(Image: Brian Nguyen)
Last Sunday night, I flipped on the TV and the disturbing video of UC Davis students peacefully sitting still while getting pepper sprayed by police aired on the news. Jake, not a stranger to the violent history of the world (he likes to fight the Nazi’s for pretend, ya’ll), came running in when I shouted. I couldn’t contain my response. Oh my God.
I’m sorry. Is it my job as a mother to shield an almost 8-year-old from a lesson about society and social unrest? Or do I teach him about current events? Sure, I could have turned off the TV. Sure, I could have said. “Oh, nothing I thought I saw a mouse.” But I have been teaching him about the economic unrest of this country in the past few months since I was first moved by the demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street. This was a silent, non violent, peaceful protest –and yet. And yet students at UC Davis were sprayed with pepper spray by police because they weren’t… moving. You tell me what animal does this to a student? Someone who is looking for power.
As I last recall our rights in this country allow us to protest. Correct?
So this is a lesson I wanted to show my son. “Why’d they do it, mom?” he wanted to know. So I explained. And, no, I didn’t say “They need to get a job and take a bath,” thank you very much Mr. Gingrich. You can watch my girl Mika Brzezinski hammer Newt G. over his lovely remarks. We can all see that you’d rather sell books than run for the actual job of president, now, right?
Or there’s the lovely Fox newsheads Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly who have decided to take any other side except the right one (pun intended) by saying that pepper spray was a simple food product, essentially. (Read AV Flox’s blog entry on BlogHer about the real health affects of pepper spray. Frightening.) Megyn Kelly: Is this really what we’ve come down to? American values and American rights are being manipulated for book sales and tv shows?
While they told their lies, I decided to tell my son the truth. I explained that we have the right to protest. That there are a lot of people who can’t find jobs. That people are angry. And they’re showing their display of anger and protesting.
Today, Brian Lehrer of WNYC talked about the incident with Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows who discusses what it means to hold restraint in protest and how images like this one at UC Davis has come to haunt the nation just as other images have through history. As Lehrer said:
“Perhaps the most remarkable part of the incident as captured on video was not the cold, calculated pepper spraying itself, but the restraint of the protesters for minutes after.”
This is a good lesson for a child, I thought. Violence doesn’t have to make a point. That non-violence, as long it is something you believe in, can be equally, or more convincing. The parents of those students should be proud of their children’s restraint.
But not everyone is thrilled about parents like me teaching our kids about politics at such a young age. Just recently I read the outrage that HuffPo users had over the parent who announced that they’d bring their kids to Occupy Wall Street. Over 1,000 people so outraged that they’d shower their anger onto one parent. On the internet? So I wonder. Was Jake too young to see that pepper spraying incident? For me, I’d rather expose him if the moment is right. I’d rather expose him now than hide it all and pretend that there isn’t unrest. That a movement isn’t happening. Because there is a powerful movement happening. And here’s your first introduction to it my lovely boy.
And now, you can go back to being a kid.
If you haven’t watched the video yet, here it is.