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Saturday, January 2, 2016

No, I Don't Wish We Could Go Back to the Days...

People and nostalgia are funny. And not always in a good way.

I've seen several memes wishing we could return to the days where kids played Cowboys and Indians.

And then there was the horrible holiday photo of the female family members tied up with Christmas lights and with their mouths taped shut while the guys rejoiced and held up a sign saying "Peace on Earth."

THEY say kids these days have no respect. And generally, THEY are the same people demanding for others to say "Merry CHRISTmas," not "Happy Holidays."

So who has no respect?

Back in the day, we thought it was perfectly OK for a white kid to paint his face black and be Chubby Checker. I'm sure there have been days where people with darker skin tones wished they could white wash to get a better job, to protect their kids from police brutality, to get better housing. Not permanently, because the goal is to be accepted as is. But on the days when some things just needed to go right and didn't.

Back in the day -- a day before my day -- people owned people. We've gotten past that, but not very far past. Because workers in our most trusted professions -- teachers and nurses -- fear losing their jobs to outsourcing. They fear going to the bathroom or taking a sick day. These people care for our sick and educate our children, and their employers (up to and including lawmakers) defend corporations and add difficulties to the lives of these individuals that we could not function without. And what does the average person do about it? Nothing.

If American women stood in solidarity with each other the way women have in Africa and Norway and every other civilized (and some not) country on this planet, we could achieve the goal of gender equality in weeks rather than lifetimes. But we don't. People have nostalgia for "Leave it to Beaver," failing to appreciate that June Cleaver was a paid actress (Barbara Billingsleywho had two young boys at home or school while she was on set with "The Beaver." And we take two steps back for every inch forward.

Back in the day we sat Indian style and had one or two pages about the Trail of Tears in our history books. We used brown paper grocery bags to mimic buckskin clothing and we designed tee-pees. Maybe we painted our faces and whooped a lot. Today we still have our young people dress up as Pilgrims and Natives for Thanksgiving feasts. We don't talk about what Columbus and other explorers and settlers did to indigenous people in the US until our children are much older. We neglect the whole truth.

We lie.

And then we wonder why young people do not respect us?

We talk to our children about racism and being colorblind, but we haven't stopped telling racist jokes and laughing at caricatures. We haven't stopped trying to explain why black kids deserve to be shot by cops, but affluenza is a legitimate legal defense, and white young (and not so young) men who go on killing sprees live to stand trial. We accept the bull crap that it is a difference of opinion that is the reason so many people fear Muslims that Muslim kids are afraid to be in public American schools. I know, because I'm friends with their parents or their friends' parents. It's not something being made up to garner sympathy. And it's ridiculous.

And sexism? I could go on for days. People act like boys have no self control and they shame and police what girls and women wear.

Then they call out the sissies (like me) who complain that the choir sings way too many love songs. Back in my day, it was "Silhouettes in the Shade" and "Going to the Chapel." Today, it's Bieber's "Mistletoe" and the revived old song about Cindy with the refrain "Get along home/Cindy,Cindy/I'll marry you someday." It's every Disney movie (and the vast majority of popular films, period) with a major section devoted to the handsome prince as love interest. It's the women's roles that are still lacking. It's how when Jennifer Lawrence openly discusses how much less she made than her male co-stars in a film -- people criticize HER because she made an exorbitant sum in the first place. It's the presidential candidate who's on the record saying if his daughter wasn't his daughter, he might be dating her. Sure, it's just a joke. So were the girls tied up in holiday lights. I'm not laughing.

Anyone else see a pattern?

It is about respect. It is about being KIND and COMPASSIONATE to others. And people who want respect not giving it.

I didn't create this. These are someone else's words. But I agree with these words.
I feel confident most of the people posting these memes or making these curriculum choices aren't bad people. Maybe not even racist people. But they do, some of them, want to keep Muslims out. They do want to limit immigration. They want to make it harder for people to be here and be successful here. Often in direct opposition to their own histories of immigration and success.

Still, I know they wouldn't ever say "I wish we could go back to the days when black people had no rights." I feel confident they would never say "I wish we could have another Trail of Tears for those uppity Indians" or "we should round up all the Japanese again -- don't like those squinty eyes." (Sorry, George.)

But that's where backwards takes us. Pining for those terrible good old days is asking a lot of people to go back to being bugs on the windshield of life. And I'm very happy not to be a bug, thank you very much. Those jokes -- those memes that are just meant to be funny -- those songs -- they make a pattern. They drop an anchor toward something in the past and our entire boat starts moving backward and sinking.

People should very much want to move forward. To create, to innovate, to work together towards common goals. To respect differences of opinion. To be kind.

Ribbing on our friends is one thing. Our friends can rib right back. And we get to decide if there is a limit to that. We get to say. And our kids are watching us so they will know.

However, if the way we treat others -- those who can do nothing to us -- our subordinates at work, our students, our teachers, our janitors, our caretakers, our (dare I say it) food service providers -- makes our kids stop respecting us, then we deserve their vitriol.

I want to keep my Apple products by the son of a Syrian refugee (Steve Jobs), my Dave Matthews Band music (he's from South Africa), my Sammy Sosa baseball (Dominican Republic), even my memories of Back to the Future (Michael J. Fox lived his first 18 years in Canada, don'tcha know?). Eek! Those are all male examples!  And I want to know and be influenced by Malala, and Leymah Gbowee, and Stana Katic, and Sandra Oh. And I want to be influenced by my good friends who aren't famous (yet) They're from the US -- and Mexico, Eritrea, Nepal, Peru, Malaysia, Egypt, and the Middle East. Their children are raising the bar for the rest of their classmates in all sorts of ways. I want to see more people working hard like that. Working smart like that. 

And I want my kid to respect me. So I know I have to earn it.

Phyl Campbell is Author, Mother, Dreamer. She writes on a variety of topics: Education, Women/Feminism/Equality, Book Reviews, and Writing. Her books are available on Amazon. If you'd like to see her speak at an upcoming function, contact her through her website or Facebook page.