Tag Archives: respect

Respect

love of reading_edited-1

In Tucson, the city sends registered voters a packet about ballot initiatives every year. This booklet includes the text of each initiative, a less formally worded explanation, and a collection of pro and con statements from members of the community. Anyone can write one. Often, these citizens’ arguments point out details that the city isn’t discussing. For example, a ballot initiative might say that the city wants to sell bonds to improve the roads, but what the initiative will really do is destroy wildlife habitat to pave a road that will only be used by 12 rich people living on top of the mountain.

However I’ve decided to vote on a particular issue, this guy, Jim Click, a rich local dude who owns a bunch of car dealerships, had ALWAYS published an argument in favor of the other side. So, after a while, instead of trying to wrap my head around some of the more complicated issues, doing hours of research, discussing the hidden intentions of each initiative with the politically savvy…well, sometimes I just look at how Jim Click is going to vote, and then I vote the other way.

Certain people just do not have your best interests in mind.

There’s this phenomenon regarding reviews of children’s literature. The phrase “promotes disrespect for adults” is code for a few things. First, it tells you that the writer believes that children cannot be trusted with anything like agency, that children are naturally wrong about everything and must be forced onto the proper path. They believe education involves telling people WHAT to think, rather than teaching them HOW to think. Second, it tells you that the kids in the book think for themselves, and break rules because they know better than the adults in the story. This charge was leveled at Harry Potter pretty often. Those kids are constantly breaking rules, and there are rarely any real negative consequences to rule breaking. In fact, by breaking rules, the kids prevent absolute tragedies, time and again.

Most good modern books for kids and teens involve young people living by their own rules with little regard to what adults think, even if they love and respect those adults. The point of children’s literature is to help kids grow up, and to grow up, you have to think for yourself. You have to go against authority when you think authority is wrong.

The book drawn in this comic is By the Side of the Road, written by Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist, Jules Feiffer. The story goes something like this: a kid is fooling around in the back seat of the car, and his dad flips out and tells him if he doesn’t get it together, he can just get out and wait by the side of the road. So the kid opts to get out and wait by the side of the road. And the side of the road is a blast. He has a better time by the side of the road than he ever does with his family. And when his dad comes back for him, he decides to stay by the side of the road. Permanently. And he does just fine. He leads a great life, by the side of the road, without his dad’s rage hanging over his head all the time.

I wanted to reread it, but they didn’t have it in my library system, so I’m waiting for the ILL, and while I was looking for a couple details to fill out the ILL request, I came across the 1 and 2 star Amazon reviews that used that phrase: “This book promotes disrespect for adults.”

This book is amazing. It’s hilarious. It’s smart. It’s a 5 star kids book. I’ve read it to many kids, and they all loved it. No child has ever read it and then ditched their family to live by the side of the road. Only starched shirt nut jobs read this book and think, “I can’t read this to a child. That child might get ideas.” Kids get the joke. Kids get that it’s the adult in this story who is being disrespectful to the child. The story returns power to children by allowing the kid to overcome unfairness.

But some people don’t seem to believe that children deserve respect.

Let me tell you something else about respect, and children.

You can’t get respect by demanding respect. You earn respect, by being fair and by treating people like human beings. If you make ridiculous rules and treat kids like livestock, you might teach them to fear you, or loathe you, but you won’t get their respect.

So, I’m actually pretty serious about this, because I deliberately read 1 star reviews of things all the time, and when it comes to books, the phrase “promotes disrespect for adults” is ALWAYS hung on the very best books, the ones that children love the most. So, if you want to earn the respect of a child, if you want to give them a book that they will enjoy reading, if you want to promote critical thinking skills in the young, it’s a tremendously useful metric.

Personally, I have never once tried to force a child respect me, and I have worked with literally thousands of kids in my life. And pretty much all of them treated me with respect.

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Empathy

Go ahead. Criticize this comic. I dare you.

Go ahead. Criticize this comic. I dare you. Your opinion means nothing to me. Unless you like it, in which case your opinion means everything.

Usually, I don’t use people’s real names in my comics out of respect for their privacy, but in this case, I feel the need to write the name. If, by some magical coincidence, that dude recognizes himself as the perpetrator and wants to apologize for the 3 years of hell through which he put my vulnerable, pre-adolescent self, he’s welcome to step up. I get that I was an annoying kid, that I was weird and a know-it-all and and a tomboy, that I dressed all wrong and didn’t comb my hair enough and had zero ability to read social cues. So you know what would have been cool, if you found me so terrible? Leaving me the hell alone. Not calling me names, not encouraging everyone else to call me names, and definitely not punching me in the face on the school bus. I can attest that it actually does not kill you to be compassionate toward people you don’t like. I do it all the time and have not yet died from it. Sometimes, if you’re really compassionate, you can offer them a few words that may actually help them become less odious. Sometimes people really don’t know what they’re doing wrong, and they could use a little help.

But we still get people like the ones in panel 6, who go around justifying their own jerkiness with circular reasoning. You know how you could stop bullying? By not being a bully. It’s so simple. If it’s not simple to you, then guess what: you are what is referred to in popular parlance as a sociopath. Unless you actually believe that you’re the only real human being in the world and other people are merely set pieces for your drama, you can reduce the amount of suffering in the world by not causing it. Don’t hurt other people to make yourself feel better.

Obviously, there are always going to be narcissists, but we have a choice. We can bow down to the tiny percentage of cruel humans out of fear that we might be singled out as the next target, or we can stand up to tyranny by protecting those who have less power, because there are actually more nice people than horrible ones, and there is power in numbers. We don’t have to fight. All it takes is a few kind, honest words. If today’s kids get anti-bullying lessons (i.e. are taught empathy and compassion) then maybe tomorrow’s adults can fix the terror of a world that wants us to believe that might makes right and that self-esteem is a zero sum game where you can only win by taking from someone else.

I’m not thin-skinned, but bullying is just another form of abuse, and like all abuse, it leaves its mark. It’s an indelible trauma. Yes, it will happen, but no, we can’t ever normalize it. The crimes of childhood have to be forgiven, because children’s brains aren’t done yet, but for adults to condone awful behavior is not forgivable.

Having grown into my dragonhood, I’m over my childhood, but I’m never to going to be over the childhoods of people who are still children. I’m never going to stop protecting people from monsters.