Thursday, October 30, 2014

Raising California

This past weekend, my 9-year-old nephew chatted to me about how the city of Seattle had changed "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous People Day." (He couldn't quite pronounce "indigenous," but I knew exactly what he meant and filled him in on the right word.) Later in the day, when I asked him what he was going to be for Halloween this year, he said that he would probably wear a hoodie and a mask "with a mirror on it, so that when people look at you, they just see them!" (I knew that his mom had been telling him about Trayvon Martin, but he hadn't fully assimilated the info.)

Look, I'm not going to challenge a 9-year-old's newfound "political beliefs" based solely on what his parents have been feeding him. But I was, nonetheless, horrified.

What I said to him off-the-cuff re the "indigenous people" vs. Columbus: "Well, not everyone thinks Columbus discovered America. Maybe the Vikings did." Which was not really the point of the City of Seattle's statement. I get that there were already people living on this continent before any Europeans came over. But to me, glorifying people just for having always been someplace is just as ridiculous as glorifying people for having kids. Both just happen, and any dummies can do it. In the case of Columbus and/or the Vikings, I do admire their adventurous, willingness-to-suffer-for-the-unknown spirit. I wanted to say to my nephew, "Remember that kids' book I read to you before? Where everyone who showed up for the race got a trophy? That's what I think 'Indigenous People Day' is like. What if your soccer league was set up like that?" NO, I didn't say such a thing, but that's exactly what I was thinking.

And RE the hoodie/mirror-mask: How to explain to a little kid that the alleged "hero" according to his mom was actually a punk who tackled the neighborhood watchman and bloodied his nose/bashed his head against the ground before the watchman shot him in self-defense? (Imagined conversation with nephew: "What would YOU do if you were in charge of watching the neighborhood and saw a guy who fit the exact description of others who had been caught robbing places in your 'hood months earlier? What if you told the guy to stop but he first ran off and then turned and tackled you and started punching you while you were down?")

Of course I can't explain any of the intricacies of arguments to a 9-year-old. It was disturbing to me, though, that his mother was feeding him such propaganda. He was regurgitating in a cute way, not fully getting it, but I found it awfully depressing.

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