I went down to the federal building yesterday for a demonstration. Someone was giving out mylar rescue blankets and while I assume they were meant to summon associations with refugees huddling under foil to keep warm, they also turned out to be practical for the street corner because it started to rain.
My son and his friend were sharing one and squabbling over who had more space underneath, and then a woman with a basketful gave them a second one, so they started squabbling over who would get the new, dry one and who would be stuck with the crumpled wet one. They asked her for another new sheet and tossed away the used one that nobody wanted.
The context made their entitlement pretty embarrassing, although I didn't sense any judgement around me. Maybe it's heartwarming to see kids being little punks with parents at their sides to guide them through their frustrations, since we are assembling because kids are being forced to grow up too fast without parents to shelter them, or corral them when behaving well gets to be too much.
Something about the rescue blankets–distributed as a symbol and then treated as a toy, reminds me of the time as a kid in the 70s when I was at a hippie block party in honor of somebody's birthday, complete with a naked, green-painted man jumping out of an enormous cake and live frogs and snakes handed out of sacks by a man in a jester costume while we were encouraged to paint political protests on the street and sidewalks. They also gave out balloons in tiny packets that we happily blew up and took home, only to be informed by my horrified grandmother that they were actually condoms, as she snatched them hysterically from our hands.
Maybe the jester gave those condoms to children just to be provocative–in the 70s you were allowed to make inchoate art-political gestures that were simply actions without clearly articulated explanations. Or maybe it was specific and in response to current events about which I then knew nothing.
The kids at yesterday's gathering may remember the free gifts of foil sheets and the 50 ways they figured out how to play with them, but not remember anything about what they symbolized or why we had gathered there.