Editorial: Fret-Free Outrage; Getting Mad and Moving On

Sure, it’s important to keep abreast of news that matters, but it’s also essential to be on the lookout for items that you can get worked up over but probably don’t have to worry about over the long run. Such exercises may squander precious emotional reserves, but they’re also a good way for people to make sure their outrage mechanism is in good working order for moments when it’s really needed. Whenever Congress is in session, to grab a handy example.

Consider the recent front-page article about the Nashua elementary school that banned tag. Our guess is that not too many people reacted to that story by proclaiming, “Wow, what a great idea!” or, “It’s about time somebody put a stop to that nonsense.” Head-shaking, muttering and dismay about the state of the universe were the more common response, is our guess.

As usual, the adult responsible for this outrage acted out of unimpeachable motives. Principal Patricia Beaulieu of the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School said she was concerned solely for the safety of children. A number of concussions, a broken wrist and reports of overly aggressive tagging led to her decision to make her school’s playground a tag-free area.

“We want them running, we want them jumping and releasing the energy, but just in a safe way,” Beaulieu told a Nashua Telegraph reporter.

OK, but wouldn’t any activity that allows children to run, jump and otherwise express their exuberance necessarily involve the threat of injury? Isn’t being at risk one of the defining conditions of childhood? And haven’t children proven themselves to be pretty resilient over the years? They get banged up, and they heal. It’s one of the big advantages of being young.

But this is one of those stories that presents no long-term threat to humankind. Tag — a game that requires nothing more than the presence of children willing to run and dart and shriek and laugh — has established itself pretty firmly over the ages, and it’s hard to believe that an idea as bad as a tag ban can catch on, even in educational circles. Simply put, there aren’t too many people who want to live in a world without tag.

And then there’s the restaurant in Brooklyn that has come up with the brilliant idea of charging customers $40 for a four-course meal and requiring them to consume the meal in complete and utter silence.

“It’s just an opportunity to enjoy food in a way you might not have otherwise,” said Nicholas Nauman, head chef of Eat.

Indeed, diners might not otherwise consume their food in silence because it’s such a patently bad idea (unless you’re a sulking teenager or an aggrieved spouse who wishes to focus his thoughts on the grudge he’s nursing). Do we gather at the table solely to take in nourishment and appreciate whatever pleasure is delivered to our taste buds? Of course not; sharing a meal is the perfect activity for sharing thoughts. Conversation enhances food, and vice versa — and it’s why just about any human being would rather share a meal than eat alone.

But again, there seems to be little need to fret about this bad idea spreading. The restaurant is located in Brooklyn, which may once have been a borough known for its lack of pretension, but seems to have been invaded and conquered by a completely different element in recent years. What happens in Brooklyn tends to stay in Brooklyn.

Just thinking: Might there be a way to send the Nashua principal to Eat restaurant and have her pay $40 for the privilege of contemplating a world without tag while she dutifully and silently chews her way through four courses?