Thursday, June 20, 2013

Family Values

Posit this:  You are parenting a 15 year old boy.  He has access to Twitter and Facebook and on-line gaming.  He's one of five children. You, the Dad, work out of town.  You have a job that puts you in the public eye.  You have deeply held religious beliefs.  You've stood up for what you think is right, even though 90% of your constituents disagreed with you.  You took your boys on a survival trip to the Marshall Islands, and posted a video edited by that 15 year old boy on YouTube.

You are rated 92% by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, whose mandate includes this platform:
Protest anti-Christian bigotry and defend the rights of people of faith.

You sat on the stage next to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, USN Commander Mark Kelly in front of 2000 well-wishers at a memorial service on the UofA mall.  I met you then.  You smiled, you shook my hand, you posed for pictures with your wife and Gabby and Mark; I know, because I took them.  You told me how sorry you were for my loss, for my injuries, and how glad you were that I had taken the time to show a child how our government works.

Sounds pretty sweet, doesn't it?  Peel back a layer or two of the onion, though, and there's a rotten core.

It seems that you stopped paying attention to Tanner in 2011. That's when he posted this video to YouTube.  (If you are squeamish - that is to say, a rational human being - you may want to believe the words and skip the video)
I'm not sure how you missed this, how you let this slide by, how you didn't delete it from the web and put the poor child into counseling immediately, but you did.  At least, that's what the public record shows.  There's no mention anywhere of your reaction to this video. If this is not a cry for help, I wonder what you think one might look like?

Two years pass, and that same child is discovered to use niggerkiller as his gaming moniker.  An acquaintance stole a joke and got some laughs; your child called him out on Twitter by ending the tweet like this: Jew.  His posts and tweets are replete with comments labeling others as faggots.

I wonder how clueless you are.  Don't you follow your own child's social media streams?  While you are busy keeping me safe from those who want to prevent me from bringing a loaded weapon into a bar on a Saturday night, your own child is spewing vitriol.  Perhaps you ought to start to pay a little more attention to your own home before you begin to worry about mine.

ABC's Phoenix affiliate ran a story on this issue.  The anchors and the correspondent sighed over the difficulties of raising "kids with all this technology .... they are so young, they don't understand the consequences."  That is certainly true.  That is not the issue here.

Senator Flake's apology is short and sweet: "This language is unacceptable, anywhere," Flake continued. "Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well."(from

To whom has Tanner apologized?  To his parents?  They are, I assume, neither gay nor Jewish nor black.  Is he apologizing for bringing shame to the family name?  That's the only way I see an in-the-family apology having any credibility at all.  

Kids who grow up in a household where those kinds of slurs are acceptable post them on line.  Kids whose parents make it a point to correct their behavior, who model positive actions, who do not tolerate demeaning the of others, don't end up naming their avatars niggerkiller. And if they do, their folks find out about it in no time.

Big Cuter was a big gamer in high school.  It swallowed up his world.  Not only did I know his screen name (Belhothar, if you are interested), I knew his password.  It wasn't an issue for him to share it with me. It was a condition of being allowed to play the game.  Although I spent years decrying the game as "bad, dumb, stupid, and evil," I also spent more time than I'm happy to remember watching him vaporize orcs and demons.  I was as involved as a non-gamer-mom could be.  I made sure he was safe. I made sure the environment in which he was playing was not detrimental to his ongoing mental health.  The door was open when he was on-line.

Five is a lot of kids.  Working in Washington when the family is in Mesa is tough.  Too bad.  Your son put a fake gun to his head and pulled the trigger.  He posted that video on YouTube.  How did you miss that?  Your son routinely used words that are abhorrent in modern society.  How did that slip past you?  

I know that you don't pay attention to the wishes of your constituents; your vote on the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill made that eminently clear.  I suppose I could find some comfort in the fact that you don't seem to pay much more attention to your children.  

This is more than "insensitivity."  This speaks to character. There is a de-personalization of the other which is more disturbing to me.  The facility with which the words were used, the lack of super ego controls which allowed them to be published, the saccharine apology.... none of them enhance my opinion of you or your family.

Am I criticizing your parenting?  Absolutely.  You are a public figure.  You should be a role model for the young people in my life.  Your son besmirches your constituents and you have a private discussion and settle for an apology?  Where is the lesson learned?  

I know what the lesson I have learned contains - a heartfelt desire to have someone with real family values represent me in the Senate


  1. When I first read about this, I felt as you do-- it's not casual when a child uses such language and it doesn't all come from his peer group-- if it does, shouldn't that peer group be examined? I know kids get a lot more than my generation did as my daughter in second grade asked me the meaning of a word that I hadn't learned until I was in college! But that's the point-- she did ask me. It seems to me that Flake is a flake as a parent in being too busy to pay attention to what his kids do or think. Bigotry can come into a home by the things the parents say when the children overhear. At any rate, I hope Arizona retires him next time he's up for election and puts someone in there with some degree of cultural sensitivity-- realizing that's rare in some political circles.

    1. As Christina-Taylor's mom and I were discussing last night, it would never occur to any of our children to use that kind of language. There has to be a sense of "it's okay" somewhere in Tanner's life , and that is NOT the kind of family values with which my kids were raised.

      Kids are always one step ahead of parents... that's progress. But paying attention, as you note, is important no matter how "advanced" the kids may seem to be.

      Poor Tanner.... I'd have had him in therapy years ago.

  2. I hadn't seen that video, but it's quite disturbing. We know Flake doesn't listen to his constituents or pay attention to his son's online activity. He's too busy taking cash and orders from the NRA. This absolutely speaks about his character. He's allowing his son to run rough shod and do whatever the Hell he wants. I wouldn't even calling it parenting. I think Flake needs to get his own house in order before he can represent anyone outside of it. He's a piss-poor excuse for a father and Senator.

    The whole thing makes me so angry. He basically spit in yours and everyone else's face when he voted against background checks. I sure hope that Gabby and Mark never speak to him again. He definitely is NOT anyone's friend--especially anyone that has been a victim of gun violence.

    The guy is a complete sell-out to his state and his family. He absolutely disgusts me. Part of me feels sorry for his son. He's obviously learned it's alright to use that language and racial slurs. I'm not letting him off the hook, but he's been allowed to do this and has not had to publicly apologize or suffer any consequences.

    Off to get some tea.

    Megan xxx

  3. Thank you for this. You've eloquently stated my thoughts on this subject.


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