I received my share of spankings as a kid (this was the 1960s, when corporal punishment was still cool), but I had it easier than my friends whose parents used a belt, a paddle, or worse (childhood bruises were still a parental prerogative, at least in my neighborhood). For most situations as I grew older, though, disappointed words from my parents, or even a disappointed glance, would do the trick. Sometimes I took awhile to catch on – once my mother gave me the silent treatment for a full week before I realized I’d forgotten to cut the lawn – but eventually I would get the message.
The simple goal was to make me feel guilty. If I didn’t know the exact source of my guilt, I should feel guilty anyway, just in case. Sooner or later I would do something that warranted remorse, so I might as well put my tail between my legs and get in proper form for it.
As an adult, I’ve shaken off much of my burden of guilt, though at odd moments I realize that I still carry a child’s imagination in my fifty-year-old body. But now I’ve generalized my guilt.
Am I concerned that I haven’t worked hard enough? Guilty. Am I concerned that I’ve done too little as a husband and a father? Guilty. Am I concerned that I’ve done too little to make the world a better place? Guilty. Do I suffer from liberal guilt? Guilty (which makes me doubly guilty). If a cop were to pull me into an interrogation room and demand to know what I did last night, I would plead guilty – to watching a movie when I should have been editing a manuscript, researching a destination for a family vacation, and/or writing a letter to the governor. And then I would offer to cut the cop’s lawn.
Note: This is my final Criminal Minds post as a regular bi-weekly contributor. I’m looking forward to coming back often as a visitor, though, and in the meantime promise to remain guiltily criminal minded in all of my writing.