Saturday, October 19, 2013
Honor thy father and thy mother
In my previous post, Bullying, I made a reference to how our parents treated us potentially being a bigger obstacle to our recognizing the systematic problems with compulsory school than how we treat our children.
I confess I have no real data to back that one up, other than anecdotal, but I've come to strongly feel that way.
It's unceasingly amazing to me the lengths people go not only to defend their parents actions but to normalize them.
At various points I've heard dozens, if not hundreds, of people use some form of "My parents did ______ when I was a kid, and I turned out ok."
The near universal truth of those is that, to the outside observer, those people are not "ok" by any of the usual standards on would expect to use to assess "ok-ness".
That applies to drinking and drug use, including while pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as exceptional punishments and probably any number of other things that aren't necessarily looked kindly upon. These now grown people will not only try not only to defend what their parents did, but endorse it, in many cases.
I think it's one of the major barriers we have to ending corporal punishment in this country. Again, I've anecdotally found many people who don't "believe in spanking", don't spank their own kids, but can't quite bring themselves to condemn it generally or for others, and I strongly suspect that's involved.
I find myself similarly inclined, in fact, and I was only very rarely spanked as a child and I believe my parents found themselves coming to realize the futility of it as a parenting tool, at the least, so, if anything, I have every reason to agree with the conclusions came to.
And I do really. I certainly have not, do not and will not spank Conan, but I struggle with condemning it. If for no other reason than the fact that the vast majority of people spanking their kids mean well and believe it's the best thing and that it in some way hurts them more than their children, as the saying goes.
We grow up watching our parents and processing what they do as "the things people do". Their behavior, good and bad, is the very definition of how people behave. It becomes so ingrained into who we are, that it becomes difficult to fully process them, even when we see them... in fact, even when they are extraordinarily obvious.
I've long believed you can explain the virulence of the rage and hatred you can find in Jim Crow era southerners, in particular.
I think that for a reasonable person, once a separation takes place, it becomes impossible to find a moral justification for slavery that makes any sense at all. Sure, we can intellectually explain the origins, the tradition and the needs that led to and fueled it, but if you're really thinking about the ins and outs of owning and using human beings, I can't make it make sense. It's so horrifying to me, I get nauseated just trying to think about it.
I suspect being a child and having the evidence of that utter inhumanity everywhere and your parents and grandparents and everyone around were responsible. The only possible way to process that would be to create justifying scenario, in this case it would have been to blame the slaves themselves for the unfathomable violence inflicted upon them.
That's the depth to which the vast majority of people will go to justify and normalize the actions of our parents.
It's something that worth remembering when we're repeating the things our parents do as well as the things we do in life, especially around our kids. I know I do.