“Look at you, a grown ass man fighting with children!”
Those children appeared to be a pair of twenty something lesbians, the more butch of whom had driven her minivan with a “Bernie For President” bumper sticker around me in the facing traffic lane as I waited for the car in front of me in the entry road to Walmart.
They felt entitled to break the law, be unsafe and rude to get where they wanted to go, but felt that no one, especially me, had any right to challenge or confront their choices.
Removing my standing was their big move, as they told me to go away, as they mocked my hair, my whatever, calling me rude names as I just wondered why they felt they were entitled to violate rules, social and legal. Together they agreed that I was the fucking asshole, that I was harassing them, that calling them out was just improper.
It was the more femme one who finally made the point: “Look at you, a grown ass man fighting with children!”
My reply was simple: “Anyone with a driver’s licence is not a child.” You have agreed to obey the rules of the road.
But they, you see, saw themselves as children, entitled to do whatever they wanted to do.
(For the record, it’s the same Walmart parking lot where a young woman of colour yelled at me for an hour after she hit the back of my car as I was backing out of a blind parking space. My fault, yes, but grown ups know how considerate we have to be in parking lots.)
I spent years talking about the obligations of parents, and beyond that, the obligation we each have to parent the world, caring for others, caring for community by taking responsibility for our own actions and the shared actions of the group.
That chat got me kicked off lists, attacked and spattered because I was a grown ass human fighting with children. Many demanded the indulgence and entitlement of selfishness, the kind that lets you just cut around cars in the other traffic lane to get where you want to go rather than waiting for your turn, rather than respecting the other people in front of you.
Call out culture is to call out those above us, those who should make room for our youthful demands, not to call out the teen spirit that lets us be rebels in the quest for getting what we need, what we want! How can you, who we see to be old and straight, possibly understand our suffering?
Insisting that other people make way for you while you just get to slam them for causing you challenge and discomfort is definitely childish behaviour. It is the kind of behaviour one would expect of one who wants to be a spoiler in the Democratic party while identifying as an Independent. Oh, yeah, the bumper sticker makes sense.
This culture knows how to pander to children because children act on whims and are malleable. They are cute and hot and manipulable.
Seniors, however, like the three people who encouraged me to go in front of them in the line at Aldi because I had just one item, right before I drove into Walmart, are more settled, more sane and more balanced. You usually can’t just use emotion to get them going, tempting them to buy whatever you are selling, from phones to political actions. Telling them that the kids are trying to take away everything they value may get them hot enough to fight, but that’s a battle it takes two to heat up.
Learning that your choices have consequences, that you shouldn’t do onto others what would be hateful to you, that you have the responsibility to model good behaviour is something you grow into. It’s easy to attack people who make choices that you would not make for yourself, but not so much fun when you get attacked for making choices that your peers approve of but don’t pass muster for grace and legality.
Accountability is not only for others. Telling people to go away because their witnessing of your actions makes you uncomfortable is not politically correct.
Every time you use being a child as an excuse to get away with selfish, entitled behaviours you tell the world that you are not ready to be seen as an adult, not ready to make the choices of an adult, not ready to be given responsibility for shaping a world that respects everyone with dignity and consideration. It’s okay to be a child, still experimenting and forming, still caught up in your own stuff, but both being a child and a leader doesn’t work.
When people show they are working to take responsibility, it is easy to offer them a hand. When people demand our indulgence, shining in their own sense of entitlement, it is easy to demand responsibility from them.
In my heart, the call to mother has always been loud. Being a mother, though, doesn’t mean just smiling as kids make unsafe, rude and selfish choices, it often means mirroring those actions to help them find mature choices.
As long as people continue to use being children as an excuse, though, they remain both dangerous to others and unsafe to themselves. As much as they need a chance to explore possibilities, they also need to understand that their actions have consequences.
Why do I mirror those who think their identification as children entitles them to selfish indulgence of rule breaking and other crude behaviours?
Because I believe that in every child there is a grown-up who can come out and be a valued asset in the world.
No matter how much they and their peers just want to talk shit, minimize me and rationalize their own behaviours.