My first idea for a blog was to write letters to the boys explaining all the weird stuff in their lives and explain why my husband, Ed, and I make the decisions we do. I was going to name it Notes for Your Counselor and then they would have an entire blog to share with their therapists when they grew up.
I never did find the time to start that blog, but I did begin writing some letters to the boys for it. Because my worldview is grounded in social justice, there are definitely things that are relevant to oppression. Here’s a glimpse into their life being controlled by a social justice advocate mother.
Why You Can’t Be a Boy Scout
In the past, Hayden expressed his desire to become a boy scout. Here’s the problem: Boy Scouts don’t like gay kids. OK, maybe “don’t like” is a little harsh. But, gay boys aren’t welcome in the organization, neither are gay leaders. The Boy Scouts even won a Supreme Court ruling stating that because they are a private organization, it was okay to discriminate. I know the Boy Scouts do amazing things, and get to race little wooden cars and use knives in the woods, and tie knots, and learn (mostly) good values. And I know Boy Scouts are good kids. It’s not the kids in Boy Scouts fault for the organization discriminating against gay kids. However, as a parent who believes in equal rights, it is not okay for my child to participate in an activity that would be denied to another child.
So, we’ll move on. We’ll look into other groups like the Navigators, Campfire Kids, or whatever other group out there that does cool stuff like the Boy Scouts, but welcomes all children. When you see your friends with their little blue suits and yellow handkerchiefs on, please don’t be jealous or resentful. Know that you are supporting all children and standing up for equal opportunity. I’ll do what I can to provide the same opportunities as long as you’re willing to be patient while your soap box mom fights the system!
Why You Can’t Be a Soldier
It’s really important to me that you define your life and make your life decisions based on what you believe and want, not on what the world or dad and I have lead you to believe. I hope you are able to see beyond the falseness of the world’s expectations to become the true you. I will encourage you to pursue any path you deem appropriate. However, under no circumstance can you be a soldier! I cannot be the mother of a soldier. I know it’s not about me, but as the sister of a soldier, I can tell you I do not have the strength to be the mother of one.
I first experienced the heartbreak (and inequality) of a soldier’s life when dad and I attended Uncle Brad’s boot camp graduation. It was a phenomenal experience and the culture of the Army was remarkable. What overshadowed everything for me were the boys (this was infantry so there were no girls) who stood in formation waiting to be pinned and they had no family or friends there to participate. I couldn’t help but wonder what these boys were thinking while they were standing there alone and seeing the love and support other soldiers were receiving around them. It probably didn’t help that at the time I was a brand new mom of about 2 or 3 months. I knew these boys were people’s sons. How terrible it had to be to know your son was there alone.
Here’s the thing. The military can be a ticket out of poverty. The military knows that and uses it against the poor kids. You get a salary and benefits. The more risk you are willing to take to compromise your life, the more money you get. That can be really appealing to those who have never had money; ask Uncle Brad, he fell for it. Not only do they use money to get people to do some illogical jobs, you see situations like the boot camp boys I talked about. Some may have come from homes where they didn’t have a lot of money. They were sent to Georgia to boot camp and maybe their families were from Colorado. Who could afford a trip from Georgia to Colorado when you can barely pay your bills? So, the boys just stand in formation and watch others with more privilege (i.e., money, geographical location, vehicles, etc.) getting their support. The poor boy and the privileged boy just had the same intense experience and deserve the same support, but because of inequality, they don’t both get it. Certainly everyone joins the military for various reasons, but it cannot be denied that the money and benefits lure in people who live in poverty and want out.
Then there’s war. We’ve been at war your entire lives. Do you know what has happened as a result of the war? There’s a lot of broken and dead people and a lot of stereotypes about people from the Middle East. That’s all. Nothing else. (Oh wait, and a lot of missed holidays and birthdays when soldiers are deployed.) In order to go to war with someone you have to believe that they are wrong or bad or need to be eliminated. I NEVER want you to believe this about anyone. Sometimes people make bad decisions, but none of them deserve to be killed or hated. And neither do you. And neither do the 7800 people who have died since the wars started.
I love our soldiers. These people make sacrifices that most people couldn’t even imagine…at least I couldn’t imagine. I want you to do hard things in life. I want you to make a big difference. I want you to sacrifice for the greater good. I don’t want you to kill or be killed, hate or be hated, to accomplish that.
Why You Can’t Eat at Chik-fil-a
I know that we’ve have some good experiences at Chik-fil-a. We enjoy their pickle soaked chicken and as much as it makes me puke in my mouth, you love the play area. We all thought family nights there were a great way to spend our evenings. Their ice cream cones and sweet tea are great. Their staff is very kind. But. There’s always a but. But, I learned that the company is connected to organizations whose mission is to protect families or to protect marriage. Sounds nice, right? What it really means is that the organization wants to define marriage between one man and one woman and is opposed to gay marriage. When we buy their products, they make money. They use that money to be able to support these organizations. By default, our money would also be supporting these organizations. Can’t happen. Sorry! I’ll feed you pink slime before we donate to “preserve family/marriage.”
And so it goes….
Sneaky stuff, huh? You have to watch out for this stuff. Oppressors are sneaky. They cover their motives with pretty words. Sound noble and ethical. Hide behind cultural norms. Challenge it baby boys! And it hurts sometimes. It hurts to sit and watch others chowing down on chicken that we know tastes so good. It hurts to walk away from promises of a lot of money and a successful career. It hurts not to race your car with the rest of the blue shirts. It hurts to be the only one not participating. It hurts to say or do things no one else believes. It hurts to not choose the easy option. But I have faith in you. I know you can and will do great things, not only for yourselves, but for the world. You’ll grow up to be white men. A lot of power and privilege come with that. Use it wisely baby boys. Use it wisely.