How do some kids end up
so nasty they load up on guns and explosives and kill other people's kids? How do grown
adults in responsible positions end up so nasty they load up on guns and laser
guided missiles and send other people’s children out to kill?
I’ve got a few theories.
Mostly, they come down to love. Not enough love and not enough courage.
That may sound like a
tired anti-Vietnam slogan, but it’s worth considering. It’s worth considering how we introduce people to the world and how that
affects what they do when they grow up.
Children are born
completely self-confident, uninhibited, curious and open. I don’t know if they are born peaceful, but I think they learn that from being
peacefully and respectfully treated. But mostly they aren’t treated that way. Mostly they’re punished or scolded
for the positive traits they’re born with.
They’re not allowed to touch, not allowed to run, not allowed to get in the
way, to make too much noise or ask certain questions. They’re not allowed to make their own decisions, talk out of turn, make a
mess or cry until they “get all their tears out” (as my daughter says). What other group of people is it still okay to
hit if they don’t do what we want? How did we get so arrogant
to think that a little free life is ours to control?
Of course, children need
guidance on how to get along in the world and things would be pretty chaotic if
we all ran around grabbing and biting like two year olds. But there’s a difference between curbing harmful or unsafe behaviour, and
repressing every independent urge.
It’s a vicious circle. We may have fought and rebelled against our own
parents’ attempts to control us but rarely do we have the courage to allow our
own children the freedom we wanted.
It’s like coming out and being out. Before you get there you can’t imagine drawing that much attention to yourself. As a young woman in a
trim skirt and designer eyebrows, I would have been horrified to imagine myself
looking like the tough women-men lesbians I’d seen. I didn’t think of them as strong for being so different. I thought they were
unfortunate misfits who couldn’t help how they looked.
Now, here I am, misfit
myself, and it’s great. I don’t feel like someone who
can’t help the way she looks. I feel like someone who knows how to use a
hammer, fix a bicycle, change the oil in my car or re-wire a flickering lamp. I’m proud of that. What it took to get here was courage and a bit of
It takes courage and
defiance to parent differently, especially if you’re not someone who ever
wanted to be different. Children are noisy, unrestrained and completely
unconcerned about what other people think. That’s a hard spotlight to be
thrown into. Imagine going from shy, quiet, unnoticeable young boy to flaming queen,
Most new parents go from
being the quiet, respectable people next door to suddenly being the constant
companion of somebody who screams when they’re hurt, bawls when they
want to, talks to themselves and anybody else within range, sings loudly and
asks questions even louder, doesn’t respect private
property or the meaning of the word no. Would you date someone like that?
It might look fun in a
Hollywood movie but in a crowded bank line-up with someone who wants to tear up
the deposit slips, it’s hardly romantic. It’s unnerving.
Time and again the
overriding response is to want the child to conform, to wait silently and
stupidly like the rest of us, as if that’s a reasonable thing to
be doing with our time. I don’t mean we should allow kids
to do whatever they want, but sometimes it just takes a bit of courage to allow
them to do what nobody else would.
I don’t think children, or anybody, learns cooperation and mutual respect from
years of being constantly reprimanded, especially for things as trivial as
little slips of bank paper. I don’t think they feel
anything different from what adults feel when someone tries too hard to tell us
what to do or to control our behaviour. We feel pissed off and rebellious.
Obviously, it takes a
particular sicko to do what was done in Colorado and Alberta. But we also have
an international war going on with a lot more people dying than did at those
two high schools. Does that mean those guys in government are the same kind of
sickos, or is something else wrong?
I don’t have any idea whether Bill Clinton or the rest of the NATO gang were
ever allowed to tear up bank stationery, though it’s likely their families
owned the bank and everything in it. What I’m complaining about is a
culture that sets up a system of reward and punishment, acceptance and
rejection, love vs freedom, from the very beginning of a fresh new life.
Depending how strictly it’s enforced, that little person is going to carry a load of guilt or a
load of grudge into their adult life, or both. And heaven help us for the ones
that get their hands on a loaded gun.
Not that violence in society would end if everybody
parented with love and courage as their guideposts instead of conformity and
control. Our social ills are a lot more complicated than that.
But I bet a
whole stack of deposit slips that tensions would ease up a lot if from the very
beginning we’re treated with dignity and
respect. I bet there’d be a lot more emphasis on
treating others that way instead of on blowing their brains out – in a video
game, in a high school hallway or across the ocean in someone else's country.
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