Carefully Taught

I’ve written before about how Kick, despite the usual amount of conversations about stranger danger and whatnot, will go up to just absolutely anyone and talk to them about anything.

So when I tell you this story, and you’re tempted to think it’s absolute bullshit, remind yourself this is a child who once showed a man tripping absolute balls her entire collection of plastic dinosaurs.

The other day we’re on the train, coming home from the city, and the car’s almost full so we have to stand. She’s noshing on various snacks from her backpack when a guy gets on and starts a sales pitch.

He’s homeless, he’s hungry. He just wants something to eat. Can any of us spare anything?

You know and I know that when he says “anything” he means money. This is his business, but I have no cash on me, which I tell him, apologetically.

Kick pulls a plastic bag of half-smashed Ritz crackers out of her kittycat bag and, I swear to you on my grandmother’s life, unprompted by me, walks up and hands them to him.

What does it teach her, if I hug her afterward and tell her I was very proud of her for being kind?

What does it teach her, if I snatch her back by her ponytail and tell her not to give her things away to filthy street people?

Here’s the thing with children, the humbling terrifying thing: They believe anything you tell them. Literally anything. I once told Kick her grandfather was 114 years old and she thought it was true for a month. Anything that comes out of a grown-up’s mouth is facts, so here are the facts some children learned recently: 

Even though people are working with the administration that was actively putting children in cages and separating families, asking their own children to contribute to a paper wall was a bridge too far. “Horrified. We were horrified,” an anonymous attendee told Yahoo News. The outlet also has photos. The photos are gross in how benign they make the wall out to be.

In the photos, you can see the construction paper wall is made of bricks. Each brick has a name of a child on the red paper. There’s also an orange sign next to the wall, reading “AMERICA FIRST,” which is a known KKK credo, and a yellow construction sign with JOBS repeating over and over. Down the hallway from the makeshift wall was another display called “Trump’s Crew.” Underneath the sign, there was construction equipment.

Oh, I know, I know, this is indistinguishable from Michelle Obama teaching children to garden so they can grow their own vegetables because that’s the same type of nefarious propagandizing. This is just like Amy Carter rollerskating in the East Room, I mean, both sides.

Jesus Christ. Bad enough these kids are growing up around President Puss-Grab, a man who has been credibly accused of violent rape. Now they have to put their own tiny hands to the wheel of misery. Hopefully they won’t remember it and their families won’t whip out the photos every time they come home for Christmas and funerals. Hopefully it won’t stick.

It’s just so sad because: Kids want to be kind. They want to be good. They want to do right. It’s painful sometimes how much they want to do right, like you are six, babies, please don’t worry so much about scoring above satisfactory on the tests, you know? They’re tiny little balls of need and so here’s what you give them? A wall to build? That’s what you have to teach them?

I’m sure in their parents’ minds what they were teaching is that there are “bad people” in the world, and the wall is to keep them out. And that’s … a lesson, I guess, that you could spend your time on. You could spend all your time emphasizing the violence and danger of the world, and your kids will believe it because they want to be good and they want to listen to you. I think about that kind of power all the time. I think about how we use it.



2 thoughts on “Carefully Taught

  1. So, yeah — I was in a tearing hurry because I needed to go 180 miles asap to babysit grandson1, and while I was gassing up the truck because this was an unplanned trip, this guy approached to ask me for “any help — I just want to go in and get something to eat” (gas pumps at food store, don’t ask).

    I said, “Can you eat peanut butter?” He said he could, so I took the package of peanut butter crackers, squeezable applesauce and a 6 oz can of tomato juice I’d tossed on top of my duffel to have a lunch on the road (I said I was in a tearing hurry, right?) and handed them over.

    He looked utterly astonished, but at least he had food.

    (I’m a woman who travels alone a lot. I don’t carry cash, period.)

  2. Samesame. We took the Amtrak from upstate NY to Chicago, and laid in some trip supplies and crap from Big Lots–dollar fleece blankets, eye shades, off-off-brand snacks and other crap. Get off in midtown, walk up to the street, and immediately set upon for a dollar cause I’m hungry. So handed the whole bag o’ crap to the guy. He turned and walked off a few paces, looking in the bag, which he then handed to an even shabbier looking guy.

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