23 August 2008

The Bad Man and His New Car

There's a man who lives on our street, a few blocks away from us. We pass his house nearly every day. He drives a late model car, with MD plates on it, and he's clearly a rabid anti-abortion crusader. The car is bumper-stickered to a fare-thee-well, with additional signs taped inside the back window, and graphic literature living on the dashboard. Despite the fact that it's nearly four years on from the last election, his car still says "Kerry is a baby killer". Somewhere along the line, he added "Clinton" to that sentence, presumably meaning Hillary since she was then actively running for President.

A couple of months ago, he got a new car. He carefully transferred each and every sign and sticker to the new car, including the Kerry sign. That seems like beating a dead horse, but hey, it's not my car. Interestingly though, he has added neither an anti-Obama sign, nor a pro-McCain sign. Maybe he's just waiting for the official nominations out of the conventions?

Quite awhile ago, we started referring to him as "the bad man". Mind you, we've never met him, but he's a pinched and mean looking sort, and oh, it just seemed to fit.

Well, the problem is that the kid's picked it up (surprise). We drive by, she says "that's the bad man's house". "Let's go to the bad man's house and throw water on him" (so he melts, like the Wicked Witch of the West). Or she says "his house is poopy" (because he did recently have the house re-painted in a dead shade of baby shit brown). Sometimes she just sticks her tongue out at his house.

I'm feeling guilty - he could be a perfectly lovely, intelligent, kind soul who just happens to have a different position on abortion and bad taste in house paint. I shouldn't be encouraging Miss M. - a generally self-confident, compassionate and friendly child - to have negative knee-jerk reactions to people (though I do curse at idiot drivers when they behave badly).

What to do, what to do?

I decided to talk to her about the bad man the other day on the way to our vegetable pickup. "You know", I said, "we don't know that he's bad. We don't really know him." "Okay, Mommy. Let's call him the good man. And can we go visit him?"

She's so malleable. It's frightening, how much power we as parents have in molding our children's thoughts and behaviors.

26 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We have a neighbor we call "naked wood-stealing man." Unfortunately, we do know this is true.

Kyla said...

You know, I don't blog about these things, but just last night my mom said, "I'm thinking of making a bumper sticker, 'Liberals are baby killers.'"

Yes, she and the bad man have some things in common, but she's not all bad. I imagine he's not either...but discussing politics with him is probably much like running your own head over with a car. This I know.

Amanda said...

Absolutely. We have a neighbor with a strong butting-in tendency. She has a thick Bronx accent and we say her name with that accent when discussing the latest note she's left in our mailbox or message left on our machine detailing our failings. Our two year old now says with Oscar worthy accuracy, the woman's name with a Bronx accent. So help me, it is how she greets her on the street..

jen said...

oh, i don't know. it sounds about right to me.

Eva said...

That's a difficult one. They mirror so much. What a conversation it would be to discuss with her your opinions!

Kate Lord Brown said...

Unfortunately every time the pilot is home he thinks it's *hilarious* to teach the two year old a new word (think Ben Stiller and Rob de Niro's grandchild in 'Meet the Fockers' "A*****e") Amazing how they are spongelike in their ability to learn everything you don't want them to ... (I'm talking about kids, not husbands)

flutter said...

There are "bad" people on both sides of the aisle.

painted maypole said...

wow. maybe you could bake him some poopy cookies to take on the visit. in the shape of little fetuses (feti?)

urg. sorry. ;)

Aunt Becky said...

I love painted maypole's comment.

womaninawindow said...

Almost funny
Almost scary
My son wondered while eating dinner the other night, why no one has killed George Bush yet. Then he saw my shock and he said, "Well, not kill dead, just kill get rid of."
Oh, the power
Like I said, kinda scary.

noble pig said...

That was priceless, seriously and so true. No, that dog-beater is perfectly nice...okay Mom, let's go talk to him.

Aliki2006 said...

It is frightening, I know. And we're guilty now and again of making comments about people when we see a George Bush sticker, or an offensive sticker.

slouching mom said...

yep. i think that's frightening.

PicaboMama said...

Mmm, yes. My daughter's fervent Obama love may be the result of MY fervent Obama love. Although, I don't think I could ever convince her to be sweet on McCain.

FreshHell said...

Nah, I think you've pegged him. Intelligent kind people do not tape signs all over their cars telling the rest of us that if we don't believe the way they do, we've going to hell (I'm summarizing here).

julochka said...

i think it's ok that she called him the bad man, he clearly is one! :-)

we referred to my husband's ex as "the b monster" for years, to avoid saying her name in front of the children (bear in mind, they didn't speak english at the point when we did this) and now it's stuck and i'm desperately afraid i'm going to holler "it's the b monster" one day when she calls! so, i do know what you mean...

Mad said...

This issue stops me dead in my tracks. As you know, I volunteer at an abortion clinic and those men are bad men. Their words spread fear, shame and guilt and they perpetuate silence. Whether the message is screamed at a young girl, written on a placard, or passive-aggressively relegated to a tail-gate, the words still have a deep societal impact.

Whenever I attend a demonstration I always notice that the anti-choice side (more-so than the pro-choice side though not exclusively) involves their children in the fight. It enrages me on three counts: 1) what it says about their desire to mold the way their children think rather than allowing them to choose for themselves (which, I guess goes without saying), 2)what the long term impact such actions will have on their kids, particularly girl kids, and 3) (here's the ironic turn here) what this means for people like us who support choice. It is, after all, far easier to conscript kids at a very young age to believe that killing babies is wrong than it is to instill in them the notion of self-hood and the ability to make decisions about your own life and health without having them legislated by politicians who know nothing about your life circumstances.

So ya, it is wrong to just write him off as a bad man in front of your child and yet it is dang near impossible to stay neutral on the matter.

Jacquie said...

It's a hard line to toe, isn't it? I remember after the last election, realizing that I had been too verbal in my Bush-bashing when my kids were devastated to learn that he was still President. It was hard to tell them that they should respect the office, if not the man. Harder still when I struggled with listening to my own advice on the matter.

Your bad man sounds bad indeed. I often tell my kids: I don't know if he's a bad man but I think he made a bad choice.

Ellie said...

Hi up there, Jacquie! I was just going to write and say, but he *is* a bad man -- reapplied his Kerry sticker??? Puh-lease. But you people are much more sensible and open-minded.

Sigh.

ozma said...

My kid calls President Bush the bad man. And the bad president. I think maybe it wasn't a good idea to introduce these concepts yet because for her bad is bad...it's all kind of black and white.

We were reading "The Butter Battle BooK' and I was trying to explain that if you are a Yook the Zooks are bad but if you are a Zook the Yooks are bad but probably the Yooks are totally good or bad or vice versa.

She was like "They are not good OR bad?" By that point my head was spinning.

Slowly, they piece the world all together from the little pieces we give them and it's OK...somehow.

Maggie, Dammit said...

It is frightening. It is.

The main difference, though, between you and true bad people?

You take the malleability seriously. You are careful with your power.

It's all we can do.

MadMad said...

OK, I got so distracted by Jenn at Juggling Life's naked wood stealing man, that I forgot what I was going to say.... Oh, nothing much, as usual, just that this is all made more difficult by the fact it's actually a little tricky to explain to her why he's a bad man. Cuz he obviously is. But still.

Furrow said...

Speaking of which, when do the Weekly Readers presidential poll results come out? I can't wait to see who is going to win. (Children taking this poll have accurately predicted the winner of each presidential election since 1956. Oh how they do listen to their parents.)

needleinahaystack said...

consider this...
not all people who disagree are "bad" ...heck some of your old friends are registered Republican. While I personally am for freedom of choice, that implies that others have the right to their opinion too.
My sister once brought up and interesting point to me. While all of those who post above are for choice, would they be for choice at 6 months, 8 months? does everyone agree that parents must never be informed of daughter's decision? What if she were 13?
Maybe our kids need to know that there are a lot of shades of gray. Not just black and white.

Krysta said...

i have to agree with mad on this but it's scary what we say can affect our kids. my husband loves obama and hates hillary and says so all the time. my ten year old daughter has picked up on this and tries to bash hillary all the time. i finally said that's enough to both of them. i told my husband 'it's not good to bash a woman in politics because it sets a negetive tone for all women for his daughter and she believes everything he is saying'. i then told my daughter, 'hey, look even if you don't like her, you don't know her and she has just done something that no matter how you feel towards her will help you, a woman, later in your life. she has shown that in america people will finally [maybe, sometimes] except a woman as president and not as a joke.' i think all of us have to find a balance of what we say to our kids, while trying to be honest but not hurtful.

Defiantmuse said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've begun to be more aware of the things my partner and I say, even in passing, especially now that Monkey is really understanding words. So many things I don't even think about that just come spilling out like, "cops are douchebags". That sort of stuff.