A few weeks ago, I flipped on the TV and the disturbing video of UC Davis students peacefully protesting while getting pepper sprayed by police aired on the news. Jake, not a stranger to the violent history of the world (he likes to fight the Nazi's for pretend), came running in when I shouted. I couldn't contain my response. Oh my God.
Is it my job as a mother to shield an almost eight-year-old from a lesson about society and social unrest? Or do I discuss current events with him as I see fit? Sure, I could have turned off the TV. Sure, I could have said. "Oh, nothing I thought I saw a mouse." But I have been teaching him about the economic unrest of this country in the past few months since I was first moved by the demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street. This was a silent, non violent, peaceful protest -- and yet. And yet students at UC Davis were sprayed with pepper spray by police because they weren't... moving.
This was a lesson I wanted my son to grasp. I explained that we have the right to protest. That there are a lot of people who can't find jobs. That people are angry. And they're showing their display of anger and protesting. Our right to protest is core to our constitution.
The other day, Brian Lehrer of WNYC talked about the incident with Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows who discussed what it meant to hold restraint in protest and how images like the one at UC Davis has come to haunt the nation just as other images have through history. Lehrer said:
"Perhaps the most remarkable part of the incident as captured on video was not the cold, calculated pepper spraying itself, but the restraint of the protesters for minutes after."
His response gave me more thought. Yes, I had made the right choice in showing him the image. It was a crucial lesson in raising a boy. Violence doesn't have to make a point. Non-violence, as long it is something you believe in, can be equally, or more convincing. The parents of those students should be proud of their children's restraint.
But not everyone is thrilled about parents like me teaching our kids about politics at such a young age. Just recently I read the outrage that HuffPo users had over the parent who announced that they'd bring their kids to Occupy Wall Street. Over 1,000 people so outraged that they'd shower their anger onto one parent. So I wonder. Was Jake too young to see that pepper spraying incident? For me, I'd rather expose him to current events if the moment is right. I'd rather expose him now than hide it all and pretend that there isn't unrest. That a movement isn't happening. Because there is a powerful movement happening. And here's your first introduction to it my lovely boy.
And now, you can go back to being a kid.