Thursday, September 29, 2011
I've always thought if I were a child psychologist, I'd conduct my sessions in a minivan or other vehicle. My boys have always opened up to me during our incessant car rides around town, and I'm not sure whether it's the comfort of the ride or the fact that no eye contact is made (other than my surreptitious looking into the rear-view mirror to check out their expressions), but they often divulge their darkest thoughts and ask their deepest questions when I'm ferrying them out and about. Yesterday, Oliver and I listened to NPR on our way to watch Henry play flag football on the other side of town after school and were mesmerized by a story about a woman who was recently caught and arrested in Saudi Arabia for driving without a license. Because of strict Muslim law, this woman was convicted and given the punishment of ten lashes. And not with a wet noodle.
What's a lash? Oliver asked.
A whipping, I replied. Oliver gasped.
Then the conversation veered off into women and the Muslim religion, the United States' relationship to Saudi Arabia and oil and all that stuff in terms that I believed a 10 year old could understand.
That's why I don't like religion, Mom, Oliver said. It causes a lot of problems.
A few minutes later, Oliver piped up that he had been selling popcorn for the Cub Scouts in our neighborhood, and one of his friend's mothers (and my friend), who happens to be gay and is married to another woman, told him that she didn't like the Cub Scouts organization because it discriminated against gays.
My heart sunk. This is an issue that I've long struggled with -- as long as Oliver has been in and relished everything having to do with Cub Scouts. It's sort of paralyzed me, to tell you the truth. I love Oliver's Cub Scout troop and experience -- he's been doing it for nearly four years and thrives there, and I've turned a blind eye to the obvious: the Boy Scouts of America have a long history of discrimination against people of color (now overturned) and homosexuality. I told Oliver these things and confessed that I'd struggled with them over the years.
Why didn't you tell me that, Mom? he asked. Oliver has several friends who have two mothers or two fathers. He's shared the podium with them at our school on No Name-Calling Week when he passionately stood in front of the entire student body and educated them about the use of the word retard.
Does it make you not want to be a Cub Scout? I asked.
Sort of, Oliver said. We were quiet for a bit, and I gathered my thoughts and took my opinions and stuffed them into a tiny compartment and told him that I thought we could work within an organization to educate people about what we knew was the right thing. I told him that I hoped our Cub Scout troop was enormously tolerant, and I told him that our pack leader, an African American, had shared his own story of discrimination back in the day when he had joined the scouts in La Jolla, California. I told him a little about Don't Ask Don't Tell being overturned last week, how long it had taken this country to do that but that I believed whenever people are oppressed, whenever their rights are trampled upon -- whether they are women or people of color (other than white) or homosexual -- they eventually fight and push and right the wrong. I told him that we had to support these things and we should think about how we could support them.
We didn't say much after that, just sat there in the car, thinking.