I have likely expressed some of the following sentiments elsewhere in my blog, but I’m too lazy to go through every post to see if this is the case. Nonetheless, this is what is on my mind and heart today.
Father’s Day is always a hard day for me. Facebook fills up with friends posting photos of their fathers accompanied by loving sentiments. Or they post photos of their husbands whose parenting skills they praise.
To consider my own father is tough enough. I’ve written before about him, a sociopath without a capacity of love or an understanding of empathy. It took me a long time and a lot of therapy to come to terms with his illness, to understand why he was the way he was without okaying his abuse.
But harder still to contemplate that I will never be a father.
Last night I indulged in a carton of Ben & Jerry’s–perhaps not the smartest thing for a man trying to lose weight, but it’s not like an everyday thing. As I decided on my flavour (“Late Night Snack”, fantastic), I noticed that one new fluffernutter-inspired concoction was rechristened, from “Cluster Fluff” to “What A Cluster”. This did not surprise me. The company had recently been pressured by conservative activist group One Million Moms to change the name of their latest flavour, “Schweddy Balls”, inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch. However, as of today on the Ben & Jerry’s website, that name remains (though, personally, I think the idea of putting chocolate and rum together sounds kind of disgusting). Even so, though the company has used salacious flavour names in the past*, they apparently felt compelled to change the name of “Cluster Fluff”.
This censorious behaviour echoed an online conversation I’d had earlier in the day with a good friend in Canada. He had recommended a website for me to check out, and though I was certain it would include no “graphic” imagery, I figured it would still be blocked on library computers. I told him such, to his shock and consternation. After all, this was a library, a purveyor of information to the masses, and a cultural institution which has a long history of standing against censorship. If Canada doesn’t censor public internet use in this way, surely the United States wouldn’t, either. I then explained that in the United States, the federal government can reduce a public library’s federal funding if they do not install “nannyware” filters in their computer labs. (Some American libraries have simply chosen to forego the federal funding, on principle.) I illustrated this attitude in American culture with the catchphrase of Helen Lovejoy, the pastor’s wife on The Simpsons: “Will somebody please think of the children?!” My friend replied that people should focus on raising their own children, not other people’s.
I’m undecided on how I feel about his statement. On one hand, as they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Children grow up, not in the bubble of their parents’ watch, but in society at large, and we fool ourselves if we think our actions have no influence at all on the next generation. On the other hand, how one chooses to parent, how one chooses the values to inculcate into their children–we consider these sorts of choices as a hallmark of a free society, and, so the argument goes, if someone wants to raise their child more “precociously” than another, then so be it. And yet, this view is also used to enforce attitudes that really do harm society: “I’m raising my child to stand against homosexuality, and rules that say ‘gay’ students get ‘special protection’ from bullying is undercutting my right to raise my child as I want.”
What I am sure of is that it is absurd to believe one can raise a child in a protective bubble in perpetuity. There is a difference between, say, giving your twelve-year-old pornography (ignoring the fact that some of the Bible is quite pornographic), and that twelve-year-old discovering it just by being a member of society. Children are going to find out about the real world no matter how much they protect their children. It is the job of the parents to first build up values such that their children can handle “the real world” when–not if– they encounter it, and then, to discuss issues in an age-appropriate manner when–not if–they come up.
The challenge comes when a segment of society believes it is (literally) their God-given responsibility to act as God’s mouthpiece in any and all situations, to hand out the judgements and punishments in God’s place. To this, I can only reply that, in a great many situations–from the woman about to be stoned for adultery, to his many encounters with the Pharisees, Jesus told people to mind their own business when it came to others’ morality, and to focus on their own.
As an aside, just to make my personal statement about censorship, allow me to say that, if you were not aware of what “Cluster Fluff” refers to, it’s a play off the phrase “clusterfuck”, which generally refers to a complex and intractable situation.
*”The company has had other controversially named flavors as well — Karmel Sutra and Hubby Hubby (in support of gay marriage) — for example. But Schweddy Balls has received much publicity-generating attention.” Read more here.