Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sins of the Fathers

See this report while I quote Dr. Dawg:
The mother and father have now split up. "He's a bigot," says Mum. "I'm just a white nationalist." Oh, that's all right, then. How can one fail to see that obvious distinction? So Manitoba child services is now prepared to "re-integrate" the kids back into the mother's comfy little nest of hate. Ende gut, alles gut.

I disagree, and I hope MCFS reconsiders. As feminist and legal scholar Lorenne Clark once put it, "the last place we need privacy is in the home." (Just ask the children of Josef Fritzl.) She rejects, as do I, any absolute distinction between "public" and "private." It takes a village to raise a child, and that means we are all accountable for the children of our community.

Children's services in Canada are often criticized (and with good reason, sometimes) for being lax and careless. In this case, however, they acted quickly and correctly to rescue children from an emotional cesspool of hate. Now, however, they seem poised to return the kids to that cesspool.

That would be a grievous error. MCFS should stick to its guns. Neo-nazis are not fit parents. End of story.
See, I am one of those bristle at the whole notion of it 'takes a village to raise a child'. Like where was the fracking village when the diapers needed changing? But stop and think for a moment about that whole 'village' concept. It was the Dominion of Canada's underlying justification for the establishment of the aboriginal residential school system/nightmare.

The 'State' deemed native parents were unable to effectively parent their children with the 'values' the State deemed was necessary to be a productive member of said 'state'. The State used the full force of its coercive powers and separated Aboriginal children from their families. It was rationalized, and deemed to be a necessary intervention in the best interests of the children. Otherwise, thousands of Aboriginal children would not have full access to beneficial things like an 'education' and 'health services', and so began Canada's infamous residential school system which sucked upwards of 80,000 children - at a cost to the human psyche which remains today - simply incalculable.

The State, and its upper tiered agents all ‘meant well’ and only had the ‘best interests’ of the children at heart. And I guarantee you they were all so very self-assured that their way was the right way. But it was not only the Dominion of Canada who forcefully removed children from their parents - Mao did it in the Cultural Revolution. So did the Khmer Rouge to name just two other states. In each instance, the State exercised its coercive powers to remove children from their family homes because the parent's values clashed with those values of the State.

One of the great things I love about growing older is the wealth of experience I can draw on and so I want to share a little of my early life experience. I realize it is strictly anecdotal story but my being the non-religious religious I am, I still believe very much in the gift of both free will and redemption. This experience contains elements of both.

My last few years of secondary school were spent in small city located in southwestern Ontario. It had been pre-dominantly settled by German immigrants - pre-WW1. In the aftermath of WW2, it once again, became the natural destination of choice for thousands of German immigrants fleeing the uncertainty of life in a vanquished nation. One of my friends carried the nickname 'Nazi Dog', but a kinder, more gentler soul would be harder to meet or even know.

Mikey did not get the moniker because of any deficiencies of character on his part but because he was raised by a real live Nazi father who ruled the household with an iron fist. And no, I do not mean a neo-nazi wannabe but the real deal. It is not everyone who can claim his father was a member of the infamous SS but Mikey could. I did not fully grasp what burdens Mikey grappled with until I finally agreed to be Mikey's guest for dinner. Mikey was always looking for someone to come home to dinner with him rather than face his parents alone at the table.

His father was a grim man of few words and his every utterance was law. I remember the food was excellent but the tension around the dinner table was extreme when Mikey and I sat down. I did not realize Mikey's mother had been holding her breathe until I heard her gasping for air after Mikey's father pronounced me - with my blue eyes and blonde hair a model of Aryan womanhood. It was at that point Mikey's mother finally smiled at me, patted my hand and duly kept my plate full through dinner. I admit there was a perverse part of my nature which took great pleasure in the irony of being called a model of Aryan womanhood - and me - the descendant of Russian Jews and Roma.

Dinner officially ended when Mikey's father went downstairs to his special room in the basement. We chatted for a while to his mother who I hoped would switch from automatron mode to human once Mikey's father left the room but she didn’t. Perhaps if Mikey’s parents were young rather than older it might have made a difference. And then again, maybe not.

We went downstairs to watch television in the basement family room. On our way down the stairs I caught the faint refrain of martial music and I craned my neck towards the sound coming from the partially opened door of Mikey's father's private room. As I walked by, I only had a brief glance, but it was long enough to take in the sight of Mikey's father sitting in his chair. His SS jacket was slung around his shoulders and he was waving a beer stein in time to the music with his hand. I could only hear the vaguest under current of his humming. I suppose he was reliving his glory days when his kind hoped to rule the world. Apparently, he did this every night.

Mikey loved his parents but he held no respect for the young man his father chose to be. Nor did he take on the mantle of his father's values; although, he did use his father's money to pay his way through university. The last time I spoke to Mikey, he was over the moon as he had just landed his dream job of working as a therapist for mentally challenged children in another city. One could argue that Mikey grew up in a dysfunctional emotionally abusive home, but if he hadn't - would he have spent his life working to make literally hundreds of other children's lives better?

My point being, no one knows what depths lies within a human heart. One man's poison is another man's inspiration. Children are not empty slates simply awaiting imprinting from their parents. Nor do children grow-up necessarily to be the sum total of their parent's values. Just ask my poor pacifistic mother who despairs often of her 'warmongering' daughter. Alternatively, one could even ask my own teenage children, who question literally my every utterance from ‘Good Morning’ right through to ‘Good night’. Most days; it's like living with the entirety of the Law Society of Upper Canada crammed into in my home.

So Dawg, there are worse things than having a Neo-Nazi father, and even if you did have a Nazi parent it is still quite possible to choose to be the man you want to be – independent of the man your father is. And if you were 'lucky' enough to be saved by the state and removed from the direct care of your alcoholic but functional Metis parents, there remains always the possibility you will spend five years in foster care experiencing what it is like to be powerless and literally everyone's fuck… just like a good friend of mine did. She tells me indentured sexual servitude is extremely overrated as an early life experience and I tend to defer to her wisdom in these matters. Me, I trust neither the Village or the State with the care of my family.

4 comments:

Chris Taylor said...

Terrific illustration of your point in that story. Really well done.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

tks Chris.

Dr.Dawg said...

But stop and think for a moment about that whole 'village' concept. It was the Dominion of Canada's underlying justification for the establishment of the aboriginal residential school system/nightmare.

Seems to me the problem there was taking the kids out of the village.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Okay – sort of- you got me.. but I would counter its taking the children from their families rather than the ‘village’.

I have a confession to make. I purposely avoid most of the whole residential school history. Every time I start to read about it I am horrified not because the history is ugly – I read lots of ugly history but it touches something inside me - I suspect it has a great deal to do with my own personal narrative in living in exile, and being a mother. I find the history and incredible cruelty overwhelming.