Get Them While Their Young

Homophobia, Biphobia, Queerphobia, Discrimination

Homophobia, Biphobia, Queerphobia, Discrimination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cardinal Glick: Fill them pews, people, that’s the key. Grab the little ones as well. Hook ’em while their young.
Rufus: Kind of like the tobacco industry.
Glick: Christ, if only we had their numbers.

It is so easy to set a kid’s attitudes for life while they are young. Yes, they will go through a rebellious phase. They will challenge what they are taught, but most of those early lessons stick with us through life. It is why in general I have a personal problem with taking kids to church early. This isn’t due to my lack of belief, but if you really want them to display actual faith, and not just habit, how can you indoctrinate them so young? Later in life, how can they ever be certain that what moves them is belief and trust in the divine, and not just a pattern that was placed in them early in life? Still, that is a question each family has to answer for themselves, though I hope they at least ask, and reflect upon it.

It is perfectly understandable, I suppose. Most parents, even really open-minded ones, want their kids to share their values. So mom and dad take their kids to church on Sunday because it is important to them, though I wonder how many mom and dad’s ask themselves if it is due to actual belief and not in patterns their parents instilled in them. I have seen good come of this. I have watched my dearest friends encourage their children to be open to other experiences, other ideas, and the fact that there are people just plain different from them and that is OK. It is, after all, a parent’s first job: shaping the young life they have created.

The thing is, though, not everyone teaches their kids to think with open, critical, and loving minds. Some people teach their kids to distrust and even hate that which is different. They teach their kids that their way of life is superior to others. They pass on their fear and loathing to the next generation, and leave the rest of us with another person standing for the forces of oppression. They leave us with another person who mistakes respect for another as disrespect for them. They leave us with one more person hurling hate at us. This may not matter to you if you have not been on the short end of that stick, but it definitely matters for the rest of us.

Which is why this book bothers me so much. Oh, it dresses it’s hate in pretty pictures and words. Little Michael prays for Jimmy and his two sinful daddies. Meanwhile the authors have created a nice little script for parents to shove their narrow view of the universe into their kids heads. The children having this read to them will grow up with an idea in the back of their heads. This idea will shape their development. It will shape their interactions as adults. If they are lucky, they will learn from the examples of other, less bigoted people around them. There is reason to be hopeful on that front, but still, these parents have created a barrier for their children and for a civil society.

I will never advocate for censorship. I am glad this hateful book is out there. It gives the rest of us a chance to talk about it. It lets us know what poison people are pouring into their children’s minds so maybe we can counter it. We need to counter it, because despite what people want to believe, their children are not their property. They do not exist solely to be extensions of the parent’s being. Their children are their responsibility, both to the kids and to the larger society to which they will belong, which is why we all have a responsibility to help shape the next generation. Each of us owes it to the other to do our part to raise these kids if only from the sidelines.

We have to show them that an accepting world is a better one. We can teach them that there is a place for everyone. They can learn that what is in another’s heart is no one else’s business so long as that other does no harm to their neighbors. It is a difficult task. One does not want to interfere with a parent’s first right to shape their children. One also wants to avoid being manipulative. The best we can do is to lead by example. The best we can do is be there when they start to question. We need to be there, though, because eventually they will question, and when we do, we want to be able to have the best answers for them, answers that explain a better kinder world. Answers that will help them still love their parents while understanding that their parents hold ideas that hold us all, themselves included, back.

A better world is out there. One in which we don’t hate based on race, sex, sexual orientation or any number of reasons we have given ourselves to do so over the millenia. It is just within reach, but we have to make sure the young want to reach it, and to undo the harm done by those that want to keep that hate alive. People like Amber Dee Parker make it harder, but we can and must rise above. We can and must, if I may be a bit cliché, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

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