What a quandary we find ourselves in.
As parents, we want to uplift and encourage our children, to have them believe with hope and admiration in the founding documents of our nation —the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
The last thing anyone wants is to foster in our kids an early cynicism that unmasks the betrayals in our system, its failures and glaring contradictions.
What is Occupy?
Yet kids today, with their access to various forms of media know about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Even if you personally restrict media, families are subjected to it in shopping centers, gyms, waiting rooms, restaurants, public spaces of all sorts. Those kids who deal with current events assignments may even know that the movement aims to get corporate money out of politics and restore regulations that keep banks from running amok with investor dollars.
So as people have taken to the streets with an openly non-violent protest approach, emphasizing that the movement follows the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., it has been possible for parents to share the aims of the movement and the manner of engagement with their kids.
As the movement has spread, an explosion of stories across the blogosphere has inventoried the practical installations at the encampments. There are the lending libraries, wellness awnings, teach-in circles, nightly General Assemblies for consensus decision making, food tents, counseling opportunities and more. Each aspect illustrates what’s necessary for “freedom of assembly.” But moreover, it reveals the complexion of the demonstrations in clear form to anyone who sincerely wants to see the true ethos of the movement.
Vibrant urbanists, meet our friends Billy Club and Pepper Spray
So with clear intentions, and believing in their Constitutional rights to participatory democracy, why are peaceful protestors getting skull-bashing blows from out of control cops?
Why are protestors being pepper sprayed in the face? Why are cloistered midnight raids happening, ordered by elected officials and resulting in brutal evictions, and the destruction of those lending libraries and wellness tents? Why are the necessary accessories to an assembly of human beings being systematically repressed by state powers and shift cops?
But most of all, how do we tell our kids that the nation we believe in, the rights we hold dear, will be openly trampled, battered, and brutally quashed with violent fury by those entrusted to uphold the right of law?
I wish I had the answer. I wish I could give the five-point plan that would be both honest and maintain a child’s belief in this country. I wish I could say, “we’re better than Pol Pot and Myanmar and Burma and Ghaddafi.”
But are we?
In degree, maybe. But in practice? And if the practice is just different by degree, how long until it’s not?
In practice we tout claims to equality, fairness, and justice. Yet we let white collar crime go not just with a pass, but we reward it with a bailout. And when the public cries foul, we club the people upside the head.
We laud the spirit and form of the Tahrir Square gathering, calling on then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to respond to the demands of the people. When our people gather for similar protests against corruption, we tar them with wholesale pejoratives, calling them “stinky hippies,” from the children to the students to the business persons to the grannies. Stinky hippies, all.
Now club ’em, spray ’em, jail ’em.
Sure, we could tell the story of the wrenching struggle for liberty and justice. How it takes time. How sometimes people get hurt, even when they practice non-violence themselves. But why are we having to tell this story in the United States of America in the first place?
This isn’t supposed to be us.
But there’s no denying it now. It is us.
How do we avoid cynicism in our kids when they’re told we’re the higher minded country and then they see seated college students aggressively pepper sprayed? When they see peaceful crowds fired upon? How do we prop up the dream when that’s what they’ll see?
Not in front of the kids? Hey, we can’t hide our nation’s fall anymore. So if any of you readers have thoughts on what we’re supposed to tell the wee ones, I’d love to hear them.
The best I have right now is the story The Emperor’s New Clothes. Only it’s the updated version. The Emperor’s New Clothes and His Bad Ass Pepper Spray, A Watch Out Punk, Your Ass is Grass Story from Kangaroo Congress Inc. And that’s not exactly the “avoiding cynicism” that I’m looking for.
–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice