Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The art of censorship - for parents

For those of us who are liberal the idea of censorship is truly abhorrent, unless it is plans or outright calls to violence then we are probably our own worst enemies in the belief that we should uphold free speech.  Yet it is who we are and the notion is built on the belief that people are good, that they will try to see through the negative rhetoric.

However, as parents, us same folks who consider ourselves liberal are censors that would rival the Soviet era mail readers.    I love the quote from Judy Blume that I used for a pic, it applies to everything from books to games to whatever media is out there.  It is how I try and censor, not with only denial but also with discussion.

When my kids were really young this censorship thing was easy because no one questioned it, I had total control and most of all they were young,  really there was much less that tempted them to look at things they were not ready for.  It was easy to turn on Sprout or PBS or maybe even Nick Jr when they had TV time.  The shows were musical, colorful and had been scrubbed of the violence of my own cartoon viewing days.   I have to admit I did love my Tom and Jerry and Bugs when I was a kid, as did many of us, and no we did not believe that the violence could be replicated.  Besides where the hell where 1) any of us going to get an anvil 2) be able to carry it to drop on someone --- we understood fiction and fantasy.  

As my kids get older that line started to need to be drawn.  The games they have available today have great graphics.  Impressive what they can depict but the down side is they have great graphics.  Some have frankly bizarre story lines, like does any kid really need to know how to live like Grand Theft Auto???  I understand much like my Tom and Jerry, I get it's not real, they often cite the same thing.  You need to know your kid, if that kind of gore and violence stimulates their brain to the point where they are not the nice kid you usually live with it is not for them.

For me life is about ages and stages.  For me as well as for my kids.  It is not only the content, and the child's processing of it, but the age.  The brain goes through developmental stages so your 4 year old may be precocious but they are still not ready for Call of Duty.  

So I break out the invisible black marker with my own boys as they are tween and teen ages.  I love the guys in the GameStop by my house.  I not only read about a game the boys ask for, and often am appalled that they want something where a method of death is being eaten by rats -ewww or worse, but then I take them and let the "cool" gamer guys tell them what they think about it for their age.   So far my spidey sense on the appropriateness of a game has been in sync with these young men who work in the place because they love playing video games, withholding judgement on their ages and this obsession.

I censor through discussion mostly - the "I said so" worked well for their younger selves but I do not want to be the one that says no only I want them to understand that I say no and that they see why they aren't ready.

My father was appalled at the ripped out of magazine pictures on my bedroom wall of Vince Neil and the rest of Motley Crue, Ozzy in his full attire.  They were men who looked a cross between menacing, jailhouse material and weirdly full of make up and hairspray.  I loved them, their long hair and air of rebellion was exactly what this teenage girl's soul needed.  I liked their songs of angst and anger, of sexual undertones.  They were not singing about my life, they were singing of a life I had no access to in such excess.  What else is being a teenager about if not that?  The funny part was I always liked other music, found Dean Martin super sexy and no I did not wind up all those things my father told me I would if I liked those boys on my walls.  I still understood the difference between fantasy and reality - Tom and Jerry replaced by Vince and Axel.

I let my kids listen to music and I expose them to songs from all eras, they have an appreciation for Frank Sinatra, as they should, and others.  My 13 year old though, much like his peers, likes rap.  The rap they listen to though often is so bad, not because I do not like the genre because I do like a lot of rap songs, but because it is frankly crap.  There is no music in it, there are no statements, it is a contest to see how many times you can drop the f bomb, the getting your d&*k sucked and the number of women who are "ho"s who are just out for money.

So I do not ban it, because I know he can always find it, what I do instead is share some of my thoughts on it, ask him to alternate between that and some old school rap or even new artists that use rap with poetry to a beat it was meant to be.   I talk to him and make him wonder if a song really is worth listening to when the person performing it did not even bother to try and make a song but just cursed.  It does not eliminate it from his life but I do see that he can laugh with me at the ridiculousness of some of it and that in the end women are not to be spoken of and treated that way, that the f bomb is more effective when used more sparingly (cursing if I remember from my own days withers down but it is the ooh look what I just said among friends for a short teenage bit) and most of all that he should learn to censor his own stuff.

The same goes with movies, shows, graphic novels for both.  You cannot block out everything.  In the movie, amazing movie I should say, "Hidden Figures" the central character holds the black out to the light to see what she needs to solve a problem.  Our kids will do that too with whatever we say no to.

Same goes for their exposure to sexual content, it is not right at any age it is right for the right age.  There is nothing wrong with sex, actually it can be very right - say that in a Groucho Marx imitation, so I want them to be open with their questions, their thoughts but not open with their bodies or that of others until they are mature enough for it.

I do not know if I am right in my way but I do know my kids.  Maybe that's the best censor in all of us, knowing our kids and what limits they need.  It is not a one size fits all.  We all want them to be the best and for me that means teaching them to make good choices not because I said so but because that is what feels right.

Enjoy your day and remember our parents shuddered at our music and taste, their parents at theirs and somehow most of us learned to navigate life pretty well.  It is those who were overly repressed and become oppressors through extreme views who add the least to life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Still crazy after all these years

I am going to be 50 tomorrow ... 50!!!  Man, I thought that was so ancient, at best middle aged, nah ancient when I was younger.  I mean 50 - wasn't that the time you retired and started to eat at like 430 or something?  Broke out the white shoes with the thick soles?  How wrong our perceptions of age are when we are younger - or maybe we keep busting those perceptions as we refuse to let the number dictate to us and we chose to write our own stories of aging.

The insanity of youth is that anything slightly older than it seems outdated, to be put out to pasture.   Yet as my friends and I, mostly my  high school classmate friends, started this year with a foot in the last year of our 40s and a weary eye at a cake with many candle, somehow 50 didn't seem old anymore.

We tell each other it is the new 40.  In the scheme of how much longer people live that isn't quite wrong, and at some point 40 was something those who are young did and do still think of as over the hill.  It is middle age no matter how you cut it.  So what ??  It means you still have a half or more to keep doing what you want.

Yet 50 - wow.  I am not one to be defined by milestone birthdays but this one, well this one has been quite different for me.  I have found out that it is for many, especially women.

My reflection on this birthday started about 2 years ago - what do I want to do, to be, to want, to get when I am 50.  I do not want to be "normal" or go without being slightly insane.  I want to be the woman who makes others wonder "what's she up to now?".

I am more confident than when I was younger, I made peace with my imperfect body though we still have an adversarial relationship, I also started to really think about my goals.  So many of my goals, like many women, up to now were tied to outcomes expected by others.   Goals always included what was good for others too.  As I approach this milestone I started to really focus on what do I want, what do I want to accomplish, what do I deserve.  I learned from a therapist friend that to have real goals you have to visualize details in them, the colors, the smells, see yourself in them - so am starting with that as I build mine. I also came to realize that therapy is also necessary in the process for most of us, it just takes getting over the scared to be fabulous to start it.

How often do we really ask ourselves what do I deserve and not put any caveats on that?  Not be afraid to think it, want it, say it?  For me this is still a learning process.

So what have I learned in these 50 years - that love is meant to be celebrated, taken when you can, given freely even if it means you may get hurt.  I learned that passion and desire is not shameful but a driver and in itself a way to make life brighter, better, whether it is for a person or for idea.   I have traveled and appreciated different places and I am starting to wonder where I want to live beyond just where I am.  I have read a tremendous amount of wonderful books.  There has been art I have seen and art I have made that added to the memories that make me smile.

There is music, so much music, I cannot imagine not having it in my life throughout the years or going forward.

There are friends, some who stayed in my life, some who taught me that not all people are sincere and most who added a pebble to my soul to make it fuller.

I have not always had easy times, there were too many bad choices but luckily there were many more good ones and learnings from the ones that weren't.   I have lost people along the journey, they are all still part of who I am today in memories and things I learned with them.

Fifty is looking pretty damn fabulous from where I sit.  I see it in those who are turning 50 this year with me and in those that already celebrated it in years past.

It is not just a number because that would mean in some way it is not significant, for me it is significant.  I finished my book, which I swore I would do before 50.  I switched from exploring what's next in my career to what is my next career going to look like as I get closer to retirement.  Will it be full of creative endeavors or do I want to put my passions into other areas?  Not sure the world is full of possibilities.

As I turn 50 I also reflect on the wonder of human accomplishment, from kindness that pours over borders and in person when truly awful things happen, to scientific advancements, technology, architecture that has happened in my lifetime.  I was born in a world where nothing is impossible it just needs to be looked at from different angles and determined how it could be possible.

So happy birthday to me .... and thank you to you all who read this ... let the 2nd half of my century, cause yeah there is a chance I could live to a 100 (but only if I could be as cool as Betty White), begin.  I am ready to have people on this journey that appreciate who I am, who I appreciate and gently let go of "just what might have been".

Bring it 50 .... this girl is still not ready for you!!!!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Love it or leave it

In my many years of living in the States, choosing to be a citizen of this country, defending the US even when I disagreed with the politicians I never was told to leave here as much as I have been since the current president's run for office and even more so since he got into office.

As if caring for a country, disagreeing with the government, not supporting the person in the office because of his policies and lack of acumen (or his crass and morally repulsive behavior) and blindly bowing down is more patriotic. It is not it is nationalistic, the stuff of fascism, bolshevism, and yes nazism.  Patriotism is loving a place enough to see it's problems and looking at how you as one person can make a difference for the better.  Nationalism is seeing the flaws, blaming everyone but yourself and then following blindly anyone who only agrees with you.

People have forgotten they too are not from here, at some point even if they were born here, because the people who have told me if I do not like it 1) do not have Native American names 2) have said it based on my last name or when I mentioned I am immigrant 3) ironically seem to have immigrants in their family tree too.

As if people who came here didn't come here from places that didn't allow dissent, asked for blind following and total submission to the thought that government and one particular head of state is always right.  As if others didn't come here for financial opportunities.  Interestingly the people who were brought here against their will,  because no Dr Carson they did not emigrate immigrate here the only "grate" they saw were the ones that were on the windows of the floating prison barges that brought them here, do not say this to me ever.

People also seem to have really short memories - apparently some think this president is under more "attack".  Makes one wonder if they had their tvs, radios off since the 70s .  You don't have to go back that far you can go back say 8 years to see our former president's likeness lynched, burned, called crazy names, for some reason some crackpot started a bizarre birther theory, his daughters assailed, his wife called vile names.  Here is the beauty, wait for it, it still is all available for many years prior on this fancy doodad called the internet.

I am grateful for all that I have accomplished in this country.  What is happening  disturbs me because I grew up and lived with what happens without a free press, without the ability to dissent, without hope to change anything because you were supposed to smile and say thank you even when they kicked you.  It is because I believe in the concept of America - not a perfect place but a place perfected by those who come here.

I fulfill my part as an immigrant, I add to the fabric of society as much as I can, I contribute to the tax system, I vote and I had children here who I am raising to continue to add to the quilt that makes up the US.

Every day the dignity we once associated with the office,  even through scandals, has been diminished by a man who was never fit to sit in the chair to begin with.

I see his rallies, who has rally after rally right after they are elected ?  oh yeah dictators with their fragile egos who need to keep whipping their supporters into a frenzy, and there he is even less coherent but yet more applauded.  His supporters cannot seem to accept any chinks in his teflon armor.  They fiercely defend him if someone points out his audacious lies and believe that he is in their corner.  They need to believe because he still sells them on the idea that he believes in them.

As we celebrate the birth of this nation all of us chose at some time to cross oceans to get to, or for those that did not choose to come here they still have given their lives to try and make it a better place, that I want to remember that the founding fathers of this land were not men who were flawless.  Nor where they ideals of mankind.  They were men, who made poor choices but whose character was not shaped by those poor judgements but rather they were shaped by their belief in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  We can emulate that spirit and do better with those things they did not, like equal rights for men and women, like treating people the same regardless of their race, like making those pursuits available to all.

I believe that those who still support him believe that he will make it better for them,  isn't that what both left and right want though?  To make it better for all - what his message is most flawed in is that it seems as if the pie is finite when America is built on the idea that nothing is impossible.  The world will NEVER go back to what it was, who wants it to ?  We need to figure out how we can make it go forward with us at the helm, not standing there talking about the remember whens.

Happy Fourth of July - I leave you with words from Bono, a man who like me chooses to live in the States not because we see it as without need to make it better but because we love it enough to want to do so

"Anyway, it’s not a right/left issue. It’s a right/wrong issue, and America has constantly been on the side of what’s right. Because when it comes down to it, this is about keeping faith with the idea of America. Because America’s an idea, isn’t it? I mean, Ireland’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain’s a great country, it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history, right up there with the Renaissance, right up there with crop rotations and the Beatles’ White album. The idea, the American idea—it’s an idea—the idea is that you and me are created equal, and will ensure that an economic recession need not become an equality rescission. The idea that life is not meant to be endured but enjoyed. The idea that if we have dignity, if we have justice then leave it to us, and we’ll do the rest. This country was the first to claw its way out of darkness and put that on paper. And God love you for it, because these aren’t just American ideas anymore. There’s no copyright on them. You brought them into the world. It’s a wide world now. I know Americans say they have a bit of the world in them, and you do, the family tree has lots of branches. But the thing is, the world has a built of America in it, too. These truths, your truths, they’re self-evident in us.”