Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Support Open-Carry Hugs
We've all seen the images or personally encountered people in real-life who are advocates of open-carry proudly showing us their weapons. As a person who doesn't particularly like guns, all I can try to do is understand what would motivate someone to want to be that person. And don't get me wrong, I'm not against the legal ownership of guns should citizens choose to exercise that right. But I wouldn't object if one day this country decided all guns should no longer exist here, nor would I complain if they were eliminated around the world.

What I often reflect on is the motivation and intention of those who advocate for open-carry laws. Especially when I listen to the enthusiasm with which they exclaim that right prior to and directly after getting those laws in place enabling them to finally do so. 

I consistently hear that the right to protect one's self is the biggest reason, and I would support that thought process as we do have a second amendment right to keep and bear arms. However, I would also think the desire to own guns for protection (whether one or an arsenal) and/or open-carry is motivated by fear, specifically being fearful of the intention of others. In other words, gun owners seem suspicious and not trusting; like they are thinking "someone, anyone whose actions at any time could or will potentially hurt me, so I must be prepared."

We all feel that way from time to time because we have encountered something that made us experience that emotion, but in open-carry situations it seems that is the mindset all day long. Smacks of paranoia to me if gun owners think everyone is potentially out to get them. On the outside they might say that's not true, but they are expecting something to happen otherwise why would they feel the need to be cloaked in a manner that will protect them 24/7? I guess someone needs to explain that to me if I've interpreted that incorrectly.

Living in this world, I see all the vile behaviors whether on the news, or in print and social media. Gun owners, and especially open-carry advocates, would tout this as a reason to have the right to protect themselves. Having personally encountered some unsavory situations in my past  - one when our home was broken into when I was a teenager, and another when an unwelcome visitor made an appearance in my apartment in the middle of the night when I was a young mother - I get that someone would want to have something at their disposal that could potentially protect them during acts of criminality. Luckily no one was hurt, us or the perpetrators, and no guns were involved in either situation. Both were frightening experiences, but I think they would have been made even more stressful had guns been present. Self-preservation is a factor in wanting protection, but I'm not sure that guns would have provided me with the outcome I was hoping for had I been in possession of a gun. Just as I would not like to end up with a bullet hole, neither do I want to inflict that kind of damage to another human being, even if that person was trying to hurt me. Also, data tends tell us that if a gun is in the home, the risks of violence and/or suicide increases. So, adding a potential threat, even if no other criminal action enters into my residence, tells me that guns really have no place in my life.

But I guess what I always keep coming back to is that mindset of paranoia. I remember how I felt after those incidents, and they weren't pleasant. I was fearful and I was anxious, but I still didn't want to go out and buy a gun. Maybe it would have empowered me in that moment. I'm sure that many, if not most, gun advocates would say "exactly!" and that's the point they've been trying to make all along. It's not about paranoia, but being in control rather than being at the mercy of another and their indecent intentions. It's as if they legitimize their strength (paranoia) because a gun makes them feel invincible. Maybe not to the point where they would go around pistol-whipping complete innocents, but still they scrutinize and assess any situation as potentially threatening while being rational about their paranoia. Otherwise, why carry a gun to begin with? I know I can't speak for others, only myself, but open-carry still suggests to me there is a certain amount of paranoia. 

Paranoia is a form of fear, and fear can create panic. When you have anxiety about something it is sometimes difficult to think rationally in a situation that should actually require it in order to remain calm and ensure your safety. An anxiety-filled situation can leave you with no desire to think positively about the person in this situation that you believe will do you harm. It is quite understandable. One hopes that would only be in a life-threatening situation and one where you think someone is truly out to get you.

Imagine a nation, hell a world, where the opposite of that mindset existed! They actually have a word for that state of mind - pronoia, enjoying the feeling that the world around them conspires to do them good. What if we all went around expecting we were going to be treated right by others? Just wow. The deep-feeling, empathetic human in me is experiencing thrills as I picture this. How could we not want to feel like this always? The imagery would obviously not include guns because living in a world where you know everyone has your back wouldn't require guns or the fear they instill. We would have nothing to be fearful about as no one desires anything but the best for us.

So, I'll start. I have an arsenal and it's called my arms. I'm prepared to use them at the appropriate time. It'll be my mission to see that sad people are to be comforted and uplifted, happy people would experience one more bonus of good fortune in their day, hurried people would slow down and enjoy the humanity. People with an aversion to touch, please wear signs. What I think is appropriate, you may not! But small problem considering this world would be a better place, and certainly the more loving place that we always talk about wanting.

I propose that what would help to change the current mindset in this country is for people to want to think well of others rather than believe other's intentions are only about hurting them. Because in reality, it's not just gun owners in favor of open-carry who feel this way, it's many others who don't own guns who have a chip on their shoulder about people who are out to get them. Of course, we know there are bad people out there, but let's not have fear or paranoia claim there are more out there on the wrong side than there are good ones.

What sends a more powerful positive message to the people around you - a warm embrace and smiles or guns at the hip ready to discharge? Would you rather be on the receiving end of a hug or a bullet? Because really, that's what it boils down to emotionally - someone either suspects an imminent commission of crime out of you or they think you are worthy of their humanity. Which mindset would you prefer?

I support open-carry hugs and less paranoia.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I Learned The Hard Way - Spanking Is Wrong

I'm fifty-one years old and still remember the spankings I received as a child. Back then it was normal for parents to reach out and touch their children when they misbehaved. Now it's a big debate, hopefully one that will end soon and with us coming away with a better understanding of how to be more humane towards our children.

Yesterday I had a lengthy email exchange with a friend who advocates for spanking. My impression (after many conversations about her world-view) is that her religion teaches her it's in the best interest of the child, so naturally it's something to support and also, not something to question. Because if god says it, then it must be true. Knowing me, that alone is worth challenging, but it went deeper than that this time. Spanking affected not only me growing up, but in turn, my children as well. It was a hard parenting lesson, but certainly one worth learning how to do different.

What sparked this whole conversation, and also what prompted my responses during this email exchange, was her insistence that spanking was the right thing to do when it was necessary. She believed that the writer of the piece didn't have the correct take-away from her endured spankings. In other words, the spankers in the writer's case weren't spanking in the right fashion for her to receive the valuable and appropriate message. Obviously! And since that was the case, it invalidated the writer's thoughts that spanking was wrong. Having had a similar experience growing up and being a parent who passed on what I had been taught (although not to the degree I experienced at the hands of my mother), this piece struck a similar chord in me. The writer was entitled to her opinion (how gracious of you email exchange person), but like what was being assigned to the writer, I was feeling the burn of "Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got them" slap across my face with her comments. Only she had all the answers, and apparently hers are the only right ones. I guess she doesn't understand that the word opinion would also apply to her.

I'm not proud to admit I spanked my kids on more than just a few occasions. Even having been 'educated' that way myself, thinking this is what I was supposed to do to my own children, it never felt good to do this to them. I cringe and I cry when I look back on the moments in their childhood when they were on the receiving end of spankings for something I felt warranted that type of punishment. It didn't happen very often, but when it did I felt like I had died just a little. Still to this day I wrestle with the guilt of inflicting pain on my children. They have since told me that they don't remember much or have any hard feelings knowing that it happened, but my shame lingers still, even with their reassurances.

Writing this now, I'm still struggling with my emotions and my own memories of those moments. It kills me that I could ever have hurt my children when they were misbehaving. In those moments I felt justified somehow that I should spank them as they were the ones who created the situations that were getting out of control; my job was to halt their inappropriate behavior by any means necessary. Spanking was swift, usually worked immediately with them and allowed me to vent my anger in the heat of the moment. Many parents won't admit their anger is usually in charge, but it's true. Even when they say 'last resort measure', it's because the child has pushed the parent to a certain threshold that's not to be crossed. Controlled anger and controlled punishment still means emotions have been tested and pushed to the limit. The response is still the same, too - violence inflicted against your child.

Spanking is the intentional infliction of pain, emotional and/or physical. Whether it be a swat on a clothed bottom or the extreme of whipping with a belt or any other object that leaves red welts, bruises or deep cuts. It is an assault on the body of a being who is smaller, more vulnerable and in no position to fight back. And it undermines the supposed connection and relationship you have with the little person who is entrusted to your care, the one you chose to love.

We are sending the message that sometimes love hurts and it's the child's fault. Really? That's what love is supposed to mean to them? We may think they understand this punishment is to convey a consequence of inappropriate behavior, but the take-away is really that the person who loves them is also the one hurting them. How do we ever square that in our heads as it's happening? I know I couldn't and it's ultimately what made me rethink the whole issue of spanking. I figured out that it was never in the best interest of my child to harm them physically, make them fearful of me or feel humiliated in any way. I just wish that I would have thoughtfully decided that before I ever laid a hand on them in the first place.

Some would say that if it's done out of love and to teach actions have consequences; they will learn and won't do that bad behavior again. That's the gist of many conversations I've endured about spanking with religious types. But that's my point, the motivation and the lies they are taught that it's done out of love aren't true! The good book is allegedly divinely inspired by a supernatural being who wants to be the one in charge and in control of his followers using fear, intimidation and force. It's just teaching followers that same set-up in their own homes is appropriate, so now they become just like the one they worship... a control freak who has to have it his way or there will be insufferable consequences. The message being - IT really loves you when IT must use these techniques to keep you in line - so it is with believers when they use these tactics in their 'loving' family environment. They are perpetuating a model of submission through fear and control, and calling it love. How screwed up is that? Very screwed up in my book, and I'm incredibly sad for my kids and myself that I ever considered this part of my job called parenting.

I'm human and, still to this day, don't always end up doing the right things all the time. It is a struggle to choose carefully and thoughtfully how I navigate through this life and in the lives of others. The one thing I've learned in this short life is that whether it be towards people (little and big) or animals, loving means one needs to act loving. Always ask yourself "What Would A Loving Person Do?" I'm pretty sure a thoughtfully reasoned answer wouldn't be - "let me strike my child/another adult/this animal." At least I hope it won't be.

Imagine a world where the consequences aren't pain, but rather understanding that problems created by our actions should and can be resolved without violence, control or fear. Love means choosing to be kind. Spanking is not kind, it's a tactic that is the opposite of being loving. It hurts, it wounds and it teaches our children how to feel scared of their parents, to be isolated in their pain and it damages their personhood.

And it needs to stop. Now.