We carry our values within. As much as any of us might like to work at being “better people” the fact is that we like what we like and we want what we want. You can post all the meme’s you want but you’ll never affect much more than a moments notice from any of them.
One of the repeat sets of suggestions I have seen for stopping the shootings at schools relates to a perceived change in parenting values over the years. Some will say we need more Christian based teaching; others will say that parents need to support teachers more than they do; others want a return to corporal punishment for infractions; still others want parents to be more active within schools.
All these things sound like wonderful starts to freeing our children from the horrors of in-school shootings. The problem is none of those things are likely to happen because how we parent is a function of the way our society works and we’re doing nothing to change either. If anything, we are rolling down a slippery slope with more and more velocity; worsening the very influences we wish we could see improved.
As a retired white guy I have to say that I am saddened that so frequently this kind of suggestion comes exclusively from other caucasians. And it’s not so much a call for greater parental involvement as it is a condemnation of what a lot of whites see as single-parent black families. Ignore for a moment that our judicial system incarcerates black males at a much higher rate than white males. Forget for a moment that #blackmatters is about reducing the senseless violence against blacks. There is this idea within the white community that if blacks did a better job of parenting that there would be less violence in the schools.
Except, if you check out the perpetrators of in-school shootings it’s not that population that are doing the shooting. I stopped in my tracks the other day when I saw this meme. It made me think long and hard all over again about this whole white privilege thing.
The fact is for a lot of us white americans we don’t think a lot about anyone else than ourselves. Even when we are trying to do good. When we try to help other people we tend to want to help them in the ways that we think they need to be helped, no in ways that will matter to them. A while ago I was in a conversation about a youth mission trip. A group of late-teen american kids were taking a “mission” trip to Central America. It was a big deal for them. I listened to what they would be doing and all I could hear was a travelogue peppered with a few good works. I couldn’t help wonder how much good could be done for the people they were visiting if the budget for the trip was spent on the recipients and not on the travelers?
I know it’s probably unfair for me to pick on one group of well meaning evangelical young people. But it’s perhaps that very un-fairness that makes my criticism most apropros. It’s because it appears to be such an innocent gesture. And really it’s not as much about the charity or the evangelism as it’s portrayed and more about giving affluent youth an outing, a reward, a thrill or adventure or ‘experience of a lifetime’. The beneficiaries of the trip aren’t intended to be the namesakes of the mission trip, but rather the youth who are making the trip.
I’m all for doing good works. But I’m not so keen on being dishonest about why we do them. It’s not just rich folks who want to see their names on public monuments who can tinge their donations with greed. Yeah — the rich person who really doesn’t care about civic spirit may give a few million dollars to build a …. something or other… and to have their name emblazoned on the structure in return. But chances are the person is doing it because they’ll get a tax break on their income and their benevolence is less about helping others and more about helping themselves. And we learn how to do these kind of dishonest pat-ourselves-on-the-backs sorts of things when we are young. When we do something that looks noble not because of what it is we are doing, but because we get a kick out of it and we can use the noble bit as an excuse. We teach our children deceit when we think we are teaching them generosity.
This area of how we treat each other is not going to change until we realize that giving others the same rights we enjoy is not going to impoverish us. And judging others because they do not behave like us isn’t going to change either them or us. There are many ways to live your life. Life in the U.S. is very different from life in France or China. Life in Kazakhstan is very different from life in Bolivia or Malaysia. Yet each country, each city, each family function perfectly well using different standards, different techniqes, eating different foods, speaking different languages, using different medicines, etc., etc., etc..
This is a big and diverse world. But we have to open our eyes and ears and hearts if we want to appreciate it. I can tell you to be impressed by kindness, or integrity but the truth of the matter is you are going to be impressed by whatever it is that impresses you. If you are a person who takes delight in putting other people down, my admonitions aren’t going to mean a thing. In fact you’ll probably think I’m foolish for every trying to encourage change.
Maybe I am. I can hope that the generation being born in the 2010’s will grow up with a greater appreciation of kindness, integrity, humility, and generosity. But the fact is they will grow up appreciating the things their parents teach them to value. And if YOU place no value on those things, chances are pretty good they won’t either. Like the youth with an opportunity to take a mission trip to help the poor people in Central America you can be honest about your motivations or you can hide the truth even from yourself. You need no college diploma to teach deceit. It happens easily enough.