hold me down
i am floating away
into the overcast skies
over my home town
on election day — Ani
When the election results started pouring in tonight, i was in a state of horror. Initially, it looked like Proposition 73 was going to pass. Thankfully, with most of the returns in, it looks like it will die a well-deserved death.
Some folks have asked why i am so obsessed with Proposition 73 and i feel the need to articulate the problems that emerge because of it. First, take a look at the propaganda:
- Protect Our Daughters – Parents have a right to know
- Campaign for Teen Safety – Their safety, our responsibility: If she can’t come to me, I just want to keep her safe
There are some amazing linguistic messages there: protect vs. safety, right vs. responsibility. The Yes folks give parents ultimate power while the No folks are invested in youth agency. The imagery from the Yes folks is directly targeted as parents and speaks past youth, never inviting them to participate in a dialogue about this proposition. The Yes folks are speaking a protectionist rhetoric while the No folks are speaking the language of respect. Protectionist rhetoric comes from a place of ageism, a belief that there is a clear division between adults and youth: adults know what they’re doing; youth do not.
Unfortunately, ageism is one of the least acknowledged forms of oppression in this society. As a society, we’re pretty shitty to our youngest and oldest members, thinking them too stupid to deserve agency. These groups often have no voice, no power. Adults will never go back to being youth and they can’t see life from a youth’s perspective. Instead, they project their own needs onto youth. They create hazing rituals following the “we did this, you should too” mentality. Why do we try to strip those we have power over of any agency?
As with most political propaganda, the problems are not addressed. The target market for the Yes folks is clearly middle-upper class parents. Yet, the effects of this proposition would place undue burden on poor or working class teens, abandoned and abused teens. I think back to the time that i spent hanging out with teens on Haight. Many of them came from abused families and found the street to be safer. Unfortunately, these are teens are quite susceptible to rape and unwanted pregnancies. Can you imagine them needing permission from parents?
There is no doubt that parents should know, but this does not mean the government should mandate it. Parents need to earn the respect of their children, not demand obedience. Parents are informed when parents engender a trusting relationship. But when parents don’t, teens should be able to turn to those that they do trust. This is not to say that there aren’t fucked up stories… the Yes folks certainly highlight them. But what they don’t highlight is what the consequences would be on abused youth. And sadly, there are far more abused youth getting pregnant in this state than sad stories like Holly Patterson (who wouldn’t be covered under Prop 73 anyhow since she was 18).
I’m actively pro-choice, but this doesn’t mean that i like abortions or want to see youth getting them. I want to structure a society where youth don’t have to face that choice, but if they do, they have one to make. I want to see parents be supportive and trying to build a meaningful relationship with their children based on trust and respect. I don’t want to see oppression and regulation, ageism and condescension – this destroys our society. And it pains me that people don’t realize this.
Of course, Lakoff has gotten far too deep inside my head. I know the response… good kids don’t get into those situations… good parents make their children behave… the world is evil and a good parent has to protect his kids… you can’t solve a sin with a bigger sin… God, it makes me angry. I wish Dobson a good long painful spanking.