Wednesday, July 11, 2012

You've Got to Be Taught

The spouse and I have been in the serious talks about having kids in the past year so I've tended to think more and more about what's going to happen to our lives when there's a child present. What will we tell them about God? Will we take them to church? What will our parents say if we don't?

Heavy stuff that I guess we're going to mostly play by ear.

I worry a lot about being a parent and all that it entails. I worry about who my kids will be and the ways I'm certain to fail them. I worry about teaching them the right things and making them feel safe and loved. I feel anxious about disciplining them and getting them ready for being adults. I wonder how we'll relate when they're my age and have lives of their own.

I hope I can at least teach them to love and have open arms. To be kind, polite and thoughtful.

This post by Dan Savage has been preying on my mind for weeks since I ran across it. It's quite old and I didn't see it when he originally published it. At that point I had no idea who Savage was. Now, I know that he's kinda obnoxious and very controversial. A lot of people don't like him and I completely understand and wouldn't try to change their mind. But, I like him. I think he's got a temper and he's sometimes a little loose-lipped, but I also think he's intelligent and an excellent writer. He's made me think about things I never could have come up with on my own and given me some understanding of what it can feel like to be discriminated against.

Anyway, back to my point. In this article, Savage says,

"You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" gay kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we can see the fruits of it."

Now, Savage is talking specifically about teaching children to hate gay kids, but it's true of hating anyone. Feelings about all kinds of things. We are taught.

I grew up watching South Pacific. I could probably sing you almost every word of every song even though it's been years since I last saw it. But, it wasn't until I read that article in which Savage inserts a video clip of the brief and poignant song, You've Got to Be Taught, that I realized how much that musical is trying to teach people. If you're not familiar with the musical, a French man who has lost the love of his life, an American woman, because she is disgusted that he was once married to a Polynesian woman, angrily insists to an American soldier that he doesn't believe that this racism is born into you. And, reluctantly and with a lot of emotion, the American soldier confirms his suspicions with this little song:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught....
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are 6 or 7 or 8
to hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

I want to believe that as long as I never say anything to teach my children to hate, I'm safe. But, I'm not. It's beyond not saying something hateful. It's not doing something hateful. Not making a snide comment, getting road rage, being overly sarcastic or just plain uncaring. So it's not just that I need to be careful to NOT teach hate, I have to be care TO teach love. Scary stuff. As another great musical, "Into the Woods" says,

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

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