Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Another Brick in the Wall"

“I don’t like this song,” Meikina announced as the first strains of “Another Brick in the Wall II” began to emanate from the car radio. “It’s a bad song.” The declaration shocked me, because in the past Meikina has been one of the most “vocal” proponents of the song whenever it played. “Why don’t you like this song anymore?” I asked. “Mommy says it’s a bad song,” she answered.

It is easy to see how Meikina’s mother might think so. A teacher by profession, Jeannine has spent nearly 20 years trying to teach 5th- and 6th-grade special education students the basics. Coming from her perspective, I might find the lyrics, “We don’t need no education”, an affront to her passion also.

But the dilemma that confronted me in this moment was how to point out another perspective on a simple matter without making it look like either of Meikina’s parents was wrong. I have always listened to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” as an expression against comformism, against the need for some (including educators) to make all people see things the same way, believe the same things; in other words to become “just another brick in the wall.”

When Jeannine and I met we shared common ideological and theological beliefs. Twenty years later Jeannine and I could not be more different. Jeannine’s world is still largely framed by her belief in Mormonism, a highly controlled and regimented worldview that establishes its political and moral perspectives on what the Church teaches as “God’s will”. My worldview has left religiosity for a more humanist paradigm, one that emphasizes the rights of individuals, and where justice is the guiding light in decision making.

As my daughter is getting older, these two worldviews are becoming more difficult to smooth over.

I have never said that Jeannine was wrong in some aspect of her parenting, even though at times I have thought she was. I am sure she has felt the same way about my parenting. But before divorcing, we covenanted to always support each other in the eyes of Meikina. For the most part this has been accomplished easily, but as Meikina begins to gain a more sophisticated and educated view of life and the world, I am confident that philosophical collisions will occur.

I wonder, for example, how I will answer when one day Meikina approaches me and asks what I think of "the Flood". No doubt her mother will affirm that the Flood happened, for it is written in the Bible, and the Bible was revealed by God to Moses. Additionally, for Mormons, the Flood represents the baptism of the earth, a necessary step in the earth’s salvation (even though paradoxically the earth is an inanimate object). Since Mormon church leaders (whom Jeannine sees as inspired by God) have affirmed that the Flood happened, for Jeannine there is no doubt that it did.

I, on the other hand, have serious convictions to the contrary. Biological diversity raises serious questions as to how Noah could have built an Ark large enough to house all of the various species found on the earth. Geological evidence contradicts a universal flood. And theological evidence speaks against it also. How could a just and merciful God destroy all of the world's inhabitants -- both human and animal – and still be deemed righteous? What of the innocent children? The whole story seems inconsistent and unnecessary. I reject this notion of God, and reject the idea that He would wreak such havoc on children He loved and created.

So, how will I address Meikina’s inevitable future question on the Flood or any other of the myriad questions she might ask about abortion rights, gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, the identity of God, as well as her own relationship and interaction with that God. I can clearly see the coming train-wreck, when the ideas of Meikina’s mother, based on her religious convictions, and mine, based on experience and science, clash in a catastrophic collision.

I have tried to prepare for that day by teaching Meikina that her mother and I sometimes see things differently. I used her statement regarding Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” as evidence of that. I explained to her that some people see the song as embodying a rebellious nature, one that distrusts teachers and shuns education. I explained that her mother felt that to be the message of the song. “But,” I went on, “some see a deeper meaning in the song.” I told her that some see it as a cry against the idea that everyone should believe the same things, hold the same truths sacred, vote the same party, adhere to the same religious principles. “In other words, Meikina,” I went on, “the song says we should be wary of those who teach the 'one true way,' because often there are many shades of difference, and we should be mindful of those differences. “Don’t become just another brick in the wall” I concluded.

I hope that down the road I can continue to walk the delicate line between contradicting Meikina’s mother (or her church) and teaching her my beliefs. I hope that I can teach her to be accepting of various opinions, think critically herself, and be unafraid to embrace opinions and beliefs different from mine or her mother’s. In the end my greatest hope, and one that solidly unifies both of Meikina’s parents, is that she lives her life full of compassion, understanding, sympathy, and justice. If she learns those traits, we will have been successful. The rest, like the meaning of “The Wall,” is unimportant.