Posted on | August 6, 2012 | 2 Comments
I spend most of my days in the land of threats and promises.
“Don’t do that again or I will take away your pacifier.”
“If you kick me one more time, we’re not HAVING a birthday party for you.”
“Go clean up your toys or no afternoon snack.”
These things fly out of my mouth at the speed of light and they are MEANINGLESS. He knows it, I know it… Because of course he’s getting his pacifier… I need the quiet it brings. And yes, we’re having a birthday party because it’s his birthday and, well, I love parties. And yeah… I’m not going to deprive my kid of food just to get him to clean up. But you know what? They still work. The threat still works to curb the behavior, to teach the lessons, to instill in him a healthy fear of consequences.
I feel like I’m constantly bribing my child towards good behavior, gently prodding him in the direction of what’s best for him…. or at least what’s easiest… especially for me. But how else do you convince a tiny dictator not to kick or hit or throw things? How else do I explain to him that he hurts others without threatening to take away a right or privilege of his own?
It’s made me think a lot about how the rest of the world works… how we try to curb behaviors in others, how we make attempts to reign in the things they do that rub us the wrong way. Because as much as we may hate to admit it, deep down we’re all toddlers. Deep down, the only thing that works to keep us from acting out of line, speaking out of line, or even thinking out of line, is the threat that someone out there will take something away from us if we do.
It’s the unspoken truth that keeps the concept of “free speech” in check… the unspoken belief that we keep our “undesirable” thoughts and ideas to ourselves. Sure, we have the right to have them. We have the right to hate homosexuals, ethnicities different than ours, religions different from ours, genders different than ours. Sure, we have the right to talk about how we hate them, to shout about how we hate them… to preach about how we hate them.
And it’s what we resort to when we’re faced with something we don’t like. When someone says something we don’t like, we threaten to “clean house” on social media and sometimes we do. We threaten to boycott a restaurant, or a clothing line, or a manufacturing plant because it’s the only thing we can think of to show our displeasure, our hurt… our disappointment.
People are free to believe what they want. People are free to say what they want, shout what they want, and preach what they want. But just like what happens to my toddler… there are consequences to those actions. If you choose to take a stand, if you choose to say what you think when you know it’s something that will rub people the wrong way? Well then, don’t be surprised if someone comes along and takes your pacifier.
Or, in my house, at least threatens to.
Because it’s human nature. You took from me, I take from you. Your words hurt me, I will hurt you. It’s instilled in us from childhood… “Don’t hit your friends or I will take your toys.” So why are we so surprised that when a corporation says something we don’t like, we threaten to take something away from them? We boycott companies that use child labor or unsafe work environments. We boycott fast food restaurants that use profits to support politicians or organizations we don’t like. We physically block the way of a “church” that protests military funerals.
It’s what we do.
It’s how we react.
We like your beliefs, so we’ll eat at your restaurant and shop at your stores! We hate your beliefs so we’ll stop eating at your restaurants and stop shopping at your stores.
Because just as it’s the right of an individual to say what they believe and for supporters to, well, support them in their belief… it’s also the right of an offended individual to show their displeasure the only way they can. It’s not news… it’s been going on since the first toddler slapped the first mother across the face and she took away his security blanket.
It’s not news.
So can we just stop talking about it? Or I swear, I will send all of you to time out.