Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Have A Dream...

We all know the famous "I have a dream speech" of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Most people can quote at least part of it.  "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,"  is one of my personally favorite lines.  I have so many dreams for my children.  I always have, even when I wasn't sure I wanted to have children because of the kind of world that I would be bringing them into.  There are so many hopes I have for the future.  So many goals I hope that mankind can attain in the way our societies function within the world.  So many scientific achievements I'd love to see brought forth for my children and their children and for all future generations.

Some of my dreams seem as simple as Dr. King's statement, I have a dream about the character of my children and of those whom they will come in contact with.  I have spent the entire lives of my children molding them in such a way that they will have the manners and outward thinking necessary to permit them the choice of a future in any career they may chose, whether that leads them to the white house or a tree house in the woods.  I desperately hope that those who spend any time with my children find them to be a pleasure and truly enjoy having them around without the need to worry about the state of their house, yard, or other personal property before or after our visit.  As such I love to take my children out to meet the world.  To help to practice in all that I want them to project.  Yet, there are still many elements, those pesky sub cultures, that run contrary to that which I want my children to project.
Is it too much to dream that my children would be spared from the vulgarities projected by those parents who take a laissez faire attitude towards childrearing.  The ones who have 4 to 5 kids in diapers (I'm not talking multiples here, but clearly kids of different ages) some of whom look big enough to be in school.  The parents that think that drinking only beer and smoking cigarettes in front of kids is perfectly acceptable behavior.  Especially the parents that won't put either down to keep their baby from doing something potentially dangerous and for some reason amusing to them.     Now, before I get bombasted, having a beer on occasion is not a big deal.  Heck, I'll even make an exception for the occasional smoke, I personally have a weakness for the smell of pipe tobacco, although smoking with children is still very sketchy for me.  Just the site makes me cringe.  Not to mention it is extremely rude to anyone downwind.  

I really try to be open to many different ways of life, accepting that not everyone has the same personal rules which they live by and while there are universal rules; those within a person's religion, or those within a given country, they are not the only rules under which people live.  However, there is just something about the redneck lifestyle that I simply can't abide.  I've known plenty of rednecks, and of course the adherence to the lifestyle differs by wide degrees.  Even within my family my parents proudly boast of their redneckisms, although thankfully neither of them smoke and the beer is an occasional if ever thing for them.

Still, if anything were to highlight the dichotomy of cultures in the United States it would be intellectualists vs rednecks.  I probably fall somewhere in the middle, but that is not important.  Even more-so than the political parties these two lifestyles are at odds with one another.  In my ideal, my children would never have to endure the extreme redneck.  The people who take pride in the rude.  The people with no concept of manners or thinking of others first.  I'm not talking about rural or poor, those people don't have to be rednecks.  Redneck is a choice.  It is a lifestyle, and one that my dream for the future would do without.

Whenever I am around these people I just cringe.  I like to move away, but this deprives my kids of other opportunities.  Of course if the smoking and beer and noise is too bad even my kids want to be deprived of whatever it is we are leaving, just to escape.  How can a grown person feel these behaviors are ok.  I mean sure kids exploring the realms of adulthood can find their antics and lifestyle amusing, but seriously, as a parent???

Maybe I'm just not seeing the whole picture?  Is there something I am missing here.  Is there something more edifying to this lifestyle.  Something desirable that people want their children to become this?  Is there something redeeming about this lifestyle?  Am I blinded by that all I can see are the flagrant wastes of resources, the smoke, noise, drinking, and rudeness of the children?  Am I missing something in the lack of manners and social graces?

Not long ago a man who was with a group of people with 5 kids in diapers (and nothing else, all of which could walk on their own), swilling beers one after another, whose hand bore the stains of the many cigarettes that had all but taken his voice (seriously another two months and this guy probably wouldn't be able to talk unaided) looked at my chaotically packed van and said, "Hey, you're just like us!  When we packed our van was stuffed like that, 96 diapers (no kidding really!?!) and stuff everywhere."  Then he coughed and chugged his beer.  Well, I did bring some diapers, although not that many - only one of my kids needs them, and we did throw things haphazardly in the back after we'd been playing in the river.  But are we the same?  In all that I've tried to change, is whatever it is that makes us rednecks, still pursuing me?  No matter what I dream, will the lifestyle of the redneck always plague my children?

Maybe the problem is simply the training in manners?  Manners after all are not something that are intuitive, they must be taught.  In order to teach them you need to know them yourself.  Sometimes it seems that just the knowledge of manners, the ability to think of others first, which is the essence of manners, is something that while in some ways a throw back to a more "proper" time, also entirely relevant and vital for the furtherment of society.

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