When Activism Becomes Extreme.

On observations…
 
Activism, no matter what form or shape or cause, is comprised of passion. An injustice is seen and vigorously fought for. As with any activism; there are extremists. Those who find themselves so overtaken with the injustice that emotions often drive the conversation, which frequently leads to heated arguments instead of civil discussions.
 
I fully understand these individuals. I was one; and still am sometimes and trying to change. These are the people who attack on a personal level because they find it very difficult to separate the person from the act. A good friend told me once: “Sometimes you have to punch someone in the face to get their attention.” It’s a beautiful saying and I fully agree. However, it can be done without making it personal.
 
As soon as you go on the offensive (or defensive) with attacking, an insurmountably wall erects itself and the conversation becomes dead before it begins. No one will learn, or even be interested in learning, at this point. Why would they? At this point you’re defending your pride, not your argument.
 
In many instances it’s best to just disengage and walk away. Save your sanity from those who have no desire in learning your side. Being rude and uncivil is what makes movements seem to be led by a bunch of unhinged loons that people take with a grain of salt. Unfortunately a bad reputation is a common byproduct of activism.
 
Before I became a father, I thought nothing of spanking, circumcision or allowing a child to cry in a vein attempt to train them. Now as a father, I have learned better and fight vehemently against them. I see the injustice in these. I voice these opinions. I will not stop voicing them. But just because I don’t allow myself to lash out at a naysayer by arguing or allow myself to walk away upon realizing their intent is not to truly understand but to simply argue and pot-stir; in no way am I condoning that injustice or accepting it’s continuance.

On my blog, I have many many people that don’t necessarily agree with everything; but do listen. They lie in the background, absorbing what is being said and reading the comments. They take some advice and leave some advice. What if one of these people are on the fence and see someone admit they spank or someone that circumcised their child or left them to cry or any else you don’t agree with. What if this person who admitted this was attacked and pounced on by ‘peaceful’ activists? What if this person watching then decided to deem the cause as batshit crazy? I will always defend my opinion. I will always discuss my position. But I will never attack or bash.

The more we are the crazy, the bashing, the unhinged offensive attacks; the less we allow the movement to move forward. The more we are willing to teach through understanding, modeling and with poise; the more we will be listened to as a sane voice. A voice worth listening to. We can be that voice without the extremism. Extremism is not a good thing.

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The evolution of the relationship with my son.

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DinoBoy and myself enjoying popcorn and goofing with the camera. This is the picture that choked me up.

The other night I cried.

It was a personal moment.  The rest of my family was peacefully sleeping. I was browsing through hundreds of old pictures; searching for that perfect one for a profile picture for an upcoming interview. There were endless pictures of just my son and I. Some were selfies where we were goofing around making silly faces. Others were of just him, enjoying life; unhindered with no agenda. They were all taken while my wife was at work and we were on mini-adventures; whether at home or while out.

These were moments just the two of us shared; a still frame from a life still being lived. I pause at one picture. It is slightly blurry and not well shot. It’s fuzzy, much like my memory of the moment in time it captures. This photo is both flawed and perfect. It represents more than just the image it contains. It holds the power to conjure memories. Those of my son and I dancing in the living room, gazing upon the moon in wonderment, sneaking in a bowl of popcorn after my wife went to bed, our hikes through nature during the brisk fall in the Midwest. Moments when we could just stop and have a cuddle on the couch while indulging in cartoon.

It was then that it dawned on me. This chapter that I am recalling is complete. Written and concluded. That these free, unbridled moments when it was just two of us are now over. The world we used to enjoy as a duo has quickly evolved into a trio. Those quiet, intimate moments no longer exists with the same frequency. My attention is now divided between two children who need me equally, but in different capacities.

In that moment, the realization of how much I truly missed the closeness, that special bond and the undivided attention I had with my son became too much. The emotions flooding me culminated into a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Only tears alleviated them. It felt as if I was mourning the loss of a relationship. A relationship that is evolving so fast I failed to see it. A child growing so quickly I did not want to admit it.

The relationship with my son has not been lost. It is not  fizzling. Rather it has matured. He understands. He is quickly becoming more independent. It was that independence that I mistook as a lack of connection. Our bond is still strong; still intact. The neediness is gone. The clinginess is fading. In its place is a new being. One that is needy. One that is clingy. One that needs that constant touch, love and holding. He sees this. He understands. He is not mourning this evolving relationship. He is embracing it. At times we both fumble in the moment, but he knows.

After the emotions run their course and I feel better for having them; I now know. I understand.  It is now time for me to embrace it.

I always give choices.

I always give choices.

But won’t that allow them to walk all over you? – No. It won’t. Quite the opposite. A child that’s happy with their choice is more cooperative to do the task they chose. If I say “Hey buddy, would like to help me vacuum or help mom pick up your blocks?” I’ll get a happy little boy helping clean the house.

They’ll just get what they want all the time! – Well, what exactly is wrong with that? I get what I want most of the time. So does my wife and most people I know. Unless it’s work, I indulge in my wants and interests. Childhood shouldn’t be a sacrifice of choice and wants over an irrational parental fear. Besides, isn’t life spent pursuing our interests?

What should it matter if they want the red cup? Or if you picked out a green shirt but they want the striped one. Big deal. We turn it into an issue that really isn’t there. Let them have their red cup and striped shirt. It won’t spoil them. It won’t entitle them. Give them the choice before you pick it out, before you pour the water.

I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.

Circumcision. I did not consent and I’m speaking out.

GA Logo Blue CircleI always here the argument: “I never hear guys complain about being circumcised.” Well, I’m here to tell you that you can no longer use this argument. Men complain. And often.  Besides, how often do you approach strangers and ask if they are happy with their circumcision (or lack thereof)? My guess is never. I know I don’t walk around with a sign hanging around my neck saying that I’m unhappy with it. And I am unhappy.

I know what I was robbed of. Such a valuable piece of flesh, the foreskin.  Protector, cleanser, lubricator, glider and superb pleasure provider.  I’ll never know the pleasure of intercourse that my foreskin would have provided. I won’t know the pleasure of having an undamaged glans due to being roughened and calloused from a life of exposure, chaffing and constant rubbing. The benefit of having a natural gliding motion, trapping in its naturally provided lubricant, is lost to me. The ridged band and 20,000 fine-touch nerve endings were taken from me, forever stealing my ability to experience sex as nature intended me to. The foreskin; the incredible 15+ square inches of skin; was cut off in infancy because of false information.

Men do complain. You just need to be receptive when they do.

Do I blame my parents? Partly, but not much. They could have researched it, but I was born in a time when virtually all males were circumcised in the US. It wasn’t questioned. It was just done. My parents did not know any better. After all, doctors know best, right? Well, in the case of male circumcision they don’t, and willfully so. They rely on false information[1] and highly flawed African studies[2] to perpetuate the belief that it is necessary. There is money to made[4] in the procedure (cough cough facial cream[3]), so of course it’s in the best interest of those invested to continue the lie. So no, I mostly blame our medical establishments for not keeping the best interest of our male infants in mind.

Our culture is one where it’s so engrained in our psyche that intact penises are not only gross, but unnatural. “I’m glad I don’t have an anteater.” “No turtle neck for my guy!” These are often spouted arguments by ignorant men. Men in need of suppressing facts and realities through cognitive dissonance. It’s funny because the rest of the world views the US culture of cutting boys gross, unhealthy, unnatural and sick. Women that have experienced both cut and intact penises overwhelmingly (85% [1]) prefer intact men; so really the joke is on those boasting about being cut as infants.

When we really boil this down, despite all the false “health benefits” and its “better aesthetics”, we have a violation of our most basic of human rights – our right to ourselves. Our infant males lose this right no sooner than they are born. Their bodies are not their parents to decide what to do with. Our girls are protected from cosmetic alteration at birth. Our boys should be allotted that same basic human right.

My bodily rights were violated. I was not allowed a choice. I did not consent to a permanent cosmetic alteration of my most private of areas. And the very fact that I’m a man writing this is proof that men do indeed complain; and we are not complacent in the fact that this continues as normal in our society.  I’ll close this with my favorite quote which I can’t locate the origin of: “They got my foreskin. But I won’t let them get my sons.” We need to protect our boys.

(1) – http://intaction.org/10-myths-about-circumcision/
(2) – http://www.intactamerica.org/sites/default/files/IASummaryAtlanta.pdf
(3) – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-cut-above-the-rest-wrin/
(4) – http://www.foreskin.org/f4sale.htm

I lost a connection.

I have slowly lost a connection.

It wasn’t realized until a few days passed and my irritability level increased way beyond my normal demeanor. The listening, on both sides, decreased. I was putting my self-interests unhealthily above that of our relationship; and he was attempting to communicate as much, but I wasn’t listening.

When bedtime became an immense struggle; I was looking at my son (2.5 yrs) with contempt, rather than compassion for his plight. And that’s when the disconnect struck me. I had the next day just him and me while my wife worked her 12 hour shift; and I dedicated it solely to him.

We spent the day building snowmen, playing games, giggling and reading many books while snuggling on the couch. We went out to eat lunch and made silly faces without a care in the world; followed by a shared afternoon nap after we got back to the house.

All aspects of our relationship righted and our bond restrengthened. That night, at bedtime, I heard a quiet voice call out in the dark: “Daddy, can I have a kiss?” “Of course you can TB.” I leaned over and we pecked: “I love you TB.” “You too daddy”. And with that he snuggled up to me and drifted off. This on the heels of the previous night which took over an hour of back and forth struggles with much frustration.

I quickly reestablished a connection.

Spot the difference.

Imagine a scenario if you will:

You are walking around in a department store and you hear a man raising his voice. Curious, you seek out the source of the voice. Turning down an isle you see a man scolding his wife: “Put that back on the shelf! Now!” Stunned the wife stood there “But, but…” was all she could manage to say. Just then the man struck the woman hard across her face and once on the thigh. “I said put it back!” he continued as he forcefully turned her toward the shelf.

Now consider this:

You are walking around in a department store and you hear a man raising his voice. Curious, you seek out the source of the voice. Turning down an isle you see a man scolding his 5 year old daughter: “Put that back on the shelf! Now!” Stunned the little girl stood there. “But, but…” was all she could manage to say. Just then the man struck the child hard across her face and once on the thigh. “I said put it back!” he continued as he forcefully turned her toward the shelf.

Now I fail to see why one family member is protected under domestic violence and punishable by law and one is considered an acceptable disciplinary technique. Both involve the same action taking place against a family member, both leave emotional and physical harm to the recipient. Yet it’s accepted practice to violently reprimand our most defenseless, voiceless, trusting members of our society; our children.