Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How To Talk To Your Kids About Shitty People

The other day, I was chatting with my mom and my almost 11 year old son about current events. The light version because my son is a gentle soul who doesn't really need to hear what I really think of some people. I think this is important because as my son gets older, he becomes more aware of the world. He watches TV. He can read headlines. He has access to the Internet. He is extremely intelligent (top two in his class) and very perceptive. We talked about how people trash talk during elections because they think if they make other people not like the other candidate, they will all like that candidate more. My son more or less confirmed that this is like school in the 5th grade.

My son also told me he doesn't understand that people right now don't like Muslims because one of his best friends is a Muslim and he thinks he's a great guy. So how do I break this down as not to highlight how harsh and ignorant adults can be? (not that he doesn't need to learn that...he does, and he will) I tried to explain that there are bad people in the world and good people in the world. Sometimes when bad people do bad things, they need to make up an excuse for why they did it. Kind of like getting caught taking candy without asking and making up a lie so that it doesn't seem like you were just out for candy, but really might die without it because candy is your only medicine to prevent lack of candy sickness.

Sometimes they use their religion because it's an easy excuse with a lot of power behind it. The Muslim faith doesn't teach hate any more than the Christian faith. That doesn't mean Christians don't sometimes do terrible things and blame it on the bible. They do this every single day. In other parts of the world, Muslims have done the same. These people are not real followers of their faith. They just need an excuse. Usually these people are so lost and afraid in their own life in their part of the world that they desperately need something to belong to, and often that something is bad. Often, that is all there is. It's like growing up in a bad neighborhood and getting involved with crime. Sometimes its the strong people that resist that. The problem here is that this excuse of theirs makes everyone who follows that religion or comes from that region of the world, no matter how many generations back, look bad to people who don't know to look beyond such things. And there are a lot of those people in the world.

Enter scared people. People who have seen bad things perpetrated on TV. Their fear makes them need something to blame it on. Fear is powerful, and fear easily becomes hate if not suppressed or cured. Just like the bad people need an excuse, the people watching need one too. So they say "Well, they did that bad thing because they were BLAHBLAHBLAH (anything different from them) and that means all BLAHBLAHBLAH (anyone different from them) will do the same thing here. When you really break it down and look at it, it's pretty stupid. Do you know who will be the first to point that out to us? Our kids.

Kids are great. When raised to judge people as individuals, they don't know hate. Well, not for people. They hate things like broccoli, early bedtimes, cleaning their rooms, and in my son's case, Justin Beiber. If you put ten toddlers in a room from all different parts of the world, they won't hate one another. They might notice that they look different. More often than not, they think that's neat. People are like art. They come in so many varieties! Kids notice that stuff right away, and they are not shy about pointing it out! But to them, it's like pointing out the colors of leaves. It's just an observation and not at all important. Those kids will play together all day. They will eat together. They will nap together. They will hug one another. Dammit, why can't we be more like our kids? Why are we such slaves to fear?

I have walked many religious paths in my life. I finally found God in my 30's. As a Buddhist. I was finally able to say that I knew God was there and not because anyone told me, but because I felt God. Maybe it was meditations. Maybe it was study. Maybe it was walking a bumpy road. Maybe it was just that I finally broke down that wall that I was never able to break down before. I went to a lot of churches. I read a lot of books. I talked to a lot of people. Faith fascinates me. It always has. People fascinate me. But lately, people also scare me. Not for their religions. Not for their race. They scare me because of their HATE. Their rabid hate. They are so wrapped up in their hate, driven by their fear and hopelessness, that they have blurred the lines. They have sent this wonderful country back decades to where people of certain nationalities and religions live in fear of the hate of their neighbors. That's not ok, and that is not the world I want for my children.

I have tried to raise my son to be kind. I plan to raise my daughter the same way. Kindness cures a lot of ills in this world and if everyone was kind to one person every day, maybe the world would be a little less scary. I was delighted to hear my son speak so powerfully and so full of strength when he spoke of his confusion about people's hate for Muslims. Do you know what? My son knows more Muslims than most of the people who spit their hate at them, and he needs to remember that. His feelings come from knowing. He doesn't take people at face value. He looks deeper. He is the kid who tells me sometimes that he has friends at school that the other kids don't understand. Tears are welling up as I write this because I have so much pride in how strong and beautiful his heart is.

I won't be able to protect him all the time. That has always been one of my biggest hurdles in motherhood. I can't always be there to help him make the right decision. I can't always be there to make sure that people are not being mean to him. I have to trust that if I give him the right tools, that he will make the right decisions and take the best course of action. While I thought I was going to need to do more to explain why some people are so filled with anger and hate, he already understood. More importantly, he is not one of those people. I admire his heart and his soul so much.

My son may never join a faith or find a connection to God. He might never decide to vote the same way I do. He might not like the same cars I do or the same music I do (although so far we are doing well in that category).

But my son understands diversity. He understands kindness. He accepts people for who they are, not what they are. If he keeps that going, what more can I ask?

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