I haven’t taken to commenting here on everything in the news like I used to with my blogging. The main reason is that I just don’t have the time anymore (I used to sit in an office all day bored out of my mind – so blogging was crucial just for sanity’s sake). The second reason is that I find myself not quite able to stand thinking too much about what’s in the news these days. My capacity for righteous anger has dwindled quite a bit in the last couple of years. I don’t think I’m more cynical – but perhaps more resigned. This may not be a good thing, and I try to temper it by exposing myself as often as possible to people who inspire me. But this week may also trigger a bit more for me because my son is 10 1/2 years old and the context of this week’s news simultaneously makes me think about his first decade of life.
The Lingering Stench of Rape Culture
On Steubenville, I have once again felt the weight of sadness and anger a how our deeply ingrained rape culture can excessively comment on the plight of the perpetrators and criticize the victim. John Scalzi’s post on the issue covers it as clearly as I would want to – and much better than any actual news outlet has bothered.
My son is 10 1/2 years old, and he has been exposed to feminist and progressive parents his whole life – but more and more, his learning environment is the world around him, not just us, inside his home. …Primarily, the world around him ONLINE. How I manage to guide him in his online life has become more of a priority than I ever dreamed ten years ago. Where he gets his worldview will be largely influenced by his exposure to what he sees and learns online. His generation will grow up straddling two worlds: the digital and the physical. And they will have to make choice after choice how to code switch and translate one to the other and back again. Our ability as GenX parents, whose exposure to an online life arrived after we were out of puberty, to judge the quality rather than quantity of time spent in both worlds will be particularly crucial to our kids. They aren’t growing up in a clearly compartmentalized world, where they live in the physical world so many hours a day and then have limited access to the digital world. They are constantly exposed simultaneously to both. Their access to both will only get easier as they grow up. Thus, the need to be able to make healthy choices about both.
And a huge part of those healthy choices need to be about how boys learn to to be human beings that don’t expect it’s their world and girls just live in it at their pleasure. Girls have to learn a whole new set of skills to establish their own humanity and independence as well. Steubenville has reminded me that this small town shit where football rules and you can live in satisfied bigotry and misogynistic superiority your entire life still exists. But I have the opportunity to raise my son to want no part of it.
Most days, ten years would seem like a long, LONG time ago. But it doesn’t anymore. I was 31 on the day we attacked and invaded Iraq. I was still a very new mom and the invasion affected that part of me profoundly. This was what I posted on my blog that day:
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
( 6:44 PM )
Please light a candle and say a prayer for all the Mamas in Baghdad and all the rest of Iraq tonight (and in these next days) who are trying to figure out how to protect their children. I can’t even imagine the kind of terrorized fear that Mamas and children (and the Daddies too) must be feeling right now, waiting for the invasion, knowing it’s coming. I feel so responsible and I feel so helpless. May you and your babies be safe and unharmed…and may grace and comfort be in your hearts. The rest of us Mamas are praying for you.
I entered that week in a daze that I’m sure thousands of other Americans felt: how did we let this happen? We KNEW Bush was lying. We KNEW this was wrong. We were in the streets by tens of thousands… and before the invasion, MILLIONS around the world were in the streets. Yet nothing seemed to be able to stop it. So that feeling of helplessness, mixed with guilt, mixed with anger, mixed with fear for our own troops and the innocent, helpless people of Iraq, just warred within us and all around us while our own country started a horrible, horrible war.
It’s sometimes hard to think back and remember how it all felt, and yet at the same time, it is still so near the surface. Possibly because no one has ever been held accountable for this travesty of global injustice. Not the architects of the invasion: Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice. Not the media giants who went along, not questioning. Not the political actors who worked to silence the truth tellers like Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Not the military industrial complex that made billions of dollars in profit by harming our own soldiers. Not the Wall Street bankers who began a years-long campaign to short-sell this country right into the crapper. None of them.
My son spent the first eight years of his life attending anti-war protests. He was still in the womb at his first one (we were among the few who also protested the invasion of Afghanistan. I am curious as to why it is so popular to be for THAT invasion. As if it is so much more justifiable to bomb and invade an entire country for the actions of an independent group sheltered by a bunch of tribal dictators. If the 9/11 bombers had been from Portland, and some of the City Council had sheltered them or given them a way to get away secretly, would the government have been justified in blowing the hell out of all of us who live here? According to our brand new foreign policy in 2002, evidently they would have). He got to ride in the stroller the first years – he graduated to the Red Wagon after a while. And eventually he walked along side me. I feel grateful that he has grown up in a city where this kind of behavior is not only acceptable but expected of the general population. He has grown up in a community with kids his age who have followed exactly the same anti-authoritarian path.
There are a lot of children in the United States who are my son’s age – well a few months younger than my son. He was born just ahead of the 9/11 Baby Boomlet (there was evidently a LOT of end-of-the-world-sex going on that horrible September). That means there are tens of thousands of ten-year-olds in this country right now who are as old as the anniversary of this invasion. The country in which they spent their childhood was one that has produced a generation of wounded veterans, both in body and spirit. It’s a country which is the biggest aggressor in the world. It is a country in which their parents are struggling economically more than their grandparents ever had to. It’s a country in which their education will cost more than it ever has, where they are more likely to be hungry or in poverty than ever before, and where their government is more broken than ever before.
This ten year anniversary is not just a reminder of the devastation we have wreaked upon Iraq. It’s a reminder of the devastation we have wreaked upon ourselves. And maybe that’s the real reason why nobody really wants to remember.