Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Differences that Are Sure to Come

He couldn’t stand Cesar Chavez. Every time he was in the newspaper or on TV news, rallying Mexican immigrant farm workers to unite, my dad would curse under his breath. He called Chavez a troublemaker.

I didn’t get it at first, especially in the late 1970’s. I had just turned 12 when my mother married my second step-dad, the man I would always celebrate as my dad from that point on. But I didn’t quite get why my dad felt the way he felt, at least early on. I didn’t know a lot about the world at that age, and why adults did the things they did, why the felt the things they felt. With the unfortunate exception of experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse prior to that.

My dad had been a police officer and detective for 32 years when he retired in 1994. He was a tough, bourbon drinking, cigarette smoking (which he quit in 1984), very personable and pleasant matter-of-fact pragmatic cop who always lived in the conservative right, but was tethered to centrist sensibilities, like a padlocked box of assault rifles bound tightly atop a slow-moving station wagon.

We grew up in the Central Valley of California, the one that still “feeds the world.” The one that mostly embraces conservative Christian ideals. The one that battles over building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The one battles over whether or not we’re in a drought. The one that wants to own guns of any size and caliber because the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution says we can. The one that still needs immigrant Mexican farm workers to work the fields because no one else will do that back-breaking work.

Throughout high school and college as I began to understand my world better, I would challenge my dad and my mom, who also shared much of his world view and prejudices. My parents wanted order in the world, so any person who disrupted order, the status quo, no matter the reasons why, were nut jobs, troublemakers and criminals. It especially didn’t help if they were non-whites and not Christian, but even then, my parents were equal-opportunity and orderly conservative Christians (which they became more of over time together). Any social upheaval was one upheaval too many, no matter who the rabble rouser was. My dad simply didn’t like bad guys or girls, those who broke the law. He was a cop for goodness sake.

But I always took them to task and took the alternative perspective on various issues, my more liberal education channeling a different social perspective on the world than they were familiar with. I was also more liberal than my sister, who eventually became a cop herself, something my dad fought, then supported fully. He knew how tough it was going to be on her as a woman. And it was. Plus, he had three daughters from a previous marriage, our step-sisters, and I’ve always believed that this is what birthed his moderate heart.

What my family didn’t realize throughout my formative years, at least consciously, was that they helped me find my voice. My value. My world view. My ability to listen, to comprehend, to analyze and to make somewhat informed decisions, both good and bad. They helped shaped the inquisitive mind I have today. We were like TV’s The Goldbergs, except we were a Christian cop family growing up the Central Valley of California.

My parents took the time to listen to us, were patient with us, although my dad wasn’t shy about calling foul when I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. I was able to do the same with him. Any social more, politics, economics, race, gender, sexual orientation, AIDS, the environment, terrorism, crime, gun control – you name it – we could talk about almost anything and agree or agree to disagree. It didn’t mean we were always civil, or without some name calling, but we worked through it nonetheless. And yes, there were some big bumps in our relationship road that took time to fix, but fix them we did.

My parents were loving people and good Christians in the end who did care about those victimized and those less fortunate than most. But they had their prejudices, that’s for sure. (Don’t we all?) I don’t recall my dad ever coming to terms with Chavez’s important and highly disruptive social and economic impact. Until the end of his life, he still didn’t like liberal “troublemakers” no matter what. That would never change. I would never agree with this take either, and that was okay with him.

My parents cared enough to let us think for ourselves. To encourage us think for ourselves even when that was at odds with their beliefs. To encourage discourse and accept the differences. This is why with a heavy heart I’m so disappointed with too many of my peers I grew up with who are parents today, some of whom are old friends or professional acquaintances I’ve met over the years.

Those who are blatantly spewing hatred on all sides of the political and social divide. Those who without pause go for the jugular and cut it wide open. Those who get nasty personal without regard for the other person’s values or viewpoint, who even go as far as threatening and doing bodily harm to one another. Those who don’t do any of this anonymously either, who just fill up their Facebook feeds and Twitter streams with uninformed idiocy and hatred and who just don’t want to hear an alternative perspective no matter what. No room for productive discourse or compromise.

We’re either all libtards or facists. And all the while their children and ours absorb it all. That's what perpetuates a country and a world divided. That's why solutions escape us.

Sure I can use my Kidpower throw-away and walk-away powers, and I do. And thanks to the Mama, who is amazing, we’re instilling the same in our girls, who have yet to experience the hateful rhetoric poisoning the wells of collective wisdom around the world.

We will still work hard to help our children find their voices, their values and their world views, while accepting the differences that are sure to come. We can only hope that other parents will continue to do the same.

Miss you Mom and Pop. Everyday should be Mother's and Father's Day for those who make a positive difference in this spiteful and complicated world, regardless of the difference or divide.


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