Sunday, March 20, 2005

[politics] Of politics and parenting, part 1

I'm a dad. My son is almost 5, and I've tried to be as involved a parent as possible. I'm a progressive. I've been politically active for more than a decade, and I've tried to be as involved an activist as possible. So... how has this mix worked out? Well, the short answer is that parenting has won out. I've come to realize that (for me) there's a level of anger needed to be a good streetfighter that isn't compatible with healthy parenting. Streetfighter? Yeah. That's right. Streetfigher. I can't stand phonebanking or canvassing or voter registration; I have little patience for bureaucracy or holier-than-thou ideological purity wars, and I have even less patience for the back-room/patronage/deal-making ward-by-ward style of party politics. I like direct action. For most of the last 10-ish years I've marched, protested, participated in question-and-answer panels, spoken to university classes, and, mostly, volunteered as a patient escort at abortion clinics. There is no margin, no protective barrier for most of this - you fuck up, you feel it - immediately. By way of example, we have this: Time/Place: Annapolis, MD; October 1994 Occasion: KKK rally on the grounds of the State House. Me: Biker jacket w/ pink triangle pin that says "Queer" in purple Gothic script, long hair, combat boots, hacked-off BDU shorts. Message: Homemade sign that says "Fuck the Klan". Hey, it was the first thing I could think of - I had leftover signs from a pro-choice rally, I had a black Sharpie marker, I had bigots in white hoods... Voila! Instant sign. But it isn't one that I'd want to have to explain to my kid - even then, I knew it wasn't the most productive sign in the world. It'll alienate some people, but hey, who wants them on your side anyway, right? But I don't entirely feel that way now. Not quite, at any rate. Would I create the same sign today? In a heartbeat. Would I go in the first place? Probably... but I'd think about it a lot longer than 11 years ago. Would I go with the crowd that wants to confront the KKK, or would I stay with the more mainstream rally, buying into the "Don't give them more attention than they deserve" message of the preachers and politicians? I don't know. So if you were driving by that sunny October day a decade ago, and saw some grungy, punk, wise-ass, long-hair faggy, smart-ass carrying a rude sign and were offended, I apologize. Sort of. You see, my question is this? Did it get you to think? Did you have to decide, in that instant, where you stood? Did you see a teachable moment for your kids? I'm sorry I unloaded the F-bomb on 'em - really I am. I've worked really, really hard to not impart that little gem to my son's vocabulary and so far I've succeeded. But did you have to explain to them that, while some people wouldn't agree with the sign, they'd agree with the message? Did you have to tell them that there were hateful people taking shameless advantage of the Constitution a block or so away? Did you tell them that there were people who believed the stupidest things ("Yes, I know - stupid isn't a nice word... how about misguided? Or ignorant? Or hateful?") and that these stupid things made people angry? Did you have to tell them that these monsters believed that people weren't equal? Did you explain that these miserable exuses for human beings believed that skin color actually meant that people aren't the same? That people with skin darker than that smart-ass twenty-something kid's skin were viewed as inferior? As disposable? As candidates for ethnic cleansing, for genocide, for lynching and beating and rape and murder and slavery? If you did, I'm sorry; no kid should have to learn that message. But here's the sick thing - that ugly truth is still out there. It still festers under the skin of this society, waiting until it can burst forth in ripe splendor - oozing puss and infection everywhere, hoping to take root in the darkest places, the weakest places. But if you didn't... if you drove on past, and didn't say a thing - if you ignored your kids' questions from the back seat ("Daddy, what does 'nigger' mean?" "Mommy, what's the KKK?" "Daddy, what's a faggot?" "Mommy, why are Jews 'blood suckers'?") and kept on driving and hoped that the traffic over the Annapolis bridge wouldn't keep you from getting to the Eastern Shore for one last glorious weekend... I have only one thing to say: Fuck you, too. You made a choice that weekend - as a parent, as a human being - and you fucked it up. In the worst way possible. Where should I send your sheet? Catgory:

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