As predicted, there have been riots in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. Nothing really big so far, but there’s been a fair amount of property damage and some serious but so far non-lethal assaults on whites and Hispanics.
I reacted differently. I bought a canoe.
Well I was going to anyway, but it was sort of waiting on paying off some bills, studying, getting some fairly serious dental work done etc etc.
But after something occurred to me, I went and put it on the credit card, something I try not to do for things which are strictly indulgences.
So what happened?
A few things had been preying on my mind. The first of which was, it’s been more and more evident from information that’s come to light that Trayvon Martin was not the innocent little 11-year-old cherub in the only pictures the media seems to have been able to dig up.
Trayvon Martin was a punk, well on his way to becoming a career criminal.
But he was that sweet 11-year-old in the picture – once.
What happened to him?
Obviously he fell into a toxic youth culture that glorifies drug use, violence and treating women like dirt.
But he didn’t come from that culture, his parents seem to be good and decent folks. His mother has acted with restraint and class. I think she’s wrong about some things and I don’t think she’s quite ready to face the truth about her son, and I think I’d react in exactly the same way.
His father… I don’t know. He was divorced and living with his girlfriend, but he was living in a good neighborhood and no reports have surfaced that any of his neighbors had complaints about him. And he did take his son in when he got into trouble in his home town.
I like many others, heaped well-deserved scorn on President Obama when he said, “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin” during an ongoing legal case.
I had a great deal of fun with Obama’s statement that he could have been Martin 35 years ago.
Then I realized there was a point buried in that ill-timed expression of opinion.
Obama was the product of a broken home, as was Trayvon Martin, as are my children.
Obama’s father left him at an early age and saw him precisely once in his life thereafter. He has had to live with the pain of loss and abandonment all his life.
Trayvon Martin’s father and mother divorced when he was a child. I have no idea what the particulars are, but evidently his father married again, divorced again, and was living with his newest girlfriend in another city. I’m sure he loved his son, but obviously didn’t see him as much as a father who lived with him would have.
My son is acutely aware that though his mother loves him, she has other priorities that take precedence over him at this time in her life. My children live with me in a city fairly far from their mother.
Some years back there was an argument between child-rearing experts as to who had the most influence on a child’s development. The majority opinion argued parents have. A vocal minority argued that a child’s peer group has greater influence.
What I remembered than was that at the time I thought both sides were missing the point entirely. The greatest influence on a child is going to be those who he or she spends the most time with, whoever they are.
That’s when I decided not to wait and bought the canoe.
Two in a canoe are alone together and have to communicate. They are cooperating closely to accomplish something substantial, propelling the canoe through the water without capsizing. There’s an element of risk involved that requires care and forethought to keep safe. There is a ladder of accomplishment one can ascend, from learning the basics in calm water to negotiating swift-flowing rivers.
And there’s no TV, no computers, no videogames, and you’ve got your hands too full to text constantly.
Life passes all too swiftly for all of us, but it’s passing at breakneck speed for a child. If you keep meaning to do something with your kids, you may find the time to do it has passed while your were otherwise occupied.
I am afraid of the effects of a toxic culture on my children. That’s why I mean to be the most significant influence in their lives while they are growing up.
Because the child of a broken home might grow up to be the president of the United States, but then again he might grow up to die at 17 after assaulting a man with a gun.