A Participation Award For Caring

Sometimes I wonder if we don’t need participation awards for something as simple as caring or giving a damn since so few of us seem to do that anymore. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can tell me that things aren’t different, times haven’t changed, and that nothing is new under the sun but I think that’s a cop out. Yes, humans have experienced and done darn near everything on this planet. If you could think it, someone did it. And we have a knack for cruelty and horror. Maybe it’s that sense of self, or free will, or just finding that we had made ourselves into an alpha predator simply by evolving differently, we definitely have a taste for blood. So no, there’s nothing new.

Yet…

It’s all new.

Humans are evolving in new ways all the time, though now it’s technologically and not as notably physically. We have taken evolution into our own hands in a way. We are creating technologies that allow us to paradoxically be both closer and further away at the same time and we are having trouble coming to terms with that. It’s a sword that cuts us twice. We can be hateful to someone a world away in complete anonymity and never pay the price for it but we can also fall in love with that same person as fully as your heart can muster, and can find that they were never who they portrayed themselves as. We can lie to the world but the world will lie right back to us. And how do you come to terms with that? Well, we’re still learning. It’s a heady thing, that power of anonymity. To hurt someone, to love someone, and to never suffer real consequence in your day to day life.

Except…

Everything has a price.

Even if it’s just you losing a piece of yourself.

A piece of your humanity.

That’s all part of the deal.

Every action has a consequence.

From telling your wife you love her to telling your kid you hate them.

It all has a price.

And is any of this new?

This glee we find in anonymous cruelty?

Not at all, but it doesn’t mean we should shrug it off as if it’s to be expected. As if it’s part of the deal.

Because we can evolve.

If we choose to.

But there’s something pervasive about the nastiness. Something that seems akin to an infection. There’s so much frustration and anger and hurt that we just don’t know how to vent in a safe and constructive way. And maybe it shouldn’t be safe. And maybe we aren’t ready for it to be constructive. Children rage once in a while because they have to get it out, like poison, before it drowns them. It’s a release. Adults find coping methods to deal with that, kids don’t have those methods. They haven’t found them yet. So maybe we need to rage once in a while. The problem is that we rage at one another, and not at the world around us. Just as a grieving person may shout down God for what they are doing, we need a faceless something to rage against – the Machine, if you will. You can scream at God because God, is big enough to take it. You can scream at society because we, as a whole, can take it. We need to take it. We need to understand that no, things aren’t great. They aren’t perfect. We can do better. That doesn’t make America ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or anything other than a country trying to evolve itself in a world where we are finally seeing more than one color, more than one sex, and more than one race as having a place at the table. Whenever someone throws their hands up and rages at America it doesn’t mean they hate the country, or what we are, it means they don’t necessarily think we’re doing enough, or doing it right. And that’s fair. We can take it. We have to take it. Because we’re all in it together. When the nation bleeds, we all bleed. We don’t always have to like our family, but we will always love them because they are part of us and we are all family. If you call this country your home, you are a part of that family.

But we have gotten mean.

Angry.

Resentful.

We have this strange, perverted machismo that rails against political correctness but then gets its feelings hurt when someone speaks ill of something that it loves. It’s a silly double standard that people just refuse to see. ‘How dare you speak out against the country I love where it’s free to speak that way while I tell you what a piece of human garbage you are…which is also generally protected under the same amendment, Amen.’

We complain that kids are weak and whine about ‘participation’ trophies all while then talking about how they don’t have any respect or manners but we don’t teach them what it means to be mannered and respectful. We tell, we don’t teach. So how will kids figure out how they should act?

Well, they learn it all from somewhere, daddy-o and if they can’t learn it at home, or didn’t learn it at home, and you don’t show them another way to act, or reason to act in another way then, well, what do you expect?

We are creating our own monsters.

We think of children as OURS and treat them as such and raise them as such. We don’t want them to find themselves, we want them to find us in everything. We want them to be the best…at being us.

Maybe we can give out prizes to the winners, the kids that imitate our childishness best.

But let’s get back to the participation trophy thing.

While I admit that children need to learn that failure isn’t terrible, that we don’t always win, and that you need to be able to pick yourself up after you lose, I will also say that kids need to be encouraged also. There’s a place for the participation trophy and the ‘earned’ one. Kids, from a very early age are told ‘no, no, no, no’ all while being given in to. It’s a mixed message. It’s no wonder kids are dodgy about some things. We want to baby them and treat them as if they are special and we project that out into the world and all but demand the world treat the child the same way. But then they stop being as cute, and their personalities outgrow their bodies and we suddenly want them to act like grownups. We don’t know how to treat them so they don’t know how to act. We create sexy clothes for teen girls then tell them to not act like they are grown. We objectify women and have trouble prosecute rapists but then tell boys to act like gentlemen. Mixed messages. Everywhere. And that’s fine when we’re adults but with kids they don’t know what to listen to. The guy on the street that pays more attention to them than their parents or a teacher who has a hundred students a day and just doesn’t have enough time to care about every individual kid.

And then we rail about how weak they are.

Participation trophy.

HA!

The nerve.

Not realizing that if we don’t encourage the things kids love that they may never learn to love or be passionate about anything. Kids are fragile. They are the flowers of society. We can nurture them and watch them bloom or we can dump salt on them and kill them. Our choice. Yeah, kids need to learn to lose, and they need to learn young, but we don’t have to make them successful in losing. We can teach them that losing a game doesn’t mean you lost more than a game. We can teach them that not winning a competition doesn’t mean you are any less talented or smart, or skilled, it just means that you didn’t win this competition. I had a teacher tell me I was no artist once, something I have posted about on here in the past. They said it to be mean because they didn’t like having had me in their class. That killed my love of art like a stake through the heart, for over a decade. Just him saying that. Now, the thing is not that he said it but that what he said was oil to fire and it just exploded the self-doubt I already had. And there is a whole nation of kids just like that. Told they are the best, the worst, and old news within the span of a few years.

We are raising our kids in a world that tells them that if they are not white, not straight, not cis-gendered, not Christian, or any number of other things that they are not normal and not OK. We want kids to be cute toys and accessories until they starting needing more from us than we need from them and then we want them to grow up already. We are raising them in a culture that opens the world to them but doesn’t teach them how to act responsibly in that open world. We will never all agree on everything, and that’s fine, but we should at least work to make a world where we have the freedom to safely disagree without forcing people to live by our personal rules of the road.

And here are, fighting amongst ourselves over the pettiest of things while the world’s children stare at us agape, learning what it means to be an adult from the pros.

Let’s get the awards ready.

  • c

http://www.meepsheep.com – the place my fiction lives.

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