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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Everyday People

We're raising three children. There's nothing like hearing yourself parroted back by a three year old; it gives you an absolute time definition of when you morphed into your oh so tragically un-hip parents. Holding children's constant, absorbing gaze forces you to set up a filter for your imperfections. Screen out the cussing and bawdy entendres, and there you are, stuck inside your parents, wondering just what in the hell happened.

One of the benefits (why, half full, funny you should ask) of this self imposed screen is that it provides a ready made opportunity for self improvement. Instead of muttering "Murphy doesn't know shit", you can regale yourself with "Murphy exhibited his usual infantile cognitive powers of assessment on this one." See, your vocabulary is improving already.

We use this internal screen because we love our children. Most of us hated the "do as I say, not as I do" style of parenting, having rebelled so successfully against it in the 60's and 70's. I know I am determined that I not be a pushover, but that I will be honest and accessible to my children. I want them to have the best base possible to build on. Their lives and choices are theirs. It's my hope that they will land farther and stronger from me than I landed from my parents.

Part of the reason this is so important to me is because of race. Growing up, I lived with a parent who was a card carrying member of the NAACP in the early 1960's, in the SOUTH, and a parent who basically thought that was a load of crap. The interesting thing was, though, that seeing the world through the eyes of the civil rights activist gave me the opportunity to understand seeing it through the eyes of racist. It's hollow, you know. What's interesting is how deliberately they play it. Bennett's remarks last week are a perfect example.

This country has a long history of defining abilities by race. We love our stereotypes. We invoke everything from brains to penis size in our idiotic endeavor to quantify the abilities of the human mind by the packaging that surrounds it. We persist in "normalizing" these labels in an effort to bind cohesiveness through hate. If each decision is defended by assumptions that "everybody" understands, perhaps it's the sense of inclusion, of being more than you really are, that appeals.

I won't be joining the club.

When we abandon our filters, the necessary mechanism we create as adults to force us to better ourselves, the potential for improvement wanes. Until we strive, unified in the belief each life and mind is valuable, our country can NEVER reach it's potential.

Accepting the value of each life gives us the opportunity, for the first time in the history of this country, to cease to divide ourselves. If we choose not to impede the progress of some in order to grease the wheels for a few, we stand uniquely posed to capitalize of the massive gains America made in the 20th century.

Katrina is our wake up call. If we embrace what we want our individual selves to become, the better person we filter to, then this is the moment to right racial wrongs and set the course for the best damn country in the world.

Renounce assumptions. Hold hypocrisy to the light. Don't be the first to blink.

We're all grown up now. The time for division is over.

5 Comments:

At October 07, 2005 8:58 AM, Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

I really enjoy this post Jet, not only because it calls on all of us to be better people individually, but also because it implies that by bettering ourselves and refusing to sit still while the racist sterotypes of this country's past are flung about, we will all be better as a society.

So while thinking, rational people have usually tried to avoid using hollow stereotypical arguments to debase others, it is incumbent upon each of us to decry their use when we hear them uttered by those who should know better and to educate those who don't.

 
At October 08, 2005 2:43 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

This is a good post, no, a great post. It blows through the walls, you call them filters if I gathered correctly, that we put up around ourselves and our image of what it means to be an ideal man or woman. When we can put aside these biases, we can see ourselves for what we truly are. That, in turn, makes dealing with others much easier. It's difficult, after all, to understand others when one doesn't even know where one stands on life.

I like the way you refer to anything else as hypocritical! It really is. If we think of ourselves as great or better than others because of some area in which we view ourselves better than others, we are not being true to others or to ourselves. That hurts everyone. In short, I think it's better to be honest and open instead of hiding behind what we wish or think we should be. Great post once again!

 
At October 10, 2005 6:49 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

I want to second what OK and Ken said. The second our mind separates us from anyone else by way of judgment - then we are truly not part of the solution. You are so right that we truly do have to live by example.

 
At October 10, 2005 7:05 AM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

Stereotypes are so hard to get above, even in our children who think that "those are girl toys" and "these are boy toys". I constantly remind my sons to not assume anything about anyone based on what they look like, or how they speak, or what gender they are. Then they watch a half hour of Cartoon Network and I have to start all over again.

It's insidious in our everyday lives, like the commercials that show women always doing the housework. "Doesn't this toilet bowl smell spring time fresh!?" I can turn off the TV, but the kids can watch it at a friend's house... So I just keep reminding them, and I hope that deep down the message will get through.

Another reason I hold Bush up as an example of how NOT to behave. He has no idea what "poor people" are like, and he doesn't intend to find out. And Yes, I am judging our president.

 
At October 27, 2005 12:52 PM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...

amen! couldn't have said it better myself.

 

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