Do you remember when you were a kid and the way you looked at your parents? I do. You looked at them as heroes, like they were gods walking among us, like every movie star we’d ever seen.
In our young eyes, they could do no wrong, and when they disciplined us because we did something wrong, it was the harshest of rebukes. Like Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed themselves came down and grounded us. Because we loved them so, their harsh words or firm hands stung all the more.
Some of us had parents who didn’t discipline them. They were their kid’s buddies, they would give them almost anything, or it seemed so, and they would do and say the most outrageous things. You always wanted to hang around these seemingly rare parents and their kids because you could have whatever fun you wanted with almost no repercussions.
But when things went wrong at that home, they were terrible. There was yelling, sometimes hands turned into fists, and occasionally your friend would not come to school for a few days. But those kids, they loved their parents no matter what, and if you dared say a mean thing about them, they’d defend their parents with fists of their own.
As we got older, we started to see our parents for the humans they were. They had flaws, they were often set in their ways and wrong about so many things, but we loved them still, even if we disagreed with them. We might tell them they were wrong, but we seldom ever said why. Maybe because we didn’t know enough to say exactly why, or maybe we knew we were wrong and we just wanted to argue, but more often than not these arguments did not end our way. And we still loved our parents, even if we talked about them behind their backs to our friends, and we still defended them when others insulted them or our family.
And those whose parents didn’t discipline them? They’re running roughshod all over town, throwing parties or getting into trouble. The parents are either the town drunks or addicts, or if they were lucky, they were now well off and maybe held positions of power and would buy their way out of trouble. And those kids might know their parent was no good, but depending on if their parent were the town drunks or the corrupt town board member, they would either fight anyone who would speak ill of them, or agree with them to their face, but help or enable their parents when nobody was looking.
Now that we are grown, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of realizing our parents are sometimes mistaken, and sometimes they need to be corrected, but it’s hard. In some part of our mind, we still see our parents as we once did, larger than life and we would do anything to make them happy. Many of us don’t ever find the strength to speak against our parents, even when we need to correct them. We don’t because they, too, are stuck in the past and have outdated ideals or notions. However, we are now adults and sometimes it falls to us to correct our parents instead of the other way around.
But those of us who took after the other parent? They’re more likely than not following in their parents’ footsteps, and you still can’t speak ill of their parents, even when they have decades of evidence and examples of why they are toxic and damaging. They will still blindly fight you to hold up whatever notion of honor they think they have, but really have no idea about. They won’t tell their parents to stop drinking or gambling, or stealing because they can’t. They are still children, no matter how grown they may look and their parents are their heroes, no matter what.
It’s tough to speak out against our parents. And what if I told you one of those parents were the solid one and the other was the toxic one were from the same family. How hard would it be to speak up against them when the other one just encouraged it, or demeaned it in front of you. And your siblings sided with the other one? Would you stand up against other family members as well? Or defend the parent against the other?
It’s hard, but because you want better for them doesn’t make it easy. We must do it, and it’s just as hard to speak out against our leaders and government. But if we love them, if we truly want the best for them and our country, we will grow up, act like adults, and do what’s right, even if it means disagreeing with and correcting them, because our family, our brothers and sisters, our nation, depends on it. Because you stand up against your family in their best interest when you see their actions are harmful does not mean you don’t love them, it means you want better for them and the whole family. So we must defend our country, even from itself, because we all depend on it.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
– Declaration of Independence, 1776
Previously Published on Stupid Optimism