Friday, September 19, 2014

I Strongly Oppose Corporal Punishment

"When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.” Haim G. Ginott

A Queer kid in a hostile environment (homophobic bible belt), life was lonely and frightening for me (my grandmothers and a great-aunt provided much needed refuge). It got better once I knew what the rest of the world suspected (that my loafers were permanently light), because then I could embrace, own, and celebrate my truth. Self-discovery brings great courage and even joy. 

But as a child, with no one to understand my "difference", life was not easy. And, being reared in an environment where "switches" (nature's riding crops) and belts (and the not infrequent slap and occasional choke hold) were considered acceptable forms of punishment (though, the intensity of the punishment had more to do with the punisher's anger than with the so-called punishable offense), not even home ever felt safe.

Years of therapy, spiritual work, and direct dealing led to healing and to more reconciliation than I ever thought possible, but I have been a life-long opponent of hitting children. I believe that parents who hit believe they are doing what is right, that they were similarly punished as children (its the never ending cycle of violence), and that in spite of the harm they inflict on their children, they really do love them. But I know (not just from social science but from lived experience) that terrorizing children with the threat of physical abuse does a lot of harm. As a gay child where there was no safe place in the world to be, not feeling safe at home only led to intense feelings of isolation, loneliness, and despair. I would spare all children that pain if I could.

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