A few weeks ago Ethan mentioned seeing his sister in the office at school. So like any good mom would do, I checked in with her to find out what was going on. Turns out that some of the boys on their campus were being pretty inappropriate and even lewd. She and several other girls in her class decided to take it to the administration, and that's what Ethan caught sight of.
When I called her to ask her about it I had her on speaker phone, and I didn't think to tell her that her brothers were listening. So she shared about what had been going on and why she and her friends had felt the need to go to leadership. I was very proud of Toria and her friends for what I saw as both boldness and bravery.
After I hung up the phone with her Ethan proceeded to tell me a story about his interaction with the boy who was the primary culprit - a kid who isn't at their school because it's Christian and he and his family share Christian values, but he's there because he has repeatedly been asked to leave other schools. Now don't get me wrong, I can see value in him being there, maybe he can be impacted in a positive way, but I also know that means that he isn't even really going to have a clue about the "Christian standard" of what's right and wrong. Whether you agree or disagree about what a Christian standard is or should be, one of my favorite things about having my kids in a Christian school is the ability to treat God's word as an authority, and one we are expected to hold to.
So, anyway, back to Ethan. He told me that he was in the locker one day, and this young man, who I'll call "Maynard," was harassing and making inappropriate comments to two of the girls from his class. Ethan told me how he got in between the boy and the two girls and told him in no uncertain terms to shut his mouth, that it was NOT ok to be talking the way he was to the girls. After an idle threat about knowing martial arts and kicking Ethan's ass, E's desired effect was accomplished and he walked away and left the girls alone. They thanked him and life moved on.
As we talked in the car Ethan wanted to know what would have happened if he's punched the guy. I told him he could not throw the first punch, and probably shouldn't throw the second one. Last school year Ethan was shoved all the way across the locker room by another boy who hurt his wrist in the process of trying to push E. In response Ethan gave a LIGHT push to the guy's shoulder and asked him, "What the heck?" BOTH boys received the same suspension, under the guise the the other boy got hurt, and because their class in particular had been dealt a zero tolerance policy on touching. I am still a little bitter about the whole situation in that Ethan had an N on his permanent report card, and equal time for unequal crimes irks my justice oriented sensibilities, but I digress. The reality was, that in THIS situation, I was EXTREMELY proud of my son that defending these girls was his go to response. And if the kid took a swing at Ethan, I would have a hard time telling him to turn the other cheek - even though that could definitely be argued as an appropriate Christian standard. I was proud of my son for his hero potential.
Now, I've gone back to school, and the theme of my College Writing class (they apparently have themes these days) is "Justice." I, personally, am all about justice and have to make a concerted effort to remember Christ is all about grace. (Though in His infinite wisdom He manages to have them live in symbiosis in a way I cannot.) In my college writing classes there have been a lot of conversations about standing AGAINST injustice. The theme of our first essay is about how "Silence perpetuates injustice." And one day during discussion we were being asked about our personal mindsets and experiences about what we have done or would do or even are doing about standing up for injustice. And my heart really sank as I heard the bulk of the classroom's mindset turn towards not taking a stand.
One particular example was "what would you do if you saw a guy beating his girlfriend up on the street?" And this one young man about 19 or so said, "Why should I step in to stop it? What if his homeboys are around the corner and they come after me?" I have to be honest, I lost all potential of even a smidgen of respect for this kid. I was flabbergasted. I could not believe he said it.
See, I'm married to a really laid back and for the most part passive guy, but if we were on the street and Neal saw some guy hitting a woman, he would be like a fly on crap all over the situation with absolutely zero regard for himself, I'm sure of it. My husband has great hero potential, and in my mind, that's the way it ought to be! How do you not step in on a situation like that? I am a woman, and I'm pretty sure even I would be looking for something big and heavy to swing at a guy hitting a girl, or a kid, or a dog... I'd speak up.
But can I be real here? Now I find myself a little concerned about my younger son as he'll be heading off to public high school next fall. I'm a little worried about locker room talk and inappropriate treatment of girls on campus. And the pride I have for the son who stood up at his Christian school turns to a little anxiety about the young man who may stand alone in a similar circumstance on his new campus. But would I want him to turn against what he knows in his heart is right? Absolutely not. But I am a little worried for him.
I think guys like my Neal and my Ethan might be a dying breed. People don't stick up for other people when it means it could cost them personally. I think there is a calculated risk mentality that is turning a lot of people into cowards. If it isn't cowardice, it is at the very least selfishness. People won't fight for what's right, fair and just if it means they will have to lump a consequence to the risk. And I think that's a sad statement about society today and the direction it's come.
I don't really know what my question is, much less what the answers are, but I do know that I would rather have my son be a man I can respect for doing the right thing even if it costs him then have him be a guy who looks the other way just to keep the safety or benefit of his own status quo. The world needs more hero minded men, but I'm just not sure they're still out there.