As I sat in Starbucks yesterday afternoon, I figured it out. I figured out how to make the world the kind of "better place" that everyone's always talking about.
I was listening to a man in his forties talking to a young man in his early twenties. Scratch that. He wasn't talking to him. He was lecturing at him. And what he was saying is that there is one right way to do things and he knows what it is because he knows definitively what the Bible says and what God wants and that anyone who doesn't believe him won't "be saved." No discussion. No exchange.
And the young man nodded, his eyes never leaving the face of the man espousing his personal beliefs as ultimate truth. The man was indoctrinating him. It's a method the religious right has long relied on. And it's worked frighteningly well. That's when it hit me. I think we should indoctrinate our children from the moment they are born.
I think we should tell them that all people are equal and that skin color is just a matter of pigment distribution. I think we should tell them that all religion is faith, nothing more and nothing less, and that there is no ultimate truth and that no religion is more "right" than another. I think we should tell them that life isn't fair but that they should work to make it more so. I think we should tell them that you can't trust everyone but that there is nothing more important than building trusting relationships. I think we should teach them that love is plentiful and that there are endless permutations that a family can take. And we should assure them that anyone who tells them otherwise is merely frightened and deserves our understanding and our patience.
I think we should teach them that murder is wrong but that, in our world, self-defense is imperative. I think we should fill their heads with the realities about the way the world works; the idealizations of how it should work; and the strength to deal with the former and fight for the latter. I think we should teach them that ignorance is the most dangerous thing on earth and that patience with people who have not experienced the world is the key to replacing that ignorance with knowledge and understanding. I think we should teach them that nothing is more vital than critical thinking and respectful discourse.
I think we should tell them that the environment is our responsibility and that we haven't taken very good care of it in the past. I think we should tell them that you can't save the environment by recycling newspapers but still driving a Hummer. I think we should tell them that illegal drug use is bad. Period. The abuse of alcohol is bad. And smoking is bad. No judgments, no rationalizations. None of those things are a good idea. All of those things can kill you. And the people who love them aren't trying to keep them from having fun. They're trying to keep them alive. It's not that complicated.
I think we should tell them that wearing designer jeans doesn't make you a better person and starving yourself to death is a mental illness not a fashion statement or a personal choice or right. I think we should tell them where babies come from. And I think we should say penis and vagina and uterus and sperm. I think we should tell them that being pregnant is hard and labor is harder. I think we should tell them that sex is the most wonderful thing in the world between two consenting adults and the worst thing on the planet if there is even a whisper of doubt, insecurity, immaturity, coercion, violence, disrespect, inequity, misunderstanding, or mistrust. I think we should tell them that their bodies belong to them and only them and they get to decide who touches them, when, and where. But that we are here if they want to talk it out with us.
I think we should tell them to play fair and to yield to merging traffic. And I think we should tell them with our actions not just our words. I think we should tell them that we are defined and judged by our cars and our houses and our jewelry. But that we shouldn't be. And I think we should tell them that we are defined and judged by our weight and our beauty and our net worth. But that we shouldn't be. I think we should tell them that cosmetic surgery is a personal choice that many people make because our economy trades on looks. But we should also tell them that altering their bodies won't make them better people. We should tell them to beware of media that makes them feel compelled to "fix" themselves.
I think we should tell them that girls and boys are different. But that neither one is better than the other. And that not all boys and all girls are alike and that just because Tommy wants a doll or Susie wants a truck doesn't mean that they are more or less of a boy or girl because there is no such thing. I think we should tell them that we are what we are and there's a lot less black and white than many people would like to believe even about gender and sexuality. I think we should tell them that everything is a spectrum and rare is anything that falls firmly on one side or another.
I think we should tell them that we don't know all the answers. Hell, we don't even know most of the answers. But we do know one thing. We love them. And every person on the earth has parents who (hopefully) love them too and that anytime they do something hurtful, they are hurting someone else's baby. I think we should tell them the truth. We don't have it all figured out. But it's not about figuring it out. It's about being present to live our own truths on our won journeys while respecting the planet and all of the other people and creatures living on it.
I think we should indoctrinate our children as early as possible. The hatemongers are doing it all around us. I think it's time we do it too.