Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A letter of love and acceptance
November 15, 2010 7:50 AM   Subscribe

A Mountain I'm Willing To Die On A letter of a mother to her child about religion, love, and acceptance of who you are.
posted by antgly (72 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting post, horrible fixed width template.
posted by Solomon at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


love, love, love this. Thanks, antgly. Great find.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2010


Terrific:

"I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for eight years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage. I say barely any because that Nate Berkus is a little shady. I am defenseless against his cuteness and eye for accessories and so he is always convincing me to buy beautiful trinkets with our grocery money. This drives your sweet father a bit nuts. So you might want to keep your eye on Berkus. But with the exception of him, I’m fairly certain that the only threats to my marriage are my pride and anger and plain old human wanderlust."
posted by purpleclover at 8:02 AM on November 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was all set to be annoyed by glurge but it's actually amusing, especially the first PS.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone whose parents spent years and untold amounts of energy trying to force Christianity down my throat, who likely still pray every night for my condemned soul, I am so happy for the love this child is growing up with.

And the love my child has.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also: DAMN STRAIGHT!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The truth is that every Christian is a Christian who picks and chooses what to follow in the Bible. "

QFT.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:08 AM on November 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


I could just highlight and quote again and again throughout the whole body of her post, but I'll stop here:

"I don’t know much. But I know that each time I see something heartbreaking on the news, each time I encounter a problem outside, the answer to the problem is inside. The problem is AWAYS me and the solution is ALWAYS me. If I want my world to be less vicious, then I must become more gentle."

That's it. And now I want her to teach me.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:09 AM on November 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


The sentiment is great, but—and I realize that some people do talk this way to their children—all the "honey, baby" business made me feel, as a reader and rather uncomfortably, like I was being hit on by some kind of skeevy itinerant minister at a gay bar somewhere.
posted by wreckingball at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2010


Letter is sweet and nice and all, but we aren't the parents masturbating a bit? They are gushing with love, but they are erotically getting off watching and listening to their own gushing. Feel bad for the kid if he ain't gay and can't give em the right opportunity to show off how awesomely liberal they must be.
posted by zwaro at 8:19 AM on November 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


what
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:33 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


zwaro: "Feel bad for the kid if he ain't gay and can't give em the right opportunity to show off how awesomely liberal they must be."

Oh, I think I see what that comment means - you're saying the article's main intent was to promote the author's tolerance and open-mindedness, correct?

What's the number one driver of parents, the one that's genetically programmed into the human species? To protect our loved ones. What is one purpose in telling a child they will be accepted and celebrated for who they are? To let them know they are safe and protected.

So even if you don't have the charity to attribute good will to this, you could at least apply Occam's Razor and think for a minute that the most likely motive is the one that applies.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


"I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for eight years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage..."

Barney Frank on 'Real Time With Bill Maher' (March 11, 2005):
"I try very hard to be a responsible citizen and as a gay man I try very hard to keep track of the marriages I have destroyed, and there really aren't that many. I may have some secret admirers out there and I may have wreaked more havoc than I realize, but they haven't called."
posted by ericb at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2010 [30 favorites]


She has a few writerly twitches with the "honey" and "baby" but damn. That was awesome.

Re: glurge, well not really. Actual glurge portrays children only as stock figures; Cute Truth Tellers, Dying Angels, etc. This is just a letter to her actual son, telling him what he needs to hear (whether he's gay or straight).

Also, this is just the kind of thing I could put on my FB page that my family might actually read, and for a moment, feel a temptation to let go of their prejudices against gay people. That's a good thing.
posted by emjaybee at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2010


A letter to my children:

Gay, okay. Straight, fine. Overweight, smoker, Eagles fan, hipster, mutant, imbecile, yuppie, country-line-dancer, Beanie-Baby-collector, crackhead; it doesn't matter. I love you.

But republican--so help me...
posted by etc. at 9:05 AM on November 15, 2010 [27 favorites]


@Hardcore Poser
As I said, the letter is sweet and the parents are gushing with love. Occam's Razor and psychology is a mixed bag, however. Do you disagree that it appears that the parents are fishing for their own unconditional gooey sweet acceptance by everyone on the internet? Look at the comments on Momastry's (what is that, the Church of Mom?) blog, EVERY COMMENT is gushing over how awesomely perfect they are as parents. Just imagine the egos in that house... Aren't they really asking for gushing love in return for their super awesome open gesture and stance, it seems. Give it to them but do they really need it, perhaps a stone cold rapist deserves your gushing intimacy perhaps a bit more.
posted by zwaro at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2010


What's wrong with receiving positive feedback for being positive?

Isn't that basically the motor that drives human decency in the first place?
posted by silentpundit at 9:08 AM on November 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't think my son would have come out to me at such an early age if he thought I would react by asking a million questions, buying a rainbow t-shirt, and doing a bunch celebrating that he was "one step closer to matching his outsides to his insides." My response (as we chatted over IM from adjacent rooms) was more along the lines of, "I'm really glad that you trusted me enough to share that. Now, have you finished your homework for tonight?"

I mean, I do think it's touching in a way, and perhaps appropriate as an oblique statement to adults who judge. But I think the real battle will be won when most people react to someone's sexual identification as being No Big Deal.

I wonder how she will react when he comes out as an atheist?
posted by SomeTrickPony at 9:11 AM on November 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


When I was four months pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were walking to the grocery store, and we passed a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers on their way to a football game, all muscley youths and wittering girls. "Oh dear," I said to the mister, "What are we going to do if the kid is a jock?"

"Go to every game and cheer at the top of our lungs," said my husband. "Just like we would if he or she were on the math team."

Sure, it might be a bit glurgey, but it really is hard sometimes to remember that just because you made them from stuff you had lying around the house, your kids don't exist to fulfill your dreams. They have their own dreams. Posts like this one are a good reminder to walk the talk.
posted by KathrynT at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


I wonder how she will react when he comes out as an atheist?

This.
posted by briank at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2010


What is one purpose in telling a child they will be accepted and celebrated for who they are? To let them know they are safe and protected.

Of course. But why does it have to be a big internet thing?
The sentiment is great but I think I'm getting a bit cynical with respect to the recent blogs by parents stating how accepting they are of their hypothetically gay children.
I know you won't get scores of applause and comments and trackbacks, but it would probably mean more to your children if you just said it to them.
posted by chococat at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


zwaro: "@Hardcore Poser
Look at the comments on Momastry's (what is that, the Church of Mom?)
"

Since you couldn't be arsed to shift your gave a few dozen pixels to the left wen you first loaded up the page, she explains the reason thusly:
"I chose “Momastery” because a monastery is a sacred place, apart from the world, where a seeker retreats to figure out what matters and catch glimpses of God. That’s exactly what motherhood is like to me. It's also exactly like being slowly pecked to death by merciless chickens. After sunrise each day I’m a mother to three and a wife to one. But in the early morning hours...while savoring my silent house and mug of hot coffee, I’m a writer."
As to your odd vitriol about the blog poster herself, well, all I can say is... bless your heart.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


The best part of the internet is only people who hate things and criticize other people and nothing else is "genuine" or "real" but only "posturing" and "masturbating" and "saying nice things" and "being positive."

Sure, be "nice" and hope that people "enjoy" what you have to "write".

Meanwhile I'll be looking for a flower to pee on because I'm sick of how they all look nice and have nice colors. They're always pandering to bees, ooh, I have pollen, ooh, people plant me so that their neighborhood will look nicer. Get over yourself, flowers.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2010 [39 favorites]


@ShawnStruck

Are you saying people always mean what they say? As I said, the blogger's post is sweet and she is gushing with love in it. What I am also saying is that there is a lot of self-aggrandizement on the part of the parents happening as they exclaim to the world on how accepting they are as parents. Like the blog post itself, "Momastry" drips with this.
posted by zwaro at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2010


zwaro: "Aren't they really asking for gushing love in return for their super awesome open gesture and stance"

What you might be missing is part of the targeting here: She mentions sinning, morality and at least a handful bible references. This letter reads to me like it's targeted to evangelicals in an evangelical tone. Based on my own experience with members of some of these communities, expecting "gushing love" is not a reasonable expectation.

Somebody noted that this sounds a little glurgy, and I can see why. Although it's written specifically for her son, it's for her son in potentia, and she addresses this in her P.S. So yes, she is writing for a larger community, a sort of Socratic Epistle, but at the same time she is helping herself to define her own thoughts and her own stance on a particular issue.


zwaro: "what is that, the Church of Mom?"
Oh, I thought that was relatively clever on two levels. Monasteries (for Catholics, anyway) are exclusively male, so punning that into "momastery" disassembles the gender identity of the word in the strongest possible way -- the word becomes not just female but also in an essentially female way. And two, monasteries of all stripes were used for prayer, meditation and reflective thought. Writing these essays to the self (or to the community) is a good example of reflective thought.
posted by boo_radley at 9:27 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Somebody here is definitely dripping with something.
posted by kmz at 9:27 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


@ the young rope-rider

The best part of the internet is people who can't understand that layers of meanings exist. Can't Momastry be very sweet and loving and also deeply egotistical? That makes her more human and interesting, doesn't it? Doesn't seeing the world in white or black terms cause a lot of our social problems, because we then see it through a tight prism of our ideals without giving people room to contradict themselves, change, layer meanings, etc.?
posted by zwaro at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn...

Seriously. This was hanging on the wall in my orthodontist's office when I was undergoing regular braces-tightening. I saw and read it so often for a few years, I'm surprised more people don't actually know this piece. A copy should be issued with every newborn.
posted by hippybear at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Of course. But why does it have to be a big internet thing?

Because bigotry, homophobia, and casual expectations of anti-gay violence are already an even bigger internet thing?

Remember, it wasn't too long ago that a bunch of kids killed themselves because their lives were ruined by bigotry, and a huge number of gay adults have spoken out about their miserable childhoods. These posts aren't happening in a vacuum; they're a response. They're saying "Not on my watch. Not if I can stop it."
posted by KathrynT at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2010 [15 favorites]


Zwaro, the woman who wrote this piece is bucking serious social pressure in doing so, and if you read her comments she's scared. She's using a language people of her faith can immediately relate to, and she's doing so publicly in affirmation of some very unpopular views in her community. I think she's brave as hell.

From her comments section:

Thanks, Mary. I'm not that brave. In fact, I was just sitting by the computer biting my nails and Craig said, "Are you okay?" And I said, "I don't know. I feel like some kind of Church Gazpacho is going to come arrest me." And Craig said..."Do you mean gestapo? I think gazpacho is - like some sort of dip."

I mean, that's just hilarious, and honest, and sweet -- and most important, something that her readers can easily get. Like a recent post about Bishop Jim Swilley, it gives me hope that there's a language building that will help the gay children and family and community of conservative Christians to find greater love and acceptance. I'm putting it on our Facebook page too, because it's a lot more likely to win over the hearts of my more conservative family than any pure appeal to legal fairness ever could. I think that's a beautiful thing.

Thanks for posting this wonderful piece, antgly!
posted by melissa may at 9:33 AM on November 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


Can't Momastry be very sweet and loving and also deeply egotistical?

Just as most of us are if we stop to think about it. As you say, it makes all of us more interesting and human.
posted by blucevalo at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2010


zwaro: "Do you disagree that it appears that the parents are fishing for their own unconditional gooey sweet acceptance by everyone on the internet?"

I sure do; to agree with your statement would be to assume intent with little evidence. There's more than one reason to post something like this on the web - helping others find the words to do the same thing immediately pops out.

Look, it's clear why someone would think it's fishing for acceptance - liarge chunks of web content are based on this desire. Everyone has an ego; not all bloggers let it run unchecked. Amongst the self-absorption and introspection there are plenty of gems of inspiration, encouragement and desire for engagement with the larger world. And it's clear to me that this piece shines as an example of someone trying to share a message of acceptance to their son, so that a community of like-minded people can do likewise.

TL;DR - I don't hear the ego knob turned to 11, you seem to hear it that way. Perhaps we both need an EQ adjustment, but I'm happier with the assumption of good intent above self-promotion.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:36 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is absolutely wonderful. The world needs more of these sentiments out in the open. Thank you, antgly.
posted by gaspode at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


zwaro: "The best part of the internet is people who can't understand that layers of meanings exist. Can't Momastry be very sweet and loving and also deeply egotistical? That makes her more human and interesting, doesn't it? Doesn't seeing the world in white or black terms cause a lot of our social problems, because we then see it through a tight prism of our ideals without giving people room to contradict themselves, change, layer meanings, etc.?"

I'm sorry, this argument is a complete non-sequitur; don't see that people are saying explicitly saying she's not "deeply egotistical". I do see people saying that it was either emotionally resonant or praising the writing and various turns-of-phrases she's used. Whether or not she's egotistical or praise-demanding is irrelevant to me and to most mefites, I expect. The output is the thing here.

In short, I can sort of sympathize with the position that you're struggling towards, and to a smaller degree, that you're willing to take a position contrary to the community at large. However you're going to have to refine your conclusion a bit more and support it with a bit more than negative evidence (ex. the line of questioning you put to young rope rider)
posted by boo_radley at 9:41 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does bullying have to have a motivation (gay, overweight, etc?). Sometimes kids bully others for no friggen reason. I was bullied heavily for 4 years (4th grade to 8th grade). Why? The three boys were just fucking assholes. It wasn't "oh they learned to be assholes". Nope, they just were mean fucking assholes who till this day I hate with every inch of my soul. Why do we have to get all analytical and psychological with a reason? Because kids like them had no reason and I had no representation or explaination. I wasn't gay. I wasn't fat. I wasn't super tall. I didn't have glasses. I didn't have acne. I didn't do anything overly geeky. I was a very shy little girl who was easily scared and manipulated. And in the end when I showed suicidal tendencies because my home life was abusive and going to school was abusive, then I was made fun for that. Our 15th anniversary reunion was met with the exact same things they made fun of me for. I mean here I was 25 years old and they were still outwardly saying "do you know what time it is yet?" (I was delayed in telling time on a clock).

So a letter from my parents wouldn't have done squat. Pulling me out of that school would have. Sometimes parents need to take that extra step beyond a letter of "well I love you so that's good enough." Because you know, it's not.
posted by stormpooper at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


she is writing for a larger community, a sort of Socratic Epistle, but at the same time she is helping herself to define her own thoughts and her own stance on a particular issue.

This.

Many of you are as unfamiliar with the conservative or Evangelical Christian community as they are with communities of homosexuals. If you were, you'd realize that this blog post is directed more at her community than it is directed at her son. She's not writing this to stoke her ego, she's risking quite a bit actually in terms of being shunned, confronted, gossiped about, condemned, and perhaps even denied entry into certain community events not only for herself, but for her whole family. I don't know if she lives in a small town, but if she does? This is even more brave. And even more incredible that she writes this and admits she doesn't know anyone who is (out and) gay. Once in awhile someone in these conservative circles will speak up on this topic but their perspective will be dismissed as,"Poor thing is in denial because of her sinner, gay aunt/sister/brother/son/cousin."

She's writing this for other Christians who might feel this way but think that they are the only one. She's writing this for the kid who is being raised in a conservative Christian family and feels horrifically guilty about their realization that they are gay so that they know that religion should not be used to bludgeon them. She's writing this as a gentle rebuke directed towards those hypocrites within conservative Christian communities. She's writing this because all over the country, national church councils are voting on resolutions that clarify their beliefs on this issue and the members sitting in that room voting on the resolutions need the courage and language to stand up during the discussion portion of these resolution hearings and speak out around the historical precedent around these issues.

If it doesn't speak to you? She's probably not writing it for you. Peace.
posted by jeanmari at 9:57 AM on November 15, 2010 [39 favorites]


There's a distance that comes with keeping secrets, and having that distance grow between my family and I while I was trying to cope with what it meant to have the feelings I had, when I was at that strange and confused time in my adolescence, was devastating.

I wish I'd known, for sure, that it was going to be okay to come out. It was, when I did. Mom freaked a bit, and then spent the next couple of years sending me news clippings about how not to get AIDS (she's since moved on to news clippings about Android phones and NaNoWriMo). But she did pretty well, overall. I suspected it would work out all right. But I didn't know for certain back then, when I really needed to.

When your whole life is riding on the support you get from someone, it's hard to tell them something that has even the slightest chance of alienating them completely.

If you have kids, and you'd be okay with them coming out, tell them. Definitively, clearly, in a way that can't be misinterpreted.

And if you wouldn't be okay with your kid coming out, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by MrVisible at 10:01 AM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can't Momastry be very sweet and loving and also deeply egotistical?

The act of sharing something you think via something you have written is inherently egotistical, in the sense that believing that other human beings would go out of their way to read your words requires you to buck up your confidence enough to value those words such that they are worth other people's time. This is sort of the fundamentally perplexing thing about the Internet. Everyone has the ability to value his or her own words enough to decide they should be instantly available to a LOT of people. And whether that's presumptuous or sort of lovely -- or some combination of both -- is really in the eye of the beholder. That's how a lot of people see Twitter: "How dare you think anyone cares what you're doing right now in your petty life?" Well ... if I chose to follow you, I care what you're doing right now, and I'm willing to spend three seconds reading a sentence about it. Is it egotistical of you to make it available to me if I choose to read it?

For you to comment on her post multiple times indicates the same thing: I have something to say. You might want to read it. I think it's valuable. I think it adds something. It might make you think, or laugh, or expand your understanding. That's what she's doing, too.

As for why she doesn't just say it to her own child, I think the idea of this letter is not to seek praise for how open and loving she is, but it is to speak to a wider audience. I think it's to share her feelings with other parents, and to advocate to them somewhat: "Here is what an accepting attitude toward your child might look like. Here are my reasons. They might also be your reasons. If you are inclined to feel, as a Christian, untroubled by the possibility that your kid will be gay, I share your feelings, and this is how I explain them. Here's what you might tell a child. Think about how much open-minded love you could give your kid just by deciding to give it. Here's what I think, as a parent, might make a child feel safe and loved."

At the same time, I think she believes her message is something that might reach kids who don't have parents like this, who have parents who don't accept them, and it might offer them a defense of their own worth.

I don't think you can hold all the comments praising her against her. Sometimes, writers touch a nerve in people with something very personal and simple. They sort of find the frequency where a lot of people resonate -- sometimes accidentally -- and it means something to those people. It doesn't mean that's all the writer set out to do.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:04 AM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Linda_Holmes: "I don't think you can hold all the comments praising her against her. Sometimes, writers touch a nerve in people with something very personal and simple. They sort of find the frequency where a lot of people resonate -- sometimes accidentally -- and it means something to those people. It doesn't mean that's all the writer set out to do."

Hear, hear. In a different field, just look at how horrified Sting was to hear people tell him they got married to 'Every Breath You Take'. Fans' reactions do not equal a work's intent.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2010


I don't know. I feel like some kind of Church Gazpacho is going to come arrest me.

no one expects the spammish mince rendition
posted by pyramid termite at 10:22 AM on November 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


We can do hard things.

From her comment section. So beautiful in its simplicity.
posted by Sreiny at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2010


It seems like some of you are so horrified by the idea of others looking like they are trying to curry favor or attention or sympathy from others that you'd rather everyone kept their mouths shut and risk appearing tolerant of the status quo rather than actually use whatever tiny, insignificant platform they may have to voice their thoughts.

The fear of becoming unlikeable or unsympathetic or voicing the wrong opinion at the wrong time is what keeps people rolling right along, doing exactly what they're doing without questioning anything too much, resenting others when they do speak up. Are you so insecure about the amount of attention you receive that you would measure the veracity of a person's statements based on the response you imagine they are anticipating?

What an ugly and repressive little way to live.
posted by hermitosis at 10:41 AM on November 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


Accusations of ego preening aside, we need straight people who are members of religious communities saying this sort of thing. So what if she's jumping on the bandwagon? It's a bandwagon we need people to get on and be vocal about it.

In related news, 14-year-old Graeme Taylor comes out of the closet and lectures the Howell, MI school board in support of Jay McDowell, a teacher suspended for two days for asking students wearing a confederate flag and making anti-gay remarks to leave his classroom.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:58 AM on November 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


My god, KirkJobSluder. That kid is amazing, and incredibly strong. That was a hell of a speech, and I couldn't have hoped to do anything half as gutsy or eloquent at that age.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is so reassuring to see people with the same religious history as myself behaving rationally and thinking/interpreting for themselves. It sickens me that religious organizations often encourage blind devotion. I left the church over inconsistencies like this but it is encouraging to see how others have adapted and refused to give into the peer pressure to be sheeple.
posted by halseyaa at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2010


And there would be a teeny part of my heart that would leap at the realization that I would forever be the most important woman in your life

o_O, D:>, nooooo, why, etc.

I mean, the rest of it was lovely, and I'm sure that's a joke - but what a joke...
posted by jinjo at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


the young rope-rider: "Meanwhile I'll be looking for a flower to pee on because I'm sick of how they all look nice and have nice colors. They're always pandering to bees, ooh, I have pollen, ooh, people plant me so that their neighborhood will look nicer. Get over yourself, flowers."
Matthew Ch. 6
28 Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Verily I say unto you, somebody really needs to take them down a notch.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2010 [27 favorites]


Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grown-up.” So they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act.

While I appreciate the general thrust of this letter, I don't think she is at all correct in her assessment here. Perhaps it has been too long since she was a child, or perhaps her experiences were atypical, but the behavior of kids in elementary or, god forbid, high schools is not simply a mirror of adult behavior. And kids, particularly older kids, can indeed be particularly and uniquely cruel.
posted by Justinian at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grown-up.” So they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act.

While I appreciate the general thrust of this letter, I don't think she is at all correct in her assessment here. Perhaps it has been too long since she was a child, or perhaps her experiences were atypical, but the behavior of kids in elementary or, god forbid, high schools is not simply a mirror of adult behavior. And kids, particularly older kids, can indeed be particularly and uniquely cruel.

This. This.

Could you guys do me a favor and use your words instead? More than the one, I mean.
posted by Justinian at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could you guys do me a favor and use your words instead? More than the one, I mean.

Not this.

Better?
posted by jeanmari at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2010


Not particularly, but we can argue about it some other time, no doubt in Metatalk.
posted by Justinian at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post seems like a kind of "coming out" in itself...

Your parents are Christians who carefully choose what we believe and follow in the Bible. Some will tell you that this approach to Christianity is scandalous and blasphemous. But the thing is, honey, that the only thing that’s scandalous about this approach is admitting it out loud.

She's saying out loud who she really is, what she thinks and feels about a whole bunch of things that - at least in her mind - put her at risk of disapproval and rejection in her own community.

That is always inspiring and refreshing.
posted by philipy at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kids these days, they can be so cruel. But I think this is just a phrase we toss around to excuse ourselves from facing the truth. Because I don’t think kids are any crueler than adults.

She has obviously never been the target of bullying as a kid.
posted by sour cream at 1:05 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The very next sentence: I just think kids aren’t quite as adept yet at disguising their cruelty.

And that's pretty spot on. Kids have entirely human behavior and motives for it, it's just that there's much less complicated layering of rationalizations over top of them.

Of course, it's also amplified because children are enmeshed in systems that either passively ignore, or actively encourage by the absence of real consequences, bullying behavior, thus making it more rewarding for the bullies and a lack of options for the bullied. Put adults in similar dysfunctional nightmare settings (see again Milgram, Standford Prison experiments, etc.) and they rapidly become just as utterly shitty towards one another as kids can be.
posted by Drastic at 1:11 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


... the behavior of kids in elementary or, god forbid, high schools is not simply a mirror of adult behavior.

And, dammit: Get Offa My Lawn Airplane!
posted by ericb at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2010


"Feel bad for the kid if he ain't gay and can't give em the right opportunity to show off how awesomely liberal they must be."


There is a grain of truth to this. My daughter has been very active in the queer community. Both her mom and I are very proud and supportive.

She has one of those hyphenated last names, and has decided to shorten it, using my wife's last name, because it is a lot easier to spell and less cumbersome. To be honest, I have resented this a bit, in that it give me less a "claim" on her and her awesomeness. Hard to say, but yeah.
posted by Danf at 1:37 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I appreciate the general thrust of this letter, I don't think she is at all correct in her assessment here. Perhaps it has been too long since she was a child, or perhaps her experiences were atypical, but the behavior of kids in elementary or, god forbid, high schools is not simply a mirror of adult behavior. And kids, particularly older kids, can indeed be particularly and uniquely cruel.

No, kids are not "uniquely" cruel. Are you suggesting that puberty (of all things) somehow magically transforms them into less-cruel adults?

Or are you suggesting that adults are not equally capable of cruelty?

What actually happens is that when kids become adults, we stop shrugging off their behavior and they face consequences for violence towards other people. So the real question is, why not try to stop it earlier?

One of the points she's trying to make is that designating children as some sort of special class/force of nature, where cruelty is concerned, perpetuates the problem. If adults see kids bullying, shrug and think it's "normal" and they'll grow out of it, then kids will keep bullying, not because they're monsters, but because no-one stopped them.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If adults see kids bullying, shrug and think it's "normal" and they'll grow out of it, then kids will keep bullying, not because they're monsters, but because no-one stopped them.

QFMFT
posted by hippybear at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2010


It's too bad that many of her commenters aren't getting the (excellent) point about all Christians picking and choosing what they want to believe out of the Bible. Right next to the stuff about gay sex being an abomination, there's all that stuff about not wearing clothes made of more than one fiber and not planting more than one crop in a field, but nobody pays any attention to that. And it's certainly not the HUGE, GRIEVOUS sin that gay sex is supposed to be.

And I had kind of a strange question about the essay; she says she has three kids, so why is the letter only addressed to one of them?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2010


No, kids are not "uniquely" cruel. Are you suggesting that puberty (of all things) somehow magically transforms them into less-cruel adults?

Yes, actually. This is part of how empathy develops in the brain.
posted by vorfeed at 3:04 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please remind me never to choose the most uncharitable readings of somebody's motivations, based on nothing other than supposition. Especially when they're trying to do a good thing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, empathy can be taught to younger children. The interesting and successful Roots Of Empathy program is one example of how this can be done.
posted by hippybear at 3:58 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"If I want my world to be less vicious, then I must become more gentle."

You can be gentle, and be strong.

There is no simple cure for bullying. The only way to survive bullying is to try to find inner strength. Parents and authorities can help, but they cannot make the essential process of human behavior go away.
posted by ovvl at 5:23 PM on November 15, 2010


oh, (the=an)
posted by ovvl at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2010


I wonder how she will react when he comes out as an atheist?

You read through that entire letter which speaks of the importance of acceptance of the whole of human race for good or ill, and you honestly believe someone who believes all that would shun her child over anything?

...Wow. What little faith you have in people.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kids these days, they can be so cruel. But I think this is just a phrase we toss around to excuse ourselves from facing the truth. Because I don’t think kids are any crueler than adults.

She has obviously never been the target of bullying as a kid.
posted by sour cream at 1:05 PM on November 15 [+] [!]


I wonder if you've ever been the target of bullying as an adult.
posted by amelioration at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


*puts on psych hat.*

Yes, there's a fair bit of research out there that children are not little adults cognitively. That doesn't mean we can't teach moral behavior to children, only that some forms of abstraction are difficult to understand and internalize until late adolescence. And of course your mileage may vary.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2010


Surely there must be something someone could write that wouldn evoke a bitter or cynical response... Actually, never mind, I am sure i am wrong.
posted by jcworth at 8:36 PM on November 15, 2010


I work with very small children. Very, very small children. And no, empathy is not innate in kids. Kids don't have the capacity for true empathy until about age 6 and even then, it's a learning process.

Just like kids don't know how to use forks, put on their own pants, or not pick their noses in public on their own - they need to be taught empathy. And the best way to teach a kid anything isn't to sit down and say "We need to think about how other people feel" (which, I'm telling you, no kid is going to do on his/her own because they've barely discovered their own autonomy and now you're telling them that other people have feelings? CRAZY TALK.) it's to model it. Any behavior you want a kid to pick up - model it. It's how kids learn to say please and thank you - not just the constant reminders, but modeling the adults who do it.

(It's also kids learn how to say "JESUS CHRIST!" in traffic when another car cuts you off, but that's another story.)

To think that kids are miniature adults capable of adult thought and adult emotion is, well, wrong. It's so wrong it's not even wrong. The human brain is constantly developing and a child's brain doesn't have the wiring to do things like differential calculus or consider that maybe JoJo doesn't like it when you call him a poopy-face. These things have to be taught with reasonable expectations. It's reasonable to expect a six year old to apologize for hitting a kid in the face. It's not reasonable to expect him to understand that it's not ok to hit people in the face if he sees you doing it all the time.

This is where her point about mirrors comes in. You see adults badmouthing gay people - either directly or indirectly via DADT or trying to obstruct gay marriage or whatever - and kids get the message that "This is wrong" and will act accordingly. And believe me, you don't have to be gay to be bullied. It's definitely inherent to kids to try and boost their self-worth by putting other people down - they really do have to be trained out of that to a certain extent. And when adults single out other gay adults as people to be despised, feared, or abused? That's just painting a target to kids on the forehead of any kid who may or may not act "gay." They absolutely model what we show them.
posted by sonika at 7:12 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was young, my father told me that no matter what, even if I committed a terrible crime, I'd always be my parents' son and they'd love me. Later when I found out about homosexuality, both my parents reassured me that if I were gay, they'd still love me.

I was not gay, it turned out, but it's much easier to live your life if you aren't worried about losing the love of your parents for controversial or even simply bad decisions (like being a criminal) in your life.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I were to say something about ego-stroking in here, I would hope it would at least be read to be implicitly prefaced with "she sounds like a great person who's doing a wonderful thing, but..."

Not everybody who's drawing attention to the fact that this might not be just a heartfelt message to a child is implying that the woman writing it is completely without positive motivation
posted by tehloki at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2010


In related news, 14-year-old Graeme Taylor comes out of the closet and lectures the Howell, MI school board in support of Jay McDowell...

Ellen DeGeneris interviews Graeme Taylor.
posted by ericb at 9:47 AM on November 22, 2010


« Older Dubbing over dialoge is a necessary evil for any n...  |  Microsoft Kinect (née Project ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments