Friday, February 22, 2019

Boys Will Be

The amount the family is seeking in damages, $250 million, is the amount Amazon CEO and frequent Donald Trump target Jeff Bezos paid for the Post when he bought it in 2013. Sandmann’s lawyers claim the suit is not brought with a political agenda.
Covington Catholic student’s family hits the Washington Post with $250 million lawsuit
Of course not. That number makes perfect sense.

In any event, this has been generating a lot of heat, if barely any light. There seem to be a million online arguments about it. Mainly adults shouting at each other. I've read people claiming that they'd kick their kid's butt if they behaved as Nick Sandmann had, and then (and this is where sides are drawn up) proclaiming whether they'd sue or just walk away. All of which is really about the adults themselves.

I was a Catholic High School student once. I'd say that there were about two dozen of the guy that this kid was presumed to be (and may actually be) in my class. I don't know how you get around it. Religion makes jerks of people sometimes, and kids that age are really good at being jerks. They don't need whatever help religion may give. Or any other, for that matter. And I think that this may be what gave the story legs so easily. When I first heard of this, I just rolled my eyes, because what else is new? There's a big hullabaloo about the fact that this particular kid may not be the giant jerk the Washington Post made him out to be, but that kind of slides by the fact that a lot of kids are that jerk, or worse.

For all this "I'd kick my kid's butt" posturing, the fact of the matter is that unless it happened to be caught on tape or something, most parents would likely never find out about it. I wasn't all that good at keeping my parents in the dark, but I still managed to do things that I wouldn't confess to my mother to this day. But here's really what it comes down to; if you catch your kid behaving like that, step one should be to look in the mirror. While some apples do fall far from trees, that's not a safe bet to make. I didn't know all of the parents of the kids I considered jerks in my class, but from those I did know, it made perfect sense. Not in the sense that they actively approved of the jerk things that wend down, but in the fact that they were often jerks themselves. More mature and less ostentatious jerks, but jerks. And for most of them, it wasn't their kid's behaviors they were worried about; it was the embarrassment of their son being caught doing something that made them, as parents, look incompetent at parenting. And that's when butt-kickings happened.

One thing I learned from working with kids is how easily parents convince themselves that children reflect only the best of what's around them. But children aren't stupid and they're not imperceptive simply because they're children. They are more than capable of understanding power relationships, and they learn what's acceptable by watching their parents behave. Sure, some kids are influenced enough by their peer groups that they decide that it's worthwhile to do things that would otherwise never fly when they're around their friends. But the habit that many parents develop of blaming anyone but themselves is misplaced. Other people, of course, are more than willing to lay blame at the feet of parents.

And Nick Sandmann wandered face-first (quite literally, it seems) into a culture war over which side has worse people in it. Because cataloging other people's sins is a more enjoyable pastime that just dealing with the fact that any group of people large enough to have entered the public consciousness is too small to have any jerks in it - including any that we happen to be a part of. And pointing out other people's children behaving badly is just another way of making oneself out be a saint without actually needing to behave all the time.

And I do feel badly for him, because he's learning a hard lesson on what it means to be judged on the funhouse reflection of the world that people see when they look at someone, as opposed to what that person may have actually done. The father's lawsuit is a stunt, to be sure. Hopefully it won't need to be a salve for the weight of a millstone that was dropped around his son's neck.

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