A long time ago, when I was very young, there was this movie that starred Tuesday Weld. She was accused of some crime and was on trial. Now, the character was a flamboyant one. Big hair, lots of make-up, cigarettes and very outspoken. Problem was, she lived in a very conservative community. Her lawyer was adamant that she change the way she looked in order to win public sympathy so that she could get a fair trial. She refused.
I asked my father why the personality makeover was necessary. Not in those terms, of course, but something to that effect. I don’t remember what his answer had been but I remember asking. What in the world had her looks and mannerisms have to do with whether or not she did what she was accused of? It was a question that would get stuck in my mind long after I became an adult as I came across real-life situations where people were judged based on perception — some, downright arbitrary. The worst kind was when an entire group gangs up on a person simply because he does not conform with their own rules and expectations.
I have dealt with all sorts of bitches and bastards in my professional life, some in sheep’s clothing. I know how vicious people can be and I have tried, still try, to prepare my own children for this convoluted reality in the hope that when they are adults, they will know how to deal with those kinds of people. The sad thing is that even as children, they are not exempt from this reality. Do I expect them to deal with such situations themselves?
Dine wrote in her blog:
Let me talk in the point of view of a parent. If my son is being doubted, let alone attacked, immediately I will see RED. More so, if in my heart of hearts, I know that the accusations they are hurling my son are baseless. Oh, boy, will I prove to them that they are wrong–point by point I will throw their glaring mistakes right into their faces. I will not even practice my ever favorite mantra of patience–counting 1…2…3……10. I have to defend my son. I will defend my son, FAST!
It’s the natural reaction of any parent, especially a mother. The question is whether defense is enough.
When my kids are having petty differences with classmates — with kids their age — I stay out of it. I let them sort it out because I want them to learn to be strong on their own. I let them deal with such situations UNLESS physical harm has been inflicted or unless the school neglects its responsibilities. But if adults attack my kids, in any way, even in the guise of protecting them, there will be no IFs. I won’t be on the defensive. I’d attack the attackers and let spill their blood. In short, offense is the better way to go.
Why? First, because the situation is lop-sided. Adult versus child. It would do well for an adult to find someone his own size and age but we all know that some people only dare to pick on those they perceive to be weaker or inferior. Second, why defend if there is no misdeed? You can spend a lifetime defending what you are and never win. It’s a fact. People are judgmental and most are arbitrarily judgmental. And the stronger you are, the more they want to break you. So, why defend? Why not point out the hypocrisy and the stupidity instead? Why not attack the real problem instead of getting cornered? Innocence does not need defending. Suspicions do not spell guilt.
There are situations too when parents throw accusations at a child in order to attack the parents. You know, in the tradition of the sins of the father visiting the child. It’s not even always the case that the parents are guilty. People just love drawing conclusions and throwing accusations based on suspicions alone. That’s the stuff that showbiz talk shows — all those gossips, intrigues, insinuations and counter-insinuations — are made of. Whoever said that media culture does not affect people needs a reality check.
The biggest irony is that the most judgmental of people, and the noisiest of the lot, are those who fancy themselves to be some sort of moral guardians. It’s just too tempting to ask who the heck assigned the role to them.
Sigh. I have learned long ago that age and maturity do not always go together. Let me cite a real-life example.
My kids go to a school where special children are mainstreamed. They have a few classmates who are autistic, suffering from attention deficiency whatchamacallit, etcetera. In the old school they went to, there were no such children. So, it took time for my kids to adjust to having classmates who were not like them nor the majority of the other kids. But — and I gotta hand it to the school — a year or two later, my kids have learned not to treat these special children differently. They know that these kids are different, will probably be always different, but they have learned not to judge them. It’s really hard to explain. I wish I can describe my own kids’ journey towards losing the bias and pre-conceived notions about special children. But it happened.
In contrast, there is this mother whose kids (younger than mine) attend an exclusive Catholic school. Lately, the school implemented the same policy of accepting and mainstreaming special children. At a party, the mother was all over herself regaling us with the horrors of having “such children” in the same school as hers. Obviously, she was of the opinion that special children need segregation. It wasn’t even because any of those kids attacked her or one of her own, nor do they present any real physical threat. No, she just didn’t want them anywhere near her kids, period. Her solution was to intimidate those children whenever she met any one of them. Nothing verbal; just body language.
If it were my child, what would I do? Would I keep making excuses, plead for sympathy and understanding because he is different from the rest? Or would I attack the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy of any parent passing judgment on my child and treating him as though he had less right to learn and grow as a person? In other words, why would I need to defend my child when the proper thing is for me to make the accusations and let the parent defend her own hypocrisy.
But then, of course, that’s just me.