. Another point scored for hypocrisy.

      ~”- I don’t use the F-work on a regular basis and do find it both offensive and crass.”

      Yet, I’ve seen it used repeatedly from you since this article came out.

      ~”- My 4 children are not perfect but they all honor their parents, their God and others.”

      The same way you do by insulting others and saying someone needs to get beat down?

      ~”- I simply said I don’t find it funny.”
      So you didn’t quote a race-related comment, tell people they were uncomfortable with the topic because it was close to the truth and didn’t say that parents who read this book and sympathize talk this way to their children?

      ~”- Yes, I have worked hard to build my career and a wide audience. I get published in places like the New York Times, CNN and here because I have say things that are important, things that make you think and dialogue… and yes, name-call.”

      And that’s a big problem. You don’t see any issue with taking to task people who read a book, but calling people names is okay? As an adult, name calling shouldn’t EVER be acceptable. You are supposed to be more mature than that. Especially when you are espousing an anti-violence stance off a book saying that words hurt. So which is it? Do they hurt, do they not hurt and if they do are you intentionally trying to hurt people?

      Did you teach your kids that actual violence was never okay, but saying someone needed to get beat down and calling them names was? No? Then words aren’t as important and so neither are the words in this book.

      And don’t say “I don’t write to get lauded”. Anyone who writes on the internet (admittedly, including me) does so for recognition and to get people into your opinion and make them see your side, and maybe even join it. Otherwise, you’d have a journal or a private blog for you and your friends. Even if I agreed with you on everything else, don’t pretend like it’s “ho-hum, either way” or you wouldn’t have worked so hard to get published.

  • Douglas Moran says:

    Jordan: I didn’t call Ms. Zacharais tone-deaf or out of touch or absurd or silly; I said her *post* was. I know that this seems like hair-splitting to some, but it absolutely isn’t. The child-rearing that *I’ve* used is to correct, or question, or critique the *behavior*, not the child. Similarly, in this situation, I didn’t critique Ms. Zacharais (*man* that’s a hard name to type!), I criticized her *post*. You defended *her*. That’s the wrong tack to take, in my opinion.

    To answer your question, sure, if my Mom said something deeply stupid, and you said *my Mom* was stupid, I’d be offended. But if you said, “That thing your Mom said/wrote was really stupid,” I might disagree, I might agree, but I wouldn’t think you were insulting my *Mom*; I would think you were taking issue with what she *said*. Such is the case here. And that’s why I feel that defending what type of *person* Ms. Zacharais is is very much beside the point. It’s not who she is that we’re discussing here; it’s what she said. And what she said is, in my opinion, and that of many others, tone-deaf, silly, and pretty absurd.

    I didn’t accuse her of trying to pump up sales of her book; I didn’t accuse her of trying to drive traffic to her site, or to CNN’s site; I didn’t accuse her of anything at all. I, along with many others, heaped opprobrium on her posts, absolutely, but I stand by my position: put something like that out there, and that’s going to happen. This is the Web in the second decade of the 21st Century, not the Saturday Evening Post in the last decade of the 19th.

    Did some people attach *Ms. Zacharais* inappropriately? Sure. And I shouldn’t have spoken of her children, however strongly I may feel about the issue at hand–it was wrong of me. Were you justified in defending her from *those* sorts of attacks? Definitely. But *I* didn’t do that; I took her to task on her article (and so did many others).

    Finally, Karen (if I may–those “Z”s are killing me): if you really didn’t expect to get a reaction, even a large reaction, when you posted something that was so at odds with what so many people clearly think, I don’t know quite what to say. It seems either naive to me, or the result of inexperience with the online world, and you don’t seem to fit either description, so I don’t know what to say. But I’ve been online for nigh on 30 year’n, and I’ve seen stuff like this literally hundreds of times. Did you honestly not have any expectation that stating an opinion totally opposite from what so many think–Rachel Maddow called it “The Best New Thing in the World” days ago, for crying out loud!–on such a high-profile sight would cause no blowback? How is that possible?

    My comment on your posting location being CNN is not in the manner of snark or sour grapes; good on you for getting to that level. No, here’s the thing: you yourself say that you “write more with passion than smarts”; my point is, when you’re given the incredible advantage of such a high-profile place to speak from, you have a responsibility to your readers to write with plenty of smarts, too. To *not* do so is a disservice to your readers, and the forum from which you write. In my opinion. (I would add that, in my opinion, anyone who writes *anywhere*, even in the lowliest blog on the internet–mine, probably–owes the same thing to their readers. But that’s me.)

    Also, you didn’t “simply [say you] don’t find it funny”; you said a whole lot more than that. You implicitly compared people finding it humorous to someone who committed murder, for the love of Pete! You implied that people who *did* find it funny were bad parents. You expressed mystification with the popularity of the book, when it seemed clear to almost everyone–even those who don’t like the book or find it funny–why it was popular.

    I could point out further misconceptions (the book doesn’t *mock* parents’ frustrations, it *empathizes with the*, etc. etc.), but I’m sure it’s been written elsewhere, and at greater length. The point here is, yes, all those things that I and others have pointed out are what made your article/post (in my words), silly, absurd, and tone-deaf, and give a strong, strong impression that you yourself are humorless.

    I don’t object to someone disagreeing with me, Karen. What I object to is someone disagreeing with me, and then implicitly comparing me to a murderer, implying that I’m a neglectful parent, and then calling me uncaring and inconsiderate (“it might be funny if it weren’t for the fact that too many children live in homes where they are spoken to in this vein on a daily basis”, i.e, “If you find this funny, you’re a real jerk.”). Trying to brush this off with “I simply said I don’t find it funny” comes across as disingenuous at best. You know that you said a great deal more than that, Karen; either stand behind it, or change your mind about it, but don’t pretend you never said it.

    • Jordan Green says:

      “I didn’t call Ms. Zacharais tone-deaf or out of touch or absurd or silly; I said her *post* was.”

      You’re right. My apologies. The general point of my defense of Karen Zacharias in the article was to say, “Oh, hey, I do this to people, and maybe it’s not entirely kind.” I realize it’s not going to stop, and I’m not even saying it’s especially horrible, just that seeing it from the other side is enlightening.

      In discussing this with Karen earlier, I definitely think there’s a matter of perspective at stake. Being a middle-class white, educated male who grew up in a home free of verbal abuse (I’m assuming this is probably the book’s core demographic), I don’t particularly see “Shut the f**k up” as a dangerous thing. If my parents had told me to shut the f**k up angrily as a kid, I might see it differently. As I told Karen, I’m not going to feel guilty for thinking the book is funny just because someone else doesn’t, but I do hope I’d try to understand *why* that other person doesn’t find it funny, and I would tailor my behavior accordingly, just like I wouldn’t tell a dead baby joke to someone who’d just suffered a miscarriage.

      Considering Karen has been working on a book about the murder of a three year old girl for some time now, I’d guess her perspective might be different. I’m not saying her article was right (I’ve pointed out many times why I disagree), but I think her perspective has validity. I prefer to live in a world where we’re open and free to say what we like and push the boundaries of comedy, but I can also appreciate that for many people humor is a way to deal with pain, and for other people it isn’t.

    • Jordan Green says:

      Thanks for commenting, by the way. Your response was more thoughtful than some of the others above (including mine).

    • Doug:

      Karen is fine. There are a lot of Z’s.

      - As for my being humorless, I stand guilty as charged when it comes to this particular book. I’m very sober-minded about it.
      - I am not the least bit concerned about the push-back from the CNN crowd or any crowd. I think the tone of the push-back underscores my original concerns with this sort of “cathartic” parody.
      - I didn’t say I don’t write smart. What I said is I do the best job I know to do but yes, I write more with passion than some. I’m not scholar and I know the difference. Had you happened to agree with my argument, you would be sending me emails telling me what a freaking genius I am because you agree with me. That’s the nature of the Internet, and life in the political realm these days. (BTW: I have rec’d several of those emails today as well.)
      - When I write I never ask myself — will this make me America’s sweetheart?
      - Where did I call you a bad parent, inconsiderate, neglectful or uncaring????

      - What I said is that too many children are living in households depicted by this storybook “parody” and I don’t find that funny.

      - I stand by everything I said. Let me be clear about that. I’m not saying I’m right and you are wrong. I’m saying this is exactly how I see this. We don’t have to see it the same way but I think there are greater issues at play here than what is captured by word.

      Some of which I simply don’t understand.

      I do wonder this, however — had CNN put the tagline at the bottom of the article, as they have in the past, instead of beginning the article with my tagline on Karly’s murder, if perhaps, you, the reader would have responded differently?

  • Douglas Moran says:

    You’re very welcome. Honestly, I do my best. “I aim to please, though my aim is poor”, as the saying goes.

  • I know Karen well, as a writer and as a person, and I agree with her probably 90 percent of the time. She was the very first person to visit me in the hospital after my daughter was born and I’ve had more wonderful, spiritual, discussions with her than I can recall. She’s an excellent mother, practically an aunt/grandmother to my children and she has a heart for God and for people – especially children – that we’d all do well to imitate. So she’ll be shocked (and probably a little disappointed) to read that I laughed my head off when I first saw “Go the F**K to Sleep” online. It resonated strongly with me because I have many times come close to saying those exact words to my children. I thought it was funny, and Samuel L. Jackson’s voice made it even funnier.

    But I do recognize and agree with the larger point Karen made in her CNN piece: There are too many parents who don’t stop at just finding the book funny – they actually talk to their kids that way, and worse. That’s something no one can argue and no one should find funny. Karen, as a former crime reporter and as someone who has experienced the horror of child abuse and child death in her own life (read her excellent new book The Shelter of Mockingbirds), doesn’t enjoy the same distance from child abuse that many of us who laughed at GTFTS do. I don’t have to agree with her on everything to recognize the service she has done by making us all think about the children whose parents don’t stop with an ironic book.

    • Rebecca:

      Okay. Now I’m laughing because actually you were one of the first mothers I thought about when I heard of this book. And the thing I thought is Rebecca will be laughing her butt off at this.

      Of course, my second thought is that after the laughing dies out, Rebecca will be thinking of the broader picture.

      Love you and those babes of yours. You’re a great mom, cuss words and all.

  • Douglas Moran says:

    Karen: If you want to stand by your words, I have no truck with *that*; what I object to, most strongly, was the statement “I just said I didn’t find it funny.” No, that’s *not* what you “just said.” You said–and implied–a *lot* more, and while sure, we can disagree with the “lot more”, trying to wave it all away by saying, “Oh, c’mon, Doug; I just didn’t think it was funny!” strikes me as very disingenuous.

    As for examples, I gave you one above, but as you asked, here are some more:

    Right at the top of your post, you quote the prosecuting attorney of a *child murder case* to bolster your point. Implication: this book is not only not funny, it leads to child abuse, and can lead to murder. And if you find it funny, you’re pretty suspect as a parent, too, pal. Maybe *you’re* capable of murder.

    This implication is strongly reinforced later in your post: “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.” Implication: Sometimes it’s your parent; sometimes it’s probably even *you*, reader. And if it can be you, what’s stopping you from being genuinely abusive? Or even stooping to murder? You find this book funny? You have all those tendencies in you, then! Shame on you!

    You reinforced this interpretation right here in this comments section, as I pointed out above: I gave you one example from your letter in my own response above “[the book] might be funny if it weren’t for the fact that too many children live in homes where they are spoken to in this vein on a daily basis”, i.e, “If you find this funny, you’re a real jerk, insensitive at the very least, uncaring about your children’s needs, and a potential murderer.”

    I suspect that this was what caused so much anger. Sure, some people are going to think you’re humorless, and want to dump on you just for that. But some *parents* who *do* think the book is funny are not going to be amused at being accused of being bad parents and potential murderers-in-the-making.

    Does that make sense? Do you see the problem now?

    There are many other areas in which I–and a lot of other folks, clearly, including your friend Jordan from this blog–think you’ve gotten it completely wrong. So when you combine the implied accusation of “you’re a bad parent and a potential murderer if you find this book funny!” with your inability to see the humor in the book with everything else that (in my opinion) you got completely wrong (e.g., the book isn’t *mocking* parental frustration, it’s *empathizing* with it), you’re going to upset a whole lot of people. Especially intelligent, well-read parents who think they’re doing a good job on their kids and find the book funny. People are going to be outraged.

    So that’s why you go the reactions you did, in my opinion. And that’s also why I simply don’t accept your “I only said I didn’t find the book funny” defense. You implied a lot of outrageous stuff; being surprised at the outrage engendered–particularly when you were granted such a high-profile place to state your opinions–strikes me as more than a little disingenuous and, frankly, contrived.

    And I can’t speak to everyone, but in my case no, it wouldn’t have mattered with regard to the tagline. You compare me to a murderer and a neglectful parent, it’s going to honk me off, no matter where the tagline appears.

    • Steve Simpson says:

      I will now be using the phrase “honk me off” on a regular basis. Love it. Thank you. Yes, I’m serious.

    • Douglas Moran says:

      With two kids, I have a plethora of profanity-avoiding expressions, believe me. There’s also: hacked off, teed off, don’t give a rip, don’t give a fig, that tanks, that stinks, that’s baloney, that’s a load of manure, and the family favorite, “I think Papa’s pretty irked right now.”

      Thanks, thank you, I’m here all week! Tip your waitresses!

    • Doug:
      Wow.

      Mmm..

      Where to begin…

      No I don’t mean that I simply meant to say I don’t find the book funny. Of course I meant it to say much more than that.

      But I don’t make the leap, even as you explain it, from quoting Demarest — a mother of 3 young boys, remember? — to you being a bad parent because you do find the book funny.

      I mean if you are going to make such leaps why leap to the negative, why not leap to the remarks that I quote from the doctor. Why not say to yourself, I’m one of those educated parents who cares about my child and like Mansbach heaps them with love and devotion?

      Why assume that the argument is about you at all?

      Why be so defensive?

      Why would you read the piece and come to the conclusion that, yeah, there is something to this — there are too many children whose parents speak to them in this fashion and it’s not funny. And maybe I’ve been one of those parents on occasion, but I’m going to strive to do better, with God’s help?

      As a man thinks in his heart, so he is…

      But here’s what I think, and I’m not at all sure I’m right about this, just what I’m muddling over…

      I think too many Christian parents want to live two feet in the world. They want to be more hip than holy. Instead of influencing culture they are being influenced by culture.

      They don’t want to be seen as creepy weird Christians. So being crass is just socially acceptable among today’s hipster Christians in ways that it never was for my generation.

      In a search for a more open way of living out our faith — something I’m all for — we’ve managed to say anything goes.

      And clearly, in regards to Mansbach’s book, it’s not just about the F-word. Had this been a work of satire in which the f-word was flung about randomly, I think you might be justified in calling me a prude and ignorant.

      But it’s not just about the f-word.

      It’s the whole tone of the book

      It’s the taking of the name of Jesus in vain and making the object of that a child.

      It’s talking about the red hot rage a parent feels because why? A child is being what a child is — a kid.

      It’s that the book is filled with foul language aimed in the writer’s head — and when the reader is reading it — at a child.

      How is that excusable, much less funny?

      You want to argue the tone of my oped and not the tone of Mansbach’s book?

    • Douglas Moran says:

      Karen: I don’t think it’s much of a leap at all, and I find your brushing aside of the implications of what you wrote . . . less than compelling.

      These are *your* words, sitting alone in a paragraph by themselves, giving them greater weight:

      “- I simply said I don’t find it funny.”

      That’s what *you wrote*, Karen. So a-yup, I took you to task for it. But turning around now and saying, “No I don’t mean that I simply meant to say I don’t find the book funny.”; that’s what *you wrote*. C’mon, now! You can’t simultaneously say both things.

      Regarding your quoting of Demarest, again your words: “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.”

      Why point out that she’s the prosecuting attorney in “one of Oregon’s most high-profile child murder cases” if you don’t think that’s germane to the discussion? And how is it germane to the discussion unless books like this “blur the lines” on “what’s appropriate parenting”? And if finding the book funny is helping “blur the lines”, and this prosecuting attorney from a child murder case is telling us so, well, we folks who find it funny are clearly bad parents who are only a couple of steps from murderers.

      This is not a big leap, Karen. It’s there, in your words. And Scout’s honor, I think you know it and are denying it because of the heat you’re taking. You made a point of mentioning the murders. *You*. Why did you put that in there?

      Indeed, why quote Demarest at all, really? She’s an attorney, not a child psychologist, a sociologist, a children’s book author, or anyone else with knowledge that’s applicable to the topic at hand. Why are you quoting an attorney? And why *this* particular attorney, if not to make an implicit point connecting murderers to people who think this book is funny? Honestly, Karen: what does Demarest have to do with this whole debate *at all*?

      Also: where did I say that I felt the argument was about me? I pointed out where I thought the argument was bad and insulting; I didn’t say it was insulting *to me*. So I’m not being defensive; I’m explaining to you why you provoked the reaction you did, and trying to show you why I think your points are full of holes. Let’s not twirl this around at “What kind of problems does Doug have?”; it’s not germane.

      You write: “Why would you read the piece and come to the conclusion that, yeah, there is something to this — there are too many children whose parents speak to them in this fashion and it’s not funny.” Um, where did I state that I came to such a conclusion? I’m sure there *are* such parents, yes. I doubt that they’re taking this book and reading it to their children at bedtime, though. Frankly, I doubt that most of them have even heard about this book.

      I hate to say this, because I *know* that it creates all sorts of incorrect assumptions in folks, but Karen: I’m not a Christian parent. The reason is simple: I’m Jewish. And so my approach is not “Christian” at all, obviously. And the Jewish understanding of taking HaShem’s name in vain is very, very different from that of most Christians’. For Jews, taking the name of the Lord in vain means using the Word of God to justify your actions to suit your own vanity, like phony televangelists. It does *not* mean saying “God damn!”

      Not that I curse around my kids, since I don’t–but that’s because I want them to be able to function in a polite society, not because I believe that I am sinning or teaching them to sin by saying “God damn!”

      My point being that discussions on how I can be a better Christian parent are, um, somewhat off-target if we’re going to talk about *my* parenting. Which we shouldn’t, since we’re not talking about that: we’re talking about the book, and what you wrote about the book.

      (And I truly hope you’re not now sitting there thinking to yourself, “Well, of *course* he thinks like this; he’s a Jew!” Not that I can do anything about that.)

      Some of your concluding remarks display, to me, a continued misunderstanding of the “tone” of the book. You say that it is speaking to the parents’ “rage”; no, it’s not, Karen. It’s speaking to their frustration and weariness and impatience. To you, it appears that the tone implies rage and barely suppressed violence; to most of the people I have discussed this with, it shows weariness and empathy with the tired parents’ lot at bedtime.

      Finally, you write: “You want to argue the tone of my oped and not the tone of Mansbach’s book?” I honestly don’t know what you mean by this. Do you get the impression that I’m arguing about the tone of your op-ed? I thought that I was arguing about what you *said* (explicitly and implicitly), not it’s *tone*. What am I missing here?

      But if you don’t want to respond, I can understand. It’s pretty obvious that we’re not going to achieve a meeting of minds.

      So, um, do *I* get to put up a post on the CNN web site now? I know how they like to be balanced and present both sides!

    • @Seola1 says:

      So wait Karen – which is it? It’s not about religion, or it is? The story is changing now to being about taking the Lord’s name in vain (which even you can admit there are non-believers out there, doesn’t make them bad parents).

      Which is it, do you stand by “there’s truth behind this” in your Tweet on the story or now we are making the leaps?

      So now the writer is reading it at their kids? Who even once said this was to be read to their children?

      The fact is, continually, you’ve made hypocritical assumptions, incredibly reaching and insulting generalizations, all done with hate towards those who disagree. Even in your own comments, your story keeps changing to suit you.

      I don’t think anyone (as I’ve said before) finds the theory problematic, it’s the practice in which it’s applied. And with your comments easily found in several articles, you’ve called us all murderers whether by wishing for your death or finding a profane book funny.

      The latest idiocies lie in your other post, cursing away, now defining why it’s okay for you to curse, but not others to read a book (some who may not even have curse words in their language). Boiling it down to “Well gee, cursing is hateful so all parents who curse are hateful, that leads to violence which leads to murder” – which is truly what you have done in your comments throughout all this, then using it for hits on a story? You’ve connected yourself now to the very same thing you’ve railed against.

      Aside from all that, I’d find a much, MUCH bigger problem with walking around kids saying out loud “Look at that redneck, look at that trailer trash, that’s a Bubba right there” and showing that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid, mental, brain dead… than a parent *reading* a book to themselves. You are the biggest hypocrite when calling people all these names, when you’ve tried to sit here and say that you wanted people to think, or to think about both sides. Your refusal to do so but telling others they must or they are ..insert random redneck/hateful comment here.. is the most damning thing to your credibility.

      Maybe if you weren’t so hypocritical, maybe if you hadn’t said there’s truth behind cursing and smacking your kids around, then your point could have been taken by more – but no, you *choose* to make this absurd leap that a book = child abuse and murder.

  • OK, I just listened to Karen Spears Zacharias on CNN and I found some of her comments hilarious. She stated that at one time she had 4 children under the age of 5, that bedtime was a great time for her and her children, that her frustration came when she was trying to get her children to wake-up in the morning…lol…I can see a sequel here…lol…”Get The F**k UP!” On a serious note, Go The F**k To Sleep is just what it is, adult comedy…With all the crucial matters of the world, especially here in our own homeland this is what Zacharias finds to criticize, a time when there are very few things to laugh about. Thanks for a good laugh Adam Mansbach and Samuel Jackson, I for one needed it…

    • Donna: I suggest you educate yourself before making such misinformed comments. You’d be hard-pressed to find me not writing about some of the most relevant issues of our day — from war, to suicide, to gay rights, to the disabled. To suggest that I’m a one-note singer is just silly and perhaps no one knows that better than the audience here at Burnside.

      Jez saying…

  • Holy mother. A lot of people need to chill.

    I’m not a parent. I want to be, and I say that and write that with my eyes open, having been a nanny and a babysitter. Babies are not easy. Children are not easy. Teens are really, really not easy.

    Here’s my take – not that cyberspace needs another. I think it’s important to be mindful of the difference between public frustration and private frustration. It goes for parenting, it goes for marriage.

    Husband-bashing has become something of a national pastime. Wife-bashing is considered non-PC, the sort of thing that rankles us when we see it on Mad Men, but some people chuckle at it if it’s in a Comedy Central monologue.

    Can it be funny? A lot of the time, yeah. Is it cathartic? For some people, maybe. Is it really, truly, concretely helpful?

    No, probably not.

    So maybe it’s not about what words are used, about how the lexicon has changed – or not – or whether the subject in question has it coming. As a wife, no amount of making fun of my husband is going to improve my marriage or how I feel about it. If I monitor my attitude, if I support my husband, give him the benefit of the doubt, and participate in rational discourse when we disagree (rather than a passive-aggressive silence, followed by some sort of meltdown), it’s a lot more constructive than posting on Facebook that I think he’s being a dingbat.

    I can deal with it and move on, or I can be frustrated and let it spiral. And that spiraling never, ever ends well.

    Part of being an adult is to BE the adult.

    Obviously, the same goes for parenting. The same goes for friendship. We need to be more protective of our relationships and our loved ones.

    As a parent, you get to pick the legacy you leave for your kids. I’m frankly a little worried about the generation that has their potty-training exploits and for-sale offers documented on social networking sites. They may not notice now, but it’s important not forget that kids grow up. They learn to read. Their memories are long.

    And lest we forget, they pick our “retire facilities.”

    So just keep that under your hat.

  • This thing, especially Karen’s response, (and now that of Eric Metaxas) is getting to be quite the discussion topic on several Christian websites/blogs/web magazines. It’s the new “Love Wins”.

    • EmilyTimbol says:

      I think the comparison between the way she’s responded, and the way Bell responded is worth nothing. Bell stayed quiet on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and never defended himself and NEVER attacked any dissenters. He did one (maybe two?) interviews and answered questions, but never went on a rampage trying to argue with everyone who disagreed. I thought his response (or lack there of) was extremely admirable, bold, and really showed, in my opinion, to be the most Christian way to respond to attacks. Not that I could do it, but it really spoke to me to see his maturity and strength. Something to keep in mind.

    • EmilyTimbol says:

      *nothing = noting

    • JamesWilliams says:

      Emily, I don’t think I agree with you about Bell. He did, as you say, refrain from doing a lot of responding, and he definitely didn’t attack any of his disagreers. But that was all after the firestorm started. Before it did, he was in attack mode himself, by making that video.

      In the video, he attacked those who disagree with him about where Gandhi is right now. There’s a lot implied in the statement “Really? You know he’s in hell? You know that for sure?”

      It’s my opinion that much of the criticism he received would not have happened if he hadn’t set the tone with that video.

      I, like you, respected him for his response after things got ugly. But that was after I watched that clip and lost a lot of respect for him first.

  • Emeriste says:

    Karen claims to be a provocative writer but really she is not. The reason I find her so dangerous and offensive is because she represents such overwhelming normalcy. As a young single person without children, I represent a very different demographic and subculture than her. I would hardly care what her opinion about a book was if it were not the case that her demographic and subculture dominates all the others. It has been her cohort who has made any idea that America is a free country into a naive myth. There is no end to the moralizing-turned-law; constant chipping away at my liberty, to protect the ignorant or irresponsible from anything people like Karen can imagine fearing.

    Karen has published nothing that is clever, deep, or edgy. In truth, “Think of the children!” is only one step below “But what about the terrorists?!” on the list of thoughtless arguments. The reason arguments like these nevertheless work so often is because Karen’s world is filled with such thoughtless people. Hers is the world where an extremist is defined as anyone who disagrees with both Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton. The reason she has experienced the backlash that she has is because she stepped out of that world when she published on-line. The last frontier for independent thinkers who don’t buy into mainstream pablum.

    Welcome to the Internet Karen. The last place not yet destroyed by Soccer Moms. We don’t think you are edgy or thought provoking, and we don’t want you trying to keep us safe.

    • Jordan Green says:

      (@Emiriste: Sorry…I had to amend my comments a little to compensate. Not trying to get the last word or anything.)

      Many of your points involving civil liberties are well taken, at least by me.

      You should know, Karen is a moderate, and has long been outspoken against Christianity’s mindless following of Republican policies. I have the feeling you assume Karen is a rampant right-winger, simply because right-wingers tend to flip out about stuff like this. That’s not who she is.

      As I mentioned in another comment, the ability to find “Go the F**k to Sleep” funny requires distance. If you were raised with your parents telling you to shut the f**k up before they hit you, it probably wouldn’t be so funny, right? And yet, that’s a reality for many kids, right?

      That doesn’t mean it’s not funny. I think dead baby jokes are pretty funny, but if I tell one during a funeral for a 2 year-old who drowned, that’s pretty horrifying. My philosophy is nothing should be off limits for comedians, but there’s still a sense of decorum and civility. I may disagree with Karen’s position, but if she’s not actually passing legislation to ban that sort of behavior (and she isn’t, nor does she advocate that), I don’t think what she’s saying is particularly wrong. She just doesn’t have the same threshold when it comes to humor, and I’m guessing there are people who have a threshold further out than you who would mock you for your stances.

    • Karen has published nothing that is clever, deep, or edgy. In truth, “Think of the children!” is only one step below “But what about the terrorists?!” on the list of thoughtless arguments.

      Now that is a statement made in ignorance.

  • Amy says:

    I think too many people didn’t really read the article but instead read what they wanted to read from the article “a Christian author criticizing a secular work”. I for one found the book quite funny. I don’t have any children of yet but I do have a niece and nephew who I know take at least 5 times a night to get them tucked in and to stay in the bed. They are up and they are down constantly. And I know my sister gets tired of that. But I do know, in our family, we might think those kinds of things, but never in a million years would we say them. But I do agree with Karen, too many parents would and do speak to their children in a way not befitting a child. I also know that in the abused child’s home in my home state that 60% of the children in the home are under the age of 1. What is wrong with our world that this is the case? And as a survivor of abuse, I do know that emotional and verbal abuse is just as bad, if not worse, than physical abuse. Also, how many parents would buy this book and have it in their home and ensure that their child doesn’t find it and read it themselves. What does that say to a child to find that sort of book in their parent’s possession.

    Too many people have taken offense to Karen’s article. I think that people need to recognize that the article is Karen’s OPINION. We all have opinions. But we can have opinions without attacking one another. I have read some of Karen’s work. She’s an amazing lady. So back off people.

    Oh, and thank you Jordan, for writing a respectful disagreement…one that didn’t attack. You’re an okay guy!

    • Douglas Moran says:

      Speaking only for myself, I didn’t know Karen was a Christian until I read it here.

    • @Seola1 says:

      I too didn’t know Karen was a Christian off the article. I went searching for other works and comments before making my own.

      I agree in the idea that too many parents say hateful things to their children. The very pinnacle of being a parent is to temper thoughts and emotions with a guiding hand and beneficial comments to raise wonderful, productive members of society that can help others. I have 3 foster kittens I’ve been raising and bottle feeding since they were 2 weeks old, teaching my children how to do it, so they can see the compassion in caring for animals for someone else. This book doesn’t guide them to cursing at them, it doesn’t stop them from it and it doesn’t encourage it. People who directly insult their children with cursing don’t always murder either. But to put all this on one single book, throughout history is absurd.

      The problem comes when someone tells me even for thinking a line with a curse word implies anything *at all*.

      It also severely detracts from the real situations in which children get abused in by abusing hyperbole and hypocrisy, standing in the way of the real issues. In fact, there was a case down here in Tampa, in which a mother (the father was serving overseas) had a history of depression, but by all accounts was the “perfect” mother. She was driving her teenage son home from soccer practice in a van when she turned the gun on him and shot him in the head. She proceeded home, and shot her teenage daughter. The kids were the utmost of respect, they by all accounts were respectful and bestowed adulation on their mother. Nary a history of abuse, not even so much as spanking.

      We need to recognize signs, symptoms, children’s behaviors… not monitoring parent’s reading material. By this this theory, reading the Bible means they will all sell their daughters, shoot people who violate Sabbath rules and stone people who don’t make animal sacrifices at appointed dates/times. If they read Stephen King, they aren’t going to dig up their dead infant and bury them at Indian Burial Grounds, nor light a school gym on fire. If they read those *ahem* romance novels, they aren’t going to leave their family for Raul or Pierre.

      I also play Call of Duty, but I won’t take a rifle out and start gunning people down in the middle of a street and call mortars and rockets in to shoot others.

      I play Rock Band, but I’m not a rock star and don’t even play one on the internet (even if I CAN get perfect on Reba’s Fancy on expert!).

      It’s eerily reminiscent of Tipper Gore and her waged war against games like Dungeons and Dragons. It seems silly now, just as this seems silly and those who play aren’t practicing Satanism because they are casting “spells”.

      My point is, sometimes, there aren’t just connections to be had based on an entertainment medium. South Park is stupid, to be sure, but it’s not social commentary or political, but you’d easily find a ton trying to analyze it’s “meaning” where there is none.

  • It’s the Weird Al of children’s books. Essentially, the nature of parody means it’s clever (debatable in the case of Weird Al and this book, but they both are successful in terms of gaining an audience) but lacks lasting substance. The fact that this book has gotten this much attention (positive and negative) says something about American readers (and audio listeners) and the state of Literature.

    What further concerns me is that this book is the ONLY book currently in the top 5 on the New York Times Best Seller list in the category of Hardcover Advice & Misc. that is not about dieting and/or food:

    http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/overview.html

    We are a generation that wants to be entertained, through cheap laughs and fast food.

  • @Emeriste- “Karen claims to be a provocative writer but really she is not.”and “Karen has published nothing that is clever, deep, or edgy.” And you base those statements on what? Because surely if you’d read her book or essays challenging the prosperity gospel you’d know how provocative, clever, deep and edgy her work is.

    You say that both “think of the children” and “but what about the terrorists” are “thoughtless arguments.”

    Well, as a mother and a military wife who has lost many friends to terrorist bombs and bullets, I can assure that both of those so-called thoughtless arguments are, in fact, quite real.

    As the grown-ups in the world, both those of us with children and those without, we are expected to think of the children. That, thinking of people besides ourselves, is what separates the mature from the immature. Children can no more think of or protect themselves than the environment can protect itself. The burden, in both cases, is on the grown-ups. That you see that collective burden as somehow infringing on your liberty reveals your own immaturity. It’s as if you are stamping your feet and saying, “It’s not fair! You soccer moms are ruining all my fun with your trying to raise decent human beings nonsense!” You sound like, well, a child.

    Further, the intended audience for GTFTS are parents, and primarily parents who have or have recently had young children. Likewise, Karen’s commentary on CNN.com is directed at parents and caregivers. By your own admission you are not in that demographic. So what are you all worked up about, anyway?

    • @Seola1 says:

      Rebekah, those arguments were brought up, not because they aren’t valid in context, but that they are often used out of context.

      For example, to part of my above comments, currently California struck down a ban on making it a fined offense to a business when a minor buys or rents certain games.

      On one side of the argument is “What about the children! They are getting games that aren’t appropriate and therefore will damage them all!” However, the logical side (in my humble opinion) is “What about the parents!”. How are these kids alone renting or buying games, where did the cash come from? Why aren’t parents monitoring their children’s games? Why are minors in the stores alone?

      An example, I saw on the internet about a year ago… “What about the terrorists” came about during an article on… you guessed it CNN. The article talked about a boating mishap where someone died. To anyone who hasn’t boated – they started commenting “but terrorists could get in!”. The article had nothing to do with terrorists, had nothing to do security and everything to do with an inept person renting a boat that was too big for them to handle, but somehow, someone managed to interject terrorists into the argument.

      As I stated above, those types of arguments, out of context dilute the important conversations we need to be having. Such as when Caylee Anthony died and somehow went unnoticed, or when the little boy who was buried for 2 years after being locked up in a dog cage after dozens of reports over 10 years about the parents.

      I can sympathize with a military wife, I’ve been one twice over, my dad recently returned from Afghanistan (twice over there and once to Iraq) and will be going back later this year. But the point of the comment made is that someone, no matter the topic, is always saying “but what about the kids!” or “what about the terrorists!”.

  • Karenzach says:

    Doug
    So what really galls you is that a middle aged menopausal mama makes CNN, heh?

    • Douglas Moran says:

      [laughter] Nope. I’m pretty comfortable with my perch ‘way down near the bottom of the blogosphere. I write my little technical manuals for whatever company I’m working for, and post my various thoughts to my blog, and that’s pretty much it.

      I think I already answered what galls me, but if you want me to repeat myself, I will. Let me know.

  • Emeriste says:

    @ Rebekah Sanderlin

    Quote:
    “Well, as a mother and a military wife who has lost many friends to terrorist bombs and bullets, I can assure that both of those so-called thoughtless arguments are, in fact, quite real.”

    Quote:
    “As the grown-ups in the world, both those of us with children and those without, we are expected to think of the children.”

    As a human being I actually do care about the general wellbeing of you, your children, your husband, and the other soldiers. If more people were less moved by emotional appeals and their worst fears we would not have entered into these pointless wars and fewer of your friends would have suffered and died.

    It is your cohort who endorses politicians (on both sides) that play up to your fears and need to be ‘protected’. And every time they made you scared the wealthiest were enriched while ordinary people lost liberty, wealth, or their lives.

    Here are just a few of your greatest hits:

    (1) The purposeless and lost war in Iraq
    (2) The purposeless and lost war in Afghanistan
    (3) The purposeless and lost war on drugs
    (4) The Patriot Act
    (5) Wiretapping of American citizens.
    (6) The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
    (7) COICA (PROTECTIP ACT)
    (8) Bailouts for billionaires

    Each of these was sold to the public under the guise that the sky was falling and not doing something now would mean horrors that no one could even imagine. Everyone go hug your children, close your eyes, and trust us.

    And you did. And in every instance we now know we got suckered. We became less free, the country became less America, and some special interest profited massively.

    Karen claims to be a provocative writer who really makes people think. I disagree, but if people are actually looking for uncomfortable ideas heres one to try on: The evil that attacked us on 9/11 killed a lot of people but (1) They were reacting to evil that was done to them, and (2) They did not take away our freedom. Both (1) and (2) was made possible by the ignorant and cowardly American public. As a soccer mom you are at the tip of that spear.

    So let me thank you and the other ‘mature and serious’ people who have been doing such a good job so far. As long as you have your Facebook, your American Idol, and a juicy burger on the 4th of July, I don’t expect a lot from you. Go on singing about how proud you are to be an American where at least you know you’re free. Eventually the reality you have created for us will break through your delusions. But this is, in the end, the definition of a ‘serious and mature’ person in America — those who find it safer to be conventionally deluded than unconventionally right.

    • Jordan Green says:

      @emeriste: You’re extrapolating WAY out here. Not liking the word “f**k” doesn’t necessarily equate to supporting any of the rest of what you mentioned anymore than reading the word “f**k” doesn’t equate to beating children to death.

      Also, if the definition of “provocative” is “causing annoyance, anger, or another strong reaction” (which it is), I’d say Karen’s article was definitely provocative.

      Again, I get your disagreements here on Karen’s stance on GTFS, but you’re lumping her into an entire group of people based off a single article on a single topic. It’s ignoring all nuance and individualism, some of the very things I’d assume you support.

  • Prodigal Daughter says:

    Okay. Here we go. Yes, it IS funny. And most parents who read it and find it funny are good parents who really love there kids. Are there parents who are 1) stupid enough to read it to their kids? 2) Actually talk to their kids this way? and 3) Go even further and abuse their kids? Yes. Yes. and Yes.

    Like many things in life, this book is for some and not all. Is this parody a funny relief when it is read by parents who have found themselves thinking these things? Yes! Is this book funny when this art actually imitates life? NO.

    Let’s not get so black and white here. Let’s not make this another version of “The Shack” debate or worse yet, “Love Wins”. Let’s all use our brains, see the humor for what it is and realize that feeling frustrating with our kids is normal (that’s the humor in this book), yet also realize that how we express that frustration (in our heads versus with our words or with our fists) is extremely important.

    God help us all to love our kids. As a mom, my tone can get out of line and my pitch really, really high. God help me! I’m a work in progress. The bottom line? I love my kids, I make mistakes, but I work to do what is best by them. And this book is funny for those of us who don’t verbally or otherwise abuse our kids. Were this book a true representation of the majority of American parenting, then no, it would not be funny. And it’s not funny to think that this actually happens.

    Gray, people. Gray. Life is not always so black and white.

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