There is a species of post that is being shared an awful lot on the social medias. Often, it’s a screenshot purported to be from a Teacher, or the Friend of a Teacher. Attributions are stripped, it’s been shared from public posts of people the sharer has no personal knowledge of, multiple times. They resemble nothing so much as “glurge” as defined by Snopes – back in the day (like the 90’s), before the social medias, these were emails forwarded multiple times (you could tell by the number of >>> in front of the plain-text body of the allegedly inspirational or cautionary story). Half of these seem to have been lifted wholesale from some “Chicken Soup For The Soul” book, or regurgitated from 70’s or 80’s era urban legends. They are designed to elicit anger, fear or smugness and are emotionally manipulative in the extreme.
The latest subgenre I’m seeing are in response to the epidemic of school shootings and mass violence we have in this country. In it, a teacher or someone who knows a teacher says the real basis for young men who assault women and purchase weapons of war to slaughter multiple people is actually a lack of respect for authority. To which I have to say FUUUUUUUUCK YOOOUUUU.
Look, I could take one of these delightful sermons and deconstruct it line by line, but honestly I just got my blood pressure under control and I’d like to keep my more effective birth control pills, so I’m just going to address some of the absolute bullshit reasoning I’ve seen in these posts.
Number One: Respect is EARNED. I have never run into a person who immediately demanded respect who was not later revealed to be a lying, ignorant sack of shit. I have met plenty of people worthy of respect, who led by example, who proved to know what they were talking about. Kids are not stupid; they may not know the mechanisms by which power is earned and exercised, but when they see you say one thing and do another, they learn what a hypocrite is even before they have the vocabulary for it.
Which leads me to the next point…
What authority, exactly, should kids learn to respect? The serial sexual assaulter, deadbeat, racist, slumlord and tax-evader who, with the help of a foreign power, has been elected to the highest office in the land? The various other criminals and rapists that the GOP has been attempting to get elected to lower offices? And by all means, for anyone composing these posts and screen-shots, please do not say “government” or “politicians” won’t do anything about mass slaughter when it is One. Single. Party. That is responsible for the lack of change in this case. They have held the legislative branch since 2010 and now they have the executive as well. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA contributed $106,000 to various Democrats – and $5.9 MILLION to Republicans. For those who may have done even worse in math class than I did, that is 56 times more blood money than the Democrats got. One party holds the reins of power, and one party has accepted the most money from a lobbying group. The people who could effect change refuse to do so.
Your kids have seen you vote for people who excoriate the poor, the weak, the stranger, the gay. You take them to a church on Sunday where the person they’ve named the denomination after says we should care for the poor, the weak, the stranger. They start to question their reading comprehension, or they learn to hate people different than they are, unless they learn they’re the different one. In that case they learn that your love may be conditional.
But even more distressing, yes – your kids pay attention to what the adults in their lives do. They hear you when you make non-sequitur comments about the appearance of women, they hear when you talk about women in sexual terms. They see you vote for these sexual assaulters. Your daughters learn that they don’t matter. Your sons learn that women are worth less than they are. They learn to be entitled to women’s bodies.
When I see the word “discipline” in a piece of social media doggerel it almost always means beating. If pressed, they might use a cute euphemism like “spanking”. You abuse your children in the name of discipline; they learn that violence is a viable option to their frustrations.
These emails often repeatedly mention prayer, which, hey, if you’re the praying type, go for it. If meditation helps you to clarify your actions, enjoy. But let’s be clear – prayer is for you. God is not Tinkerbell, who will appear if only enough people clap because they do believe in fairies, they do! God is also not a vending machine who will dispense your wishes if you put enough prayer tokens in. But prayer without action is another empty gesture that kids can see right through. Your prayer, your flag, your minute-of-silence – these are merely symbols. If you refuse to honor what they represent, you teach your children that actions are meaningless. If they see through your hypocrisy, they may begin to effect change rather than being concerned about how “respectable” they look to others.
But one of the most baffling things about these posts – has everyone over 30 forgotten what childhood and adolescence was like? I remember my friends were fairly opinionated and not actually wrong about stuff that often. I also remember the many, many adults who were not worthy of well-regard, let alone respect. Probably the same percentage as I know now that I’m an Old. The suspicion engendered by these posts makes me wonder what they’re trying to sell me.
Kids have seen your lack of action, your hypocritical support of venal abusers, your reliance on violence to solve problems, your hatred for the different, and a few of them respect that authority enough to become monsters. The rest… well, those will be the newest generation working to overthrow your tyranny.