Karen & Kurt 
Edgewood in St. Denis

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Smart Woman

Punching people for fun: The Martian buys a Routan

Posted by karenandkurt on July 14, 2010 at 11:49 AM

It’s been a while since I’ve written, I know. Life gets busy. Last weekend was Kurt’s cousin’s graduation; one of the two sisters who played violin for our wedding.  Weekend before that was Scott Hargrove’s annual 4th of July party. In between I’ve canned two sets of pickles, summer and winter, and five jars of Kurt’s homemade salsa from our garden. I plan to start freezing some of what we get from the CSA soon. We are in the process of writing our wedding thank-yous  (people were very generous to us) and we have just ordered our wedding album. I was excited to share them with you but found out Vistaprint doesn’t like it when I do. I’ll fix that shortly.

If you skip over to our Garden page, you’ll see my update on how the garden is doing. Simply put: Not so good. The recent drought and another bout of blight has taken a toll on our squash plants. The sunflower is getting ready to open – about two weeks early and 18 inches too short. The basil is dying in the herb garden and the tomatoes are struggling mightily. The pumpkin – ahh, the pumpkin – is no more.

We also lost the asian pear tree in front of the house. About two weeks ago (which was the last time it rained until this past weekend) we had a terrible storm that included a microburst. I think the epicenter was somewhere on the diagonal of Severn Road and Ridge Chapel. Trees throughout the area, along with corn on the Boyer’s farm, blew down in a pattern suggesting both a microburst and a location about two miles from us. The neighborhood trees, along with trees along Harmans, Ridge Chapel, Telegraph and other roads, were torn up. Trees landed on houses, trees where pulled out from their roots and the tree in front of our house lost about half of its remaining limbs. Last week our agent had the tree removed entirely; it had damaged the front siding of our house, though not badly, and barely missed dropping the large limbs on our cars.

Our wedding is now 46 days past. We are settling in and getting used to this “husband/wife” lifestyle.  It’s very odd to hear someone else refer to Kurt’s wife – I keep thinking, “Who’s that?!” But Luca seems pretty good with it. He’s now taken to curling up on top of Kurt, so we suspect he understands there’s been a change in our arrangements.

So, that’s the news here. Are you ready for the Deep Thought of the Week?

Volkswagon is now encouraging people to provoke and take pleasure in other people’s pain!

And they are doing it to the tune of The Andy Griffith Show, too!

Now that I have your attention, take a look at the commercial for the VW Routan, the only minivan with the soul of a Volkswagon. We have a dad and his three young sons happily piling into the minivan and pulling out the driveway adorned with a fish-shaped mailbox. They tool around the block, watching eagerly out their windows as their neighbors all participate in the traditional “punch-buggy.”

First the mail carrier slugs a guy watering his lawn, as the son in the child seat grins.

A pregnant woman punches a real estate agent hard enough for her to wince in pain.

A young teen girl pouring lemonade hits a man in his sixities, nearly knocking the glass out of his hands and slipping his drink down his shirt. The two older sons turn to each other and laugh.

A group of little kids bounce around in a bounce house, punching at each other.

The family returns home and the older son gleefully asks dad if they can “do it again!” And the dad grins and indulgently says, “Sure,” before backing out the driveway once more.

What the heck is this commercial telling its audience? I am fully aware of the tradition of seeing a VW Bug and slugging someone in the shoulder first, exclaiming, “Punch buggy yellow!” And I understand VW has taken that tradition and made it into a commercial. But let’s look beyond that to what this commercial is saying:

Buy our car and all your neighbors and random people who see you will be compelled to hit another person. You can watch them do it because it’s fun.

My mom, and dad and grandparents and kindergarten teacher, taught me that hitting another person was wrong and that we are to keep our hands to ourselves. She, and the other responsible adults in my life, also taught compassion for others, respect for those who are older than I am and most certainly for the elderly,  and to be kind to strangers. I also learned that it is morally reprehensible to take pleasure in another person’s pain, let along instigate someone to harm another person.

The dad in this commercial is teaching the opposite lesson: It’s fun, and acceptable, to cause another person to do wrong and to watch someone be intentionally hurt. The commercial says it’s okay and expected to physically strike another person unprovoked, it is alright for a professional to strike his customer, and it’s acceptable for a young person to strike a senior citizen. Our car allows you to beat each other up AND it is okay to teach violence as entertainment to our children.

This is called “The Martian’s Point of View.” Look at the thing as it is, without the informed or cultural meaning behind it. The Martian – someone from another planet, culture or even a child – sees this commercial and sees a family instigating other people to beat each other up and learns this is fun, entertaining and acceptable. In learning this, the Martian then is able to accept and engage in this behavior.

The thing is, the Martian is not from Mars. The Martian is each of us, who begins to accept and repeat this behavior because we have seen it and seen that it has no social consequence and that it’s fun. I don’t believe in a “the commercial made me do it” defense to bad behavior, but what will you say when your child giggles while hitting another person because some car drives buy? And what will you say when you are hit and the person striking you says, “It’s okay, I was having fun, why are you upset that I hurt you?”


And the next time you read about a senior citizen who has been physically abused, will you shrug and say, “I bet that was fun to watch, too bad I missed it?”


Because if you’re the Martian watching this commercial, you will. Now, how about if you’re the person whose mom taught you to keep your hands to yourself and respect others?


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Categories: Our Family, Deep Thoughts

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