The Bigger Picture

Having kids often gets you into places that are awfully difficult to explain. Kids can ask questions that cut to the bone as well. Over the last few days, there have been a couple of conversations where I have had to step back and put on a different and more thoughtful hat.

Being human, we are all subjective beings prone to thoughtless reactions. The subconscious biases readily flow through in such reactions and can be passed along to our kids without us ever really knowing or realizing it. It’s at times like that that I recall my own father’s statement that he sometimes used – “None of us got any formal training in parenting Gary,” he would say and when he did, I think I understood that he was struggling to separate personal biases from what he thought was good moral instruction.

My daughter had been on the internet and had read a series of interactions around an incident around a very high profile case of the police and a black man in the US. She had already formed some judgements based on what she had read. The first thing I wanted to do was encourage her to research the incident further. I told her that most websites were biased, pushing an agenda rather than anything useful. I wanted her to be exposed to the different agendas in play. After a while, she came back. She had modified her opinions and now had a series of questions.

At was at this point that I realized my natural subconscious biases were likely to emerge. I’ve lived in the US – for many years and I have my own experiences of these sorts of situations as well as my own moral convictions. Got to be careful here. I have no formal training as a parent either!

So I told her this… more or less.

I never felt comfortable around the police in the US. Often, they seemed to me to be vindictive, heavy-handed and biased. One or two I interacted with (traffic stops and kid issues largely) should never have been allowed in the police force at all in my opinion. On the other hand, they are facing people who can be legally armed and can legally hide their weapon. People who will use that weapon. It must be a scary job to be dealing with the prospect of death or injury at any point at time. It must be worrying for their relatives as well that they get lousy pay for such a dangerous job. They too are just people in the end.

On the other hand, the victim wasn’t a hero. He was verifiably a career criminal whose prior actions had endangered innocent lives and he didn’t appear at all concerned about that. He was high on drugs and he resisted. But perhaps he was that way through no fault of his own. Maybe he had been raised by a mother on the breadline, with an absent father who didn’t care. Maybe he had been bullied at school, subject to abuse at home….

The thing is, I told her, we can never really know what was going on here or why things went the way they did. We can judge and apply labels guided by our subconscious biases but is there any need to do that? Just because political groups with an agenda of hate want us to? Maybe the best way to look at this is through the eyes of the heart – a tragedy for all involved with very deep roots that were planted many years ago?

I don’t know if she got anything from this but I did. It reminded me just how very quick we are to act as judge and jury. How very quick we can be to ‘automate’ our response to events based on a bias planted within us by others. How little we think at all about anything and as a result, how little we learn from our experiences. Finally, it made me realize that thinking with the head is not enough. We must look with the eyes of love and with our heart brain as well. In many situations, there are really only victims – victims of everything that came before and that managed to culminate in a single instant of madness.