I will not spank my hypothetical future children

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Have you ever taken a moment to remember what it was like to be a child? We don’t all become parents but we have all been children. Do you remember the frustration you felt as a little person having to live under much bigger humans? Do you remember the frustration of trying to communicate with those bigger humans but not having the words to do so? Have you ever considered the fact that spanking your child means that you are forcing your child to let you hit them? Talk about lack of consent. You are told to take off your clothes, lean over, and don’t move while your parent hits you with some kind of instrument. You are teaching them that big people can hit them whenever those big people decide that their behavior is unacceptable.

The only thing I knew about my parents in those moments was that they were angry and despised me. I have heard the tired phrase, “but we only spank out of love, not in anger” so many times I could throw up. The reality is most parents who do spank their children do not spank free from anger. Trust me I know. I do not remember one spanking session I had where the parent doing the spanking was not very, very angry. I must have been one horrible nasty child. My mother actually took us children “shopping” to pick out the dowel rods that would be used to spank us with. I distinctly remember standing next to the box that held all of the dowel rods and looking at the different colors painted on the ends to decide which width to get. It is not a pleasant memory.

My mother has told the story many, many times about the time when she spent hours spanking me and putting me back in bed because I wouldn’t take a nap one afternoon. I always thought it was so strange. It was like she was bragging to people about how she defeated me.  And I was embarrassed that everyone knew how stubborn and rebellious my three-year-old self was. Sometimes I think she thinks she beat the rebellion out of me. And it was a prize. Mommy wins. Child loses. Since when is raising children about a battle that must be won or lost?

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After talking recently with some family, I realized something about all the stories being told about spanking. I realized that, as a young child, spanking may have fundamentally changed me. And not in a good way. Maybe my mother was right. Maybe she really did literally spank the “rebellion” out of me. The problem I have with people saying that though is that beating the rebellion, or stubbornness, or wickedness out of your child basically means that you are stunting their natural development. A child who may not otherwise have ended up shy, or emotionally and socially inept, ends up that way because she believes that her parents thought she was an evil, rebellious tyrant who never did anything right and needed to be whipped many, many times. So she learned. She learned to do everything right. And she learned to keep everything inside so she wouldn’t be a bad girl anymore. But she didn’t learn how to be a healthy person. She didn’t learn how to grow up to be healthy and have healthy relationships and live a healthy life.

To me the most horrifying and damaging part of being spanked is the intense humiliation. Just think for a second about what is happening when a parent is “disciplining with the rod”. The humiliation of being spanked is something that is never forgotten. And if you think kids are resilient enough or forgetful enough to not have it affect them in later years, you are sadly mistaken. One of the most toxic ideas in fundamentalism is that parents need to “break a child’s will.” The phrase horrifies me. There is a parenting/discipline book out there, written by supposed Christians, that literally compares disciplining your child to training a horse. They must be tamed and subdued. Their horrible, evil selves must be punished and broken so that they know that you are in charge and they must obey no matter what. I don’t understand how people can think this is ok. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I actually asked the guy I was dating last year if his parents had ever spanked him. He said “no” in a way that indicated he thought it was an absolutely preposterous idea that anyone would ever do that. It seemed like an absolutely absurd question to ask.

I have also heard the equally tired phrase, “but look at me, I was spanked as a child and I turned out just fine.” Well, no, no you didn’t. I didn’t turn out just fine. I have serious emotional and psychological issues that are requiring a lot of work and pain to move past. I am not attributing it solely to spanking. There are a lot of contributing factors. But there is no denying that spanking had a large part in contributing to my problems as an adult. There is no doubt that flashbacks of very, very long spanking sessions is something that makes me want to curl up in a ball and never leave my bed. And those spanking sessions weren’t just mine. They were also my siblings. And having to listen to my brothers and sister scream and cry while being hit is a nightmare just as bad as the spankings I personally received.

I have heard the word hundreds of times before but I never really connected the meaning to my familiarity with corporal punishment til coming across this article. I think fundamentalists have a tendency to ascribe whatever definition they deem correct to a word. In this instance I am referring to discipline. It is a variation of the word disciple which is both a noun and a verb. Disciple is a popular word in the New Testament so I am certainly familiar with it. What it really means is ‘to teach.’ Yet when it comes to raising children, it is very much presented as punishment. Disciplining your child means punishment for wrongdoing, or so they (fundamentalists) say. When you decide that you want to discipline yourself or create more discipline in your life do you go search for someone to hit you so that you will change and stop doing the negative behavior or start behaving positively? I don’t think so. But that is what is done to children. They need to be taught something and instead of actually teaching and communicating, you hit them. I can assure you hitting doesn’t do much in the way of teaching aside from teaching you that you don’t like to be hit.

I have worked with children for a long time and I cannot ever imagine hitting a single one of them. There have been a good number of ornery and mischievous and difficult to deal with children among them, but I could never in my life hit them for any reason.

Justice for all

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That boy from last summer… I still miss him. A lot. A really, really, really lot. And I was just thinking recently about the idea of justice.

That boy gave me some insight into my soul that no one ever has before. After a few months of dating we were out on a lake in a double kayak talking about the fact that I had decided to apply for police academy, and he told me that he thought I would be great at that job because I have a strong sense of justice. I can’t remember what specific scenario we were discussing but he also told me that not a lot of people think the way I do, about justice that is.

He changed my perspective a lot that day. And he changed it a lot because I realized something about myself that I hadn’t before. It took a lot of conversations with a certain person, and for that person to bring to my attention what kind of ethics I have. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much before. He was telling me what my moral code was. And not in a controlling, “this is what you have to believe in” kind of way. But in a revelatory way. In a way that said  he knew me. And I didn’t even know myself.

Life in general isn’t fair. Bad things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. And bad things happen for absolutely no reason at all. But that isn’t an excuse to treat people unfairly. It isn’t a reason to be unjust in your words and actions towards other people.

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I don’t know where I got my strong sense of justice. My dad is a lieutenant for the state police and he has been an officer since I was only a few years old. I am sure that has something to do with it. But I wonder if a strong sense of justice is a characteristic that people are born with. I do believe it is something you can develop in yourself if you are willing to open your mind and learn and grow. But I think it may be innate in some people. A lot of those people are probably the ones who go and become police officers, and firemen, and military officers, and such. Those certainly aren’t jobs you can do without a strong sense of justice, unless your just on an ego trip. In which case you’re probably not very good at your job and shouldn’t really be in that type of field. And I know there are people like that. It is unrealistic to say that 100% of public service personnel are only in it because they love justice and want to pursue that for their whole life. There is corruption in these fields just as there is an any other field.

My point in saying all of that is that I do know and recognize now that I have a very strong sense of justice. It’s had a huge part in changing my politics and my perspective on a lot of issues in the past year or so. And that excites me because I have something. I have something that I didn’t have before. I have very strong convictions about people being treated unfairly and justice not being served. It breaks my heart. And I think that is going to push me and be my call to action. I can’t do nothing. I have to do something. To me, seeing that justice is served means that when someone harms another person, you should take action. Justice is not excuses for the perpetrator, or calls for forgiveness, or anyone trying to make what was said or done to be less then it really is. Justice is, to the best of our human ability, seeing that everyone is treated fairly.

With the July 4th holiday upon us, I can’t help but think back to what traditions have been a part of my life for this holiday. I actually don’t even remember the 4th last year. I have no idea what I did. Since I moved away I haven’t kept any kind of traditions. In fact I’ve spent a majority of the holiday’s alone. And that’s fine. It causes me to contemplate what and why traditions are so important to people. I understand the appeal. Having something that feels special, something that makes you feel connected to your family and/or friends during the holidays is certainly a desirable thing. But I just don’t see what is so important about it. Why is it the basis of someone’s argument to continue doing things a certain way?

Tradition is not virtuous. It is not moral. It is not inherently good. And often it can be something very bad that needs to be changed. So I do not trust anyone who uses tradition as some sort of moral reason to keep doing something or not to change something. So what. It has been “tradition” for babies to be killed and women put to death for things that are commonplace in our society today. I don’t believe that the “tradition” of slavery is something that we want to continue. Tradition means nothing to me. It is not something sacred to hold onto. If something is harmful, or not working, or causing division then it should be changed. Tradition be damned.

Honestly any previous traditions that were part of my family life growing up only bring me a lot of pain. They aren’t things I like to remember and definitely not things that I want to continue as traditions in my own life. So no, your argument that we must honor the traditions of our forefathers just because that’s how they did things back then is not trustworthy, or compassionate, or intelligent. It is stubborn and close-minded. I have no desire to continue with traditions that tear people apart and bring about hatred and division. Who cares about tradition. Let’s be done with it. Treating people fairly is what matters. And tradition does not usually play a role in treating people fairly.