When I was a kid, my mom's radio was almost permanently tuned to 97.3 KBSG, Seattle’s (former) oldies station. I was raised listening to the music of the 50's and 60's. Simon & Garfunkle, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, The Righteous Brothers, The Monkeys, The Turtles, The Temptations.
There are a few songs I heard frequently enough that I can still remember every lyric despite not listening in years. One of those tunes is from Crosby, Stills & Nash: Teach Your Children.
I strive to do just that - to teach my children well. How to throw and catch a football (of which my daughter picked up quicker than either of her brothers); how to cook and use kitchen appliances; basic musical components of rhythm and melody; homework assistance in math and English; the quirky historical events you won't find in a text book; showing esteem to their elders; how to be a good friend to others; how to care for and enjoy nature; various theories about time travel and quantum physics; the joys of literature. My goal is to make sure my kids grow up to become well rounded and intelligent adults. I want them to be happy and healthy humans regardless of where their goals and dreams take them in this world.
While I get to teach my kids about the good in life, of hobbies and academics, of the wonders of the natural world and the possibilities of science, of God and hope and family, I also have to teach them about things that are not so happy. Because sexism and racism and homophobia are all still very real parts of our society. Because our communities are divided, bitter, and jaded. Because our nation is still struggling to find a balance in justice and human welfare and individual rights. Because our planet is constantly embroiled in warfare. Because their peers will struggle with addiction and depression. Because America is filled with greed and exploitation while the world beyond our borders face disease and poverty so incredibly difficult for us to comprehend. Because no matter where they go, there will always be bad people with evil intents.
We all know something needs to change. Many want to return to days of innocence and a better America of the 50s. And I could easily long to go back to the 80s and 90s thinking of how much easier life was back then. But I know that our longing for the past is tainted by a view through rose-colored glasses. We deceive ourselves with selective memories and revisionist history. We ignore the flagrant racism of the 50s, the sexual revolution of the 60s, the drug experimentation of the 70s, the proliferation of Wall Street greed in the 80s, the apathy and despondency of the 90s.
We can't go backwards. All we can do is change the future. The best way we can do that is through our kids. Give them the tools to heal the world. Give them opportunities to fix what we broke.
A couple of years ago, when #yesallwomen was a trending topic on Twitter, my first thought was that I didn’t want my daughter to grow up in a society where sexual assault and rape were so prevalent. Then I realized if I wanted that to happen, I needed to teach my sons to be better men. I need to raise my sons in a way that they do not perpetuate the culture of violence against women. I need to show my boys what it means to do the right thing. I need to make sure that my sons know sexual harassment and assault is a line that should never be crossed and that they will be brave enough to stand up to those who do cross that line.
My resolve was doubled during the gamergate controversy as internet trolls engaged in horrific stalking and harassment against women in the video game industry. My daughter loves playing video games and reading comic books. She is as big of a nerd as her brothers - possibly bigger. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misogyny in geek culture and gamergate demonstrated those biases in the ugliest ways possible. I want my daughter to find a safe and welcoming community among geeks. I want her to feel encouraged and supported studying STEM topics. I want her to be free to enjoy what she enjoys without worrying about asshole guys giving her a hard time for being a girl. But in order for that to happen, I need to teach my sons that girls can be geeks too. I need to show them how women make our community better. I need to encourage my boys to defend the rights of girls to play along in their world of superheroes, scientific experiments, and video game quests.
Perhaps this is what disturbs me the most about the news we have seen from Stanford. The Stanford campus averages one rape every two weeks. That was before Brock Turner was caught in the act and restrained by a couple good Samaritans. Perhaps this wouldn’t be news if it wasn’t for the inequality of our legal system, a system where the feelings and future of the perpetrator was elevated above those of the victim. We have seen a judge confirm the worst of what we believe about white privilege, the power of wealth, and preferential treatment given to those with athletic prowess.
As the days have progressed, I have watched an explosion of outrage, disgust, and cries for justice. Some of it aimed at Judge Persky as he cast blame upon a woman who was powerless to resist her attacker, sympathized with the rapist, and handed down a sentence that equates to little more than a slap on the wrist. Much of the ire is against the rapist’s dad, who penned a letter begging for leniency in his son’s sentence.
Regardless of how you feel about the events at Stanford, one thing should be clear. Dan Turner did not heed the advice of Crosby, Stills & Nash. He did not teach his child well. It is because of irresponsible parents like Dan Turner that I have to teach my daughter to protect herself from assholes like Brock Turner. I will have to teach my daughter to avoid boys who see women as conquests. I will teach her that she is loved and valued always. However, my daughter is not the only one who will be learning a lesson.
My sons will learn that they are always in control of their libido.
My sons will learn what consent means.
My sons will learn to own up to their mistakes. Because everyone makes mistakes.
My sons will learn that I will always love them and sometimes love allows the consequence of stupid actions.
My sons will learn that their privileges are not to be exploited but should be use to benefit those in need.
My sons will learn to treat women with gentleness and respect.
I will teach my children well. Even if people like Dan Turner do not.