Starting with the secret Muslim socialist Kenyan Birtherism, conservatives have gotten so terrified and so paranoid that I’m afraid they will respond in the most human way imaginable. That they will inevitably resort to hysterical violence. Each of their conspiracies are more crazy than the one before. At this moment, we have such a huge swath of Texas believing they’re about to be invaded by our own military for some obscure reason. So many believe this so strongly, they’ve convinced their governor and a leading presidential contender/actual senator to treat them seriously. This is after Michelle Bachmann said with a straight face and in all seriousness that Barack Obama will bring about the apocalypse. These are the same people who pointed weapons at federal law enforcement officers at the Bundy Ranch. (Thank god the government stood down. The Bundy Ranch Massacre would not have made a good headline.) and shortly after those same nutters shot several cops. Somehow I don’t see the Tea Party taking themselves out like Jones Town. I see them needing to exercise their demons using high caliber weapons. If you listen to gun rights advocates, the number one reason they will tell that they need all these guns is to protect themselves from an overreaching government. This is a uniquely American phenomena. No other government on the planet would allow people to stockpile weapons for the express purpose of destroying or resisting the government. But in these uncertain times, this is what is necessary for them to feel safe. And there in lies the key.
If you look at history we’re in the middle of a transition. For thousands of years men have invented myths and religions to help explain the world and provide a sense of order and direction. And religion is really good at coming up with feel good bullshit about how the world was made and how it works.
Eventually, sometime around the late Iron Age-early medieval period, government began to compete with religion in what it can tell people to do, and how it made sense of the world. The clash was long and horribly bloody with no clear winner. Religion and government more or less agreed to a compromise and thus began The Enlightenment. Since then there have been successive industrial and scientific revolutions that have gradually displaced religion and government from people’s lives. People have more freedom now than ever before. People are healthier and wealthier than at any point in human history and the twin institutions that we’re used to relying on, have proven themselves completely inadequate –if not thoroughly corrupt.
The problem is science is, by definition, uncertain. In fact, it’s uncertain with a very high degree of precision. The government certainly can’t provide a comforting narrative. I think people beginning to realize there’s no quick fix, no handy ideology for the economy. Terrorism can’t be fixed with a strong military or shadowy police state. Environmental problems now have a global reach and global problems aren’t as simple as locking delegates in the same room in New York’s most architecturally boring building. It means talking to the “bad guys” because ignoring them or blowing them up simply won’t work. Even long standing traditions are under assault because they’re terribly oppressive and that’s no longer acceptable. If you chart the progress of freedom during the last 100 years here has been tremendous growth. But it hasn’t been easy And there are no guarantees. Obama isn’t the first President to promise change. They all do that. But he embodies that change by virtue of his skin color, his personal narrative, and his view of the world. It’s this combination of racism and generalized anxiety that is causing such an extreme reaction to his relatively banal politics.
Humanity has yet to embrace this new found power. It’s still looking towards institutions for meaning and direction. It’s still rejecting that meaning, freedom, and liberty because they don’t have the strength to resurrect them as internal constructs. So many are afraid. This latest conspiracy theory is just a focused outpouring of fear and uncertainty. Change is hard and we have the duty and obligation of ensuring that change comes to all. The more we resist change the harder it goes for us. The less control we have. It’s time to seize control of our own emotions, our will, and abandon the need religion and governments to provide meaning and direction. I don’t expect this to happen. I fully expect that people will grow old and die clinging to their outdated beliefs. But where there are children, there is hope.
There’ll never come a moment where parents come together and say to themselves, “Hey, that was easy, I’m glad we’ve got this child rearing thing all figured out.” But in so much as we may not have everything figured out, we do have a lot figured out. The challenge usually comes in the implementation rather than complete conundrum. Yet, while this is true, there are a number of parents who are still in the dark on a couple of issues, particularly in America.
The problem I think, stems from the fact that parents are unwilling to treat their children as human beings. This country bears witness to parents who train their children with such outdated strategies that dog trainers now get better results with dogs than humans have with other people. Parents must move out of this mindset that children are not property or pets, but little people. People who have rights, responsibilities, and are motivated by very similar things as adults, and should be treated like adults. Obviously I don’t mean had a five year old the keys to the family car or give a 12 year old a credit card. Of course I also wouldn’t hand the reigns of a multinational corporation to my doctor, or trust the CEO of my bank to cut out my tonsils. We give each according to their gifts and ability. Children must learn and be taught. They grow, just as adults continue to learn and be taught. We grow, though in other ways. Hopefully.
Like adults, children deserve respect. We do not hit adults. Why? what’s the moral imperative here? It’s is one of personal autonomy. More than being moral, it’s practical. Violence begets retaliation and, if for no other reason, it’s illegal. There are more reasons, it’s beyond the scope of this blog to list them all. When we seek to control an individual through violence, we’ve taken something from them. We have damaged them. In the short run, it’s easy to control children through shouting, threats, violence (hitting, slapping, spanking), or physical domination, but it’s nothing short of abuse, just as it’d be for adults.
We do not shout at other adults. Not if we seriously expect to have a reasonable dialogue or to solve problems. Sure, we can have verbal fisticuffs but they are neither practical nor productive. They are certainly not the hallmark of reason and civility that we strive to teach our children.
More important, how we treat our kids are how they are going to treat others. Your answer to a noisy child is to shout and tell them to shut up? Your answer to a chaotic situation is their answer to a chaotic situation. When we seek to control children through force instead of reason and dialogue we see a couple of things. The “control” that this kind of coercion doesn’t persist once the parent is gone. You will not solve the bad behavior, you just displace it where it will continue to have consequences.
The second consequence of an authoritarian parenting style is it fails to teach kids how to deal with conflict. Children will treat their siblings and other with the same kind of coercive methods they have learned from their parents. Except the consequences are different. Children don’t posses the same power imbalance with each other that they have with their parents. So a child who has learned to control a situation without reason or dialogue simply escalates the situation. Since a child obviously can not challenge an authoritarian parents, he has no idea what to do when his own attempts at authoritarianism doesn’t work. He’s told his friend to shut up, but his friend gets angry and does not shut up. Now what does he do? He tries again with stronger language, because that’s what happens when things don’t go as planned in an authoritative household. If the situation hasn’t completely escalated out of control, it certainly has now.
Now something else happens that the kid does not expect. Parents do not suffer consequences from their use of authority. Children do. As your kid’s teacher I now have to step in and correct this behavior, which the child does not understand because it’s the accepted form of behavior in his house. Even if that was not a consideration, he’s now crippled his relationships with his friends. Because he’s learned an authoritative style of conflict resolution, he has no tools to seek rapprochement. You precious little baby sincerely believes that he has the right to demand others be his friends. When they decline his generous offer, he’ll seek redress from the teacher in the belief that as an adult I can enforce his whims. Just like you can demand apologies, and other kinds of feelings at home. He or she will be confused when I tell them there’s nothing I can do.
There’s a very excellent analogy to the parent child relationship. It’s the employer/employee relationship. In the workplace there exists a power imbalance between bosses and their employees. That’s one reason why it’s exceedingly difficult for a boss to date an employee. It’s possible for a boss to yell and shout at employees but it’s unlikely to be productive. The relationship has rewards, responsibilities, and consequences for all parties. Conflicts must be resolved through dialogue. The difference is that you can’t fire your kid. But you do need to treat them with the respect you would give another person. You need to work things out with your kids. Obviously it doesn’t mean being a doormat any more than your boss is a doormat when conflicts arise.
In the cafeteria today it was loud and noisy. Exactly as loud and as noisy as one would expect from a cafeteria. One kid, however, definitely stood out. He was a small kid. He was kneeling in his chair looking out over the crowd of children flowing in and out of the room and he was vocalizing at the top of his lungs. He was hard to miss. It sounded a little like barking. Not imitative of a canine, but very loud, sharp vocalizations. I was subbing for another teacher and I was there, nominally, to maintain some sort of order. It was way over the top so I thought about shushing him. Buuut is a loud kid in a room that’s already loud and noisy really worth the fuss? It’s a cafeteria not a library. As I gave the kid a second look, I saw he had a cochlear implant, so I let him be. He seemed happy enough, so I don’t think he was in need of help or hurt or anything that would require a teacher’s attention. Just by the look on his face it seemed like he was happy to see friends. I’m also given to understand that this technology has difficulties in these exact situations so I have no idea what his perception might be, or how to communicate precisely with him if I tried, as in, “It’s ok to yell and shout so long as you do it a little bit quieter”. I’m not sure that’d make a lot of sense for a fully hearing typical kid. I wonder if the sounds he made made sense to him. In his mind was he forming fully functional words and phrases. Did he know he was barking? Was this a quintessential moment of childhood where if you’re loud and happy it doesn’t necessarily have to make perfect sense? Perhaps a member more familiar with the deaf community can answer. So, he wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t hurting anyone else, and one kid, even a much louder kid, in an already loud place didn’t seem like a huge deal. Even without the implant I’d have probably let it slide. I am sooo not picky about these kinds of things. But it did make me pensive about the how variable perception can be. How even under the best of circumstances between (supposedly) reasonable adults, communication can be hard. How we relate to each other, or sometimes not. How isolating differences can make us (if his implant was off or nonfunctional for all I know his barking might have been the only thing he might have been able to hear) or how differences can bring us together and make us stronger. Again, no point really, just kind of sharing a moment from my day.
Dear Sen Cornyn believe when I say that at this moment I’m finding it difficult to accord you the respect due a senator. You removed Civil and Human rights from your Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. This action, symbolic as it might be is astonishing, backward, regressive and idiotic. Our civil and human rights are NOT derived from the Constitution but the reverse. The Constitution merely elucidates A FEW of the rights we already possess. In a time where BOTH parties are justifiably concerned with civil and human rights to strip the name violates any lingering vestiges of trust that you have anyone’s interests at heart. I’m not sure this the result of a continually failing Texas educational system or some sort of deeper pathology. Do Civil and Human rights have no meaning for you? They can’t possibly, you deliberately mutilated the sub-committee to make exactly that point. When a world cries out for justice your response is our humanity is of no value? Our value to this country is meaningless?
This is the value of our Constitution: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it” — Justice Learned Hand
Throughout our long history the Constitution has never prevented us from doing great harm people. Do not place so much faith in the Constitution now that this blind inhuman adherence to your values will prevent you from using the Constitution as a weapon or from abusing vast numbers of peoples.