Comments on: Other links, other views on the Newtown, Conn. mass murder, plus a reconsideration of parenting. History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 By: Civilization and barbarism | Mictlantecuhtli Wed, 19 Dec 2012 18:45:53 +0000 [...] than it would be merely to find a way to make sure no white mothers raise psychotic sons. Here is one of the comments on Historiann that I like, and another, and [...]

By: Chris Wed, 19 Dec 2012 02:23:11 +0000 A new item that if I had known, would have topped my list of pre-prayer ban atrocity in U.S. History – the most deadly school shooting in American history occurred back in 1927. Prayer in schools wasn’t banned until 1962/63.

By: cgeye Tue, 18 Dec 2012 20:17:50 +0000 I think the focus of the violence kids see in the media has changed.

Watching TV westerns of the 50s and early 60s on the weekends, I was surprised how much of the violence was directed by the loner toward another violent loner, a lot of the time against the wishes of the town supposedly wanting peace. Either the town’s authorities wanted to go all vigilante, or concede, but corporate power, in the aggregate, was either corrupt or cowardly, and in most cases not to be trusted.

Was it any surprise that the youngfolk who watched those shows grew up to protest the war in Vietnam?

Then, the turn: Dirty Harry, Death Wish and their ilk, that basically considered the entire concept of the city to be corrupt, with its townspeople being predated on by organized crime protected by a toothless police. Trust in policemen went away, save for those dashing undercover cops always yelled at by their (powerless, minority) boss. Those cops, if personable enough, stayed on the TV schedule, but soon pure vigilantes popped up – remember when the A-Team was considered the most violent show on the air? Innocent days….

Crime-fighting power on TV was recentralized after 9/11, so our SWAT are the swattiest, our counter-terrorism troops the most destructive (how many times did the US get attacked on 24, due to one more sex partner or mole CTU trusted?), and our vigilantes, the most connected and thorough (Person of Interest’s full-bore surveillance, anyone?) And, if the whole rule of law is just boring, turn on The Walking Dead, which shows action (i.e. violence) that surpasses Night of the Living Dead’s original X rating. If there is an excuse to restore order, we will tolerate seeing (and paying for, either through cable subscriptions or ad revenues) the most violent actions possible. And, yet, we don’t see many frontally-naked men on TV, do we?

That tells me that if we wanted to control what we consider important societally, we still could. It’s just male executives still draw the line at that.

Once the Internet perfected streaming audio, the V-Chip became irrelevant. And, once smartphones could be understood better by children than adults, parental blocks became easily hackable. The fronts on which parents must fight to keep a standard of media hygiene for their kids have expanded so quickly that playground conversation does devolve to the lowest common denominator — but parents who care so little for what their kids see are even more enraged when another parent calls them on it.

By: truffula Tue, 18 Dec 2012 19:47:14 +0000 Perpetua: Our boys liked Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter andThe people who hugged the trees, and Indian folk tale adapted by Deborah Lee Rose. Both are about organized, nonviolent responses to environmental threats. I recall that we liked Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo but I don’t remember much about it other than the wonderful art. <I?Harvesting Hope, about Cesar Chavez, is good.

Another book we love (and read a lot) is The Duck in the Gun by Joy Cowley. This New Zealand classic (fiction, picture book) is about subverting the war machine. It was first published in 1969. You might also be interested in Shaun Tan’s beautiful, beautiful books. In this context, The Rabbits is about the effects of colonization on the colonized.

We also talk a lot about people we know who engage in nonviolent civil resistance, on the front line, doing jail support, leading trainings, the whole nine yards. I think it is important for them to know that heroes are best not thought of as famous people but people just like us and that means that they are complicated, just like us.

We do a thing called metta practice, in which we reflect on the people we love, starting with ourselves, then circling out to include our family, our friends, the folks we recognize at the market, the birds and the bees and sycamore trees, and eventually also the people who make us very angry. When they were very young we didn’t call it that, we just had this conversation at the end of the day as they were drifting off to sleep. As they grow older I’ve made it a bit more formal.

By: Chris Tue, 18 Dec 2012 17:31:55 +0000 So….

I’m not in the age-range of the mass shooters of the past two decades (Nixon was still in his first term when I was born), so I have a bit of a different perspective on the issue of newness of the pervasiveness of violence in the media environment that children, especially boys, are exposed to than many of the commentators here. I also don’t yet have children (we’re pursuing adoption after I finish my PhD), which gives me a bit of a different focus. The thing is, I remember lots of violence in media growing up during the 1970s and 1980s. I watched the Loan Ranger ever day before going to kindergarden or elementary school, saw Star Wars with my Dad and the parish priest (though Bambi and Fantasia are the first movies I remember). We grew up playing with cap guns that looked like six-shooters and smelled of gunpowder when we used them, and I consumed loads of comic books, novels, TV shows, and cartoons that seem quite violent. And that was before GI Joe, the Transformers, and the A-Team showed up on television and made it look like you could shoot at people and blow them up without harming anyone. By the 1980s, the Teen-aged Mutant Ninja Turtles in the cartoon form had small kids practice faux martial arts moves in random places, and on random people.

There was also a very permissive environment for acquiring guns, even those that were fully automatic. I received a rifle for Christmas when I was just ten (I still have it, partially disassembled, and it hasn’t been fired since around 1981. The thing is most useful as a club these days). At the same time, though, even with the violence of the drug trade during the 1980s, we didn’t experience the same rash of mass shootings that we have now. Something has clearly changed in our culture alongside the end of the Assault Weapons Ban in the middle of the last decade. I’m not sure that media is more violent now, but it is definitely more pervasive, and it seems unmonitored by parents (mine didn’t let us watch R-rated movies until we were 17, and they weren’t on before 8 pm in the pre-V chip era).

I hadn’t noticed until this discussion, but we do seem to be missing masculine examples of solving problems in nonviolent ways – Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, Father Mulcahey (and Hawkeye and Trapper John), Bill Cosby, and their ilk seem less likely to be successful in the modern media environment. The question to me in this regard, though, is whether media made that change for us, or we as a culture stopped responding to those types of characters as much.

By: Perpetua Tue, 18 Dec 2012 16:15:18 +0000 @Truffula – a little OT, but do you know a good children’s book (for the under 6 crowd) that deals with real life heroes like Rosa Parks, but in conjunction with other non violent heroes? I have to be careful doing too much “talking to” my son about things – he’s hyper-sensitive to feeling lectured to. We find books work better than talks, except the very briefest of talks.

@Historiann, I totally agree about this “powerless” parent. But I think at the end, she just doesn’t care/ see the problem. Then again, her kid bites and scratches and taunts my kid. And, just as a data point, my kids go to a Montessori school.

By: truffula Tue, 18 Dec 2012 15:37:25 +0000 I hear ya’ Perpetua. My children are both boys too. When they first learned about “superheroes,” we were living overseas. They asked what that was about and I said superheroes are fiction, let’s talk about what makes a real hero instead. We then went on to talk about Rosa Parks, how she was part of a movement, trained in nonviolence, etc. we talked about living by your values and my idea that heroism is taking a risk you don’t have to take with the hope of helping somebody other than yourself.

I am always thinking about how to subvert pop culture themes toward stuff I want to talk about with them. Sometimes that does mean comparative superhero analysis. Say, the differences between the Batman and Spiderman. I’m okay with that.

By: Historiann Tue, 18 Dec 2012 15:34:03 +0000 Wow. I think I really do live in la-la land.

I guess my original instincts were correct: parenting does matter, as it sounds like truffula and perpetua are struggling against other people’s parenting choices and other children’s media exposure mightily.

I agree with truffula: all you can do is remind your children where they come from and what the rules are at your ranch. I think it’s worth fighting against normative boy culture, which strikes me as incredibly vapid and violent.

I’m struck by the comment from the other parent in perpetua’s comment that “you just can’t keep them away from superheroes.” How stupid to see parenting as a herd activity when most people are led by the lowest common denominator. I think it’s a real mistake to think that she as a parent is so powerless.

By: Perpetua Tue, 18 Dec 2012 13:39:00 +0000 @Historiann and truffula on limiting media & parenting. I agree that limiting media isn’t hard in one’s own home. We don’t have a television. We have laptops and ipads, and I don’t think introducing kids to how these technologies work is the same as giving unlimited access to the internet. We are careful about their toys, books, and the videos they watch (and how much they watch). And yet, like truffula, when I got them to school I realized how little control I would have over what my child was exposed to. I should clarify here that I am the mother of two sons, so all of these issues are things I think about a *lot*. Anyway, he got obsessed with super heroes and play fighting, and now it’s gun fingers. The school has a no-violent-play policy, but they can’t monitor the children on the playground every second. Moreover, many of the parents don’t care about this rule and think it is silly. One of them rolled their eyes (with me, I think) and said: “You just can’t keep them away from superheroes!” I was pretty annoyed – my son is friends with her son, and her son taught him everything he knows about superheroes. My thought was, actually I put zero effort into keeping my kid away from superheroes before school. Now I see all kinds of proto-bullying behavior at the school, some of which my son was participating in, some of which was directed at him. He’s four. It’s scares the pants off me. I do blame other parents, I have to admit. It’s hard to put so much effort into creating a different paradigm only to confront mainstream society. They don’t question or problematize conventional masculinity, or they valorize that type of play. Now, I don’t think gun play = mass murderer. I played guns myself as a child and I’m a pacifist. But the other parents have to be on board with the program in order to create an anti-racist, gender-neutral, peaceful atmosphere. I guess schools can help by having really good programs in place, and I do my best with my kid (I was so delighted the other day he said to me, some kids say that nail polish is only for girls, but it’s really for girls AND boys. So at least for now he’s pushing back a bit).

By: truffula Tue, 18 Dec 2012 07:44:39 +0000 Limiting children’s exposure to media is not hard

The day my children went of to preschool was the day I came to the startling realization that never again would I know everything that happened in their days. They would experience the points of view, values, and boundaries set by other children’s parents as well as my own. All you have to do is watch children at play at a public playground to realize that other families have values different from your own.

I learned how to think about this by reading anti-racist parenting articles at racialicious and similar blogs. The world is full of racism, violence, pink kitchen play sets, and lady-shaped cartoon androids selling vodka. I can’t act as if it does not exist and I think I’d be doing my children a disservice if I did. What I can do is help my children learn to recognize it when they see it, think about how it affects both themselves and others, and put it in its place.

My hope is for them to develop the skills to self regulate, to recognize violence and violent content and turn away from it. This works a lot of the time but they still have friends whose parents have different values and I’m not sure it would be helpful to just shut that down (even if I could). We also talk about not judging others for their values while also holding true to our own. I have started to talk about the idea of being an ally but this is a challenge with the grade school set (it tuns out to be hard with my aging peers as well).