Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Explaining Arizona's Hate Bill Sb 1062 to Your Kids

A dad from Arizona, who is a member of our Dad Bloggers group, has asked for our opinions. He's not sure how he should explain Arizona to his kids. Arizona lawmakers are trying to turn discrimination against gay people into law, and unless Arizona's conservative Governor vetoes the bill, SB 1062 will become law. How do you explain living in a state with a majority of lawmakers happily voting for a bill that turns back the wheels of progress? A bill that sends a message that gay people should go back to the closet if they want to be accepted in society?

My first reaction to the question was remembering a recent conversation I had with my kid about Israel, where I was born, where I lived for the first 22 years of my life, and where my family still lives. And here's the comment I wrote in response to the Arizona dad's question, before I decided it probably belonged here:

Pfffff.... Arizona? Try explaining Israel to my 6-year-old...

I did start explaining it, and I'll definitely get in deeper into the Middle East conflict when he's older. I'm always honest with him, and I always try to explain all sides to him, even if he can tell that my views are subjective. Some of you have seen my post about explaining Ray Rice to my kid during our drive to school. We have long car rides to school (although it's all about to end next week, when we move), and my son is curious. I don't take credit for the fact that he's a really smart kid--that's all him--but I do take credit for answering all of his questions.

He heard a kid in school mention Jesus, so he asked me about it. I explained who he was, what some people believed, what others believed, and what I believed.

"Are there any other stories like that, with other religions?"

So I started explaining Muhammad, as much as I remembered. I explained how he was also persecuted, like Jesus, and how he escaped the people who chased him in Jerusalem, by jumping with his flying horse. And then I mentioned that because his horse jumped from a particular spot in Jerusalem, that spot was very important to Muslims, but it was also very important to Jews, because they had a holy temple there, and that's why they'd been fighting for 2000 years.

"Is that really why they fight, or are there other reasons?"

Now, at this point I couldn't stop, so I started talking about Jewish people being persecuted, and about the meaning of a Jewish homeland, and about wars over land and over limited resources, and about the occupation, and about being in the military, and about my friends who died in Lebanon for nothing, and about how, maybe, by the time he was older, the two sides wouldn't fight anymore, and they would look back and not even understand what the fighting was all about. The end.

"Do all Israelis think like you?"

Doh! So, in my head, I told him his grandfather was a freakin' Fascist with no regard for human life other than the lives he'd been taught to think were his allies, but I didn't say that, because he was 6, and more importantly, because it wasn't true. So instead, I told him some people in Israel wanted peace with the Palestinians, but they were afraid that it wouldn't be a real peace, and that Palestinians would use the peace to make Jerusalem their own. I told him many people in Israel were afraid Palestinians wouldn't let Jews live in Jerusalem, and that they believed peace would make life dangerous for people in Israel. And I also told him again that I thought they were wrong, and that Palestinians and Israelis would stop fighting one day, and then they would realize these 2000 years of fighting had been for nothing.

The conversation ended there. He seemed happy enough, and I put Pandora back on.

So what about Arizona? How does a dad from Arizona explain Arizona to his kids? My answer is, as always, to be respectful and honest with the kids and with the opinions of others, no matter how wrong they are, since demonizing them is not going to help us understand the validity of our own opinions. And it doesn't mean hate gets equal time and respect in the explanation. If the other side is ridiculous, it deserves to be respectfully ridiculed.

Maybe something like that:

Some people in Arizona are very conservative, which means they think change is happening too fast. When I was a kid, gay people had to pretend not to be gay, because some people wanted to hit them or even kill them when they found out they were gay. And now gay people don't hide anymore, and in many states and countries, they get married and have kids, and everyone is happy. But some people still don't want to be around gay people, and they want them to continue to hide, and to not be able to get married and have kids. It's crazy, but maybe they're afraid that if they sit at the same restaurant with gay people, they will turn gay themselves? It's like saying that if you sit next to a girl, you will turn into a girl. It's silly. But there are a lot of silly people out there, who think many silly things, and all we can do is say what we believe in, stand for what is right, and hope that one day these people realize that telling people they have to hide is wrong. Remember that video we saw, with Martin Luther King Jr. saying he had a dream that one day black kids and white kids would play together? Well, this could be our dream: to live in a country where no one has to hide or pretend to be something he's not, and that no one will be allowed to tell other people they can't sit in a restaurant. In our dream, people won't even think about doing that, because people will respect each other and love each other.

Well, something like that, anyway.


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