Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Accidental Controversy

(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)

I really don't know where to start in addressing some of the recent criticism that has recently sprung up concerning us bringing our kids to the Atlanta Tea Party. My husband, friend Kelly (mother of one of the kids who came along), Flibbert, and numerous others have already stated my case for me in the two discussions that have been ongoing. (Thanks, by the way!)

I really don't have anything to add to what they've said, so I will, instead, reiterate what they said and focus on one of the criticisms that bugged me the most: the notion that children have no business ever attending such rallies.

Brendan and I and our friends wanted to attend the rally last week because it was a way for us to act, to show our government that we are unhappy with the stimulus package. We wanted to encourage our governor to decline the stimulus money and to meet like-minded people. It never occurred to us for an instant not to bring the kids, because we bring them everywhere.

We live with our children in the world. That means we don't wrap them up in cotton wool (is that the phrase?), keeping them away from experiences just because they might not understand all of the implications. 'Cause, guess what? They don't understand most things the same way we do--they have young, immature brains and are not fully rational yet!

No, they don't understand the stimulus or exactly why we went to the protest. I don't think it matters though, because they learned lots of things by going with us. They learned:

  • That Mom and Dad and their friends thought that telling the Governor we didn't like the stimulus was important enough to stand in the rain for.
  • That when you don't like something that the government does, then you can go tell them that you don't like it.
  • That LOTS of people agreed with Mom and Dad, and that some people talked into big microphones about it.
  • That riding the train into Atlanta can be fun, but also kinda weird because strange people talk to you.
  • That pigeons fly inside the train terminal.
  • That we brought tea bags to this protest as a way to remember the real Boston Tea Party. (Ryan got this right away and in fact, it was his idea to wear his minuteman peopleguy hat.)
  • That kids can do important grownup things like hold signs at protest rallies.
  • That LOTS of people can gather together to disagree with something the government is doing and do it peaceably.
  • That policeman peopleguys wear plastic on their hats in the rain.
  • That Mom and Dad don't think it's fair for the government to take their money and give it to people we don't know.

Good lessons, don't you think?

We bring the kids all kinds of places where they don't understand the happenings fully: the bank, the food allergy walk, the doctor's office, the DMV. We took them with us to the lawyers when we created the cabin company and when we signed the papers when we bought the cabin. They have attended meetings with our financial planner peopleguy. They even participated in the wedding of our friends and I know for a fact that Ryan is still very unclear about what a wedding is for: he still wants to "marry" all of his army soldiers when he grows up! (Not that there's anything wrong with that . . . !)

No, they don't understand everything they hear--or even necessarily pay attention! But they learn something new everywhere we go--even if the level of their knowledge isn't at the same level as mine.

If I shouldn't bring the kids places until they can fully understand the all of the reasons for going, then I should probably just keep them home until they're 18 years old. In fact, why do I bring the baby anywhere? Because he for sure doesn't have a clue what's going on!

I do not want to keep my kids away from the world until they are grown. I want them to see things--and they want to see things, too--and learn from different experiences. Each of the older kids got a little something different out of going to the protest on Friday, but they each learned something. Incomplete knowledge is okay, as long as the knowledge they do get is grounded in reality. I have much incomplete knowledge--biology, for example--and that's okay, too,

And we didn't discuss this aspect of it too much, not to worry them (Ryan), but--they have a right and an interest in the stimulus rallies because their futures are being shackled by today's idiot politicians. Brendan and I want to stop that and one way in which we can do that is by attending such rallies. (We are fighting the fight in other ways, too.)

There are so many other aspects of the criticisms I could have addressed in this post, but as I mentioned before, I think Brendan, Kelly, and Flibbert and many others have done a great job of addressing those other issues, so go read what they have to say. I'm in agreement with all of it.

Oh, and Ryan asked me about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged and this is what I told him: "There are some things going on in our country right now that I'm unhappy about, and a woman named Ayn Rand once wrote a story about something similar. I think that if more people read that book then it would help them think of good ideas to fix what's happening in our country."

I also explained our other signs--that we wanted our Governor, Sonny Perdue, to say NO to the money; that we wanted our government to take away those stimulus laws and let people be freer. I have to wonder if we'd have gotten so much flak from people if the kids had been carrying one of the other signs. Except for the one Morgan was holding, the kids chose their own signs to hold. Since we had plenty to share, we let them pick--it didn't matter who held which sign--it mattered that we were getting our ideas out there. Nobody would think that the children produced those signs or even agreed with the sentiments; they were there to help us do what WE thought was right.

There is an enormous difference between letting kids hold up an Ayn Rand sign and filling their heads with Objectivist words and making them repeat them like trained animals. The first action is letting kids help Mom & Dad with real live, important grownup work. Which they love to do because they are practicing being grownups. The second action is indoctrinating children and putting them on display. One action shows respect for children and their work (learning to be adults); one action treats them like trained seals.

I've been working on this post for a while now, so I'll stop here. I certainly didn't anticipate all of the controversy and find that I really am very tired of the whole thing. My purpose in posting this was to provide a little more context for those who may be interested; to thank those who have supported our actions in the past few days; and to let people know that I did stop and reexamine my premises very carefully. And to make it clear that we'll ALL be in attendance at the next rally.

Kids should be allowed in the world because they live in the world.

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